The Littlest Viking
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"MCB Artist Spotlight"

MCMB Artist Spotlight... The Littlest Viking

Written by: Matthew Mendoza


The Littlest Viking is one of the most unique sounds to come out of Los Angeles. Hailing from a city well known for it’s talented independent music scene, it’s no surprise that The Littlest Viking plays uniquely vibrant music completely of their own style. Together, Patrick Gregory on drums and Ruben Cortez on guitar blend Rock, Spanish Pop, Nu-Jazz, and Traditional Mexican into a new instrumental composition of several, normally unconnected styles of music. These foreign styles are blended into tracks that will please rock fans as well as ring a familiar tone in the ears of Spanish and Latin listeners. The Littlest Viking play a fast paced and solid tone, creating pleasing musical tension like that of the resonance of a mariachi’s horn. This tension is set into multiple layers of guitar and percussion, creating a rich, structured sound.

The Littlest Viking has recently released their debut album “Labor & Lust”. Labor & Lust was recorded by Infrasonic Studios and C+C Music Factory and released on Nova Youth Records. It is a great piece of musical crafting that reflects The Littlest Viking’s unique instrumental Spanish-Rock sound. The album is now available through mail order on their website, http://thelittlestvikinghellsyeah.blogspot.com.

The Exclusive The Littlest Viking Interview

MCMB: How long have you been playing music?

I've been playing guitar for about 8 years now. I started rather late compared to all the kids who frequent guitar center and shred along to "ride the lightning". I picked up my dads guitar when I was a senior in high school in hopes of playing MXPX's "life in general" in its entirety.

If you could describe your music in any way, how would you?

Our music is sometimes labeled math rock or experimental, but I like look at our songs as pop songs. There may be twenty different parts in one song with one or two discernible verses/choruses, but each of those twenty parts can stand alone. Maybe math pop?

Which earlier musicians have influenced you the most?

90's one hit wonders such as the gin blossoms, third eye blind, etc.. I've always had a special place in my heart for 90's emo pop/rock with bands like Jawbreaker, The Promise Ring, and The Get up kids. Oh yea... and Danzig of course

You have a new album out "Labor and Lust". Describe the music making process for you in the production of "Labor and Lust".

It took so long to make because it took me along time to get the guitar sound right and recorded without sounding like wobbly out of tuned strings. Metal Chris took half a day to record all his drum parts with time to spare which was just ridiculously stupid. I've always believed we are a live band, so it was extremely difficult to try and encapsulate that sound and energy into a digital format.

How has your music evolved since you began playing?

When we first began we wanted to be our heroes. We wanted to put every record we loved into one songs which turned each song we wrote into a 10 minute lesson in shredding. After going through several wrist braces we decided that we should try to find focus and write songs with a clear vision and purpose. That's when we started to focus writing what we think our pop songs. Don't get me wrong, we still write overly exaggerated pieces but we try to tie them together with what we hope will make people smile in excitement rather than nod there head in confusion.

What's your ultimate direction for the band and your music?

To play as many shows and meet as many people as possible. I want to grow as a songwriter (not a guitarist) and for people to ultimately feel comfortable with music that's not in 4/4 or feel as if they need to be a part of any music scene to enjoy our shows. I want to open up for Taylor Swift or The Vans Warped tour, crossing my fingers on that one!

Is there anyone you'd like to acknowledge who's helped you get to where you are today?

My parents for being super supportive and always embarrassing me in front of guests and family functions by ranting about my guitar playing and making me play in front of them as if i'm a guitar playing boxcar johnny. I also thank Metal Chris for making me a descent guitar player after all these years and going along with some pretty stupid ideas. Blake Schwarzenbach, Davey Von Bohlen, oh yeah.. and girls (good & bad)

Any last words?

Damn, why didn't I think of this earlier.... - My Crazy Music Blog


"Every Bunny Nestle Review"

The Littlest Viking- Labor and Lust
TLV

Genre: melodic math rock, post rock

These guys were nice enough to send me their new CD to review, and I'm certainly glad they did. You might remember me posting their last release, the Mafia EP, a while back, but this is definitely a positive forward progression of their sound. The one old song on the CD, "One Malt. Two Straws," is a re-recording (but I think I liked the old version better), and you can definitely tell that the new songs have a better flow to them.

