NXNE Preview: Little City

Toronto Band Little City By: Sheena Lyonnais
June 15, 2011

There’s a notable wisdom amongst Little City that radiates through their touching and mature folk-inspired indie rock.  They are delicate and smooth, yet grounded on solid percussion that is interlaced with Frances Miller’s moaning vocals, melodic guitars, complimentary banjos and authentic lyrics.  Guitarist Shaun Axani found some time between the real world and writing masters papers to tell us a little more about why we should pack our bags and move to the Little City…or at least spend the night there during NXNE.

How are you doing and where are you right now?

I AM SO GOOD RIGHT NOW. But seriously, I just had mint chocolate chip ice cream on a hot spring night, and I’m in love with life. I’m sitting on a gross blue lazy boy. It’s old, but it’s beautiful.
There are a lot of bands playing NXNE, what makes Little City stand out?

We give mint chocolate chip ice cream to the most passionate 50 audience members. Not really, but if you are reading this, and come see us play, and mention that you read this, I’ll gladly buy you mint chocolate chip ice cream.

But seriously, we stand out because we play an assortment of instruments that you’ve probably only ever seen in passing and always wondered about. AND, I don’t like to make a point of promoting this, but someone joins us on stage who’s had more success on singles charts in Canada than any other single musician playing NXNE. Really.  

How are you preparing for the festival and what you’re hoping to get out of it?

The band gets up at 6 a.m. every morning. We run together, we stretch together, and eat raw eggs together. We are really hoping to increase our rocking out factor, and know that a strict workout regiment is the only way to do it. I think in terms of goals, we found from CMW showcases that we were able to play for a bunch of new faces, and that was really exciting in our hometown. So, just to continue with that, and maybe have a few people in the music industry know we exist.

Your EP, The Going and The Gone, was recorded with Laurence Currie (Sloan, Hey Rosetta, Wintersleep, Ketch Harbour Wolves).  What was it like working with such an influential producer?  Did you learn anything about your selves as musicians while working on that album?

Oh, Laurence. At first, it was pretty intimidating. We collectively have played music for a long time in our various ways, but none of us really had all that much notoriety. So, it’s sort of intense to have the guy who produced one of the best Canadian rock albums of the 90’s show up and work with us. But you get over it, and you sort of realize that, in Canada at least, there’s not a whole heckuva lot that separates the various levels of the music industry. That’s no slight on Laurence, he has an incredible ear and anyone would benefit from working with him. I’m just saying he’s a normal guy, just like you or me. He’s just drank more coffee with Chris Murphy. I think we learned how much we can still grow as musicians, and how exact you need to be to have a professional recording. But it also ended up being a confidence boost, that an established engineer/producer would want to work with us, and be proud of the music he had a hand helping us create (at least I think he is?). 

What other acts are you hoping to catch at the festival this year?

I have this thing about always trying to see One Hundred Dollars at every festival. And at every festival I show up about 5 minutes too late and the venue is full or the line up is unbearable. So I plan on missing One Hundred Dollars this year, despite my best intentions. I’m excited to actually see Cavaliers, Topanga, and Teenage Kicks! That was a very Toronto-centric list, I’m sorry.

There are a lot of bands out there with ‘City’ in the name.  Do you ever worry about this causing you to get lost amidst the sea? How do you plan on ensuring you stay afloat?  

SO MANY BANDS. Seriously, I didn’t know it was that common a word when we started. Like I knew City and Colour, but I didn’t feel too threatened by that. I really like our name based on the dynamic in the band, the different musical and life backgrounds, but this wouldn’t have been our name if I realized that City had surpassed ‘Wolf’ and ‘Bear’ as the most common noun in band names. We’ll probably develop a pyramid scheme to bankrupt the other ‘City’ bands.

NXNE is finally starting to receive international recognition for its stellar lineups and workshops.  What do you think this means for Canada and Canadian music?

I kind of feel like as Canadian music goes, so will festivals such as NXNE. Canadian indie has been cool and respected worldwide for quite a few years now, but The Arcade Fire phenomenon (the Grammy one, on top of their album Funeral), along with a gigantic list of quality secondary acts, has provided the country’s independent music landscape a very attentive worldwide audience. There isn’t another country in the world that’s even close to the same population as ours that chews out this amount of quality, successful acts. And where are you going to see those acts together? Why, at places like North by Northeast! Hopefully it’s cyclical, and by the world paying attention to the festivals, it can just break more great bands.

What is Little City working on at the moment?

There’s so many different areas we’re dabbling in, yet I sat staring at the computer screen for a while before answering this question. We’re trying to work through our summer shows right now, as we also define and make clear goals we have as a band, and what’s next. Little City is a priority of all of ours, but we’re in our mid-to-late twenties, we have jobs, careers, masters degrees, thesis papers to write for masters degrees, and it’s in between all of that that we make the necessary time to work together in a basement and make music together. So, we’re working on improving our songs, playing shows, and writing papers on Ethnomusicology.

Which shows/events/BBQs/unofficial events are you playing?  Please list all below.

We’re playing Bread and Circus at 1am on June 17th (the Friday)! We’re playing with some great bands from all over North America, so you should come and support the vast landscape that travels to Toronto for NXNE! We’re closing the night off, and there’ll be fireworks. Or our keyboard player will throw streamers. One or the other.
Where can we find out more about you?

With all of our different websites, I think we now own 1% of the internet. Myspace (www.myspace.com/littlecitymusic ), website (www.littlecityband.com ), twitter (twitter.com/littlecitymusic ), and more! I don’t know about all of them, our guitar player just signs us up for everything. If you find one I didn’t know about, I’ll reward you with mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Any last parting words for us music-hungry Toronto folk?

I feel like I need to be wise, based on the phrasing of that question. So I apologize for the deep, philosophical tone (it must be the ice cream). There is so much music to listen to now. It’s everywhere, and it’s easy to get bogged down and not search for anything yourself. But challenge yourself and listen and love something new. Something that no one told you that you should listen to, or told you to like. It’s a pleasantly rewarding experience, and you get the added benefit of being able to brag to everyone else about it! In a very mature, non-confrontational manner of course, because you’re a good person. Thanks for reading, good person!

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