Live & Listen's 'Bands You Should Know': Little Raine Band July 8, 2016 14:48

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Live & Listen is pleased to introduce a brand new weekly feature known as Bands You Should Know.  This new concept will highlight a different band each Friday with an interview, general background information, current happenings, as well as videos and audio from each band.  After nearly two years of various interviews and artist spotlights, we feel that installing a consistent weekly feature is the best next step for Live & Listen.

For our second edition of Bands You Should Know, we sat down with Davis Little (guitar/vocals) of Little Raine Band, a band that we've been following closely since the spring of 2015.  This band was fortunately the first band we ever saw at CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival, an event that has become a major part of our annual calendar.  We can't think of a more perfect band to acclimate us with such a special experience.  Little Raine Band will hit you with elements of progressive rock, jazz, blues, and just the right amount of space funk.  The sky is the limit for this young Birmingham-based band, and they've only scratched the surface.

From what I recall, Little Raine Band got started with you and Daniel (Raine) playing music back in junior high school, and then you added in Isaiah (Smith) and Devonte (Hutchins) a few years later. When do you feel that things really started taking off for the band?

Davis:  I guess when I really noticed it taking off was after we released our first album (Liveheart), in a way.  Before that, our shows had been good, and things had really been gelling with Devonte and Isaiah.  That album was really the milestone marker for me.  It felt like, "Ok...this is a unit now."  For me, the album was really our solidifying point.  

That makes sense.  It gives the people who have been coming to your shows the opportunity to listen to your music at home, in the car, wherever.

Davis: Right...yeah it was the first time they could take us home with them.  

I'm sure you started to notice more people showing up and singing along with some of those songs.

Davis: Exactly. It was a progressive start, you know?  When Devonte joined the band, that was a really big moment in our career.  He made us realize, " works now."  We started to notice more people coming to the shows, and many of the same people coming back to the next show.  It was beginning to grow in different cities as well.  After that album, we did a little tour in each of the cities that we had developed a market in, and it's all been moving forward from there.  

I'm not surprised to hear that.  He is an absolute beast of a drummer.

Davis: (laughs) Yeah he is.  He's a prodigy, to say the least.

Speaking of the album, you guys recorded Liveheart in April of 2015.  This had obviously been in the works for quite some time.  How much original material were you guys working with at the time, and how did you decide which to include?

Davis: That process was pretty interesting, because we did have a lot of material to work with.  We're going through the same process right now as we work on a new album.  We just take a look at all of the songs that we had and kind of narrow it down to the ones that have been well received and people seem to like. We also want to include some of the songs we haven't played as much, but we know we want people to hear them.  

So, it's a mix of that type of process.  The weeding out process...and which ones are composed better.  Some of them are just kind of ideas that we took to the stage.  Either we'll elaborate on them in the studio and build them into something better, which happened on our first album a bit.  There's a whole number of processes that go into it.  It's really about trying to get new material in people's ears, as well as what they have already heard and hopefully enjoy.  

Listen to Little Raine Band's debut album Liveheart here:

So you mentioned you're starting to work on a new album.  Can you tell me a little more about that?

Davis: Yeah...we have a bunch of stuff that we're working on right now.  We're really just going at it right now.  We are doing a full-length album, and we are in the process of recording it right now.  There are always financial hindrances and that type of thing, so it's a little bit slower moving this time.  We're getting on it though.  We are also recording at our house.  During our shows, we have some segments where we kind of go into different genres or zones, where it can get a little more trancey.  So at home, we're recording some of these more trancey parts of our shows.  We are kind of putting them in a folder, and we don't know what we are going to do with them yet.  So we definitely have plans to release something before long, but it's kind of forming before our eyes.  We don't know exactly what's going to happen yet.  

That's great though.  I'm sure it's nice to have a few different angles to choose from, as far as what you ultimately want to go for in the studio.

Davis: Right.  We want to have a great studio with all of our actual songs, but we also have all of these other elements that we play live.  We want people to understand what our live show is all about when they hear our album.  So we want to incorporate all of the pieces of the album, from beginning to end, or at least that's how we try to do it.  We're creating this live experience, in a way.  

Photo by Thomas Diasio 

Little Raine Band's sound is truly distinct and unique.  I hear elements of psychedelic funk and blues.  Then, I hear some really calming, spacey moments, and plenty of heavy, progressing jamming.  I feel like your guitar playing has a lot to do with it. How would you describe the sound that you guys are going for?

Davis: That's always been an interesting thing for me.  I think about it all the time, but I've never really found an answer for.  Basically, it comes down to the fact that individually, we all listen to such a wide variety of music.  Each of us play different styles of music.  Daniel plays banjo, and sometimes we'll play bluegrass and jazz.  Each one of us is different.  I think mainly, our sound comes from the fact that we are each individual musicians.  We all write songs differently.  When we come together and put it all on the table, it melts into it's own thing.  That's what I enjoy the most about playing with this band.  It's a lot of fun on stage, because we can kind of go on this journey.  We might start off doing a gospel/funk/psychedelic thing, then move things into this deep space trance.  Then we'll take it out with a progressive punch at the end.  It's pretty fun to write a setlist and play a show with this group of guys and that mentality. kind of turns the set into a little bit of a story, right?

Davis: Exactly.  We find ourselves doing that type of thing.  We'll mashup lyrics in our songs.  If you look at the setlist, there will be a story within it.  You will see it with the song names.  We always joke that no one who is listening is going that deep.  We're not Phish, you know?  No one is going to go quite that deep with our set, but we're going to do it anyway (laughs).  It's a lot of fun.