I love the first track, "Joe the Actor," which has no less than three different parts that make me dance, but there's really not a weak track on the album. I am reminded of El Ten Eleven at parts, but right when I think I have their sound pegged, they throw in a punky part, or a jazzy part and send me back to square one. There are some really cool ideas in these songs and I look forward to what else these guys will put out. They are carving out their own niche in what can be a cookie-cutter genre.

8/10 (I've never done a rating before so you have nothing to compare this to, but you know, it seems about right. - Every Bunny Nestle


"Acidmath Review of Labor & Lust"

Following on the Algernon Cadwallader post from a few weeks back, here’s another band with a really awesome 90s Midwest sound. Hailing from San Pedro, California, The Littlest Viking are a two piece instrumental band who are clearly incredibly proficient musicans. The guitar playing on this record is absolutely breathtaking in places, seriously, this guy can shred and is also quite reminiscent of Cap’n Jazz, whilst the drums are equally as snappy and tight. The energy in this is quite something and the slower parts of some tracks suggest that there’s another level of this band that we are yet to fully see. - Acidmath


"Disagreement Review of Labor & Lust"

They have a strange name for a band from California, but that’s not everything weird about The Littlest Viking, a guitar and drums duo that labels its music progressive punk, although it comes much closer to instrumental math rock with the occasional vocal part popping up here and there. Joined on CD by a bass player, they make sure that their sound is also covered adequately in the low frequencies, resulting in ten spirited compositions that are full of lyrical guitar melodies and swift drumming. While instrumentals often lacks the catchy recognition value of vocal music, The Littlest Viking have chosen song titles full with cultural references. Fortunately, Robert Palmer Is Du For A Critical Revalution has nothing in common with this late singer’s smarmy pop effusions, and Theme From Magnum P.I. didn’t turn out to be a retake on that Eighties TV show’s theme.

At times they remind me of local math rocker Mutiny On The Bounty before they added vocals to their songs, and maybe that’s the only criticism that sticks. Instrumental music, no matter how well played, rarely comes with such memorable melodies that the compositions stick. As it is, the ten songs on the band’s debut are an entertaining ride through every imaginable corner of the math rock genre, and the jazzy guitar playing makes sure that The Littlest Viking can garner more interest than your average instrumental band. Their sense of humour is infectious, and matches their witty songwriting. Released on their own label Nova Youth and coming with a refreshing transparent sound, Labor & Lust is sold for a moderate price, which should be incentive enough for every fan of intricate rock music to lend them an ear. - Disagreement.net


"Daily Dose Track Review of Dr. Patch Adams, You Saved My Life!"

The Littlest Viking: Dr. Patch Adams, You Saved My Life!

October 12, 2009
Written by Stuart Morrison

From their debut full length album Labor & Lust
Labor & Lust From San Pedro, California, The Littlest Viking are:
Christopher Patrick Gregory- Drum solos/What?
Ruben Jesse Cortez- Guitar/delusions of grandeur



We don’t play many instrumentals on Insomnia Radio, but when The Littlest Viking sent us their album, which is mostly of that type, we thought we had to make a welcome exception. Dr. Patch Adams is we think representative of the ten tracks on the album, in a style the band describe as “instrumental prog/punk. I don’t know if that’s technically a genre but if it is we might be boldly categorized as such”.

The album is not yet available to download, but the link from their Blog will get you the CD for $7 postpaid. Or $5 at shows and Pedro Taquerias.

- Insomnia Radio


"Silence is a Sound Review of Labor & Lust"

The concert inside my head has been announced as follows: “NEW! NEW! NEW! The Littlest Viking – Labor & Lust for those, who think “Battles” are too sterile or who are waiting for a lofi-punk-instrumental-version of “Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains”. Tonight live in concert.”

Evening. Actually, a handful of ragged, music-loving nerd-cells found their way to the location. A huge two-headed suricate, drugged up to the eyeballs with coffeine, adrenaline and endorphins – The Littlest Viking – enters the stage to pick up guitar and drums. Quickly drinking up their bottle of home-brewed – the audience can read the words PUNK, PROG, PUNK again and JAZZ on it – and BANG! let’s go.

Leap of time.

