The Little Ones abide by “the rule of feet.” They want their songs to make you move yours, and they definitely want to be inspired to move their own. During the course of their own songwriting process, the band actually tossed out songs that didn’t follow this cardinal rule.
“We kind of came up with the idea that if your feet are shuffling than it’s probably a pretty good song so we should probably keep it,” said singer Ed Reyes.
So don’t expect slow jams, intense ballads or moody dirges on the band’s first EP, “Sing Song.” This is strictly upbeat indie rock, what Reyes likes to call “social” music, because it’s about having a good time — and not just for the audience, the band wants to party, too. “Being dark didn’t really fit us,” said Reyes. “We found that being dark was not making us enjoy [making music]. You play music because you want to play and you enjoy yourself and it makes you feel good.”
Reyes says playing with the Little Ones is the closest he can come to playing with actual family members — the boys in the band are that close. Of course, it probably helps that his actual brother, Brian, is part of the band. Though Reyes writes most of the lyrics, the band — which also includes Lee LaDouceur, Greg Meyer and Ian Moreno — deconstruct each song together and then rebuild it, experimenting with different sounds along the way.
“It’s just a matter of green-lighting everything and seeing what happens,” said Reyes. “If someone says, ‘I have an idea,’ we’re like ‘Go ahead. Record it.’” This is what leads to some of the more fun touches, such as the hand claps and “hey, hey, hey” backing vocals in the song, “Lovers Who Uncover.”
Though you might think all this happiness would lead to light-weight lyrics, they’re actually pretty surprising. Reyes used the word “subliminal” a lot when he talked about his songwriting process. “I’m an observer,” he said. “I’m just a sponge”
Still, considering the world we’re living in, it’s hard not to see both the personal and the political in a song like “Let Them Ring the Bells,” which has the lines: “We thought we never ever fall / Now we are deeper in a hole / Are you going to come and get us out?” It’s a song that he says is about that feeling when you realize five years have gone by in a snap — or even 10 — that everyone has sooner or later.
That sense of helplessness in that song is answered in “Heavy Hearts Brigade,” which ends with the lines: “We pledge our hearts to the new brigade / and align our minds in every which way / We swear our lives to the bold and free / These are words to our living decree.” It creates a nice lyrical arc to the EP that makes it feel like a cohesive whole.
It’s a CD that’s definitely struck a chord with our local Seattle public indie rock station KEXP; they’ve put it into regular rotation. Reyes says he was so pleased and surprised that the station started playing the EP that he actually wrote DJ Kevin Cole a thank-you note. “We’re just thankful that we can be heard. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” he said.
Of course, there’s always room for more dreams. When asked about his potential dream tour mates, he mentioned both Built to Spill and the Flaming Lips. “On a crazy note, it would probably be Os Mutantes — they recently got back together, that would be crazy,” he added, referring to the Brazilian rock band that Beck often mentions as an influence.
Considering the band’s cover art, which was done by Jesse Ladoux, the same artist who did the Shins’ “Chutes Too Narrow” and a bit of a similarity in sound, I had to ask what they thought about comparisons to that band. “I don’t mind that at all,” he replied, laughing. “Hopefully, the Shins don’t mind.”
The band is getting ready to play some dates in New York at the end of June and then head to San Francisco and Seattle in July.
Finding an audience outside of L.A. doesn’t really worry Reyes. “It’s exciting and scary,” he says about playing to people who’ve never heard of them. In these new settings, it’s definitely comforting to have his family of bandmates around him. “There’s always an initial kind of nervousness, but you just know that everything is going to be OK and you’re with your friends and stuff.” And for this band, that’s the most important thing.