Summer is approaching and the West Country is coming alive with festivals and events from all walks of the musical spectrum. Robert Plant is back in his old stomping ground, Glastonbury is just around the corner and soulful Americana combo Littlemen are still bringing their own unique brand of melodic country blues to their faithful Somerset following and beyond. ‘Brothers from another mother’, Simon and Nick Allen sat down with Tim Merricks at that last outpost of sanctuary for Bath musicians, ‘The Bell’ to chew over a life out west.
Is it fair to say that the roots of Littlemen go back way before the band was formed?
Nick spent his entire life building up a recording studio called NAM Studios in Holt, Wiltshire where loads of artists have recorded – can I name-drop? Eh Van Morrisson, Royal Blood, Siouxsie Sioux, The Mission, Robert Plant….Throughout all that time Nick has written lyrics about his life and experiences and we started Littlemen in 2013 with the idea of bringing those words to life. He formed this whole thing.
So Nick, you don’t play an instrument?
Nick: No, I don’t play.
Simon: Nick is the Svengali, the Bernie Taupin. We have all passed through the sphere of Nick Allen.
The album ‘Long Road Home’ is something special. How did you achieve that warm and at the same time ‘live’ sounding feel?
It was a gathering of musos who know each other really well in a place we all knew really well and said hey, we’ve got some great songs, let’s just go and record them, in a kind of 1970’s fashion. We’d do as many takes as it took to get it right, a little bleed on the mikes and keep it old school. And Charlie Jones who produced the record with us at NAM was analogue crazy so it was a labour of love.
Tell me about the album cover. That’s a photo of Nick’s mum, isn’t it? And a family tree inside the sleeve?
She’s sadly passed away but she was a formidable woman and the matriarch of NAM Studios. If you came to rehearse or record at NAM you would without a doubt come into contact with Helen Allen. Littlemen are strongly linked to NAM and the whole feel of the album was very much a family community thing and it was a bunch of people who had gone through NAM in one guise or another and come together to form Littlemen and make Nick’s lyrics a reality.
In terms of the music, tell our readers about the ‘Littlemen sound’.
In terms of our sound, there is no great mystery we simply want to write, play and record music full of emotion and intent. We’re continuously striving to achieve that moment in time when we’re playing and for those moments that’s the other thing that matters. Music should be a transcendent experience we reckon. We’ve worked through various methods of recording but more recently we’ve all been getting in the same room to record the way you needed to before digital came along. There’s something very special about being able to maintain eye contact and a connection when you’re recording. After all, as a band, we want to be a set of individuals who work as one to create something bigger than the sum of our parts…..and you know when you’ve got ‘the’ take.
Our influences are far and wide. The trick is to try to mix a jazz sensibility with Celtic crooning via 70’s British/American rock and Country with just 3 chords and the truth. The Americana scene is so diverse right now which is exactly the way it should be and I think we’ll look back at this period as a great time in songwriting history.
What does 2018 have in store for Littlemen?
We’ve decided that 2018 is the year of the single for Littlemen. We’ll be releasing more throughout the year, having recently released our song ‘Talk‘. ‘Talk‘ is a bit of sonic departure for us, featuring a brass section no less. We’ll be following ‘Talk‘ up very soon and getting out to meet new friends playing. We’ve got some London shows coming up plus a very special gig in Bath on 10th October in aid of World Mental Health Day with some very special guests.
‘Long Road Home’ is available through Littlemen’s website here