While the Brisbane music scene has always remained tight-knit, it has suffered from a tendency to be influenced from the inside out. Bands share houses, members and an overall vibe that has kept the river city’s amps buzzing and yet also led bands like Little Scout to search for a more diverse sound. The four-piece began their recording time in 2008 with their first EP, Dead Loss. Their debut album, Take Your Light, emerged in 2011 to enthusiastic reviews, and then they reached that treacherous chasm – the challenge of following up the initial hype. Admittedly, the buzz they’d enjoyed was borne out of their own hard work and organic word of mouth, but it’s all been for the best: Are You Life is everything Little Scout wanted it to be and more.
A lawyer by day and multi-instrumentalist by night, Patrick Elliott is taking a break from work and pondering whether he would ever be willing to shake off the shackles of the nine-to-five for a life on the road. “I think about it all the time and some days you think, ‘You know, if I got paid a third of what I do now to do what I love, I’d jump at doing it full time’ – but by the same token, I don’t know. Without having experienced it it’s really hard to say. I’ve seen people who’ve made the jump and it’s either not turned out to be what they thought it’d be or they totally lost balance. I think it’s probably always safest to assume – in our case anyway – that job number two will always be there. I reckon it keeps your head in check, too.”
Looking down the barrel of an upcoming album tour makes for exciting times in the Little Scout ranks. “It gives us something to really look forward to, and that’s the best part of having a weird, split life,” Elliot says. “We have this full-time hobby that we get to look forward to, keeping us sane during a long day so we don’t just feel like we only have one fire going.”
Elliott is happy with the album without ever coming across like he’s selling a product. Recorded in relaxed surroundings in and around Brisbane and then finished off by some industry heavyweights (mixed by Lars Stalfors of Cold War Kids, Deap Vally and The Mars Volta fame and engineered by Joe LaPorta), the album is a step forward for Little Scout without being a move out of their comfort zone. “I think for the most part, the impression that I’ve gotten is that people can see that we’ve worked pretty hard to try and make a step up. I never really like the connotation attached to a band that has ‘matured’, because sometimes it implies that they’ve become a bit boring – but I think if anything we’ve become more confident. I think the maturity lies in the fact we’re playing to our strengths a lot more. With the first album – and I think this happens a lot – people kinda went, ‘Oh well, we knew they were OK and they put out this album and it’s pretty good for a first album.’ So this being our second record, you can’t hide behind any of that unknown stuff. People seem to be picking up on the stuff we wanted them to pick up on this album as well.”
Stalfors’ and LaPorta’s involvement in the project is testament to the band’s growing reputation. “That was all a happy mixture of luck and the right connections,” says Elliot. “Lars heard one of our songs online and approached us first. Given his background we totally thought it was a hoax email. That relationship formed really easily and nicely and he had a big influence on the final product. Given the artists that he’s worked with, we were really happy to take cues from someone like him and have him give us what was really great guidance. From there, he works a lot with Joe anyway, so that’s how that came about – it was a no-brainer to make that happen.”
“It was done fairly piecemeal,” Elliot adds. “Our drummer does some sound engineering work so we had access to a studio that we did a lot of the drums and vocals at. It was piecemeal in the sense that we didn’t have an allotted time to do everything in; we had access to a good space when we needed it and then a lot of the other bits and pieces were built around that. On paper it sounded quite disorganised but it really worked out well and I’d do it that way again in a heartbeat.”
The laidback recording atmosphere provided Elliott with a space to overcome the dreaded ‘red button-itis’ – a condition that renders an otherwise extremely talented musician unable to play their instrument once the recording light is on. “I suffer from that terribly, to the point that I’m the one in the band that needs 30 takes to play two notes. I’m an anxious person. Mel [Tickle, vocals/guitar] walks in, cuts this amazing part and walks out while it takes me the rest of the day to get my bit done. It’s an internal pressure, I think.”
BY KRISSI WEISS