37 minutes and 38 seconds later. Gigging madly, shivering and without any orientation, those few cells that haven’t been blown away, a curling on the floor. Eternal happiness because of what? Because of the unbelievable good-humored melodies, the frenzied breaks, the tight play of the Siamese Twin? Probably all of it. Such a rainbow-colored soundtrack does not only consist of the sunny sides of life, there are also heavy rains to complete the profile of the wild norsemen. Nevertheless, one can see a smirk on the face of the two-headed monster, before the band pushes along, to send another brain into its well deserved madness…

Genre: Math-Rock, Progressive, Punk
(37:38)
- postrockcommunity.blogspot.com


"Getting Nice: The Littlest Viking's Craziest Rhythms"

In a matter of months, the Littlest Viking figured out what many prog bands never learn: complex melodies aren’t necessarily good ones. When the band was still in its formative days, guitarist Ruben Cortez grew tired of writing 50-plus guitar riffs per song. He and drummer Chris Gregory were having a difficult time keeping up with their own compositions; the music was complicated for complication’s sake. Then they realized that music isn’t a sport: the American ear inevitably prefers “Satisfaction” to “Xanadu,” just like the American reader will set Finnegans Wake aside for a well worn middle-school copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Not that the Littlest Viking (named for a beloved Pete and Pete episode) snub their riff-addicted peers entirely. Each track from their latest LP, Labor & Lust, is aggressive and precise in execution, with 16th, 32nd, and 64th notes firing off in total synchrony.

The final product is affecting in a way most math-rock can’t be, with the heart just as treasured as the head. Cortez’s lonesome, homesick guitar lines linger long after the song finishes, in the same way Santo and Johnny’s weeping slide guitar sparks nostalgia and lament in the minds of nearly every aging Boomer when they hear “Sleep Walk.” And Gregory’s drums are exercises in versatility: “Bob Golic ’79” closes Labor & Lust in a seamless stream of down-tempo hardcore rhythms, bossa nova and amped new-wave. We caught up with the Littlest Viking by phone while on tour in Phoenix.

The District Weekly: Can you guys endorse Craigslist as an effective way to recruit band members? Ruben Cortez: You know, I guess it’s a good start. I wouldn’t use it as a sole source for finding musicians. I put out an ad on Craigslist and went through a bunch of things I was influenced by—No Knife, Hella, etc. I kept getting responses from drummers that were like, ‘I don’t know any of those bands, but I like to jam!’ And I was like, ‘Sure!’—but they all listened to Tool! I don’t have anything against Tool, but it just doesn’t fit. I guess they wanted a mix of Tool, Red Hot Chili Peppers and 311—the go-to bands in LA. Then Chris contacted me, and he knew every band I mentioned.

Why have just two members? RC: We had other musicians in our band at one point, like a bass player, keyboard player, another guitar player and at one point we had a sax/guitar/keyboard player. We had everything, and we looked at each other like, ‘This is getting out of hand! We’re like the effing Arcade Fire!’ We were deviating from what we wanted to do. I mean, it’s not like we have a set style for what we want to play. In one song we’ll go from like a Sonic Youth riff to something from Prince’s Dirty Mind. We’ll just work it and reform it into our own.

You have a pretty big Web presence for a band so young. There are lots of ways to get your record for free. Is this an economic choice or a philosophical one? Chris Gregory: We just want people to hear us! We sent the record to a bunch of different blogs on the Internet and shared it with everyone. We just wanted to get our stuff out there.

RC: I think that originally the intent was to just start giving out the record. The actual CDs we have are handmade—silk-screened. Our friend did all this work, and I feel bad paying for her work in drinks. I would much rather people download it, see us and buy the record than not see us at all.

What food does San Pedro do best? CG: If I may recommend a great place called the Fantastic Café, it’s got burritos, curly fries, burgers, everything!

RC: I don’t eat in San Pedro that often, actually. Everything there is gonna give me a heart attack!

THE LITTLEST VIKING PUKA BAR | 710 W WILLOW ST | LONG BEACH 90806 | 562.997.6896 | MYSPACE.COM/PUKABAR | MON | FREE | 9PM | 21+ - The District Weekly Long Beach


"Interview with AZNB"

V Ghost and The Littlest Viking at Red Room Monday, Aug. 3
08/02/2009 04:13 PM
Dan Shapiro

If you aren’t into spending money this week, come on down to The Red Room at Grill this Monday, Aug. 3 and enjoy a free show featuring The Littlest Viking from San Pedro, Calif., and TV Ghost from Lafayette, Ind.

T

The lighter side to the evening is still pretty heavy. The two-member instrumental post-rock band The Littlest Viking, named after an episode from one of my favorite TV shows, “Pete and Pete,” are going to rape and pillage the littlest eardrums.

I am digressing momentarily for as simple an explanation I can give for the term post-rock as possible: plug in a guitar and play a melody to the bridge of an unrecognizable song. Then either draw it out over 10 minutes or make it so fast it blurs by without recognition.

