Let’s just get this out of the way: I think Josh McIntyre, the frontman and sole creative force behind emerging Toronto band Little Girls, is a genius.
By that, I mean he is an incredibly skilled songwriter and producer (as a good number of people are) but doesn’t completely realize it. True genius comes naturally, inconspicuously, and there’s nothing in my meeting with McIntrye that suggests he could make the finest rock album of 2009, straight out of the gate. With his blistering, brilliant debut Concepts, I think he’s done it, but would probably be the last to admit as much. He seems genuinely humbled and amused by the small but intense flurry of critical praise that has surrounded his work.
The stylistic tics of Little Girls’ music – lo-fi production, with muddy lyrics and instrumentation – are pretty popular right now in the indie scene, with bands like No Age and Wavves making, you know, waves. But like Interpol’s post-punk reviving Turn On the Bright Lights (2002), Concepts resembles current sonic trends only incidentally, and is too freakin’ good to feel a part of any movement. It stands outside its time, and will last long after the new slacker army has moved on to something else.
I caught up with McIntyre before a recent set at Toronto bar Velvet Underground to get his thoughts on my thoughts about his music.
Q: How does it feel to have your first full-length album out?
A: I’m glad it’s finally happened. A year ago, I never would have considered having my own record, or having a record put out some way other than me burning CDs or whatever.
Q: There’s a timeline note on the inside of the album: “Written and Recorded December 2008 - August 2009.” How accurate is that?
A: Well, [the instrumental] “Departures” was written a long time ago, before I’d decided to even have Little Girls as a band – one of the first pieces I wrote on my own. Next came the first two “songs” I wrote, “Youth Tunes” and “Venom”.
Q: Which are two of the strongest tracks on the album.
A: Yeah, and it’s funny for me to look back on that, because I had no preconceived notion of what I wanted to do with Little Girls.
Q: Concepts kickoff “Youth Tunes” was the first Little Girls song I heard, as it’s also the lead track from the Tambourine EP. Would you agree that it could be considered your “definitive” song?
A: It’s definitely the most open-ended song, out of all of them. A lot of songs later took ideas from that one. The song’s got a pretty weird structure. It’s got a sort-of chorus, an instrumental verse, chorus and verse again, and then ... the “Frankenstein” sample.
Q: I noted that when I first reviewed Tambourine. I thought, here’s a guy who’s really playing with structure, though not totally dismantling it.
A: That’s what I wanted to do [with Little Girls]. A lot of bands feel like the way to make a song sound different is to write really technically. I wanted to go into structure, as opposed to the technicality of what I’m actually playing ... how the songs come together as a whole piece of music, instead of just throwing together noisy, technical parts. A lot of the guitar parts are pretty simple, and there are pop elements in it.
Q: Was there a specific impetus behind starting Little Girls? You’ve been in other acts.
A: There was no one real reason. I was in a band called Pirate/Rock, I was doing drums and background vocals. We’d have practice in our studio in the day, and at night I would come home, where I had access to fairly decent gear. I would just plug in my guitar and see what I could come up with.
Q: How “solo” is Concepts?
A: Everything on the record is played by me.
Q: Did you intend for it to be anonymous, considering the very ambiguous vocals, initial press pics, etc.?
A: I definitely did. After recording a couple songs, I thought, "Maybe I’ll just put this up, and have it out there for someone to hear." I didn’t just want people I knew in the city to think “Oh, this is just Josh’s other band. This is some other thing he’s doing.” I wanted an anonymous band to come up, and see what people thought about it. A couple times, friends asked me, “Have you heard of this band Little Girls?” I just said, “Yeah, I heard one song, I dunno...” [But it was] a strain to try and retain that anonymity.
Q: What do you think of the sudden re-emergence/popularity of your kind of “lo-fi” sound in the indie/underground scene?
A: In an economic sense, I like that people are doing it by themselves. Instead of going into the studio to record a whole album, they’re making “bedroom” projects. I don’t necessarily like all of it, but within that group of bands, there are some that I really like. We did a show a show with Wavves in Montreal, we’ve played with The Bitters.
I like the DIY side of it. People putting out cassettes, 7-inches, any medium. It’s not just limited to CDs, any way to put out music, and I am definitely for that. I’m working on a “split-cassette” with The Bitters called Bitter Girls.
Q: The vocal performance on these songs is a defining element. You’re sort of half-way comprehensible.
A: It was definitely a stylistic choice. I guess I’ve never really been comfortable with my voice, and I liked the idea of having vocals as more textured, as an instrument. The vocal parts are almost entirely harmonies. I liked having that buried but audible sound.
Q: Do you think you’ll ever share the real lyrics?
Q: Even if I asked nicely?
A: Probably not. [Paper Bag Records] asked me if I wanted to include them inside the album and I said, “Hmm, nope.”
Concepts, the debut album from Little Girls, is available now on Paper Bag Records.
Staff writer Jesse Skinner tackles anything and everything thrown his way but has a natural bent for film, music and current events.