Print Edition: April 9, 2014
Little Wild is Layton Keely (guitar, vocals), Jake Holmes (drums), Josh Erickson (bass), and Zach Keely (guitar, keyboards, trombone, and backing vocals). The band talked to The Cascade about their longest and most eventful road trip to the South by Southwest music festival, the reasons behind their name change, and what the future holds.
You guys were previously Rags to Radio. Are there any differences between Rags and Little Wild?
Layton: We’re more fun.
Jake: We’re a little older, and we’ve grown some beards.
Zachary: We have a couple new songs. Like, literally a couple. So, two.
Josh: I think the biggest difference is that we’ve stopped playing a lot of the songs that we recorded previously to the [new] record [we] released as Little Wild.
Jake: However, we did play “Gallows Humour” — we re-recorded it for this album.
What is the songwriting process like? Is there a set structure?
Jake: There kind of is and there kind of isn’t. Layton will come to us with a rough idea or a group of chords that he’s put together with some lyrics that he’s built on. And either I’ll try to fit in a groove, or Zach will come in with a melody and Josh will come in with something else, and we will arrange that to fit in with a good structure so that it’s a good song instead of [a] long jam that goes … all over the place.
Josh: It’s a very collaborative process.You hear of some bands [where] one person writes a song and then everyone else fills in their parts. I think we all contribute our bits and pieces to each song, but lyrically, it’s all Layton.
What has the reception to the band and the new album been like?
Josh: The reception on tour [was good]. We’ve only played in the States once previously, and that was in L.A. … a few years back. But this recent tour down in the States was different. People seemed to really like [the album].
Zachary: At one of the shows we played in Denton, Layton even got up on the bar and started playing cowbell and [convinced] the people in the bar to join our conga line.
Jake: Another thing I’d like to add [about] the show we played in Denton, [is that] there [was] a group of people that had [seen] us and actually asked us when the next show on the tour was, and they then travelled to come and see us in Austin. That was pretty cool.
You got some followers?
Jake: Yeah, that was nice, it was refreshing.
Jake: Denton is a big town of university students, like music students, in northern Texas. Denton basically has the best music college in the States, so [the town] is full of university students that go there just to learn music.
Little Wild played at South by Southwest. What was the process of setting that up like?
Layton: Well, we went to L.A. in 2012; that was when we changed our name, before we released the record. A writer for a music blog saw us play, and she really liked us, and she mentioned [the possibility] of doing a South-by thing, and I told her that we’d definitely be interested. And when she approached us later on, she said she had a full line-up and she wanted to do a tour, so [making] connections. It worked out really well for us.
And you guys drove up there? What was the road trip like?
Jake: Yeah, it [gets] really stinky when we’re all in a small cube van for three and a half weeks.
Josh: And these guys all have gastrointestinal problems that are just the spawn of Satan.
Jake: Three and a half weeks of being in a van, travelling most of that time, gets a little … stale.
Zach: I think we got pretty good at controlling how we [behaved] around each other. You know, if someone’s pissing you off, you just throw on your headphones. They don’t piss you off forever, just for a time.
Did any of you experience any cabin fever?
Layton: Oh yeah, I got cabin fever harsh.
Jake: I was a band mom. I [brought] peace to everybody.
Layton: There was definitely cabin fever because we were driving, like, 10-hour-long drives, and sometimes we were in a bit of a rush, and sometimes we were a little scared because the van was close to overheating.
Josh: In fact, the van broke down the first day of tour.
And how did you guys fix that?
Josh: [Laughs.] Six hundred dollars is how we fixed it.
Jake: We got into Oregon, we stopped in Portland for lunch and Voodoo Doughnuts. And as we’re leaving, we get this nasty stink. We pull off and the front of the van is smoking, so we’re kind of freaked out. We made a couple phone calls and brought it into [a shop] right at 6 p.m. as they were closing. They took a look at it and said they’d have to keep it for the night. They [estimated] it would be the late afternoon when we’d get our van back. We went to a snooze-in motel that had no heating and we loaded up on beer. The day afterwards they gave us a call at 10 in the morning and said, “Hey, your van’s going to be ready in an hour, so get your asses over here.” We then got ready as quick as we could, flew over there, got the van, and drove with only stops for gasoline and food.
Josh: We drove for 11 hours straight.
Jake: We made it to the gig 20 minutes before we played.
Layton: [The mechanic] eventually told us he was going to come in early and work on [the van] himself, so thanks John.
All: Thank you, John!
What were some of your best experiences as fans from the festival?
Josh: Being able to experience the atmosphere of the festival was really cool because Austin is a music-loving city, and for the festival it gets filled up. The downtown core at any given point has around 30 to 40,000 people in it. People were on the rooftops of cafés, in theatres, and parking lots.
