Madison has been rich in garage-rock and power-pop lately but lacks bands that follow the earnest, Gaslight Anthem school of rock revivalism. Enter the misfit crew Little Legend.
Lead singer Brandy Tudor began making music as a teenage hip-hopper in Bozeman, Mont., with the adorable handle DJ Beezwax. He started writing rock songs just a few years ago, reconnecting with music through inspirations like Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon. Lead guitarist Joe Copeland, who helped Tudor nurse those songs, works for local concert promoter True Endeavors. Drummer Robbie Schiller cultivates an eccentric charisma as the leader of Madison band Blueheels, and bassist Daniel Jin used to play in a post-rock outfit called Frail by Design.
The result is less motley than you'd expect. Tudor's lyrics about underdogs and love in the face of tough odds keep the Springsteen influence obvious, but the performances are sharp for a band that only played their first club show a year ago. The self-titled EP they released this past April opens with "Saints," an optimistic rocker that keeps its clarity by building on a couple of concise guitar figures. On "Heartbreak," Tudor contemplates leaving his lover, while Copeland's guitar offers reverb-heavy hints of '50s sweetness. If anything, the EP and a Daytrotter session recorded this fall sound more bright and gentle than the band do live.
Little Legend tried to capture a rougher side of their sound last month by recording a new EP with help from Bobby Hussy of local garage-punk duo the Hussy. While the new EP doesn't yet have a title and won't be out until January, the band will play songs from it when they open for Turbo Fruits Nov. 25 at the High Noon Saloon. Tudor and Copeland spoke with me after tracking the new songs.
How did recording with Bobby Hussy affect the EP?
Tudor: The previous EP, we built it piece-by-piece and we spent a week on it. This time, we wanted something more garage-y and raucous. Something a little bit dirtier, grittier, that felt live and didn't feel entirely polished.
Copeland: Our last EP sounds good, but just like a lot of recordings, it flattens the songs. These four songs [on the new EP] are of a group of about 10 or 12, and we were going to put them on a full-length, but these ones stuck out as a little more raw.
What else is different about the new songs?
Tudor: They all had this theme. They felt like they were written by a dirtbag. He's kind of a dirtbag, greaser, 40-year-old mechanic reflecting on life and his poor woman skills.
Copeland: There's a song called "Bail Out"...
Tudor: This guy's in jail, and he's going to get bailed out by his girlfriend. At the same time, if you had a real healthy outlook on life, [the songs] are kind of sad. I love a lot of Bruce Springsteen songs that have that kind of idea, where he's empathizing with these small-town people who kind of are dealing with small-town issues. I was raised in a trailer park. So even though they're fictional stories, they all have something that's close to me.
In Blueheels, Robbie Schiller is the center of attention. How does he shape Little Legend's personality as the drummer?
Copeland: It's funny, because he loves not being the lead guy. And he loves singing backup vocals.
Tudor: When he's with us, it feels like he's a typical drummer personality. And he does give input, but it's very respectful of the fact that I write the songs.