Artist You Should Know: Little Tybee

Meet Little Tybee, the genre-blending sextet from Atlanta. They’ve been together for over seven years and they’re currently touring the country promoting their new self-titled LP. We chatted with the band about crowdsourcing their new album, how they maintain an engaged fanbase, and more.

Hey Little Tybee thanks for chatting with us! Can you introduce yourselves? Where are you guys from and how did you meet?
We are all Georgia natives, but half of the band is from Savannah, GA (Little Tybee is a actually an island off the coast of Savannah and inspired the name of the band). We have been playing under the name Little Tybee for the better part of 7 years, but I have been playing with most of the members in various projects for the past 12. Ryan (BASS), Pat (DRUMS) and I went to High School together (Savannah Arts Academy) and all moved to Atlanta around the same time to pursue careers in the arts and music. We met Josh, Chris and Nirvana as members of the thriving music scene that was present in Atlanta at that time. We all clicked musically and have been playing together ever since.

You have been together for around seven years, released four albums, and gone on countless tours — that’s crazy when you think of the longevity of bands today. What’s the secret?
I don’t think we have the secret to anything, but, I do think that we learn more and more about this industry after every release and tour and are able to grow from there.The groups that I see to be surviving as lifetime acts are those that think outside of the box and see their band as not just fodder for a sync placement on an MTV show; but rather as a creative entity that can facilitate the creation of any form of artistic expression. I think it is very important to find your voice and stick to your vision uncompromisingly. Most notable when I think of this approach would be, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Bjork, David Byrne, Beck and Wu-Tang (to name a few). These bands curate countless diverse experiences for fans to participate in their art.

I don’t want our band to be a short lived headline, but rather one that is known for a lifetime of inspiring creations across many creative outlets.

The internet can travel faster, further and cheaper than your tour van stuffed inside Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, so, releasing quality content over the internet and social media is what really makes bands successful today on an international scale. In addition, the ability to communicate with your fanbase directly is the real key to the future of the independent musician.

By asking our fanbase to help crowdsource our new album, we were able to raise over 21k to fund the recording of our record, fully stock our inventory for our future shows and hire a killer PR agency to work the release. We have never been able to afford paying 10s of thousands of dollars for music videos, photography, web design, branding, etc… and have been forced to learn these trades out of necessity. We think if you can create professional, quality content, in-house, you have a big leg up in this game. In the end, you have to love what you are doing and if you are passionate about your art and not about what others think of it, eventually your tastes will align with others.

Your genre-blending sound continues to evolve, with even more complex arrangements and soaring melodies. Your fourth full-length album, Little Tybee, is a perfect example of this. Give us the 411 on the album.
Going into our fourth record, we had a pretty clear idea of the direction we were trying to take our sound. Our songs almost always begin infancy as delicate creations, leaning more to light dynamics with moments of umph!, but years of touring has crept the intensity of our live performance into how we compose. The songs we have written for this album were inspired by many bands of the 1960s and 70s with acts like, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Bill Withers, Harry Nilsson, Yes, Stevie Wonder and the Beatles being the most inspirational. There were also a lot of contemporary artists that we were listening to while writing the record that couldn’t help but sneak into our writing style. Some of these being, Hiatus Kaiyote, D’Angelo, Rufus Wainwright, Fionn Regan, Tame Impala, Here We Go Magic, Radiohead and Junip (to name a few). The overall feel of the album is real “direct” sounding, with vocals and drums tight and forward in the mix.

Ryan’s bass-lines were approached similar to the vibes of the Wrecking Crew of the 1960’s with hook laden melodies that at times would stand out as the lead. This is most evident in “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” and “Tuck My Tail.”

With the exception of “Abby,” the record as a whole is pretty bombastic and rather dense with detailed orchestration and strong dynamics from start to finish.

Due to our experimental nature, we have a hard time placing ourselves in one genre. We think this album fits well into the “Progressive Dream-Folk” realm but we have never been good at titles… There are elements of Folk, Rock, Jazz, Bossa, Psych, Country and even New Orleans Swing! We try not to force a song to be something that it doesn’t want to be. The songs keep you on your toes, not always in a dancing sense but perhaps they create a feeling of nostalgia for the listener. The songs find their place by the influence each member of the band contributes to the sound as a whole. Our backgrounds are unique and our musical interests varied to create a sound only our separate parts could collectively come to.

We love your #TybeeRadio project! Tell us all about it.
I love the idea of associating symbols to our albums. It helps to give guidance to designing the aesthetic of a campaign and allows us the opportunity to connect with our audience in a unique way. My father was a sextant navigator for the trans atlantic shipping industry during the 1970s. GPS was not around back then and every ship traveling the world had a trained navigator looking to the stars for guidance. Pre 9-11, it was possible to work on a ship and, once it arrived at its destination, you could hop off and explore the world for a bit. When you were ready to return, a vessel heading back to the states was always at the nearest port and in need of a trained eye.

