Ahead of their gig in Manchester, I had the chance to speak to Little Comets frontman Rob Coles. From their incredible love for their fans to where they plan to go next, here is the interview that took place in the small backstage of Manchester Club Academy.
Firstly congratulations on getting to 31 in the album charts, how does it feel to achieve this?
Cheers! Yeah it’s good. Last year we all sat down and had this meeting because we knew we were going to release stuff ourselves instead of doing it through a label. Our main goal was just to be productive and initially we wanted to do four EPs and an album in a year, well it was really Mickey who wanted to do that. However Mickey was due to be a dad for the second time again in March, so we kinda talked him out of the 4 EP idea. I think it was good that we did because doing the EPs that we did and the album pushed us to the absolute limit. Also we did have this goal from the outset that it would be crackin’ and if we nailed every aspect then it might go top 40. We’ve been on labels before and for whatever reason it’s kinda never happened. I think we wanted to prove to ourselves that if we applied ourselves and worked hard and got the music right then we could kinda do something that label hadn’t managed to do. So yeah it was a lovely feeling. Also looking at the chart and seeing the breakdown of the label, the publisher, the distributor and noticing that we were the only act in the top 200 that had recorded it ourselves, released it ourselves and distributed it ourselves was really good. It wasn’t the be-all and end-all but it was a good way of book-ending the year from that meeting to the chart coming out.
So how has the tour gone so far? How are the new songs going down?
It’s been really good. It’s the first tour since we’ve released the album but we never do a tour where it’s the album tour and play the album in it’s entirety because we’ve managed to build a fanbase that keep coming back and want to hear different things. So we’re not going to say ‘Oh, we’re not playing any old songs’ or ‘we’re going to cut down the amount of songs played off the second album’. So trying to get the balance of the setlist has been really tough. Also going from a rehearsal environment to live can be challenging and just because one song sounds good next to another song in a room doesn’t help you judge how an audience is going to react, so it’s been difficult. Three or four gigs in we managed to get a good balance within the set. When we record we don’t record together, we record things separately. So until we start rehearsing, we’ve never actually played the songs together as a band. It’s been a really good challenge trying to present the songs in a way where they’ll connect with somebody straight away, rather than taking four or five listens to focus on the lyrics, focus on the instrumentation, it’s got to be straight away. It’s been really challenging to get some of the songs in a state where they work immediately.
You’re playing your biggest Newcastle gig to date on this tour, is there something different about playing ‘home’ shows?
Yeah definitely but I also think in big cities like London, Manchester and Leeds it’s also really different. In Manchester I think we’ve played at sixteen different venues over the years, so we know the city a bit. We’ve played in 75 capacity rooms and we’ve been lucky enough to play The Ritz. Today when we were driving down the street and, I don’t know if it’s still here, but we drove past a venue that’s over the road called Jabez Clegg and that was one of the first places we played in Manchester. We’ll drive through the city and be like ‘we’ve played there’. Like Deaf Institute or Night & Day, we’ve also played every room in this building. It is a bit crazy. Manchester is a lot more compact then London. Like we’ve played lots of different rooms in London but they are more spread out, whereas in Manchester you can drive two miles and you can pretty much point at everywhere you’ve played. Is it 251 FAC.? We’ve played there as well. It’s been a bit of a journey in Manchester, much like it has been in Newcastle. We’ve pretty much played every room in Newcastle, so to now play a venue where we used to watch bands and still watch bands makes it a bit more special. It’s our home as well, so friends and family will be there.
You have quite a close bond with your fans, probably one of the closest in your genre. Is this something you’ve always sought out to do, having this connection?
I think it’s something that’s kinda developed as we’ve become more independent. I think when we first started as a band, me and Mickey got off a bit of a treadmill in that we kinda approached life in a logical way, you know GCSEs, A Levels, Degree and then career. Very much a linear progression. When we finished our degrees we wanted to do something that we were passionate about, so we thought we’d see what would happen with music for a couple of years but kinda applied the same logic to it. So to develop our career in music, we needed a manager and a label. It was very much making the songs to facilitate a career and, when we had the experience of a major label, we realised that it wasn’t what we wanted. We started to think that the songs were being taken away from it all. Me and Mickey started writing songs when we were 12 or 13 because we just did, it wasn’t because we wanted to be in a band or musicians. We used to just go upstairs and play guitar together and sing daft songs. I think after the first album and being dropped by Columbia, things got back to being about writing songs and expressing ourselves. We’ve always been people who when we listen to music, we’ll pour through the sleeve notes or listen to classic albums five or six times. We love learning about the music and where it comes from. When you see the same people come back to gigs, you really value their honesty that they actually like your music. I don’t think people come to our gigs because they hear us on the radio a few times and feel compelled to come. So i think that’s we are close to our fans because we are music lovers ourselves and we feel really close to our music. We don’t really show our passion by making outlandish statements or being exceptionally animated on stage but instead show our passion through the time we take or the artwork or writing blogs or just having craic with people when they come to gigs. Sorry about that being such a long winded answer…
So as well as being in a band, you have families of your own. How do you find it having to juggle between the two?
Me and Mickey both now live in Birmingham, so touring is a lot easier because we can get home most nights. It is hard when we are away but we’re not away that much because we’re able to control the time that we’re away. When we’re at home we get to see them a lot. So on my street there will be a lot of people going out to work at 7 and getting back at 6, so they’ll miss their little ones during the day. Whereas me and Mickey can get the time and be flexible. I’ll be looking after William two or three days a week and getting the tea ready for when Jo comes in. The flexibility of it is really great.
You seem to have this knack of getting support bands that end up doing really well like Catfish & The Bottlemen and The 1975, do you choose the support for your tours?
Yeah we do. With The 1975 we toured with them four or five times and we just knew them. When we tour we also pick people whose music we like or we know we’ll get on with them. Me and Mickey had done a bit of recording with The 1975 so we knew the music well enough. It was crazy that their stuff had been ignored by major labels for four or five years and suddenly it went insane. Whereas with Catfish it was a bit different as the tour with them last year was just when things started to bubble for them and that’s gone crazy since. I think with The 1975 we definitely helped because we produced a lot of their earlier stuff and had them on tour a lot. With Catfish it was already going to be stratospheric without supporting us. They’ve gigged so much and Van is so good at what he does. The tour with them was immense craic and it’s been lovely to see the journey that they’ve gone on because it’s really well deserved. They are one of the best live band I have ever seen. I was just talking about it to someone the other day about how it’s music that’s really honest and it needs an honest frontman and honest delivery and Van has it in spades, that’s the magic right there. His demeanor onstage wouldn’t work if the music wasn’t genuine, like if it was contrived or bullshit.
Finally what are your plans for the rest of 2015?
Well we’re supporting Catfish & the Bottlemen on their tour then after that we’re just going to get back to the studio, well when I say the studio I mean Mickey’s garage. We really enjoyed last year being productive and just releasing music, if manage to record something that we’re happy with is another task.
I’d like to say thank you again to Rob for the interview and for being one of the most genuine guys I have ever met, much appreciated. You can buy Little Comets new album from the link below