I'm sure you'll start to notice people picking up on that over time, if they havent already.

Davis: Hopefully so man.  It's they if they catch it, that will be cool.  

I think it's just a matter of who your audience is and how familiar they are with your music.  No one is going to pick up on Phish doing that type of thing unless they see them on a regular basis.  

Davis: Exactly...that's a great point.  It takes a certain type of audio file to really dig in.  It's fun to have that type of mentality.  It almost creates it's own universe that you can get sucked into.  It's one that our band lives in.  We all live in that universe, so it's fun for us.  You'll see some of this on the next album.  There is going to be some stuff that people may or may not notice that we've planted in our first album.  I can't really reveal much more than that, but there are some little nuances.  

Watch Little Raine Band perform "Trying to Fly" at Zydeco in Birmingham, AL here:

In terms of the songwriting process, how does it work for you guys when working on a new idea?  Is everyone bringing different elements to the table and hammering it out from there?  I'm always interested to hear how different bands go about that.

Davis: It's a really interesting thing honestly. We've all gone through different ideas with it.  Ultimately, everyone is expected to bring a solid idea to the table.  Don't bring it to the table if it's not at least halfway done yet.  We still live by that to an extent.  You have to have a good idea to present to the band.  We always do that, no matter what.  But if we're really going to grind something out, we have to have a rule of having a ideas that are at least semi-fluent.  From there, we'll grind it out as much as possible during rehearsal.  

It's always changing though, especially with technology.  Sometimes we'll record some of it on the computer and work with it from there.  You can only rehearse so much.  Technology has been a blessing and a curse.  It's one of those things where we can use it as a really awesome tool for our songwriting.  We've even written songs in the van; using keyboard and computers on the way to a gig and played it that night.  Then we evaluate it from there.  It's a mixed process.  There isn't really an exact form to it.  We just try to get it done, if we can. 

We're in the midst of a time where there seems to be more bands than ever before. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges and rewards that a young band like Little Raine Band faces out on the road?

Davis: One of the biggest challenges that I can think of is just that there are so many bands out there in our echelon.  By that, I mean bands with a good market that are starting to make some noise.  There are some bands that are more business savvy.  Some might have better connections.  That can be the main issue with getting gigs sometimes.  Everyone has their own sound, so it is relative.  I love the fact that there are so many bands out there, because we can link up when we go to a new city.  You only have so many agents who are trying to represent bands at this level.  If their roster is full, their roster is full...until something happens otherwise.  

It's really just the business side of finding agents and trying to make the connections that everyone is trying to get.  We can't do it all by ourselves, you know?  One day, we would like to just be able to play music, and not have to worry about booking gigs (laughs).  At this point, it's a bit of a distant dream.  We do have some guys that help us, and it's a wonderful team of people.  We're always trying to move forward and trying to get the next leg up.  Everyone wants that same leg.

In terms of the rewards, I can only imagine how satisfying it is when you do land that gig or festival spot that you were working for.  That's essentially why you guys do this, right?

Davis: Absolutely. It's definitely a rewarding experience, but at the same time, it's a fleeting experience.  Every gig happens so quickly, and then it's over.  You're left standing there like, "Damn...I need more!" (laughs).  You get your hour and a half of satisfaction on stage, and it's such a great experience.  It can be an upsetting thing when it's all said and done, but it's also what we live for.  It's all about that gratifying experience.  We're definitely not doing this for the money (laughs).  We're always chasing the gig, more than anything.

Recently busted out a cover of the Grateful Dead masterpiece "Terrapin Station".  You guys nailed all 3 parts of the suite.  That was a bold move.  When did you guys decide to tackle this song, and how much preparation went into it before performing it live?

Davis: Yeah man...we did the entire suite. That was really fun for us.  We have been talking about doing that for years.  I've learned it a few times, and we were going to do it once at our annual "day after christmas" shows in Birmingham.  We were going to make it a really special thing, but it ended up not being the right time.  We've been going to this festival, Acoustic Cafe, for years.  Once the owner invited us to play this year, we were just like "Ok, it's time."  Then the next week we were playing Jam in the Ham in Birmingham, so it seemed like the perfect time.  We knew if we were going to do it, we had to learn every note and do the full suite.  When Dead & Company plays it live, they just stop after that first part "Lady with a Fan."  We just decided this was our time, and we wanted to do the whole thing.  It was a big challenge, but it was really fun.  

That's no easy task man.  Paying honor to one of the greatest bands of all time.

Davis: Right.  The forefathers of a culture that is fueling desires of both musicians and fans alike.  It's something thats much bigger than just a picture in a storybook.

Watch a clip from Little Raine Band's "Terrapin Station" at Zydeco in Birmingham here:

Well before we wrap this up, I know it's obviously a pivotal time for the band. I know you guys are continuing to grind it out and build on what you have already accomplished.  What are you guys focusing on in the 2nd half of 2016 and what do you hope to accomplish? Next Step?

Davis: The next step for us is just to keep on going.  We have some great ideas that we've been working on with some really special shows involving albums and certain concepts.  We are finally getting to the point that we can do them.  Without totally letting the cat out of the bag, we have a certain Birmingham show this year where we plan on doing something we've been wanting to do for a long time.  I'm not even sure if a band has done it yet.  

There's a few things like that happening.  We're just trying to get gigs and pay off our van (laughs).  We need to pick up a few more weddings and college gigs.  Next summer, we really want to get on more festivals.  We're playing some festivals this summer, but not enough to fill up the calendar.  That's definitely our goal for next year, so we're trying to branch out into those markets in the meantime.  That's kind of our thing right now.

Official Website: Little Raine Band

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