Post-rock is a blanket term for more infinitesimal genres, which people like myself obsess over, but if to name it is to deprive it of power, post-rock’s power is about knowing there are boundaries to experimentation with musical styles.

The Littlest Viking’s equation of non-traditional rock ‘n’ roll and jazzy-metal doesn’t necessarily add up to something like a post-rock combo. Listening to their energetic music is like trying to divide three-digit numbers in your head. It’s maddening, but once you start to divine the answer, there’s clarity to the noise, just like figuring out confusing sub-genres of music.

Below, Ruben Cortez and Christopher Patrick Gregory from The Littlest Viking answer some questions about San Pedro, their dismay at the U.S.‘s street-corner food scene and trying to make music that defies borders.

AZNB: First off, please tell us your full name(s), what you do in the band and your favorite Mexican delicacy.

Ruben Cortez: Guitar, incoherent mumbling, and delusions of grandeur. Pretty much anything my mom cooks is the greatest. Even when she attempts to cook other types of cuisine it all ends up tasting like Mexican food, but if I had to pick just one I would have to vote for chicken mole.

Christopher Patrick Gregory: Drums. The California burrito is the greatest thing in the world. It’s basically your garden-variety carne asada burrito, but it has french fries! Genius!

Did you get your name from the “Pete and Pete” episode?

RC: As everyone who has ever been in a band knows, finding a suitable name is one of the toughest tasks to complete. One day I was watching the DVD box set of one the greatest tv shows next to “Boy Meets World” and the episode where Artie, ‘the strongest man in the world,’ is forced to grow up and leave his adolescent mentality and hopes struck a chord and that episode was called ‘Farewell, my little Viking.’ That was originally going to be our name, but it sounded exactly like Godspeed, You Black Emperor and we wanted to stay away from anything that would pigeon hole us in some sort of genre.

I’ve always admired the San Pedro music scene, mostly for its rock ‘n’ roll (Underground Railroad to Candyland etc.) and its taquerias. What are your thoughts on taquerias and the post-rock scene in San Pedro?

RC: I think it’s a shame that the U.S. doesn’t have an acceptable and vibrant street corner food scene. Though there are countless taco trucks and bacon wrapped hot dog carts throughout the city, we fall behind the rest of the world in accessibility and options. Go down to Mexico and you have rows of food stalls hooking you with the intoxicating smell of barbacoa and tacos de cabeza. As far as the post-rock scene in San Pedro, I would say it is non-existent due to the rampant spread of metal/funk/cover bands. Come to our practice space at any hour and you’ll be greeted with a mixture of pot, beer, patuli and metal. Seriously, I think most of the people rent the lockouts just so they have somewhere to smoke pot, play video games and hook up with dames just so their parents won’t barge in on them.

I just realized I dropped the word post-rock word on you. What do you think about that? Do you play within a certain genre or do you transgress labels?

RC: The funny think about this question is that Metal Chris and I were talking about it a week or two ago and I’m not even sure what that means. I know the bands and rules tagged behind it, such as quiet and loud aesthetics of crescendos and de-nuendos (if that’s even the right word), but I would argue we just love a good rock song. The song-writing process is always usually like such, ‘Hey Metal Chris, let’s write a Sonic-Youthy song and throw in some Prince.’ I guess in the beginning we had a focused reference in order to achieve a certain goal, which is obvious in our ridiculously dense early stuff, but we realized that we both love melodies and to a certain degree a pop mentality. Some people have labeled us math rock, but aside from Metal Chris being the most ridiculous musician I know, I don’t think I have chops to fully jump on board with anything that complicated. I would rather be considered a songwriter than a guitar player if that makes any sense.

I saw you played with Sleeping People, who are one of my favorite bands. Who are some of your favorites?

RC: Sleeping People are super nice and amazing musicians as well as people and would have to be one of our favorite bands we’ve played with, along with Upsilon Acrux and 31 Knots. Favorite bands: Jawbreaker, The Promise Ring, Danzig (a.k.a. the punk-rock Elvis), Prince, Tom Waits, X, NOFX, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones (without Brian Jones), Gangster Oldies (the music, not a band).

CPG: The Smiths, Nick Cave, Smashing Pumpkins, Antony & the Johnsons, Hot Snakes, Fugazi, Shellac, Limp Wrist, Don Cab. Also, James Iha’s solo record is the most underrated record of the ’90s.

