Interview: Little Birdy – This is the year!

Interview by Elize Strydom
Photo by Tony Mott
Little Birdy - photo by Tony Mott It’s the album Little Birdy have always wanted to make. So what do you do when all your dreams have come true? Bass player Scott ‘Barney’ O’Donoghue tells Elize Strydom he’s happy to relish the moment. For now.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Not that Little Birdy’s first two long players – the top-five dazzler Hollywood and acclaimed debut Big Big Love – could ever come close to being called failures. But on their shiny new record Confetti they’ve well and truly nailed it. By now you would have heard the unofficial single – and clear festival fave – Brother and the single proper, Summarize.

While the unmistakable vibrancy of Katy Steele’s voice still features heavily, the keyboard driven riffs of earlier numbers are no more. Instead they’ve been replaced by brass, live strings and theremin (do a Wiki search – I had to). The songs are still catchy as all get up but the lyrical content goes deeper and darker. This time the kids locked the babysitter out of the kitchen and made dinner all by themselves. And Birdy’s bass player Scott ‘Barney’ O’Donoghue is proud as punch.

“With the last album we did a lot of the work, like demo-ing, in Perth. Then we went overseas and recorded it with a producer (John King – one half of the Dust Brothers) who didn’t change any of the song structures at all so it was the same sort of process (this time) but we ended up producing ourselves. It wasn’t that much different except the actual side of organising everything in the studio and getting sounds and things which John helped with a lot last time. We soon realised that all the actual arrangement and the production side of things, well we sort of did it last time to a certain degree, so it wasn’t a massive change.”

So in this age of one hit wonders and a new next-big-thing every week how does it feel to release a third album?

“It feels like I’m getting old! For me, making one album is such a big thing, but to be able to make three? Well that’s something I didn’t think I’d ever get to do so it’s been good. It was such a good process we went through to make it and we’re really happy with the way it turned out.
With the last two albums, particularly Hollywood, we wanted to make an album that had a sound about it and I suppose it didn’t really get all the way there. So with this album we wanted it to have a classic sound and I think we did it. It feels like we actually got closer to what we ideally wanted as opposed to what we managed to do on the previous two.
It feels totally satisfying. You know, there’s nothing on the album that we would change or do differently. I think that’s a pretty rare thing.”

Wait a minute…totally satisfied? It begs the question, where to from here?

“Hopefully we can keep getting better! That’s the idea. We’ll go overseas, if they’ll take us. We’ve always wanted to take our music as far as it will go so we’ll really be trying to push that with this album. It’s just a matter of timing and when it happens, it happens. We’ve been to the US a few times and the UK once and Japan, as well. With the UK we only went there when we started and it was probably a bit premature. It’s great fun, it’s just hard to get your foot in the door but hopefully with this album someone’s ears might prick up a bit more.”

Australian music fans have their ears well attuned to the Perth-cum-Melburnians. Barney was pretty gob smacked to see punters singing along with all of the new tunes when the band played a run of dates around the country last month. By the time they hit Byron for Splendour In The Grass next month Katy might not even need to front the mic.

“Festivals are awesome. We get to catch up with our friends who are playing and everyone in the crowd is just having a great time. They’re not as stressful as our own shows. The crowd is not necessarily there to see you so it doesn’t matter so much – in my head anyway! I just find it more relaxing than playing our own gig.
I’ve been looking forward to playing Splendour for like, five years. We’ve always wanted to play there! I’ve been to the festival but never to play. This is the year!”

Little Birdy’s new album Confetti is out now through Eleven/Universal.


Katy Steele, set to grace the stage at Valley Fiesta 2008, talks with Tara-Kai Hammond