A Chat With Tiny Little Houses

Words by Rosa Coyle-Hayward.

After the widespread success of You Tore My Heart Out, Tiny Little Houses have made a name for themselves for their beautiful tracks, awesome live shows and inventive music videos. We spoke with Caleb about their upcoming BIGSOUND Artist Showcase appearance as well as their soon to be released EP.

It’s been a big month for Tiny Little Houses. you just finished a residency at The Gasometer last week and you also played the 2am slot at Yah Yahs. How was that?

It was good fun, I’m not usually functioning at two o’clock in the morning but it was good. It is such a weird place to play, especially with Tiny Little Houses, I don’t feel like it’s much of a party band so it always feels a bit weird. But the crowd was really nice which was really awesome.

It’s always a strange time at Yah Yahs at 2AM.

Yeah, I am at Yah Yahs a lot but I usually leave by two o’clock…by then I am pretty much done!

Talk to us about the residency! You had an amazing line up with you each week.

It was awesome! We are friends with a lot of the people on the line up which is good. It was such a nice couple of weeks to play with those bands because it felt for us like for a long time that…well when I started at least, it’s kinda hard to crack the Melbourne scene sometimes. There’s definitely little cliques and stuff that happen with certain sounding bands. I feel like we have found our like minded bands. It was so awesome to play with Good Morning, they were amazing and Gabriella Cohen was super nice and super charismatic on stage as well.

That’s interesting what you say about the Melbourne scene because I have noticed that a little bit. It’s weird – it does seem like people are supportive, but there are little groups and it can be a bit hard to crack.

I don’t think it’s anything more than there will be a group of people who either all went to the same school or uni or were mates who have moved over from somewhere. It takes them a while to establish themselves and then they kind of hang out and keep playing with each other’s bands. So it can be hard, especially for me, Al and Clancy. We were all from different areas of Australia before we came to Melbourne so we didn’t have that many friends who were in any of those scenes or anything.

We were fresh to Melbourne and it takes a long time. Me and Sean have been playing as Tiny Little Houses, for three, maybe even four years. For a long time there we weren’t quite ready to pull the trigger and do anything properly – but we were definitely playing shows around. In the last two years we have been doing it a bit more seriously and only in the last year does it feel like we have a foot into the music scene a little bit.

Out of curiosity where are you from originally?

South Australia, a small country town.

I was asking because a few musicians from other cities such as Brisbane often say that Melbourne is such a hard slog. In some cities there are only a couple of venues, so once you play there then people will always find your music because they just go to those venues. Whereas here you have to play once a week for years before you crack in because there are so many bands.

I totally agree, it’s really interesting even I would say that I am as friendly with as many bands in Brisbane as I am with bands in Melbourne. Bands in Brisbane are very, very friendly, they have a very nice scene up there. I guess it’s easier to just go up to anyone up there. I definitely find that. Even last year I was already friends with The Creases because I met them at BIGSOUND, so it was really easy to crack that. But you know, Melbourne is like 4 times the population.

Talking about BIGSOUND, you were up there last year?

We showcased last year as well. I’m excited to play this year because last year, I just didn’t know what to expect! I assumed it was going to be really boring and sort of sterile conference-y thing but it was great. We were playing a very decent slot – like 9 or 10 o’clock on the last night. I thought we would have like 20 people rock up – it was kinda scary actually! There were heaps of people that came. I’m looking forward to playing it again because I will know what to expect and I’ll be able to check out more bands and be less nervous about it. We aren’t gonna have the pressure anymore.

That’s great! I saw that you are also releasing a new EP soon?

Yeah! I got the masters yesterday, so it’s all done. Artwork is done. Next single is coming out in about two weeks time and then the EP is coming out, I think around the week after BIGSOUND.

What can people expect from the new EP? you’ve said it was meant to be a bit sadder than the last EP?

Yeah… I asked one of my friends who I always share stuff with before I release it and he thinks that it’s sadder in a different way. There is one song which is a really sad song, it’s probably one of the most personal songs that I have written. The other songs are still about relationship stuff, but it’s about how the world kind of affects them. It’s about growing up and dealing with other stuff than just a broken heart. There is that element to them – as there always is in life, but it seems like it’s a bit broader in its subject matter.

I have to say I really respect musicians, particularly like yourself who write very personal songs, and can get up and sing them. Do you ever struggle with the idea that you are putting these songs into the world, particularly if you are performing them live?

I definitely do but sometimes it’s even worse when… There is one song in particular which I struggle with on this EP. I don’t practice it, I never play it particularly well because I don’t like to, but I do like playing it in front of an audience. You draw from personal experience, but you also draw from other people’s experiences and stories. There is a lot of hyperbole in the things you write about, to make it more dramatic I guess. I think at first I had trouble with it and I would think more about it and feel more self conscious. I’ve been doing it for a bit longer now and it doesn’t bother me as much.

Did you work on ways to push past that worry about vulnerability? Or did it just come out of practice?

Yeah, I think it comes out of practice, though I still get very nervous on stage still. I think that’s gonna take a long time to get over. But I don’t really think anyone in the band is a showman kinda guy, so that element is going to take a long time to work on. At the same time, I hope that means that we are just trying to be honest about what we are writing. I don’t really know how we’re going to get past that – but I guess I should just keep practicing. It’s the best thing to do.

I once read that your favourite song on the EP was ‘Your Tore Out My Heart. Why is that?

I think it’s because that is the one that wasn’t going to go to radio or anything – and it’s all us. We weren’t thinking like ‘this is going be the single’ or something like that, which I think is what we are doing more with this (new) EP. The songs on this EP are not as radio friendly but they are definitely…well, I think they are better. They are closer to what we want to do with our music. Just a bit different. Just a bit weirder and not as straight forward, but I think that’s why I like that song (‘You Tore Out My Heart’). It’s slow and plodding and I have always liked those lyrics.

Up to that point I had been writing and playing Tiny Little Houses songs on an acoustic guitar and this might sound like a really stupid thing, but I had never played on an electric guitar. It was the first time I’d bought an electric guitar and I was like ‘alright, I am going to stop writing slow songs. I am going to try to write a rock song’. It was super different to what it is now, but all the riffs and everything are relatively similar so…I don’t know, it just holds a special place for me. It was like the progression of the band from that moment on.

On this EP the songs all had music videos, is the visual element to go with your music, important to the band?

Yeah, it is. We were lucky because three of those videos with the EP were with Clancy or his brother Jordan. Jordan, our drummer’s brother, is a filmmaker. We got to do three clips with him which was really cool. We also did one clip with our friend Zach from Banalarama and that was really fun as well. So, definitely, it’s a big part of what we do, and we’ll continue to do it. I think we’re going to do at least two music videos for this EP, probably three. For music videos, we give over control to Clancy to have his vision of the song. It’s just fun, because the band can just take it in a different direction and put in what they thought the song was about.

Do you find that your ideas about the songs have changed because of the way they have been interpreted?

Yeah I think so, That ‘Every Man Knows His Plague; And You Are Mine’ video is super different to if it had all been my decision. But I think it’s a super great clip and same with the ‘Soon We Won’t Exist’ video.

I really love the ‘Easy’ video. that’s my favourite one.

Yeah, that one really changed the meaning of that song, which is very cool.

Final question, when is the next time we can see Tiny Little Houses play?

The main show we have booked is BIGSOUND, and I think we are playing a two dates later this year. But I think we’re going to tour soon, towards the end of the year.