During his travels, my father carried a transistor radio along with him to listen to music. He gave me this radio a few years back and until about 6 months ago it was a nice but silent mantle piece.

When trying to come up with a symbol for our new album, something about the design and history of the radio appealed to me. It encompassed everything that I felt Little Tybee represents and also comments on the state of the music industry today. Transistor radios were the first portable music listening devices. Before the transistor was implemented into the radio, tubes were the gold standard. They were heavy, large and took a while to warm up before sound came out. These transistor radios were really the first carrying devices that paved the way for Walkmen, CD players and finally the Digital players we use today. I imagine how exhilarating it must have been to hear a song for the first time while traveling to an exotic location. We take this for granted today but I feel a sense of connectedness to the experiences the owners of these radios must have had when they first came out. I wanted to capture that sense of wonder and pair it to our music.

I work for the film industry in Atlanta building movie props and have a business partner who is a talented electrical engineer, named Myron Lo. I had the idea to rig up the radio with modern electronics that allowed you to plug in and play music through it. We added a band of LEDs that would light up in response to the sound coming through the radio. My idea was to film the radio in different locations while playing each of the songs off of our new album.

When you release an album today, fans will often upload the song to Youtube with a stock picture of the album cover. Music videos are very time consuming to make a unique production for each song on the record would be quite an undertaking. We decided instead to basically creating an interesting visualizer for the record.

I took a trip to Spain last September to bike the Camino de Santiago with a friend. I brought along the radio and filmed it in 12 different locations along the path while playing each song off of our new record through it. The footage came out great and I was content with that being the end of the project but then my friend offered to take the radio to South East Asia and film some footage with it there. I realized that there was potential here for the project to be much much larger than I originally thought. I went on Ebay and purchased as many radios as I could find and hired Myron to rig them up with the same electronics as the first. I began to contact videographers from around the world and have been mailing these radios every few weeks to a new location ever since. My plan is to have over 300 videos to edit to by the time our tour is over.

We must admit, we’re impressed with how active you are with your fans. From a dedicated street team to doing concert ticket scavenger hunts – you’re really engaging! What advice would you give a band who is trying to grow their fanbase?
Don’t be too cool for school. Meet with your fans after you play and be kind and attentive to them. I think it is amazing to have someone take time out of their lives to come to a show to hear your music. Often times they have been planning it for months and driven hours to see you. I honestly rarely do that for bands that I love and I think most bands take this for granted. You should treat every fan like they flew from Norway to see you. That is how you turn a passive fan into a diehard.

As far as building an online presence… Its not about you. If you only talked about yourself with friends you will find that no one would want to hang out with you anymore. This applies to the way you should interact with your fanbase online and in person. Make sure that they feel that you are involving them and that they are having a part in your success. We love coming up with creative ways to include our fans in our creations.

With so many awesome members in the band, what’s your creative process like and how do you pull from each other?
I’ll let Ryan answer this one, “The resounding majority of our songs start with an idea or series of ideas from either our singer, Brock, or our electric guitarist, Josh. The one thing they all have in common though is that they all start out as skeletons upon which to build, which is to say that no one comes in with prewritten parts for another member. Back in the day, we used to just set all of our gear up in a room and bang a song out with everyone trying to make their half-formed ideas heard in the hopes that another member would catch on. When it came time to start fleshing out the new record though, we almost unintentionally adopted this procedure that we dubbed “micro practicing” where we would gather a fraction of the band together to work on a specific task. It started almost out of an accidental necessity, as our schedules have gotten busier as we’ve aged. With this method, we’ll get just the rhythm section together and work on solidifying the grooves for an entire writing session before the harmonic and melodic instruments are even consulted. Or vice versa. One of our songs, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job,” started as a writing “micro prac” with myself, our singer/acoustic guitarist and our electric guitarist. As we worked on it that night, the second half of the song started morphing from a down-tempoish jam into the grooving 16th note feel that it eventually became. I was the only member of the rhythm section there that night, so I figured, “Why not try this 16th note groove thing?” and it changed the whole course of the tune. Regardless, we found that this method made it easier to discover what a song’s true nature was a lot quicker than before, so when it came time to start layering everything together, the road map of each song was more fully realized.”

You’re currently on tour promoting your new album, what’s been the most memorable moment from the road?
Spending the Fourth of July in San Fransisco was definitely a special experience.  We were staying with friends and had a couple of days off before heading up to Oregon, so the band decided to throw a secret show and invite a few fans we had met the night prior for an intimate evening of food and music.  A few members of a Chilean band were also in town and offered to play, and when you have that many talented musicians together in one place, lightning usually strikes (it did).  Also, watching the fireworks from a rooftop in the Mission and seeing a Donald Trump piñata detonated in the middle of the street was pretty epic/satisfying. San Fran: Perfect weather, great friends, and a once in a life-time jam featuring some of your favorite musicians? Yes, please.

Before we let you go, is there anything you’d like to share we didn’t cover?
Keep up to date with all things Tybee at littletybee.com!

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KevinArtist You Should Know: Little Tybee

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