Thursday, September 25 2014
Borrowing their name from an old English fable — and from those magic hours of dusk and dawn — Brooklyn-based trio Little Daylight make synth-driven alt-pop that’s sweet and dreamy, but built on big emotion and serious songcraft. After forming in spring 2012, longtime friends/musicians Nikki Taylor, Matt Lewkowicz, and Eric Zeiler launched Little Daylight with a series of much-praised, left-of-center remixes of artists like The Neighbourhood, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Passion Pit, and Freelance Whales. In early 2013 the band premiered their first single “Overdose” (a shimmery, singalong-worthy track that instantly shot to number-one on Hype Machine), then made their live debut at SXSW and quickly scored a deal with Capitol Records. Propelled by a D.I.Y. spirit and intense creative chemistry, Little Daylight is set to release a debut album that radiates their passion for both outré-leaning electronic music and time-defying pop.
The follow-up to their 2013 EP “Tunnel Vision,” Little Daylight’s entirely self-produced first album “Hello Memory” merges the band’s melody-laced arrangements with a sonic palette that includes heavy beats, frenetic rhythms, lush synth, and the raw power of live drums, bass, and guitar. With the candy-voiced Taylor serving as lead singer on every track, “Hello Memory” fulfills Little Daylight’s mission of delivering emotionally complex pop music by lacing that soundscape with lyrics that seamlessly morph from escapist to melancholy. “Hello Memory” also sees all three band members sharing producing, songwriting duties and continually trading instruments throughout the new LP, a dynamic that all the more strengthens the trio’s magnetic energy.
With its ten songs forming a love-story narrative that unfolds in a Tarantino-esque nonlinear fashion, “Hello Memory” was assembled with a classic album format in mind. To that end, Little Daylight loads “Hello Memory”‘s first half with super-danceable tracks (including the dizzying “Overdose” and the glossed-up “My Life,” an album-opening anthem that perfectly captures a joyful spirit of independence), while the second half features such moody and sprawling numbers as the slow-burning, heartsick “Be Long” and the bittersweet “No One Else But You” (a duet with Atlas Genius frontman Keith Jeffery). Whether calling out a femme fatale on the breezy, bouncy “Mona Lisa” or offering up a quietly devastating ballad like “Love Stories,” “Hello Memory” endlessly proves Little Daylight’s ingenuity in blending blissed-out dance music with a heart-on-sleeve yet edgy emotionalism.
Little Daylight first began breathing that formula to life back in May 2012, when Taylor, Lewkowicz, and Zeiler decamped to a friend’s lake house in upstate New York to spend several weeks working on remixes and sketching their own material. Although their glittering takes on tracks like “Man on Fire” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and “Constant Conversations” by Passion Pit fast drew them adoring attention, they soon started channeling the sonics they’d explored in remixing into their own original songs. “On the remix side of things we were working with big beats, big drums, big synths — and eventually we kind of melded those sounds into the songs we were writing for the band,” says Zeiler. The first track bearing Little Daylight’s now-signature sound, “Overdose” followed up its Hype Machine triumph with a sweetly surreal video the band shot while dancing through the power-deprived streets of Manhattan in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. After signing with Capitol Records — and releasing the “Tunnel Vision” EP in summer 2013 — Little Daylight continued to balance remixing with both touring and developing songs for their full-length debut.
To record “Hello Memory,” Little Daylight holed up in a Brooklyn carriage house that they outfitted with the ample supply of equipment they’ve amassed over their years as musicians. Finishing the album out in a Greenpoint studio — after taking time off last summer to tour with artists like Charli XCX and Bastille — Little Daylight closely relied on collaboration and in-studio experimentation in all levels of the album-making process. “I think we derive a lot of strength from knowing that a song can come from anywhere, that every little thing we come up with — whether it’s a lyric or some awesome beat or a crazy production concept — can turn into a song at some point if we keep it around,” Zeiler points out. And while Little Daylight routinely uses those on-the-fly ideas to push into new directions with their sound, the band ultimately stays true to a timeless sensibility in their song-building. “We can get really detailed-oriented about creating ear candy, but in the end the melody’s the most important thing in any song,” says Lewkowicz. Deeply dedicated to delivering a massive and stirring live show, the band has also established itself as beyond skilled at building songs whose boundless energy translates powerfully when brought to the stage.
In producing remixes, meanwhile, Little Daylight are more likely to let loose and color outside the lines. “Remixes are where we get to be really playful and a little more free — it’s about letting yourself go down the rabbit hole and experiment with whatever’s happening in your head at that time,” says Lewkowicz. And with their past remixes including tracks like “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood, “Tomorrow” by Niki & The Dove, “If So” by Atlas Genius, “Angel, Please” by Ra Ra Riot, and “Spitting Image” by Freelance Whales, Little Daylight are now seeing their own songs get the remix treatment from the likes of Charli XCX (who reworked “Tunnel Vision” track “Glitter and Gold” in fall 2013).
Describing themselves as “very much the product of our environment” and hugely inspired by the indie and dance-music scenes in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Little Daylight thrives on connections their fellow musicmakers and, above all, with each other. “The way we work is very collaborative — there’s no leader, it’s a real ‘everyone’ project,” says Taylor. And despite having signed to a major label, the band continues to operate according to a D.I.Y. ethic that goes hand-in-hand with that egalitarian approach. “There’s a real homemade vibe to our work,” notes Zeiler. “We’re all producers and writers, and the band is about the three of us in a room together, working stuff out for ourselves. We consider everything we come up with, and everything we come up with is straight from our hearts.”