An Interview with Tiny Fireflies
Tiny Fireflies is a Chicago based dreampop band whose last release, The Space Between, came out in 2015. Their infectious brand of pop plays with the juxtaposition of lighthearted tones over against serious and sometimes darker lyrics. There is a sophistication to what they do and it creates for some special music. Kristine and Lisle were kind enough to answer my questions. They talk about their formation as a band, their writing process, looking back at The Space Between, and hints at something coming this year.
Hello Tiny Fireflies! Could you all please introduce yourself to our readers and let us know what you all do in the band?
Kristine – songwriter, vocals, keyboards, band mom
Lisle – guitars, production
How did you all individually get started making music and can you talk about the projects you were involved in prior to Tiny Fireflies?
K: I’ve been writing songs since I was a child. I took the traditional classical route at first. I had really bad vision, so rather than reading sheet music, I would mimic what people would play and quickly learned that making up my own melodies was more fun. I had a boombox and a Radio Shack microphone and would record songs that way. When I was in high school, I played bass in a couple of punk/emo bands. Tiny Microphone was a project I started in college. I had a Tascam four track, and was able to experiment with harmonies and instrumentation. I was in a couple of bands in Chicago before putting together Very Truly Yours, which Lisle was in as well. When Very Truly Yours stopped being a band, Lisle and I decided to focus on Tiny Fireflies full time.
L: I also started learning music as a child on the piano, but didn’t start writing songs until college. Until I got involved with Very Truly Yours, I was solely focused on solo work, under the moniker Fireflies. Like Kristine, I started with a Tascam (though mine was digital) which allowed me to experiment with layering instruments. This led me to learn guitar, bass, and even a little bit of drums, so I could produce a full “band” sound without relying on anyone else. I eventually moved on to computer recording when GarageBand / Logic became a more viable / reliable tool.
I know that you all originally formed as a sort of accident when you were doing a compilation and that song, “Don’t Wait Until I Fall Asleep”, was quite well received. Rather than rehash the very beginning origins of the band, can you talk a bit about what has been going on with the band since you released your first full-length album The Space Between?
K: A week after the album came out, I was in a traumatic incident that landed me in the ER. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to give the album the full attention we wanted to after the release since I was injured and healing. We were proud of the record and wanted to tour it, but it just wasn’t possible. I’ve been in therapy for a little over a year and a lot has changed for me personally. It’s evident on the new songs – they’re extremely personal.
How do you all as Tiny Fireflies go about writing songs together? Is there a certain process that seems to work or do things vary?
K: I have a mini studio with a basic setup, which is where all of the songs are written. I provide Lisle with the skeleton of a song, and he takes it and puts his magic on it. Once he sends me the first iteration of a produced song, there is a lot of back and forth collaboration. Lisle and I are so differently musically, and it can sometimes be a process to get certain things where they need to be because of how our brains work. A good example is the ending of “Melody.” It felt so natural to me, but it felt like a math problem to Lisle.
I love how you all approach pop. Can you talk about the juxtapositions between that bright, catchy side of pop and how you all balance that out with such interesting, serious, and important topics in your work that give the songs such strong contrasts?
K: I’m flattered by how you describe the lyrical content. Simply put, I think it’s because I am an overthinker. I don’t think I know how to not write a pop song; that’s what comes naturally to me. But when I’m writing, it’s a vehicle for me to be able to say all of the things that I feel are unsaid and process things that I can’t wrap my head around.
Can you talk a bit about the writing and recording of The Space Between and, perhaps, if it was any different from how you had approached your previous work on your EPs?
K: The Space Between felt more intentional that our other EPs. It was recorded over the span of a year with the intention of making an album, and we really think of it as a full body of work. We also started working with Ian Catt, and I think he helped us realize our sound.
I like to ask bands about specific songs on their most recent release to get a more in depth take on the band’s writing and recording process as well as some information behind particular tracks I think stand out on an album. Could you talk about the writing and recording behind “Ghost” and “Alive”? I find both of these very powerful tracks.
K: Ah, “Ghost” is a “not-in-love” song. “Alive” is about when I was diagnosed with lymphoma. It forced me to confront my mortality.
L: These two, along with “Taken” were really the foundation pieces of understanding what The Space Between was going to sound like. They felt like a new direction, and for me, the beginnings of feeling like we were finally figuring out who we were as a band.
Since The Space Between has been out for a few years should we be expecting new tracks soon? What’s been going on with the band since in terms of new songs and a possible future release?
K: Yes. Expect something this year. We don’t really want to give away much else though 🙂
For the gearheads that read our site, what sort of gear do you use in the studio and when you play live? Any special equipment you find to be your go to piece?
K: Most of the songs on The Space Between were written on a Roland RS-09, and I’ve played that live since the beginning. I’m changing my setup now though, as that keyboard is getting old and it’s harder to get it to stay in tune. Right now, I’m using a Roland Juno-Gi to write, and have been playing a Prophet 6 live.
L: About 90% of the guitars on our records are my 70s SG. I’ve been playing Fender guitars live mostly because the SG is my baby, and it would be extremely tragic if anything happened to it. I very recently procured another, less priceless SG that I plan to use for future live shows. As far as effects, for a long time, the Boss CE-3 was my magic bullet, but more recently, I’ve been using mostly Mr. Black (a boutique pedal maker out of Portland, OR) pedals. Modulated delay and reverb is my current obsession. I tend to like things that sound like they’re 10% broken.
I suppose I’ve asked about what you have coming in terms of recordings, but do you have any tour or live plans you would like the readers to know about?
K: I hope so – I’d love to play live more and visit new places.
Thanks so much for spending the time asking my questions!
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