It has the sound of a dusty jukebox from the American mid-west and the no-fucks-given attitude of a riotous leather-clad punk band. With its mandolin, fiddle, banjo and harmonica (and more), Newtown seven-piece Little Bastard is a foot-stompin’, crowd-surfin’, beer-swillin’ band that once you experience live, you never forget.
“I was kind of into a lot of Americana – Wilco, Ryan Adams, music like that,” says frontman Johnny Took of the band’s genesis. “I was also playing a lot of folk at the time, but it’s pretty hard to do that kind of music in Sydney and keep people’s attention. Especially on a Friday or a Saturday night.” Doing the rounds on the nu-folk scene, Took met talented, like-minded musicians interested in putting on a good show as much as in the music itself. “Growing up, not many of my friends liked country music, so it was cool to find people who liked it as much as me,” he says. “[Little Bastard] grew from there. There were four of us and before we knew it, there were seven of us. We realised that with seven dudes running around being lunatics on stage, we could play this style of music and keep people’s attention. It becomes a lot more interesting than some 19-year-old kid pouring his heart out,” he jokes.
After cutting its teeth at Folk Club – the infamous night at Sydney’s Hotel Hollywood that helped launch the careers of The Falls, Caitlin Park and Jack Carty – Little Bastard began the steady slog of playing festivals and pubs. Before the members of Little Bastard knew it, their raging live reputation began to precede them. “We did a residency at the Oxford Art Factory and people were crowd surfing,” remembers Took of the shows which famously saw the crowd form rock show-like circle pits. “This was when we had just started. At our last gig someone let off a fire extinguisher – it was anarchy,” he laughs. “Seven people on stage is already a small gathering, but I guess there is an aspect of bluegrass music that is just upbeat craziness.”
However manic its shows are, it’s important not to brush off Little Bastard as simple party-animal cowpunks. Its members are well-established Sydney musicians; Took and drummer Liam Hoskins are two-thirds of the band DMA’s, bass player Daniel D’Arcy and Hoskins play in grunge-metal band Particles, Took and his brother Matty are also known as 200K … the list goes on. So it’s no surprise Little Bastard’s self-titled debut album is fiercely mature. The ruckus is brilliantly laced with beautiful fiddles, warming acoustics and heartfelt hooks. The album showcases the band’s musicianship and acts as an ode to legends such as Springsteen, Doc Watson and The Band. Its music is also an homage to the city, parties, people and life on the road. “It’s a cross breed,” says Took. “It’s country-punk, but it’s also rock’n’roll with a bluegrass arrangement.”
For those who have never experienced a Little Bastard show, Took says, “It’s great drinking music, so you’re probably going to wake up with a hangover and probably have a big ol’ laugh. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so you’ll have a good time.”
Little Bastard’s self-titled album is available now through FOUR. It will be touring nationally June 12–July 13.