We managed to review the fourth album of Aberdeen indie-pop band, The Little Kicks, Shake Off Your Troubles, on Friday. Now we’ve got an interview with their frontman, Steven Milne.
The band is, as said, Steven Milne, 34 (vocals, keyboard and guitar); plus Andrew Corse, 32 (guitar and vocals); Adam Morrice, 32 (bass and vocals) and Scott Kelman, 32 (drums). All hail from Aberdeen.
Described as a “lynchpin in Aberdeen’s music scene, Steven Milne wears many hats; musician, promoter, DJ, booker, you name it. Hardest working man in showbusiness”.
The band finally released their long-awaited debut album, Boxing Clever, in the summer of 2009, and have gone from strength to strength since. Certainly if Shake Off Your Troubles is anything to go by.
Early impressions of the band, somewhat still ringing true, is that of “off-kilter indie pop worthy of comparison to early” Franz Ferdinand, The Long Blondes and Sparks.
They combine “soaring vocal harmonies and infectious guitar hooks with the distinctive warmth of analogue synthesizers”, creating “an exciting melody-driven sound, as engaging on record as it is live”.
Speaking of live, since forming in early 2009 the band have been regulars on the UK touring circuit but have also played to a great response in Europe. The band has enjoyed sharing stages with the likes of Foals, The Vaccines, Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, Twin Atlantic, Maximo Park, Mystery Jets, Errors, The Kooks, Editors, Wild Nothing and Maccabees.
They’ve also performed at many of Scotland’s major music festivals including T In The Park, Belladrum, Brew At The Bog, Electric Fields, Solus, Kelburn Garden Party and Insider.
From this point it would seem logical to ask how the new songs on the album are going down with live audiences, with Steven answering, “So far the reaction has been great, even when people are hearing the songs for the first time they are firmly on board and it’s been very rewarding and encouraging to see/hear such a good reaction!”
“I love playing Bang The Drum Slowly and I enjoy Don’t Get Mad, Get Even but they are all fun to play”.
We then compared Shake Off Your Troubles to albums that preceded it: “I am really happy with it and consider it to be the best thing we have done. Certainly it’s the best I have sang on any record I have made, and hearing it back at this point I still feel as excited by the songs as when we were in the studio, which is a good thing”.
Where does the band go from this point?
“To play and push the band and our music as far and wide and as much as possible”.
He wouldn’t be pushed on who else the band would like to play alongside in the future, but said “it’s perhaps more venues that we desire to play than particular bands. For example the Barrowlands, Hydro and Music Hall would do me just fine”.
Carrying on from this, he added, “Glastonbury would be an amazing experience as would Bestival, or any festival abroad, as they really do know how to have a good time in Europe at those kind of events”.
Moving onto their sound on a more general level, The Little Kicks have been variously described as indie pop and, perhaps more recently, electronic indie rock. With the latter in mind, we pondered the extent into which the band would go into ambience, and straying away from, perhaps, work more melodic:
“I think we always start quite weirdly and the songs become pop along the way but, yeah, it does appeal to me to do something mega stripped back and bare,” He said. “Which is why we often play the songs bare bones style acoustically or with one guitar – we feel they still stand up when stripped of their additional instrumentation”.
Maybe this certain moodiness could be construed as consequence of coming from a, despite the oil, provincial area. A place many might be wrong to decry as small minded: “Aberdeen gets a bad rep but it’s not all bad and you can still find some hard working good bands up here if you look in the right places”.
Though proud to come from Aberdeen, his support didn’t extend to the following question. Interviewer was very much expecting resounding agreement with interviewee regarding, perhaps, some sort of Central Belt bias towards bands from the likes of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The answer, however, was more intriguing and almost contrary to the arguable general view of those in the North East area:
Steven said, “There’s a lot of good bands from the Central Belt and, quite frankly, their scene is the best in Scotland. The level of talent in Glasgow is huge and Aberdeen just doesn’t have the same amount of quality acts to compete with that. So the promotion is probably level to the amount of bands and quality acts”.
We then looked, from Glasgow, to within, Aberdeen. More specifically, inside the machinations of the band itself. The potential for differences in musical outlook. They’re “all into different music but there are common threads that we agree on – at the end of the day it has to serve the song and it’s what’s best for that that counts most”.
“Everyone brings in something different – which is a secret weapon, or we would all sound like a band if we all listened to the same stuff,” He added. “It’s good to have a pot of mixed ideas and makes it more interesting for us as well as the listener”.
This interviewer then asked how the guys would live their lives outside music, if the band were not to work out. He conceded, whether sound production or music tuition, that “we have been around long enough…we have picked up a lot of knowledge that would be useful for someone starting out”.
Continuing on from this, I was curious to know what, if anything, the guys did outside music. This whether studying, studied or day job:
“We all have day jobs but none other than mine are particularly related to the band. Although Adam having a background in law has come in very useful from time to time, Andrew and Scott assess costing of projects and risk potential – both are also relevant to being in a band in 2017”.
What about the financial feasibility of life as a musician?
“I wouldn’t say we scrape by due to the jobs we have but certainly it’s hard to keep it going with less people buying music,” He said. “However, we all invest money and time and make sacrifices to keep the project going and when it’s going well we enjoy the benefit of that. Sometimes the kitty is a little low and you have to assess things to get going again, but generally we do okay!”
I then elicited a lengthy response when weighing up the advantages of online exposure, advantages perhaps sometimes negated by free streaming.
“I think it’s worth us having our music on Spotify for people to discover and hopefully like me (an avid Spotify user) they listen to it so much that they come to love it and decide to buy the real thing on vinyl at the end of the month, when paid”.
“That to me is a good model for us in that people can click through and dip their toe in it but hopefully enough that they want to fully commit soon after and desire to own the record, or CD, or even come live to support the band,” He added. “That’s where our benefit of such a thing is then seen”.
On perhaps a less solemn note than of that particular aspect, we considered The Little Kicks leaving Aberdeen if further success necessitated it.
“Of course, never say never!”
Words by Andrew Watson