As consumers of music, we often make the mistake of judging things based solely on aesthetics rather than actually giving the art a chance. Sometimes, we see a photo of a band or musician and make snap judgments. The members of Detroit's Little Animal may look like they fit into the often-seen guy and gal synth-pop dyad, but look beyond their image and take the time to listen and you'll find that they are creating truly unique music.
Made up of Rachelle Baker and Nick Morrow, Little Animal has been gigging around the city for the past year, making humans dance to their otherworldly tones. There is an underlying sense of dysfunction in these compositions, although not in a way that detracts from the finished product but instead adds a layer of danger and conflict. This interesting wrinkle is an effect caused by the team's embattled work ethic.
The duo hopes to put out a proper EP by the end of 2014.
Metro Times: When did Little Animal form?
Rachelle Baker: This incarnation of Little Animal formed last year. Actually, a little bit before but I was Little Animal by myself for a year or two, making music. Then, Nick started making these really beautiful beats and I thought it would be really cool if we combined forces and worked on them together. All of the stuff we're doing right now, we started doing last year.
MT: What were you doing as Little Animal on your own?
Baker: I was using FL Studio and making all my own beats, and I played melodica and I sang. I was just making little bitty ... nothing as big as what we've made lately, or what Nick does, but little, moody tracks [laughs].
MT: How did it come about that you started collaborating with Nick?
Baker: Me and Nick have been dating since 2009. I started making music and experimenting with music in high school and when we met, Nick had a computer with Garage Band. I was using FruityLoops. He uses Ableton now and it's a middle point between FL Studio and GarageBand. So, he started using that and was learning really fast. He went to Singapore and was making a bunch of tracks while he was in Singapore and would send me them periodically. There was one in particular called, "The Cycle," that he sent me and I was like, "This is beautiful and I really want to sing to this." I started writing. It had all the sounds that made me want to cry. So, when he got back he was like, "OK, I kind of understand what the sound is." So, he started making a bunch of songs that had that same concept of sound.
MT: What is your writing process with the two of you?
Baker: We have very different creative processes when it comes to music. We're both perfectionists. Nick wants everything to be completely done and sounding almost mastered when he makes tracks and I need something to listen to when I write music because when I write lyrics before I hear a sound, it feels like cutting and pasting. It feels like it doesn't have anything to do with the music and it makes me uncomfortable, but Nick wants to know what the lyrics are. We have opposite ways of doing things. Lately, we've gotten more equipment that makes us not so stuck in our computers. We're using a synth more often and I got a loop pedal. We got a gift from our friend Tunde and he got us a drum pad, so we can put in drum samples instead of programming everything into the song via Ableton, we can do it by hand so it sounds more organic. We're getting better at it, taking one step at a time.
MT: How do you approach writing lyrics?
Baker: It's really important to me to apply a feeling or an emotion to a song and I let the sounds, or how it feels, dictate or sculpt the words. I like to combine what the song feels like to me and make ... I'll write little things down that sound really nice. I have a little notebook and I'll write things in my head that I've been humming or singing and maybe I'll go back to that after I've listened to a song and say, "Wow, that applies to this," but I can't really write a whole song because it's really hard for me to put lyrics that have nothing to do with what's happening.
MT: What is your musical background?
Baker: My mom is very eclectic. So, she listens to jazz, neo-soul, rap, and some rock. Her record collection is the most ridiculous thing ever, but no one in my family plays music. I played violin in orchestra for six years in elementary and middle school, then stopped playing because of a really terrible teacher. I was in one band in high school called Sippy Cups [laughs]. At the time, I was really into 8-bit and break-core and also The Mars Volta, so I would write really weird, cryptic sounding songs, with static-y shit in the background [laughs]. I really liked Atari Teenage Riot, so I would shout a bunch [laughs].
MT: Who would you point to as influences on Little Animal?
Baker: I'm a huge Bjork fan. I really like Little Dragon. I saw Little Dragon live and said, "Oh, man. I gotta start making music again." We both really like Portishead and Massive Attack, like trip-hop acts from the mid-'90s. I love Sneaker Pimps. Nick is a big J Dilla fan. He likes a lot of '90s hip hop and really laid back instrumentals. Nick was a drummer in high school, so anything with really good drums, his eyes just light up [laughs].
MT: Let's talk about making music for ghosts...
Baker: [laughs] When I was making music by myself, my friend Joel, I would send him tracks, and I'd ask him "What should I do? What should I add?" He sent me a thing, he was like, "This sounds like ghosts are having a party!" and I was like, "Huh, ghost dance party..." — mt
Little Animal will be playing the Trumbellplex on Thursday, the 25th. Doors are at 7p.m.
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