In Conversation with Little Brother Eli

Last year Musicvein caught a ripple from Oxfordshire band Little Brother Eli. That ripple soon turned into a wave down south as the outfit smashed out hit after hit, bringing in a tidal wave of fans. Embarking on the release of their first Live Album this month, Musicvein had to catch up with the band to find out just what they’re all about.

Musicvein: OK, so which one of you has the little brother called Eli?

Alex: “Ah always an easy question (he begins) so LBE is a fictional character from the film ‘There Will Be Blood’. Featuring Daniel Day Lewis, there’s 2 brothers in the film, James the successful one who sells his land makes a lot of money and is a sensible guy – then there’s Eli who denounces capitalism, becomes a priest and spoiler alert gets bludgeoned to death by a bowling pin! Eli is the fella whose made wrong decisions.

Musicvein: So is that who you identified with?

Josh: “Yeah I tried to bludgeon Alex with a bowling pin!” (they all fall about laughing at both the joke and confusion/sheer relief on my face)

Alex: “Good one Josh! It’s actually one of my fave films, I thought the character was wicked and it sounded like a cool band name, that was about 6/7 years ago and here we are.”

Musicvein: So your music doesn’t have any reflection on the film or character, just the name?

Alex: “That’s a good point, the film’s set in the American Great Depression and when we started off we were a bluesy-rock thing, so stylistically there was a link there and seeing the film solidified the vibe of the band – the way we dressed was in line with that period, we were a lot more dapper then.”

MV: Yes I recall some of your press shots, I was thinking Peaky Blinders was the influence. So how did you all come to meet?

Josh: “Me and Alex were mates at school and formed a band prior to LBE. Adam and I went to different schools but played in a Jazz Big Band together when we were kids. After everyone going their separate ways for Uni, Alex and I started writing together and thinking it sounded pretty good decided to put a band together. I called the best guitarist I knew Adam…”

Alex:Well you called the best guitarist first but they were unavailable so you called the second who was too expensive then there was Adam!” (he jibed, this brought on fits of laughter while Adam sulked “Come on guys, really?”)

Josh: “No, no, (he continues) Adam is a brilliant guitarist really. Erm Benji, yes, he and I had played in a hip-hop band years ago so I got him involved. I guess I’m the central point of the band, I kind of know everyone to pull it all together.”

Musicvein: So you started in 2013, how have industry changes affected the way you work?

Adam: “I don’t think we’ve been massively affected by the changes. I mean when we started Spotify was around and at first we did fall into the negative mind of saying ‘Oh Spotify is taking all our money’ but now it’s a really good platform to get our music out to everybody and whilst we don’t capitalize on that, at the same time if we were selling CD’s I don’t think we’d make loads of money anyway. Also with out recent Kickstarter project, that would never have been possible in the past. It’s now so easy to reach out to people and say can you help us out? in a non aggressive way. Having Kickstarter has enabled us to produce our next album – which we didn’t think would happen so soon!”

Josh: “Yeah, it’s now more about making a splash online and backing it up with some shows as opposed to just gigging and trying to build a fan-base through gigging. It can be done, we did that in Oxford initially, but if you tried to build up a fan base in the UK through gigging alone, you’d have to gig a lot and sometimes that’s just not possible, you need to write new songs and focus on other things.”

Alex: “Back in 2016, we did something like 100 gigs that year to try and promote ourselves, that was crazy!”

MV: Bet it was exhausting too! Now let’s talk your new material, it’s very different to Cold Tales, why is that?

Alex: “Cold Tales, it was just a long time ago I guess. It would be a bit weird if in all this time we hadn’t changed creatively and as people.”

Adam: “When LBE first started we had two guitarists, when the band dropped to the four of us, I think in trying to make a big sound with less people forced us to re-think how we went about everything and changed us musically.”

Alex: “Also our old music was contrived in that we decided what we wanted to sound like, we were inspired by a specific bunch of artists and we knew that we wanted to make music like ‘that’. Then as you grow and mature as artists you discover what you’re personally about. We’re four white guys from West Oxfordshire, we have to find our own music that relates to us and it’s not something contrived and abstract.”

Adam: “Yep, clothing too, we were dressing in a certain way and as soon as we said ‘let’s not dress a certain way’, with that we also stopped writing in a certain way. Now we write and if it tickles our ‘proverbial pickles’ then we roll with it!” (everyone laughs at Adam’s proverbial pickles comment! Josh to Adam “Quick write that down, there’s a lyric in there!”)

Musicvein: Going forward will your music be a mixture of old and new to keep your fan base or will you change direction again?

Alex: “We’re super lucky that we have this loyal fan base that are invested in us. Obviously there will be some fans who liked the bluesy stuff we were playing before so will lose interest in anything new but the core fans are invested in us and interested in what we’re doing. So they’ll stick with us and we’ll pick up new fans as we go along.”

Musicvein: Yay like me! Well your loyal fan base was evident in you achieving your Kickstarter goal! Major Congratulations, How do you feel about that?

Adam: “Josh is relieved he worked his socks off for that!”

Josh: “When you do these things you always think, Is anyone going to come to my party? Is anyone going to enjoy the Kickstarter offers? Is anyone going to download/pledge? It’s extremely overwhelming that we achieved our goal, it gives you a warm funny feeling inside!”

Alex: “Again it comes down to our fan base, it just wouldn’t be possible without them. We’re super lucky and Josh did work very hard but essentially it comes down to the people who believe in what we do.”

Musicvein: What made you want to go with a Live recording instead of studio?

Alex: “It was a perfect storm. We played this wicked show, there was tones of people there and we recorded it. What we came out with was the best show we’ve ever done! The energy was electric, we had it captured so it made sense to turn that into something quality for everyone.”

Musicvein: So that comes out this month, what’s next?

Alex: “We’ll keep writing new stuff, prep for summer festivals, record and release stuff!”

Adam: “Definitely lots of music to be released, we think we’ll drip feed it like previously but don’t have any dates for that yet.”

Musicvein: Finally you mentioned Festivals – where would your dream gig be?

Alex: “Glastonbury! And also a trendy one in the states like Cochella – that would be sick!”

Adam: “Red Rock, Ontario!”

Alex: ” Yeah but with Glastonbury you could play and literally die the next day happy.”

Josh: “The Roundhouse probably or Madison Square Gardens – mine’s more realistic than them!”

Adam: “Oh Wait! Superbowl half time show!”

Musicvein: I wish I didn’t bloody ask lol right that’s a rap! Get gone! And with that they head off into the cool Oxfordshire night, laughing, joking and dreaming up more fantastical places to gig.

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