Little by Little: The Little Ones make pop music for shiny, happy people

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The Little Ones
9 p.m. Tuesday, March 3. Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Boulevard, University City. Sold out. 314-727-4444.

Since forming just a few years ago, the Little Ones has found itself at both ends of the currently evolving music-industry spectrum. After self-releasing and promoting its first EP, 2006's Sing Song, the LA indie-pop quintet received a lot of attention from record labels eager to capitalize on the band's super-sugary confections, bouncy rhythms and infectious melodies. The group eventually signed to Astralwerks in the United States and Heavenly Recordings in the United Kingdom (both EMI imprints) and began work on its debut album, Morning Tide.

Unfortunately, restructuring at EMI resulted in the Little Ones (and several other smaller acts under its umbrella) being dropped from its deal. After regrouping, the band made the best of the situation and quickly released another EP to keep things moving forward until it could find a way to properly release Tide.

Luckily, Chop Shop Re-cords came calling, and released Tide last year. The album is full of irresistible, head-bobbing numbers that on the surface draw comparisons to the Shins but in reality incorporate a wide range of influences — from the gritty bounce of '60s garage-rock pioneers the Kinks to Motown's irresistible tambourine pulse and simple melodies. B-Sides spoke with Little Ones vocalist/guitarist Ed Reyes via phone, in the van while on his way to a gig in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

B-Sides: How did you form the Little Ones?

Ed Reyes: The band started around 2006. I was in a band with Ian called Sunday's Best, and that ran its course through college. I guess it was tagged in the emo category. I really don't think it was, but just because the label we were on (Polyvinyl) had Braid and those kind of bands at the time. The Little Ones was kind of a natural progression from that, because we've always been fascinated with writing songs with good structure and try to pay homage to the great bands and great songwriters. So with this band we decided to use a lot of that influence and just try to make it our own.

Your songs are so super-poppy. How did you arrive at that sound? Was it something you wanted to consciously shoot for after Sunday's Best?

I think it was a natural thing for all of us because we're all big fans of good pop music from the '60s and '70s and, you know, Motown. It naturally surfaced when we started getting together. It wasn't really a conscious effort to be poppy, but I think what we try to do when it comes to songwriting is concentrate on trying to make the best structure and make decisions that accentuate what the song is all about.

Tell me about Uncle Lee's Rule of Feet.

Uncle Lee is Lee LaDouceur, our keyboardist/bassist. He always taps his feet the most in the band, so when someone comes in with an idea, we just get together and each throw our special sauce and cheese on it, and it becomes a song. But we always know a song is a keeper if we're bobbing our heads and tapping our feet. And if we're not doing that, then we're probably doing the song a disservice. That's sort of our barometer.

Did being dropped from your label hold you back or make you stronger in the end?

Obviously the rejection really hurt, and it was a downer for a second, but we quickly reminded ourselves that we had already released something ourselves and could again if need be, so it really wasn't the end of the world. We realized that our worth doesn't lie in our label affiliation but in our live show and writing together and recording. Once we realized that again, I think we were fine. We self-released an EP (Terry Tales & Fallen Gates) in the interim and promoted that and then Chop Shop came in and released the album and we also remained on Heavenly in the U.K., so everything really seemed to work out in the end.

Things are pretty bleak in the world right now with failing economies and war. Do you think the positive nature of your music provides an escape for people?

I think so. I think that's our goal, is for people to listen to the record and feel certain things and be entertained when they come to see us play live. It gets their mind off of the reality that's around us. If we're doing that, then I think we're doing our job and it feels good. We're just really positive people anyway, so I think it just comes naturally and I don't think that will ever change.

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