This month sees the release of June Gloom by American/British duo Big Deal (Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe) and the title of this album seems fitting. While there is beauty in the delicate riffs and slow build-up of certain tracks, there is also a melodic shift into darker territory of grunge infused rock and roll.
The band worked on their sophomore album with Veronica Falls producer Rory Atwell and recently debut a surreal, mind trip of a video for their nostalgic and playful track "In Your Car." With this album, Big Deal has managed to creative a world of sound both beguiling and evocative of the alternative sounds of bands such as The Breeders and The Smashing Pumpkins.
I recently spoke with the duo, where from London they talked about recording on a boat, the weirdness of the desert, and the three words that best describe their album.
Sirisuk: I know you have sound-check coming up. Where are you playing today?
Costelloe: At The Garage in Highbury.
Underwood: In London.
Sirisuk: Kacey, you're from California which is actually where I'm calling from right now. How did the two of you meet?
Underwood: Well, I came over here for university and I've lived here for a while now. Alice and I met through her mom, but I'm originally from Joshua Tree. I've been living in London for 8 years now.
Sirisuk: How did you two start doing music together?
Underwood: Well, I was at university but I dropped out and started teaching music and that's how I met Alice. Her mom is a teacher as well, and she mentioned that she was in a band and then we became friends.
Sirisuk: I heard this album was recorded on a boat. How did that happen?
Underwood: It just kind of did. We knew this guy who was a mutual friend of ours and he had just started working at this studio that's on a light ship, which is a boat that has a lighthouse on it. A friend of ours had recorded with him and we just tried it out and it went really well. It's a real studio but it is on a boat, so it's also sort of strange.
Sirisuk: I'm assuming the boat didn't move and it stayed in one place.
Costelloe: It did kind of move. It was like the tide came in and out twice a day, so when that was happening it was kind of hard to keep balance, but we got used to it.
Sirisuk: How is June Gloom thematically different form the previous album?
Costelloe: I think that because we took a bit more time to write this one and sort of thought about it more, it's not so insular and introspective as the first record. It's a bit more about everything.
Underwood [laughs]: Everything?
Costelloe: The theme is everything.
Underwood: The universe! But the main differences are that now we're a four piece, and on the first record it was just guitar and vocals and it was really stripped and bare. It was nice but it was kind of hard to tour and hard to play festivals that way, and kind of hard to be the rock band that we wanted to be. So we enlisted the help of a bassist and a drummer who are friends of ours, and those are the big sonic differences now. The first record was very minimal, almost like sketches of songs and this is a very fleshed out affair.
Sirisuk: In terms of the writing process, since there are two of you, do you tend to write together or do you write songs separately and then come together?
Costelloe: A bit of both. It depends on the song. Sometimes I'll start a song, and then Kacey will start working on it or the other way around. We really did try and do most of it together, whether someone had had the first idea or not. We went away for a few days and really just got loads done together and I think just from knowing each other for longer now, we're kind of better at working in the same room.
Sirisuk: You mentioned knowing each other for a long time. There are certain songs like "Pristine" that have this kind of melancholic feel to it - would you say that since you know each other so well, that you're on the same kind of emotional wavelength when you're writing?
Underwood: Yeah, I think there's some amount of time that is necessary for people to really get on that same wavelength and sort of develop their own language together. With our first record we kind of developed doing that, and then on this one really didn't have to think about it so much and we could really sort of finish each other's, I dunno...
Underwood [laughs]: Yes, I think it's hard to find people that you have this sort of sympatheticness, this similar wavelength with - but I think we definitely do.
Sirisuk: What influenced you while you were writing this?
Underwood: There were a lot of things happening in our personal lives with family members being lost and some things happening in sort of the greater world at large that did work its way into the record. We just tried to tie a lot of those things in together with the feeling of growing up, whether that be growing up as a kid or growing up as an adult, and sort of trying to come to terms and get along with the world.
Sirisuk: Did you do all of the writing in the U.K. or was any of it written in California?
Costelloe: We did about half and half. We did quite a lot of it when we finished at SXSW the year before last and we were staying in California. We wrote half of it there and we finished it in the U.K.
Sirisuk: Do you feel that being in a different setting had any kind of impact on the songs?
Costelloe [laughs]: Yeah, definitely. All our happy songs are written in California.
Sirisuk: So did you have a good time out here? Did you like the sunshine?
Costelloe: Yeah, Kacey misses it so much and even I miss it just from being there a few months.
Underwood: It hailed yesterday, it's raining today, and it's 44 degrees and it's nearly summer.
Sirisuk: So there is a june gloom going on!
Costelloe: We predicted it.
Sirisuk: I watched your music video for "In Your Car" and it's really trippy and felt like a surreal daydream. So how did you come to connect with the director [Danny Perez] of that video?
Underwood: I had seen his video that he made for Animal Collective - his most recent one which is also themed in the desert. Having grown up there, there's something weird out there and it attracts a lot of weird people and weird situations. I thought it would be fun to film a video that way and try to capture a bit of that other-worldliness.
Sirisuk: So who are you listening to right now? Who are some bands you really enjoy?
Costelloe: We've been listening to Smith Westerns.
Underwood: We just went and saw Mac DeMarco the other night and that was really interesting, and we're big fans of The Arcade Fire and this band called Paws who are from Scotland that we listen to a lot.
Sirisuk: With this album, what did you take from making it?
Costelloe: We really feel like this is the record we wanted to make and we're really happy with it and that's quite a nice feeling, even if everything doesn't go to plan. We've made something we're proud of, and that's worth a lot.
Sirisuk: How has it been performing live for people? Has it felt different from previous live performances?
Underwood: So far it's been really fun and great. We've only done a handful of shows ahead of the record, but there's a few songs we've released on the internet and it's nice to see people responding to those ones already and kind of singing along. It's more of a rock party than a pity party from our first record, so it's fun. We're happy.
Sirisuk: So..in three words how would you describe this new album?
Costelloe: Pretty f****** great.
Underwood [laughs]: You can't say that.
Sirisuk: I like Alice's answer.
Costelloe [laughs]: Yeah, let's go with that one.
June Gloom is now out on Mute Records. For more information on Big Deal, please visit:
Current Tour Dates:
11 June - Manchester, Soup Kitchen
12 June - Newcastle, Think Tank
13 June - Glasgow, Broadcast
14 June - Birmingham, The Rainbow
15 June - Exeter, Cavern
16 June - Bristol, Louisiana
Watch Big Deal's video for "In Your Car"