Video credit: Little Bombs Music official Channel
Pulling from ’90s heavy-hitters like the Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr. and the Pixies, the gents of New York City’s Little Bombs are creating music that is refreshingly familiar.
If you are anything like me, listening to music from the early/mid-’90s puts you right back in the back seat of your parent’s car as a kid. Singing along to the mumbling of one of the many grunge-gods of the era, the whole world was right outside, and the possibilities were endless. The music had meaning, and every song had a message. For many millenials, Little Bombs will sound like a ’90s childhood, except now, for 20-somethings, the lyrics will resonate.
Kieren Smith, 25, the band’s frontman and guitarist, started Little Bombs in late 2010 as a bedroom project. He released Little Bombs’ first self-titled album later that year, and then sat on the project for over a year. “There was pretty much a whole year of nothing in between that. I wasn’t really doing music, I wasn’t really writing,” Kieren says.
During that time, he says, “I wasn’t even sure I really wanted to do music anymore. I was sort of in this weird, kind of dead zone artistically.” To get out of that space, he took the year to work on other endeavors and projects, and when he started writing again in the fall of 2012, he found himself unencumbered by the creative boundaries he felt before. “I was kind of writing with a no care, no intention, no boundary kind of thing,” he says. “I was just writing to write. The stuff that came out, I thought was kind of cool. It reminded me of the stuff that I had written before I was in music. Kind of the stuff I was in my bedroom with when I was younger, without other people criticizing or giving input, or whatnot, saying how it needs to be more of this or that. It was really refreshing.”
It wasn’t until 2012 that Kieren hooked up with drummer and vocalist Henry Colle, and bassist Nick Cantatore. Kieren met the guys through mutual friends and found that they were good musical matches for the project. After pulling Henry and Nick into the project, the guys took to putting together new material for the band.
By March of 2013 Kieren, Henry and Nick had 40 songs to work with, and were ready to get to work on their new album. They found Vancouver-based producer Jesse Gander, (Japandroids, White Lung) who seemed to be a good fit for the guys. “I kind of talked to him for a while and told him what I wanted to do, and he totally got it right away. He hooked us up with a deal because he knows we are an unsigned, independent group,” Kieren says.
Gander and the guys met up in late March/early April at a studio in Coney Island and recorded 13 tracks in about a week. After he left, Kieren says, “I was kind of sitting there like, ‘What am I going to do with all these songs?’ You know? The band had just kind of resurfaced with the new members, and the new sound and new identity. I didn’t really want to put it out right away.”
So they didn’t. Instead they released an EP that Kieren had recorded himself in May of 2013 called Subway Rat Bite. They reintroduced the band based on that EP, and began playing shows around the New York City area. Then in October, they released Strange, a digital 10-inch that is more indicative of the newer Little Bombs sound.
Their new album, which is yet to be titled, will be released early this year. The new release will share some of the same fundamentals as previous material, but with a new edgier twist. The album artwork, which Kieren says is a critical part to the artistic package, will be from Chris Parks, the same illustrator who did the cover art for Subway Rat Bite. “He’s the kind of guy where if I have a weird dream, or I drink too much, or I do other things that inspire creativity, I can call him and explain it and he can somehow put it on paper exactly what’s in my head. And I cant draw for shit,” Kieren says.
Kieren is hopeful that listeners will be receptive to the Little Bombs evolved sound. Their new album will pull from the same inspirations as previous releases, but will have a darker, deeper side to it. When asked to describe the new tracks, Kieren says, “Lyrically it’s introspective, rhythmically it’s reserved as far as the pace goes…and melodically and sonically, I would have to say, it’s…gloomy…For me personally, I wrote it from a very personal place…it’s not easy listening by any means.”
Kieren likes the idea of this album being a go-to for young adults who are struggling with the stage of life they are at. He is hopeful that for listeners who are post-college but pre-family, and “not knowing what the fuck you are doing with your life right now, that you can maybe find something in it.”
Many of the tracks were written from a personal place, and reflect a lot on the society that Kieren, Nick and Henry have grown up in. “Us millenials and Gen Y people have a lot of problems and a lot of tools,” he says. “We have the financial and intellectual tools to be very successful, but we lack emotionally and we lack the guts, wherewithal and reality. Our generation is very, very smart, but almost too smart. [This album] is all about what’s going on with me and my peers right now.”
After the release of the new album early this year, the guys will head to SXSW and do some regional touring. They are excited about the potential of the band, but Kieren says they are just going “see what happens.”
**A version of this story was published by Naked Magazine in January 2014