Barely two years removed from a cool band name, a Myspace page, and Casio dreams, Long Island’s Small Black is further proof how the democratization of music production/distribution and a DIY ethos can take you from the basement to a signing to a national club tour. Josh Kolenik’s and Ryan Heyner’s space-age Jim James-ish warbles over break beats and fuzzy keyboards form an addictive sound (see Weird Machines) that’s since been filled out to a 4-piece and should shake the paint off the DC9 walls tonight (with partners in synth Washed Out and Pictureplane.) After myriad texts and misfiring for a couple days, we caught up with Josh on the eve of their sixth sellout on the tour thus far in Baltimore last night.
Josh: Hey Josh, gimme one second, it’s really loud in here.
BYT: OK, no problem.
Josh: Yea, so, it’s been crazy. So much, all day every day… I forgot how busy it gets.
BYT: Is this the first headlining tour as Small Black?
Josh: Yea, we’d done a couple of out of town shows but that’s it, it’s just been a couple dates.
BYT: Ah, well I saw you had a Myspace up in 2007 so is this something you started? Are you the principal songwriter and composer or has this been a collaboration?
Josh: At first Ryan and I did everything and I guess it was 07 ‘cause I just had the title but we didn’t have any music for a long while but we just got the Myspace ‘cause I wanted that title. Actually we were just making the music to become that title.
BYT: Did you guys grow up together making music?
Josh: Well we’re from the same part, we’re both from Long Island but we didn’t know each other until after college, but we kind of ran in the same circles. I knew who Ryan was but I didn’t know him, I didn’t have any real close friends in common.
BYT: So, you’re both full time musicians now, are you leaving your school or another profession for this?
Josh: Yea, I do content editing for internet sites so I can work a little on the road, and I do it freelance so I can work a little. Ryan just quit his job of five or six years doing computer stuff so he’s uh, we’re all in I guess.
BYT: I guess that’s everyone’s goal.
BYT: I saw you guys are doing a ton at South By Southwest, so between your schedule their and your earlier performances at CMJ things are picking up quite a bit.
Josh: South By Southwest is gonna be crazy. I did the schedule today and I think we’re playing thirteen times, it’s gonna be nuts.
BYT: As far as reactions, I know they’ve been great in New York with the two sellouts, has it been as good as it looks on paper?
Josh: Ah, it’s great, I feel like it’s been six for six, no duds at all. Philly was sold, DC is sold out too so it’s pretty great. It’s been a blast just to play with Ernest and collaborate, it’s really fun.
BYT: Did you put a band together for the tour or are these people in the band?
Josh: All of us are in the band, yea, and they’re coming on as songwriters too for the LP. It’s definitely fully collaborative. We’re just evolving the group and making a bigger sound.
BYT: So, you just put out the EP on your own last year and Jagjaguwar picked it up?
Josh: Yea, that’s exactly what happened. We did a 12-inch EP in the fall, just like a thousand copies. Jag really liked it, we met with them a bunch of times, they’re amazing people, and we decided to work with them.
BYT: As far as your artwork, or the video treatment that Yoonah Park directed, is this something you worked on all together?
Josh: Oh, yea the video shoot, we were there the whole time. Dave did an incredible job. I really wanted to do something with my uncle and work with Dave to conceptualize it and fit it in with the song. The artwork, we work with this girl Morgan Blair who’s awesome. She’s gonna do our LP art as well. T-shirts, we do all the design, Juan is very good at photoshop. We try to keep pretty tight control over all our art or images that are out there.
BYT: Your touring with Pictureplane and Washed Out, are they friends of yours? How’d you put that bill together?
Josh: Last summer when we started getting reviews we started getting compared to these bands I had never heard of like Washed Out, Memory Tapes… I don’t know I just listened to their stuff and I really liked it and emailed them, got to corresponding, decided to do the remixes. I don’t know, just had this crazy idea to do this collaborative tour. Then we did some shows with Travis in the fall and really got along well with him so it seemed like a natural fit to all go on tour.
BYT: Well I’m sure it’s been a lot of fun then.
Josh: Yea, the best people in the world. They’re all lovely folks.
BYT: How are the crowds? Are they dancing? The songs on the EP seem like they’d get people to move.
Josh: I mean it’s night to night, you know, people in New York aren’t gonna dance, they especially aren’t gonna dance at 7:30 on a Sunday, so. The college shows have been crazy, like Bates College was just completely bonkers. People crowd surfing, it was really good.
BYT: Well hopefully, we’ll see. DC crowds can be weird, sometimes they’ll really go for it. DC9 is a cool room, pretty intimate, so, should be cool. Thanks again for taking the time.
Josh: Sorry again, it’s incredible how valuable time starts to get when you’re traveling all over the place.
BYT: Absolutely. Is it cool if we stream some songs on the site, not for download.
Josh: Of course man, streaming is always cool.
BYT: Great, well I’ll look for one of your shows out at South By Southwest.
Josh: There’s enough of ‘em so I’m sure you’ll do OK.
BYT: Yea I’m sure I can make one of the thirteen.
Josh: Cool, I’ll see you tomorrow.