Track-By-Track:

Little Kid

“SUN MILK”

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introduction by trevor elkin

More like a feeling than something certain or knowable, Toronto’s Little Kid pour their essence into every single moment of ‘SUN MILK’ just the same. Their latest album bears the weight of the inescapable endings we are all hurtling towards – a twilight soundtrack to a life already lived. Recorded in May and June this year, the songs are in many senses a continuation of the narrative started in ‘Flowers’, which, as you listen, draws you into its pages filled with subtle melodramas, small-town chivalry and a yearning to know what lies beyond the mountains and its wide, tree-lined horizon.

If there is wisdom here, it’s to be found in the intricate details in every ghostly creak and sigh, or the patterns within the grainy fibres that run throughout this album – not in any bold existential statements. There is, however, a line in ‘Dim Light Coming Down’ that settles uncomfortably in the guts before it works its way to your heart:

“I’m not sure what I was expecting / I guess I really should have known

I’d find you right there where I left you / That I could never be alone”

Little Kid write songs that deepen and mature with the listener, ‘SUN MILK’ the same; they are a joy now and will be again another day, when you return. They’ll be right there, waiting.

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‘SUN MILK’ – Track Guide

words by kenny boothby & little kid

The Fourth 

The Fourth was a song we first wrote back in late 2013 or early 2014. It’s a bit of an anomaly for Little Kid, in the sense that it grew from a riff Brodie (Germaine) and I came up with while jamming together on guitar and drums. Usually the songs begin as a mostly acoustic demo and we come up with the band parts later. We have played the song live for years, but it didn’t seem to fit with the songs on ‘Flowers’, especially because we wanted to do that album without electric guitars. It is a bit of an outlier on this album, but I remember feeling inspired by the way some Radiohead albums (e.g., ‘In Rainbows’ and ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’) seem to start with an uptempo song that isn’t exactly representative of the rest of the album. On our first day of recording for ‘SUN MILK’, we spent the first two hours or so doing several takes of this song, but we weren’t happy with any of them. We left and got dinner and came back feeling full and kinda lethargic. We did another take (quite a bit slower) and we all felt much happier with the way it came together. In general, playing things slower was an approach we often resorted to with this album. Some of the weirdest sounds on this song came about accidentally – we were doing overdubs with my classical guitar through some tremolo and delay and noticed that the guitar’s sound-hole was actually picking up the song as it played through the monitors. We really liked the way it sounded, so Paul (Vroom) insisted we start the album with that disorienting sound. Another notable thing about this song is the way Paul recorded and mixed the vocals. I had done some vocal takes at home but I wasn’t happy with how they were sounding – I redid them with Paul in the room and I guess that made it feel a little more socially acceptable to sing loudly. Paul encouraged me to do a few takes a little closer to yelling, and then he bounced the vocal takes to the 4-track and overdubbed them with the original clean takes to get a unique phase effect that we ended up reusing on ‘Slow Death in a Warm Bed’.

Ugly Moon

This one went through a few different arrangements before we arrived at the version we played on the album. Initially I was really pushing for Brodie to play a Bedhead-inspired beat and when we played it live for the first time back in March I think he was essentially playing a heavier version of the beat from ‘Bedside Table’. But it never really seemed to gel and we only played it live that one time because we weren’t happy with our performance. On the first day of tracking, we decided to try a “Daytrotter version” with the acoustic guitar and everyone taking a more minimal approach. We found the live take was pretty close to complete already, and only added a few overdubs. The bending, winding synth sound was a three-person performance, with Paul playing the synthesizer and bending the pitch, and Brodie and our “new friend” Chris Rikkerink manipulating knobs on some guitar pedals.

Drag Your Cloud

This was the first new song I wrote for the album (other than ‘The Fourth’ which we have had for years). I recorded the original demo some time in December 2016, when I was subletting Paul’s apartment while he was on tour. I remember the microphone picking up a lot of traffic sounds, which is a frequent issue at Paul’s place since he lives on a busy street. When we recorded it for the album, we created an arrangement where Brodie and I played electric guitars (tone knobs turned down) and Paul played bass, and we tracked it live in the same apartment where the song was written. We had a couple takes we were happy with but we went with this one because the microphone picked up some street noise again (if you listen closely, you can hear a car horn during a break in the song). It seemed fitting for some of the lyrical content and feels like a document of my time living there that winter. We had a bit of a debate when we were finishing up the song because Paul had put some reverb on my voice which has always been a bit of a faux-pas for Little Kid – he wound up bouncing two tracks of reverb to the 4-track, making small tweaks to the recording speed throughout the song that made the second reverb take’s pitch fluctuate, and we could all agree that it worked after that. Brodie and Paul also went rogue and added some very subtle drums to the song that I didn’t even notice until they pointed them out. The song was almost finished but we asked our friend Aaron Powell from Fog Lake to add some vocals as a finishing touch.