Talk to us about the cryptic length of your full-length album Labor and Lust, which was recorded earlier this year on your own Nova Youth Records.

RC: The recording was split up in different arrangements. We recorded the drums in one day at Infrasonic Studios where we spent our down time playing on Beck’s guitar and touching the Mars Volta amps. We recorded guitars, bass and vocals at our buddy Dave’s studio C+C Music Factory, and mastered the whole thing with Pete Lyman at Infrasonic. The guitars and everything else took the longest because Metal Chris is a maniac and is perfection on drums while I have shaky hands and usually forget what I’m actually playing. We wanted the record to be a different experience than what you would hear live since we are only a two-piece, so we layered the album with guitars and bass and noise. When you see us, we want to work twice as hard to achieve a full sound and give you a reason to get up and watch us perform which is why we have sweet dance moves now.

What is a ‘newly christened imprint?’

RC: Since we’ve put everything out ourselves and the need for major labels is non-existent and we’re not trying to make it to ‘Cribs’ status, we decided to start our own label with the hopes of maybe adding more bands to the roster with any style of music. We don’t want to be a math-rock/experimental label, we just want to have fun and put out great quality music.

I know you were working on a prog-metal cover of Nick Lowe’s ‘Cruel to be Kind.’ How’s that going? What’s the chance of playing that in Tucson?

RC: We’re still stuck working out the kinks for our version of Rufus Wainright’s ‘The Art Teacher.’

What’s on the horizon for The Littlest Viking?

RC: We look forward to pressing the record on vinyl and putting out some 7-inches with new material from future Nova Youth Records artists and us. We’re already half way done writing new material for another album.

Is there anything you’d like to say to Tucson?

RC: You guys are HOT (weather and sexy alike).

TV Ghost and The Littlest Viking play The Red Room at Grill this Monday, Aug. 3. Get there around 10 p.m. and stick around for Matt and my Magical Power record spinning night. The show is free. - aznightbuzz.com


"Aerophones and Aeroplanes Review of Labor & Lust"


Two California natives, The Littlest Viking, are playing really dreamy/sparkly/fun math rock. The guitarist is incredible, and the drummer compliments him with comparatively admirable beats. This band has really great energy. I would say the visual equivalent of this album is a pond with rainbow fishes jumping in and out of it while a big polar dances in the middle. The bear is on top of a revolving and floating glass cube. Inside the cube, Littlest Viking rocks out! They recently released their debut LP, Labor & Lust. I like it. - Aerophones and Aeroplanes


"Dirty Hippie Blog - The Littlest Viking"

Breaking boundaries of seminal containment, this Nu Jazz Duo plays tight instrumental jams with off the wall changes and heavy orchestration. The music is guided by intricate guitar, obviously influenced by a latin/spanish guit-box style, and supported by clean, wild drum lashings. As well as boasting heavy driving jams, there are moments of supreme solitude that seem to come from nowhere, perfectly placed and incomprehensibly intimate. There are periods of steady trance-like grooves which break apart into acid-jazz stylings and then boom: double bass kicks and heavy shred guitar catch you completely off guard! If Bela Fleck (putting down the banjo and picking up an electric guitar) and Stanton More (Galactic) were thrown in a blender with a dash of punk and a pinch of blue powerade, the concoction would be something similar to The Littlest Viking.

Although the focus is primarily on the music as opposed to the vocals, i wouldn’t necessarily pin Littlest Viking as simply an instrumental band. The few vocals, or even vocalizations, seem so perfectly chosen and placed. But after all, “It is with words as with sunbeams, the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn” (Robert Southey).

To be true, trying to explain The Littlest Viking by comparison to any other band would simply be disrespectful. If you’re like me, and your musical reverence is for the party and the chance to change something subtle within yourself, then here you go. They have an awesome sound, which is something familiar, but like nothing you’ve heard before; and it’s more than worth checking out. ~DHR Associate Writer: Dirty Ryan G. - Robert Southey - Dirty Hippie Radio


Discography

2009- "Labor & Lust"
Debut full length, out on our own Nova Youth Records imprint.
2007- Mafia EP
Debut release from TLV.

Photos

Bio

We're a guitar and drums duo from San Pedro, CA. We've been around for a little over two years, having played shows with the Mae Shi, 31Knots, Crime In Choirs, AIDS Wolf, Bad Dudes, and Upsilon Acrux. Our influences include Don Caballero, Faraquet, Jawbreaker, No Knife, Hella, Lightning Bolt, Broken Social Scene, and the Fucking Champs.