“We shed that old skin of being a bit scared, and started going for it”
A Chat With… Big Deal
Big Deal duo Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood had a seriously tough year. After separating from the label on which they’d released their first two records, Lights Out (2011) and June Gloom (2013), a home robbery lost them their laptop – and with that, all the demos for their third album. Ouch. We gave Kacey a call to find out how the grunge-pop band came out on top for triumphant new record Say Yes, out on June 10.
“Ugh, at the time it felt terrible,” admits Kacey, laughing. “It was a weird one – it was a real reminder about not getting too attached to technology, too. It’s weird that losing one object could make you feel that way. I ended up taking time off, and just kind of mourning it for a few days? I felt really sorry for myself… But then it was like, alright, just do it all over again! Put your head down.”
“…. we shed that old skin of being a bit scared, and started going for it”
Strangely, rewriting the record turned out to be a reassuring process. When the band set out to recapture the demos, Kacey describes worrying about the “element of luck” in writing and recording – but quickly realised, “oh, it wasn’t a fluke… I can do this again.”
That extra injection of confidence is exactly what Big Deal needed. Their 2013 record June Gloom is all blissful, fuzzed-out romance – shy, and a bit awkward, it can’t quite meet you in the eye. The album scored them a support slot on Depeche Mode’s 2014 tour, and the band learnt lessons from the hectic gig schedule which followed: “I guess like, June Gloom was a transitional record,” Kacey says. “We were still figuring out what we were going to sound like as a band… and now we know what we want to sound like as a band. It was cool, but we felt like we weren’t pushing ourselves – we were being a bit restrained. Then we just shed that old skin of being a bit scared, and started going for it. Then we had a LOT more fun playing gigs, we felt a lot more free.”
“… the true test will come when we play it live”
This attitude set the duo up to weather the laptop/label storm which followed, and when they finally made it into the recording studio, Kacey and Alice were ready to have fun. Say Yes sees the band explore a huge new sound, wielding ambitious vocals and dramatic, glamorous hooks with total enthusiasm: there’s nothing restrained about first single Avalanche, or the triumphant, battle-worn howls on the record’s title track. Braver still, Big Deal step out from the gloom and into the sun on V.I.T.R.I.O.L, owning a gigantic pop chorus that could make even Ellie Goulding jealous.
It almost didn’t make the final cut, though: “Some people hated it, and other people loved it… But I don’t want to make a record that’s so middle of the road that every song sounds the same. It’s a total symptom of a real sickness in indie rock music. I mean, the true test will come when we play it live… but I think we made the right call.”
“… we’ve realised we have it in us… to turn all that shit into gold”
This bold new territory for the band comes as a consequence of recording independently: “It allowed us to do exactly what we wanted to do,” Kacey affirms. They produced the record with famed indie wizard Rory Atwell, who then suggested they contact Brighton label FatCat, home to bands like C Duncan, Honeyblood and The Twilight Sad.
“So… A week later we met up, and agreed to sign with them! It was that simple, it was great. We’re not very good at the whole approaching people thing, and doing the showbiz side, but when it happened it was good! And they’re a very cool label – we admire the [other] bands, and it’s nice to feel a kinship. More so than with our last label, which was quite electronic, more of a heritage label, so it was a weird fit… but now it makes sense! We really like TRAAMS, we really like Honeyblood, we really like PAWS.”
About to embark on a UK-wide tour with Say Yes, Big Deal feel – and sound – victorious. They’ll be bringing a “big band” show and playing as a four-piece, after asking friends (including Peace’s Dom Boyce) to help them out during the recording process. Expect some serious noise as they celebrate their band’s survival.
“It was a big breakthrough,” Kacey beams. “We’ve realised we have it in us to not get crushed… to turn all that shit into gold.”
Big Deal play Sneaky Pete’s on Wednesday 8th June, with support from Fazerdaze and Joshua Gray. Doors at 7pm. Tickets here