Words with friends

Literature became veritable darlings of the indie blogosphere following the release of their debut 7”, Cincinnati, in 2010, and have continued to deliver infectious, jangly power pop ever since. This frantically cheerful Texan band is the ideal opiate, if not for the masses, then at least for people with a taste for captivating propulsive pop melodies. And when their full-length debut, Arab Spring, hit the proverbial shelves, via Bandcamp, on the first day of this year, it reinforced what music lovers in Austin already knew: that Literature is a band whose work we could all do to bone up on.

The band has inspired comparisons to the likes of The McTells and The Bluebells, and lead singer and guitarist Nathaniel Cardaci agrees that British music has played a formative role in the development of their sound. Despite widespread critical approval though, the quartet, rounded out by guitarist Kevin Attics, drummer Erik Smith and bassist Seth Whaland, still lives the life of a band on the verge of breakout success.

“Our relationship is very sitcom-ish,” Attics says. “We might as well all be living together in some terrible, hokey sitcom premise. We all have our catchphrases.” Born of Austin’s thriving live music scene, Literature’s members came together through house shows and shared musical tastes, and the band was able to hone their skills in a musical landscape with no shortage of outlets. “There’s a lot going on every night,” Cardaci says of the city. “People tend to get burnt out. Sometimes it can be hard.“ Attics adds, “In other cities I’ve lived in, normally there’d be one show to go to. Here, it’s really easy to miss some really good things. It’s a really rich scene.”

Coming from the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world clearly has some pitfalls. With so many acts vying for the attention of the city’s audiences, Cardaci says it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. “There are so many freaks, so even if you wanted to, it’s hard to stand out,” he says. “I tried to make a joke here in Austin about somebody wearing a horse mask and prancing around. But, I’m sure there’s a band doing that.” The comment induces snickers from his band mates, and the humour hints at the group’s attention to other markets. “We try not to focus on Austin so much,” Attics says. “It’s easier for us to stand out in most other cities than it is for us in our hometown.”

Online interest generated by Arab Spring proves that point. The band agrees that they’ve been pleased by the predominantly good reviews, but were surprised by the album’s reach, all the way to the East Coast. “We weren’t expecting that, ” Attics says. The east coast was just the start for them though, as the record found admirers overseas too. “We had this one crazy email from Japan, out of nowhere,” he continues. “We thought it was someone sending it as a joke because the translation in English was so bizarre.”

Back on the home front, the album has been getting praise from fans and critics alike. Reviews have been accumulating on message boards and music blogs, and the new material has even caught the attention of other noteworthy musicians. “People here tend to really like it,” Attics says. “One of our favourite bands, the Pains of Being Pure of Heart, wrote about the record, saying they really liked it, which was a big deal for us.”With a growing following spread across North America and beyond, the band is planning to tour more extensively in the coming year. Destinations include both the east and west coasts, as well as some soon to be determined dates in Canada.

As if the preparations for those travels weren’t enough to keep the Literature lads busy, they’re also set to record a single, slated for release before the end of the summer. Cardaci assures that listeners can expect another full-length album from the band too. They’re currently working on a handful of new songs that he and Attics say build upon the sound they’ve already established. “It’s much more sensual, I think, in a certain way,” Attics says. “Not like Prince or anything,” Cardaci is quick to clarify. “It’s a lot more ambitious. I think we’re going to have longer songs, and a little more texture. Yeah, sensual is the right word, but not overtly sensual.”

The album will represent a departure from the power-pop esthetic that they’ve built a reputation on, with stylistic nods towards influences like Robyn Hitchcock and Martin Newell. A much more paisley pop record, according to Attics. “It’ll look like the 2000’s answer to the eighties’ answer to psych pop.” With a new album in the works and increasing demands for North American tour dates, Cardaci feels like the band is gaining momentum, but despite the steadily building buzz surrounding their most recent release, Literature still have their feet firmly planted on the ground.

“We’re not thinking too far past this record that we’re working on right now,” Cardaci says. “We’re just trying to stay on our toes at this point. But we definitely get more plays, and a lot more people interested in our music.” “I can’t even buy a loaf of bread anymore,” Attics deadpans. But despite the intended irony and the down to earth mindset, it’s hard to deny that Literature is moving onward and upward with exceptional velocity.

Photography: Suzanne Koett

Leave a comment

ION Magazine 170-422 Richards Street Vancouver BC Canada V6B 2Z4
© Copyright ION Publishing Group 2013