Interview: Little King

We chat to Ryan Rosoff from American prog rock trio Little King about their new EP, influences and the possibility of a European tour.

Interview by Jane Howkins

How is 2020 treating you so far?
Other than lots of death of my heroes and pandemics and stock market crashes, it’s been amazing(!)

We lost Neil Peart of Rush, Kobe Bryant, James Lipton, and Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. That’s a helluva two months. But musically, I am quite satisfied with progress. We have a new album out called Occam’s Foil that is getting some nice attention from press and college radio. That’s a thrill! We are gearing up to play a bunch of shows and hopefully make another record before the end of the year too so, I cannot complain.

We skipped winter and went straight to spring here on the US East Coast too. Love that!

Have you released any music so far this year? If so, what can you tell us about that?
We released an EP called Occam’s Foil which is a collection of five new songs at the end of 2019. It is, of all of my six albums, my favourite work of my career. The songs are diverse, lyrically and musically complex without being awkward, and I am very stoked that I was able to bring my good friend Manny Tejeda (bass) along for the ride this time.

The songs cover a lot of ground in just 20 minutes. From the heaviness of the music and message of Hate Counter to the silliness of The Foil, I keep hearing from our friends and fans that there really is something for everyone on the record. It’s gratifying that we can experiment and take some odd leaps and yet it still sounds like Little King.

Are you working on any new music at the moment? What are you working on, and when will it be released?
Yes, we have a few new songs in the works. I am gonna take my time recording and releasing them, as we still have to tour in support of Occam. The new album is so fun and challenging to play live, and I want to make sure our fans get to see us pull it off as we hang from the proverbial ledge. Will the train go off the tracks? Come see for yourself.

The other thing about the new tunes is that they are a significant departure from anything I’ve ever written. I have a notion that it’s time to make a proper epic, and that’s where this is leading. I released a concept album called Time Extension way back in 1998. It was successful on some levels – lyrically, I think, for sure – but, I was still pretty raw. I’d like to take that ethos and complete it as the more mature musician and writer that I’ve become all these years later.

When we release the new songs, it will feature a producer that’s not me for the first time too. We have met with some pretty famous folks recently who have expressed an interest in producing Little King 7. Can’t say who just yet but, they have made some of the greatest albums in rock history so, it’s pretty damn exciting.

Have you got any upcoming tours planned? If so, where are you playing and where are you looking forward to going most?
We are working on that now. Little King will play a showcase in late April in Nashville, and we have some festivals lined up after that. I can’t announce dates yet – mostly because we are still firming them up – but I am confident that our fans on the East and West Coast will get their LK fix soon enough.

I want to tour in Europe! I have such affection for the entire continent, but I have never toured there before. We seem to do quite well with downloads and sales there, at least we used to, so I think people would take to us. So many of my friends in other bands have toured there and come back with glowing reviews of the audiences in the UK, Germany, Netherlands, and on and on. It’s my dream to experience that. If you are a European booking agent, contact me! We will crush it over there.

Who/what has influenced you the most as musicians?
It’s pretty well-documented that I was influenced heavily by the band Rush, so I won’t spend time here re-hashing that. What I will get into is that I am very influenced by hip-hop, particularly from the late ’80s up through the Aftermath era of Dr. Dre.

I was a publicist and promoter in the 2000s and the majority of my clients were rappers. It allowed me to appreciate just how much those artists were willing to grind for the sake of making it. Their art was important, but the hustle was an art unto itself. Those guys were trying to come up from pretty unsavoury conditions quite often. Their drive to excel and bring those around them up was striking and quite different from a lot of the rock music scenes I have been around over the years where bands compete with each other and talk a ton of mess behind the scenes.

What have you been listening to recently that you can recommend to our readers?
I know it’s sort of a cliche, but my friend turned me onto the new Tame Impala so, I have been marinating with that and trying to like it. I kinda don’t “get it” yet but, I am trying. I love David Byrne’s live version of the American Utopia tour, so I have spent a lot of time with that. Finally, Little King’s studio drummer, Eddy Garcia, is releasing some new music with his Texas thrash band Pissing Razors. They kick some serious ass.

Honorable mention goes to Vivaldi, Snoop Lion, Allah Las, and Rage Against the Machine. That was my lineup for the last 40 minutes!

Why do you think people should pick up one of your records or come and see you live, and what can people expect from one of your shows?
I think Little King makes you think a little more deeply. We don’t work as dance music, and I am not sure how we do as background music. But if you like guitar-based power trio thinking man’s rock and roll with an emphasis on pulling your head out of your ass, I think you will find us pleasing to the heart and mind.

Any last words for the fans?
Don’t settle for average. Be who you wanted to be as a kid. Society and life can crush your childhood dreams, and that’s just sad. Don’t be another cog in the wheel. Be the goddamn wheel! And be kind to those around you, because you never know what their struggle looks like behind the mask.