Little Misses has been a work in progress around here for a little while and out of the gate wasn’t even called Little Misses. Initially the project came to me as a production job. My friend Jenn had steered Warped Tour veteran and San Diego native Jerra Spence my way because she was “looking for help with her record” as she put it. She also told me that she had listened to the tracks and that they were a good fit for me. Punk in attitude, but with poise. Real lady like I thought!
I’ve always enjoyed working with female artists for a few reasons… one) it’s a really nice break from the testosterone filled rock world of four smelly guys and a van, two) working with great female vocals is always a treat and three) there’s such a different emotional and cerebral vibe going on with the girls. All in all it makes for a much different dynamic and I find it refreshing.
When I got the existing tracks for the record I wasn’t sure what to expect. Jenn and I have very different taste in music, as often witnessed by our arguments over barbeque playlists. I love her dearly but there’s only so much Little River Band one can take while scarfing on bratwurst. In this case she was right, it was a really good fit for my production style and I knew immediately that I could help move the record forward.
Basically what I heard was an X record. That’s a pretty good start around here, as we kinda have a soft spot for that band. It had the raw energy and it had the poetry… the lyrics, that set it apart from all the run of the mill bands. There was something going on here and it was good… really good. Oh… I should mention that it was clear from the get-go that this lady could sing and play with the best of them.
All the album’s original tracks had been laid down by members and ex-members of Los Angeles punk-metal powerhouse Suicidal Tendencies. The guys had done a bang up job and we both really liked a lot of what had been recorded already. Dean Pleasants lead guitar work really shone and we kept it all. The Bruner brothers rhythm section of Steve and Ron Jr. on bass and drums respectively was energetic and tight.
Where things seemed to need help were with some of the basic arrangements. They just needed to be developed more and allowed to breathe. Jerra and I sat each sat down and made a to-do list of what we thought the record needed. The beautiful thing was… that when we compared notes we discovered that we were basically on the same page. We were solid on which vocals needed to be addressed and which instrumental performances needed to be enhanced. We set to work and in a scant week tackled fresh takes of drums, bass and guitar. We kept everything that we both deemed fitting and only made adjustments where we felt that we could make improvements on matching the performances to the nature of the material.
Jerra was totally trusting and encouraged me to contribute as much as I liked. That trust was a really positive thing for the record. At times she would leave me alone to to work up new rhythm parts or single note riffs. Upon her return, input would be quick and deft: “I love this”, “let’s try that part again” and “I’m hearing this here… can you give that a try?” Then it was her turn… we fired up the acoustic and striped over a couple of tunes with it.
Strumming patterns were one of the things we talked about most. (Not surprising, as I am obsessed with them) We were really focused on gluing the guitars to the feel of the songs in order to bridge the alt-country and punk rock themes in a way that sounded authentic and tough while still having a bounce and openness to them that sounded inviting. Mission accomplished! Then it was on to vocals. We tweaked melodies in a few spots but generally the parts Jerra sang are the parts she wrote.
Lyrically we were already in pay dirt so there wasn’t much need to touch upon them. When the artist presents you with “I’m a connoisseur of the self saboteur” or “we were the angels who fell, but we got pushed and we knew very well” you just let it happen. Part of making great records is to know when to leave it alone, and when to turn up the heat a little.
When it came time to mix the process really took care of itself. We had the tones we wanted and the performances as well, so things really did fall into place pretty quickly. This made mixing fast and fluid, and the final record bears that out. There is good consistency between all of the songs, even the ones that were tracked with different sounds and different locations.
Once completed we kind of sat back and caught our breath, it had all transpired so quickly and effortlessly. After a while I asked Jerra: what do you want to do with the record? I knew what I wanted to do… I wanted to put it out on Porterhouse Records and let the world hear it. After a couple of meetings and in depth talks about what we could accomplish we decided to get it out.
There was only one issue left… we didn’t have a name for the project. Since it’s inception the album was always going to be called “Whatevers” in a tribute to the SoCal girl lingo and feel… but a band name? We didn’t have one.
Jerra started lobbing things over the fence and a lot of the ideas were really good… not surprising as she is an amazing writer. It was just that none of them seemed to fit the spirit of the project. Then one day it happened, and I found the suggestion “Little Misses” in my inbox. I know on the spot that we had the band name. It instantly reminded me of one of my favorite Elvis Costello tunes “Little Triggers” and it was a perfect fit for the lyrical content and spirit of the record. We had a name!
Now we are bringing it to you! If you are a fan of X, Social Distortion, The Distillers or Neko Case this record is for you. Little Misses is the real deal and we are happy the band joined us!