Photos & Interview by Sophie Minello
Littleboybigheadonbike is a band that is as unique as its name.
It’s the project of William Orchard, an imaginative and thoughtful musician from Providence, RI.
We were lucky enough to meet with him before his show in Tremont as he sipped his lemon ginger tea in the warmth of Civilization coffee shop.
We chatted about the announcement of his new album Big Blue Butterflies, his impressive catalog of songs, and more in the interview below.
Where did your band name come from?
I have a friend who plays drums with me sometimes, his name is Matt and I’ve been friends with him since I was 14. He has a very creative mind when it comes to wordplay and making people laugh. I was just riding my bike towards him one day and it [littleboybigheadonbike] just came out of his mouth, it echoed through the street. He said it as one word so that’s why it has no spaces, which may be to my detriment because no one remembers it or can read it very fast. When I was a little kid especially, everyone said I had a large head, so that’s where that came from. It’s evolved since then and it’s taken on a meaning of its own. It was kind of a joke at first and in some ways is a little bit of a joke still.
What is your background in music?
My mom made me take guitar lessons when I was young because I wasn’t good at any sports. I actually hated it for two years and then I found out that music was actually cool. My two favorite bands when I was 11, they were completely different bands. They were The Cranberries and Guns and Roses, polar opposites. I loved those two bands, then it [the music] kicked off. I kept taking lessons and doing all of that, but I started writing songs and playing with my friends. I started playing shows and getting acclimated to the Providence music scene when I was 14 or 15. This project started when I was about 16 or 17.
Your sophomore album Big Blue Butterflies was just announced. What is something important for future listeners to know about this album?
It’s a concept album but it’s very loose. I want people to have their own interpretation and I want people to know it connects to God Damn Wonderland and that in a way they’re kind of just the same album. They were created in the same place, on the same farm. One album, very simply put, is about falling asleep and the second album is about waking up.
How did your process for Big Blue Butterflies differ from when you made God Damn Wonderland?
I don’t collaborate with people that much in terms of creating music. When I play live I often play with a band. When it comes to writing I never collaborate with people. When it comes to recording I sometimes do, I’m opening up to that more. After God Damn Wonderland I almost wanted to step back into my own head and just do everything myself for a little bit longer cause that’s what felt comfortable. It’s funny because Big Blue Butterflies I recorded almost completely on my own over the summer. Then I showed it to my friend Charlie from the Brazen Youth who produced both albums. I showed him the record and I had him play piano on the first song, Statue. Very suddenly, because he had built this new studio, he said “Do you want to record this album completely over?” I was like “Yeah, I do.” We spent the next three months doing that. I’d say what’s different on this one is that I spend longer on it than anything else. Three months is a pretty normal length to be recording an album but to me that felt really long, not in a bad way. That was really different, and the collaborative aspect of it was pretty different. Even though I did that on God Damn Wonderland, I let Charlie have a little bit of room to throw crazy ideas my way. We got a lot more comfortable with each other, we were a lot better friends for this album. That was very different because I felt at one with Charlie and I felt like on this album he had a part that was more secure, but also a part that fit in more with what I was doing.
Do you think that working with someone who’s your friend and who understands you helps them to see your vision clearer than someone who maybe doesn’t know you as well?
I’ve thought about that. It helps but it also doesn’t help because on one hand you feel like you understand their vision more and they understand yours and you both understand which buttons to push with each other. On the other hand it’s almost like you don’t want to offend them or disappoint them because you care about their opinion more. It helps and it doesn’t help. Every creative decision has benefits and detriments and you hope the benefits outweigh the detriments, but you have no idea if they will. I think they did on this album though, I like how it turned out.
Was Big Blue Butterflies intentionally your 100th release?
Yeah, it was intentional and I hope that doesn’t diminish the authenticity of that to people. It was going to be around 100 but I was like, why would I make this 98 or 102? So I did want to make it 100 because to me it’s special. I think all my releases are special in their own way to me, and in a lot of ways they’re not more special than each other, but I did intent for this to be my 100th release for a lot of reasons.
Since you write so many songs, how do you determine which ones to go further with and produce more?
Some songs tie themselves to other songs naturally because they were written at the same time or because they stem off of each other. I’d say when songs tie themselves together into some kind of story, that’s when they become more important. There’s strength in numbers. For Big Blue Butterflies, a lot of these songs were connected. God Damn Wonderland, they were a little bit more forcefully connected. 5 of the songs on that album very much were connected, then the other 4 were songs I thought were good and that I thought should be on there. Once they tie themselves together and become a bigger story and a big concept, that’s when I feel like they need something more. A lot of times you wouldn’t see there’s a concept unless I put them together.
What are some of the recurring theme that you’ve seen in your writing?
A lot of things I write about are about being very surprised about the world and what you see on the news. I think that most people in their natural form are very... just, good. I think you look at that part of yourself and other people; and then look at the world and the way it is. It’s how those things interact. The way that a child is seems very natural and normal to me, and the way that the world is is often times not like that at all. It’s like, how do those two things interact? How does something unnatural affect the way that people really are? That’s very broad but that’s definitely a reoccuring theme. I like children’s literature and I like stories involving talking animals and things like that, so a lot of my songs have that in it. I’d say I do write about more sociopolitical things but my songs aren’t very sociopolitical, because they’re not very up front and in your face about it. They’re not directly powerful in that way because I think there are some things that need to be heard very loudly and I don’t know if I write about those things. I think I write more about things that need to be heard quietly.
I think you have such strong and interesting song and EP names. Do you have a process for naming things or does it come naturally?
It doesn’t always come naturally. A lot of the time the name is the first part of the process. I think of a name and sometimes it begins a whole song. Other times I write a whole song and no name seems good, so it takes me a little bit of time to rename. On a lot of stuff I’ve released there are names that I think are just okay. With Big Blue Butterflies, I came up with the name for that album before I really knew what it meant, or before I’d written many of the songs that are on it.
You have a very whimsical nature in your music. Was this a sound you grew into or was it always like that?
It was both. It was something I grew into and it was something that I feel like I already had. A lot of my favorite artists, like Sparklehorse, their music is very whimsical and kind of funny, like something from a story. A lot of it comes not necessarily from music, but from stories that I’ve read or films. It definitely comes from music I listen to, as well.
Why is this sound important to your identity as an artist?
I don’t know, I just like it. It makes me happy. I think the world is just really whimsical and weird if you look at it in the right way. If you just think about things in the right way, they just seem very weird. I’m drinking this tea right now that’s made out of lemon and ginger. That’s so weird to me. It’s this thing that grows from a tree in this root… If you twist that in the right way it seems bizarre and exciting. I’d say that’s why I like it.
What’s in store for the future of Littleboybigheadonbike?
I’m not sure. I know that after this record comes out I’m going to want to change how I’ve been making music because I think I’ll get to the point where I’m ready to do something different. Meaning, I’m ready to take more time to do things and to, maybe not put more thought into things, but to put a different thought into how I do things. I think my next record will come out not very soon after Big Blue Butterflies, just because I feel like I’ve already done that, and if I tell myself to keep doing that, it’ll just become very forced. My next record might sound more like a solo record because Big Blue Butterflies is very much big arrangements. There are certain solo performances that have made me realize how powerful a solo performances can be so I want to explore that.