Local alternative duo Little Stranger has been going non-stop. Having played more than 70 shows since April with the last leg of a North American tour ahead, Little Stranger dropped a new music video in September and the group’s second LP, Trip Around Saturn, in November.
“This is our full rising from the ashes as a phoenix — that’s kind of how it feels,” said one-half of the duo, Kevin Shields.
The 12 tracks on Trip Around Saturn were all recorded at Little Stranger’s home studio on James Island, with bits and pieces recorded at Coast Records with Matt Zutell.
How the music video came together for the new song, “Red Rover,” is reflective of the group’s finesse for creating feel-good tunes that are both intricate and heartfelt.
“It was pretty funny how that music came about,” said John Shields, the other half of Little Stranger. “We found this guy on Etsy who makes these really awesome Power Ranger cosplay helmets. Now we have Power Ranger helmets, so what are we going to do with them? ‘Red Rover’ is probably one of our favorite songs off the new record, so we were like, ‘Let’s make a Power Ranger video for this one.’ ”
“We are doing just about anything we can to relive our childhood dreams now that we are grown ups,” Kevin said. The track “Red Rover” features Brooklyn-based rapper Jarv, who is originally from Vermont.
On this album in particular, the guys dived deeper into sampling as part of their production techniques. The baseline throughout “Red Rover” being an old song from 1969 is no surprise considering the nostalgic feel of the song and the lo-fi film effects in the music video.
“It opens up a brand new creativity when you’re writing a song,” John said about repurposing sounds and chord progressions. “It’s a really fun, fresh approach to trying to write. It was not cheap on a lot of these to get these samples cleared. It kind of broke the bank for us, but we decided it was worth it.”
The songs on the new record include some pretty hefty collaborations, like Cleveland six-piece Tropidelic on “Sunburn,” progressive roots group The Elovators on “I’m Fine” and prolific West Coast rapper Del the Funky Homosapien on “Brain Fog.”
Considering John’s penchant for beat making and the fact that he and Kevin have been roommates for years, songs usually bloom between them starting on the
music side first then end up with lyrics.
“If I hear some commotion happen, I can go down the hall and see what’s popping off,” Kevin said. Many quarantine nights were spent starting from scratch and passing tracks back and forth.
Since both halves of Little Stranger consider themselves optimistic and unafraid to be emotional, their style of party music retains an unfailing sentimentality.
“One of the songs on the album is a perfect example of that, it’s called ‘I’m Fine,’ ” Kevin said. “It was our response to dealing with all the bullshit, troubles and struggles of the last year and a half, but in a tongue-in-cheek, fun kind of way — trying to make light of it.”
Now that the two of them have reached the end of a year’s worth of touring condensed into a six-month period, they no longer feel put on hold.
“It’s clear our fanbase is growing,” John said. “It’s hard to see because it’s an incremental growth, but we are starting to see it pay off, and we are seeing fans come out everywhere we go.”
For Little Stranger, it’s going with your gut as you learn to stop questioning your skills and originality — “You want to see yourself as an artist, but realistically I just want to be happy and have a good life and make stuff that makes me happy,” Kevin said.
“The music industry is the wild west and nothing is going to be handed to you,” John said of embracing the small gains in life. “My 22-year-old self had no idea how hard you have to work. I thought I would be farther along at 31, but I’m so fucking happy where we are at right now.”