Little Birdy
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Little Birdy


Band Pop Rock


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LP "Hollywood" 2006 Eleven Music Australia



You can never tell what lies beneath. Whether it’s the bewitching sea of lights from the Hollywood hills, a fiery new rock'n'roll band on the radio or the perfect Happy Couple … we perceive them all through dark glass and imagination. It's best not to jump to early conclusions.

In the same way, Hollywood - the second album by Little Birdy - is a mystery unfolding; multiple layers clawing their way to the surface.

"I tend to write pretty deep and dark lyrics but the music we were drawn to as a band this time was more upbeat and dancey," says the group’s charismatic singer-songwriter, Katy Steele. "We had a kind of catchphrase while we were making this record: Inside I'm crying, outside I'm dancing. So what we got was a kind of collision of contrasts."

Hollywood makes good on the extraordinary promise of Little Birdy’s acclaimed October 2004 debut - Big Big Love. You could call it a radical evolution from the wiry guitar-pop of its predecessor which went top 5 and sold over 60,000 copies. But it's probably more accurately described in terms of a simmering, four-way chemical reaction.

"It feels like a meeting of minds," says guitarist Simon Leach, who founded Little Birdy with Katy Steele in 2002. "The four of us clicked early on, but it's only now we've all found our places and our strengths. It's like we've all met in the middle and created a little explosion."

Hence Hollywood's combustion of deliciously disparate elements, from the darkly beautiful strings, piano and vaguely oriental melody of the title track to Little the veiled threat of the first, taut rock single, “Come On Come On”. It's an album of firecracker riffs and cool, off-kilter synth squiggles; of gleeful dance/ rock grunt, slow-building arrangements and moody lyrical introspection.

Among the more extreme polarities are the club floor decadence of “Music” and the eerie pastoral lilt of “Better Off Alone”; the crushed piano-vocal foundation of the climactic “On and On” and the power pop momentum of “After Dark”, a song that hints at the spellbinding nocturnal intrigue of the album as a whole.

As for the title song: "I wrote it a good few weeks before we decided to go and record the album there," says Katy. "I've no idea what that means. It almost seemed to lead us there. "

Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy if you like. This kind of strange momentum has propelled Little Birdy since their sudden arrival on the Australian alt-rock stage in October '03 - one of a startling new generation of bands to explode out of the isolated musical hotbed of Perth, Western Australia. Their self-titled EP (featuring “Relapse”) was an unexpected Top 30 hit and the next three Triple J Hottest 100 polls featured no less than six Little Birdy songs, including a #8 placing for Beautiful To Me and a surprise encore with their cover of Split Enz's “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” (from the Finns Brothers tribute album She Will Have Her Way).

The band’s fans included Melbourne folk-poet laureate Paul Kelly who was captivated by Katy’s voice and presence: a series of on-stage duets culminated in their haunting cover of the Polly Harvey/Thom Yorke song, “This Mess We're In”.

There was also, of course, a rocket ride of pub gigs and festivals, including big buzz showcases in New York and London and a triumphant appearance on the 2005 Big Day Out, which led to a national support slot with REM and Bright Eyes later in the year. Chapter one came to significant close with gold accreditation for BigBigLove and five ARIA Award nominations over two years.

By then, the band was looking ahead. In an isolated Perth bunker, Katy, Simon, bassist Scott 'Barney' O'Donohue and drummer Matt Chequer were locked into a demo process that took quantum leaps in texture and invention.

"We had a pretty strong idea of where we wanted to go this time," says Katy. "I think we've all just kind of grown up as a band and broadened our musical outlook. New sounds, old synths, that upbeat feeling and the raw, sexy edge you get from that kind of music… that's where we started heading."

Unlike most bands that have strong lines of demarcation, the long demo process saw the bandmembers dabbling on each others instruments. Each player added touches of keys, guitars or rhythmic ideas as needed to help grow the song structures. This “all shoulders to the wheel” approach clearly added to the album’s deeply textured soundscapes.

As curious fans glimpsed the process online, the trip took its predestined twist to Hollywood, Los Angeles, and the guiding hands and ears of John King (one half of legendary production duo The Dust Brothers) and engineer Clif Norrell.

With combined resumes including Beck, the Beastie Boys, You Am I, Garbage and Echo & the Bunnymen, they proved the perfect navigators on Little Birdy's night ride of exploration. "We had the songs about 90 per cent sorted between the four of us," says Simon,