Slow Death in a Warm Bed

I remember recording an iPhone voice memo of the main riff for this song and labelling it “best” – as in, the best riff I had come up with so far while writing this album. In truth, I think I was essentially ripping it off from a bass-line Paul wrote for a band version of ‘Bastard’ we had played live a couple times, which we were referring to as “Bastard (Pedro the Lion version)”. When I showed the guitar part to Paul and Brodie, I remember us all immediately locking into some pretty satisfying parts and feeling excited about the song. Those two also had a real hand in arranging this one – we spent a lot of time debating the amount of times we should repeat certain parts, and this is definitely one of our songs that requires us to pay attention and count in our heads while we play. I remember it coming together really quickly when we recorded the bed tracks, but we definitely spent a lot of time getting a little wild with overdubs on this one, especially guitar tracks. Our love for Built to Spill is probably most on display on this track.

Fog

This is a song we had trouble getting right. We started with a take of the three of us playing guitar, bass, and drums live. It was the end of a long first day of tracking and I remember us literally having trouble staying awake to play this one… That probably comes through a bit – it’s definitely one of the sleepiest songs we have made. I added some piano and Brodie added a slide guitar part, but our timing was not consistent during our original take (we opted not to use a metronome for any of the songs on this album), so the song was feeling sloppy in a way we weren’t sure we liked. I had borrowed our friend Megan’s banjo and we were looking for a place to use it on the album – it turned out that adding the banjo, removing the original guitar tracks altogether, and mixing the drums much quieter seemed to make the song come together. It still has a sloppiness to it but I think it works in a bit of a Gillian Welch-via-Jason Molina sort of way. The lyrics are perhaps the most straight-up fictional storytelling I have ever come up with. I think the imagery was largely inspired by the rural area we grew up in (Petrolia, Ontario), and perhaps influenced by Annie Proulx’s “The Shipping News” and Cormac McCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses,” which I had been reading around the time of writing this song.

Dim Light Coming Down

I asked Brodie and Paul to send over some notes to help write this track-by-track guide and it’s funny how much their notes overlap for this track. Both of them emphasized “THE NEIL BEAT” and commented on how naturally this song came together for us. We started with a live take of classical guitar (through an amp), bass, and drums, and then Brodie improvised some clean electric guitar parts – we just let him play through the song twice and then Paul cut it up and used the best parts. Brodie said he was trying to channel “Cruiser” by Red House Painters, but I feel like it came out as a bit of an electrified David Rawlings part. We felt like the song would really benefit from another voice and we asked our friend Megan Lunn to sing, and she was kind enough to do so. We all commented on how similar our voices actually sound at parts, particularly when she is doubling the melody rather than harmonising.

Like a Movie

This was the last song I wrote for the album. Lyrically, I suppose it describes a metaphorical relationship in four parts – I was inspired by the idea of life imitating art / art imitating life, and the way a lifetime of consuming movies and books may shape your relationships with people or the way you self-narrate your life’s story. In that sense, it could maybe be seen as a bit of a sequel to ‘It Did Not Happen’ from ‘Flowers’. It has a bit of a different feel than the bulk of the rest of the songs and we wanted to take a different approach to recording it. While the rest of the songs started with a bed track of the three of us playing together, this started with my classical guitar parts. I played three harmonising finger-picked parts and then Paul bounced them to the 4-track and slightly slowed them down, which detuned the song somewhat. I then sang over the slowed-down version and tracked some clarinet parts (most of which were not used). Brodie and Paul got together later and came up with the “fucky” percussion parts. We had discussed making the song sound like a circus train passing by – Paul tried to accomplish that by grouping the strange sounds together and panning them to create a slowed down doppler effect. It reminds me of a cross between Leonard Cohen’s ‘One of Us Cannot be Wrong’ and Radiohead’s ‘Videotape’ – two of my favourite closing tracks.

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‘SUN MILK’ is out now, buy it here

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