Jake: There were like 20 shows happening at the same time, all on the same street.
Zack: A lot of free shows as well.
Layton: And free beer.
What were some of your favourite acts that you saw?
Zach: Damon Albarn, man. All of us got into this free showcase at a place called the FADER Fort. We waited in line for about three hours. I’m actually not 21, I’m 20, so I had to flash them my ID really quick, and sure enough, I got let into the show.
Josh: When we got inside, we all gave each other high-fives. Then at the end of the set he said, “All right, we’ve been playing lots of new music, I know it’s hard to sit through but I promise I’ll make it worth your while. I’d like to perform this song for the first time in its original state.” And he got Del the Funky Homosapien and Dan the Automator onstage and they performed “Clint Eastwood.” The crowd is freaking out, Del does his two verses, and you think they’re about to go back into the chorus, and then you see a third person walk up from the side of the stage, and Damon Albarn just points to the stage and goes “Snoop Dogg!” and Snoop Dogg comes out and start freestyling over “Clint Eastwood.” It was hilarious, and amazing, and so much fun.
What is your craziest tour story?
Layton: We went to Joshua Tree and we met up with an artist.
Josh: Oh yeah, she was kind of crazy.
Layton: And she gave all of us t-shirts.
Josh: Wait, we have to explain this place. It’s kind of like a hippie community in the middle of the desert. There’s everyone you can imagine on the hippie spectrum, from really earth-conscious to completely burnt out. And we follow these signs to this art museum in someone’s back yard, and there are all these weird sculptures. They have a building called the World Famous Crochet Museum there, and it’s just this little shack filled with all these pop-culture references, crocheted.
Jake: There was also this trailer full of sculpted heads made of plaster. [It was] really interesting.
Josh: We eventually met the woman who runs the place. She had this really weird style of drawing, it’s very minimalist. We told her we were in a band. She said that when bands go through town she usually gives them t-shirts. She said, “Guys just pick a t-shirt, and it’s yours.” So, Layton —
Layton: I took a shirt that had a drawing of Cher, the singer, and it said “What Would Cher Do?” It was good. [To Jake:] What’d you get?
Jake: I had one that was like an old Superstore Joe Fresh shirt that she had found somewhere. It had a green badge that said “I like myself.”
Josh: I got this purple tie-dye shirt with a poem printed on the front of it. I don’t even know what [the poem is]. I thought it was hilarious.
Zach: Mine was an XL orange thing, with a pocket on it. And it had a picture of Jesus, and it just said “JESUS.”
Jake: She had another exhibit. It was a huge glass and metal room. You couldn’t get inside, but because the front was glass you could look inside. And what appeared to be like, glass water fountains that maybe she had sculpted or put together was actually something that her boyfriend, or maybe husband, had put together. It’s an exhibit that they bring to the Burning Man festival. But really, what seemed to be a water fountain was a bunch of dildos. All sprouted out, looking crazy. There [were] like four and there was one outside, all shapes and sizes. It was pretty extreme.
Layton. There were glass ones and rubber ones. [Laughs.] She was really nice, and really awesome.
Zach: And then following that, we took a trek into the desert and just hung out for a little while.
Josh: Yeah, we literally just drove into the middle of the desert, and we just started climbing rocks and stuff.
Jake: See where that guy in the hat is, over there? [Jake points to a man standing roughly 10 to 15 metres away from us.] So I was as far away from here to that guy, and I was talking to Josh in the middle of the desert at this same room [volume], and he could hear me. I could hear him. There were no exterior noises. It was really eerie. [It was] kind of cool.
Did you guys stay there at night, or just during the day?
Jake: Oh, we were [in the desert] for like an hour, climbing rocks.
Josh: We left as the sun was setting. So that might not be the wildest story, but it was definitely one of the weirdest stories. The other ones are full of inebriation that we probably don’t want our parents reading. [Laughs.]
So are you guys setting up any shows here at home? What’s next for Little Wild?
Josh: What’s next is I am leaving to go to Taiwan. I am abandoning the boys.
Is this forever?
Josh: No, it’s not forever. I’ll be gone for about a year. But the band’s not stopping.
Jake: In the meantime I suppose we’ll be keeping busy, writing more stuff. Trying to fill the time with shows. We will deeply miss Josh, [he’s] not someone we can exactly replace. Finding a buddy is not easy.
Zach: We’re going to be a three-piece.
Josh: We’re just going to Skype me into performances. It’ll be just like I’m there. People won’t know.
Zach: We’ll make an animated Josh.
Jake: A hologram Josh. It’s going to slightly lag, but that’s part of the performance.
Josh: We’re going to continue writing thanks to the magic of the internet.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.