Hello, I’m Sorry: Striking a balance, with new EP
by Kristen Stanovich
Seth Little’s eyes light up as he recalls seeing the first guitar he ever bought. “In Enumclaw where I’m from… we had one shop that doubled as a gun shop and a pawn shop,” he shared, leaning slightly forward in his chair at The Black Drop. “They had this row of three guitars — two of them were awful but one one them was this Japanese ES-335… I saw it and I was like ‘that’s beautiful, I want it’ having absolutely no idea what was good or not.”
The front person and the mind behind Bellingham garage rock outfit Hello, I’m Sorry, Little said he first ventured into music in grade school when his fifth grade class was encouraged to pick up an instrument and play around. He chose the cello.
“With the cello, if you just play an open string it sounds beautiful, so I was like ‘man, I’m a god at this,’” Little said. “I was awful. Like, the worst cellist in Enumclaw.”
After years of practice, lessons and no progress, Little eventually sold his cello. At age 14, he picked up his dad’s acoustic guitar learning Violent Femmes tabs on the internet and starting a high school band that was, in his words, “really bad.” During his bout in the “Strokes knockoff band,” Little stuck to guitar, letting other bandmates take the reins for songwriting. It wasn’t until he moved to Bellingham that he first experimented with both writing and recording his own music.
Though he joked at how “terrible” his first album was, the collection of songs are charmingly ambitious. His first ever track, “Busses,” was recorded from a four-track to a cassette tape. The track opens with a simple, clear finger-picked guitar melody before fuzzy vocals take hold. A second slide guitar, droney and melancholy, comes in at about 20 seconds along with the vocals, almost Modest Mouse-esque with echoey preset drums. The track itself is sweet and evocative and the album is relatable and self-reflective – an evident launching point from which the project has sprung today.
Serving as both performer and sound engineer on each album, Little records and edits each song himself prior to release. Using equipment like a four track and a reel to reel, Little said he often prefers analog methods of recording which influence the sound he thinks best suits the band. Paul Alan Rhodes (drums), Alexander Heness (guitar) and Cameron Richardson (bass) round out the group.
For him, music isn’t just about recording and releasing – it’s purposeful and tangible.
“[Tapes] are just cute. Not only that, they were the first physical form of music that people could just put out on their own, so everything that’s DIY is in a tape,” Little said. “Also my car only has a tape deck.”
Little finds that recording albums himself also provides him more freedom for experimentation. He often enters the recording process with a half-written song, tweaking and layering along the way until its final form. While he says he’d love to get into the recording studio for a future album, home recording broadens his own expectations and possibilities and ensures he doesn’t waste anyone else’s time.
“Recording is a fun process and when I was in high school that was my favorite thing to do, but now recording can be super stressful and discouraging,” Little said. “When something turns out really well I’m super stoked for the rest of the day, but when it doesn’t turn out I get discouraged.”
But the finalized versions of most Hello, I’m Sorry albums sound purposeful and perfectly imperfect. The lo-fi recordings are imbued with nostalgia with unassuming guitars and straightforward lyricism on tracks like “Bodies (Part of It All)” and one of the newest tracks “It’s Fine.”
In the last year, the band has tallied more “firsts” than many bands do in two or three. Since that first album, Little has self recorded and released several more as Hello, I’m Sorry, performed at Sound Off! with his three bandmates, opened for one of his own personal inspirations, Car Seat Headrest and attended college while doing it. On a recent trip through Weed, California the band even had not only their first tour, but their first tour crisis.
“Our car broke down in Weed, California on the way back up and we didn’t have enough money to book another night anywhere,” Little said. “We had to do a straight across trade for a very shitty Volvo that had a coolant leak.”
The band pulled over each hour, waited for the car to cool and replaced the coolant before it leaked in another few miles. Little said they didn’t get into bed until the next morning after driving through the night across Oregon and Washington.
Outside of recording himself and even playing onstage, Little added he and his bandmates all maintain a strong bond and friendship — something other projects he has been a part of have lacked in the past.
“I don’t think a band can really function well if you’re not friends outside of the band, too,” Little said. “I have been in projects where we only play music together and I just didn’t have a lot of love for those projects and I think that’s why.”
When working on each project Little said he has often struggled to find a life/music balance, particularly while he’s still in school. Little said when he tried putting everything into music, he realized it often didn’t measure up to the standards he’d set for himself. Through creating this new album to be released in June however, Little said when he prioritized other things the album was better for it. He was able to return to each song later and make modifications with a clearer mind after stepping away from the project from time to time.
“You [need to] have good enough taste to realize that what you’re creating isn’t that good yet. That was all of last year for me,” Little said. “I think I have struck a good balance now.”
Hello, I’m Sorry performs June 9 at Make.Shift with Asterhouse, Bob Fossil, and The Spider Ferns. The band’s EP Release Show will be June 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Mosh Eisley. For more about the band, check out their Facebook page.
Published in the June 2017 issue of What’s Up! Magazine