The past six months have seen Little Comets produce even littler ones. But brothers Rob and Michael Coles aren’t letting fatherhood get in the way of making trail-blazing music. SAM WONFOR reports
ROB Coles is multi-tasking in a manner which makes me want to ask if he’s actually a woman.
The frontman of North East-born indie band Little Comets became a father for the first time at the end of August – around the time the band’s second album, Life Is Elsewhere, was due to be released.
As is often the case in the music industry – and always when newborn babies are involved – things took longer than originally thought, so the album actually came out yesterday, while the tour to promote it kicks off this evening in Manchester.
“It’s not easy being away from William,” says Jarrow-bred Rob, now based in Birmingham with long-term other half Jo, who hails from the Midlands.
“We’ve been rehearsing in Newcastle and then the tour starts, so it will be 10 days between seeing him. It seems like a lifetime. Saying that, the beauty of writing music is that you can do it in a room, so when we’re not touring, I can be at home more than if I had a proper job.”
Now six weeks old, William arrived as a cousin for Rob’s six-month-old nephew, George, born to brother and Little Comets band-mate Michael and his partner, Ellie, who just happens to be Rob’s partner’s sister. They live a couple of miles away.
“Yeah, Micky’s girlfriend, Ellie, is Jo’s sister,” laughs Rob. “So we’ve worked out that the kids could end up looking more like each other than either of us.
“I was going out with Jo first though,” he adds quickly. “Which technically makes Mickey the strange one, I suppose.
“Our mam and dad are loving the fact that we’ve both had boys so close together,” he continues. “There are only 13 months between us, so with the grandchildren it’s a bit like them doing it all over again – but with none of the big responsibility.”
Feeling a tad bamboozled at the next generation of the Coles family tree (is there a special label for cousins who hail from two pairs of siblings? Silver-plated or something?), it’s probably best to redirect the conversation towards band matters.
The aforementioned album – the follow-up for the 2011 debut In Search of Elusive Little Comets – and tour offers the boys their biggest Tyneside gig yet – they’re headlining at Newcastle 02 Academy on Saturday.
“It’s gonna be bizarre going on that stage and not being someone else’s support,” laughs Rob, referring to the Comets’ previous opening slots for Electric Six and Gomez.
“We’ve played the smaller room there a few times, but on this tour we’re doing bigger venues, especially in the bigger cities.”
The 15-date tour will wind up in London’s Koko on November 1 and feature a delicately-balanced set of classic and contemporary Comets offerings, dating back to their name-changing launch in 2008 (they had previously played under the moniker Freerunner before they found their stratospheric sound).
“Because the album is coming out later than originally planned, it’s been difficult to balance the set because people – especially on the earlier dates – won’t have had time to hear the album much.
“Of course we still love playing the older stuff but at the same time are desperate for people to hear the new album too. We’re really pleased with it.”
The Coles brothers make up the band’s songwriting contingent and are joined on bass by Newcastle-based Matt Hall.
Since the 2011 departure of drummer Mark Harle, they have employed the colourful services of session drummer Greenie who makes himself available at the drop of a hi-hat (ba-da-bam-tschh!).
That said, founder member Mark does feature on the new album.
“We’d recorded the drum track for Worry ages ago, and when we came to do all the other parts, Mark was happy for us to use it,” says Rob.
As far as the new album goes, the accompanying record company press release describes one of the songs, the well-received single A Little Opus as “a lyrical autopsy on Britain’s ‘old school tie’ political elite”.
Rob is happy to say he’s flexed his social commentary songwriting muscles for the second album, but is also quick to admit the associated challenges.
“I’ve been wound up quite a bit by what this government has done over the past couple of years. Especially because Jo is a teacher and Ellie is a midwife. They have daily frustrations with what’s going on,” he says, “so I wanted to try and use that.
“I think it’s easier to make up a story in your head about a situation in a relationship between two people and write about it... but I find it harder to write about things where it actually incorporates a solid opinion.
“You have to be a really good writer to summarise complicated social issues in a three-minute pop song. I don’t think I’ve got there, but I definitely wanted to try.”
Tense and Empty, War and A Little Opus are three to listen out for to see how he’s done.
But if recent radio play endorsements for the latter are anything to go by, he’s done a good job.
“It’s lovely, especially when you get played by people you’ve spent your life listening to on the radio,” says Rob. “I’ve been listening to Steve Lemacq’s show since I knew what music was. With him and XFM, you get the impression that they only play what they like, so it’s good to think those people like our music.”
Now they’re looking forward to hearing what the masses think.
Little Comets play Newcastle 02 Academy on Saturday. Tickets via 0844 477 2000 or www.o2academy newcastle.co.uk. The album, Life Is Elsewhere, is out now. Check www.littlecomets.com
You have to be a really good writer to summarise complicated social issues in a three-minute pop song