When the members of Little Joy began writing songs together, they never thought it would take off. The band evolved from a side project between The Strokes’ drummer Fabrizio Moretti and Rodrigo Amarante, of Brazilian rock band Los Hermanos, and in the music world, those are some wide coattails to ride. But instead of trying to attract the fans of either act, Little Joy created their own identity with their Latin-tinged folk rock-a risky move that’s led to a burst of blog buzz surrounding their 2008 self-titled debut. They will kick off their second U.S. tour on June 2 at SOhO, with Jack Dishel of the Moldy Peaches performing in place of Moretti, who is currently working with The Strokes.
Asked how the band have managed to create an original sound despite the popularity of their members’ past work, Little Joy’s multi-instrumentalist (and Moretti’s girlfriend) Binki Shapiro explained, “I think it just came from us trying to be as honest and true to what we wanted to say and what we wanted to do as possible. And that didn’t involve trying to have a particular sound, whether it was like The Strokes or Los Hermanos or anyone else.”
Little Joy, she said, began not as a serious endeavor, but as an exchange of ideas between friends who’d been working hard on their own songs. “The thing is that there was never a plan to make a record and put it out and tour and all that. That was the last thing that any of us thought of when we started doing this. It was like show-and-tell almost. : I had some songs and Rodrigo had some songs and Fab had songs.” And “after a few drunken nights,” they began to feed off each other’s creativity.
There’s a casual atmosphere to their music, whether Shapiro’s singing a ballad of frustration or the band are jamming over the Hammond organ-powered, polyrhythmic pulse of “No One’s Better Sake.” The album’s breezy tones belie the thought that went into the recording. Moretti, as it turns out, is a bit of a perfectionist.
“All the parts : were very scrutinized and well thought-out long before we went into the studio,” Shapiro explained. “Fab is very meticulous when it comes to every fucking note that you sing, whether it’s the harmony or the main melody or whatever. It’s like nothing is really by chance.” Which is especially surprising, considering so many of Little Joy’s songs seem as if they came from, as Shapiro put it, “a couple of people getting stoned and picking up their guitars.”
“I think it’s very cool that people who have talked to me about the record say, ‘Yeah, it’s so, like, simple and mellow and whatever,’ and I’m glad that came across because I like that aspect of it-that it sounds very pleasant and easy. But it definitely was not that way in the recording process.”
The hard work and interaction of the band members are reflected in the way that many of the tracks call out to and feed off each other in a kind of dialogue. Shapiro wrote “Unattainable”-an almost idyllic treatment on unrequited love-about her early longing for Moretti. And Moretti’s own song, “Brand New Start,” gloats about winning his lady’s heart: “Take advantage of the season, to take off your overcoat. The spirits will lift, of those young men you provoke. But I’ll be laughing knowing I will take you home.”
Clearly, what started as a minor gig has turned into something major, and with so much emotion invested, it’s no wonder the members became attached. “After a while, we realized that we’ve put so much work and love into this thing that we couldn’t just, like, let it go,” Shapiro said. “We have to keep it alive!” Hopefully they do because, given the proper care, Little Joy could soon outgrow its name.
Little Joy will play an all-ages show at SOhO (1221 State St.) this Tuesday, June 2, at 8 p.m. For tickets and info, call 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com.