Emerging out of a tiny dorm room at Syracuse University, Petite League started as many music projects do in the new millennium. Two friends with a passion for music, Lorenzo Gillis Cook and Henry Schoonmaker, began collaborating and creating lo-fi, no-frills, catchy pop songs and with the help of modern mediums like Soundcloud, they quickly found and maintained a highly receptive audience. Within three years, the band was nothing short of prolific, releasing three critically acclaimed albums, “Slugger” in 2015, “No Hitter” in 2016, and “Rips One Into The Night” in 2017. Despite such a massive output in such a short time frame, you’d be hard-pressed to find a song on any of these records that you couldn’t enjoy.
After releasing three fuzz-infused jangly sounding albums with a bevy of baseball references, Petite League is prepping for the release of their fourth album, “Rattler”. This time, the band is self-releasing the record on their own imprint, Zap World Records. I caught up with Cook leading up to the June 14th release of the album’s second single, “New York Girls” to talk about all things Petite League:
Congrats on the new record! This is the first Petite League album since 2017’s “Rips One Into The Night” and prior to that you were putting out a record every year. Did you consciously take a step back and take your time with this one?
I knew I wanted to write without a deadline in mind for whatever was to come next. Up until this point, I’d always worked well with pressure and deadlines but I wanted to see what would happen when I took myself out from under the gun. 2018 was a weird year, full of twists and changes in my life so it was nice to be able to live through all of that and have the time to look through it all with a new lens which I think is reflected on this new album we’re calling “Rattler.”
What can people expect on this new record when compared with Petite League’s earlier output?
I think every Petite League release is a step up in a lot of ways from the prior records. Little things like figuring out better ways to record drums, finding consistent guitar tones, exploring different things I can do vocally, all of that stuff gets better on every record. It’s kind of the gift and the curse of handling all of this stuff on our own. We have no choice but to get better at what we do because no one is there to guide us through all of it.
Personally, I think “Rattler” is full of growth in the songwriting. Taking more time with the songs helped me develop them to where I wanted them to go in a way I haven’t before. Every song is tied together in a way that I feel like might have been missing on “Rips”, “No Hitter” and “Slugger.” It’s still a lo-fi record, I still sound like a snarling tween, but I think this record is Petite League blooming into what I’ve wanted this band to sound like.
On your earlier records, you dealt with themes surrounding your upbringing abroad and exposure to American culture, identity and coming of age. Are those themes that you continued to explore in this new record?
Those things are [an] unavoidable part of my identity as a person and a songwriter so they will always be there, but the songs on “Rattler” are a little more focused around what I was going through over the past year and a half living in Brooklyn and spending a lot of my time back in Syracuse. I guess those original Petite League themes are still there but in a new form; backed by a new set of weird experiences.
What was your songwriting process like for this new record? Where and how’d you record it?
The songwriting process was definitely different this time around. Having more time helped with quality control and [ensuring] there aren’t any filler tracks or throw away lines. I just spent a lot more time in our practice space shouting and rambling over the demos. I’d come in with a line or an idea and just pace around thinking and singing out loud until the lines clicked. A lot of the songs came out that way, from a stream [of] consciousness from inside. Nothing more exciting [than] when something you didn’t even know was there comes out. I had a lot more fun telling these stories that way.
I record every part, except for the drums, in my bedroom. No fancy equipment, just the bare bones essentials. A solid mic, a cheap interface, some guitar pedals I’ve picked up along the way and a passable understanding of Logic. Henry and I record drums in our practice space where my roommate (and lead guitarist Adam Greenberg, aka The Oracle) helps jury rig a makeshift studio in this tiny 11×11 basement room. Not ideal, but it’s the best we can do with what we have — which is kind of a reoccuring theme for this band.
What influenced you sonically on this record?
Kind of a hard question to answer. I make a playlist every month full of stuff, new and old; of stuff that I was digging during that time. It’s a good way to stay organized and [it’s] telling when I revisit it down the line. I skimmed through the playlists I made during the recording of Rattler and these are the ones that I kept coming back to:
Lost Boy ? – Canned, The Replacements – Tim, Little Kid, Daniel Johnston, Ovlov, The Growlers – City Club, Cloud Nothings – Turning On, Blue Smiley – Return, the Lou Reed song Underneath The Bottle, Lucinda Williams, a ton of really heavy metalcore and hardcore, and a whole lot of the Marked Men and Radioactivity.
I’m not sure that list will make sense to everyone, but it does to me. There are also all the usual suspects that people compare the Petite League sound to. That always seeps into how I write in one way or another.
How’d you wind up deciding to start your own label and self-release this record?
“No Hitter” and “Rips One Into The Night” were both put out on vinyl through our friend Julio Anta’s label The Native Sound. Amazing dude, amazing label and a perfect deal for us at the time. I’ve always been really critical of the role of labels at this level so when he offered us a physical deal only, it was an easy decision to make.
Julio’s been working on a lot of other projects, including a comic he wrote, so he didn’t have time for this release which really was a good excuse to get us to start our own label.
It’s called Zap World Records. Henry and I figured we could kick it off with this Petite League album and use some of our experience releasing records, making music and working in music to release this record entirely on our own and hopefully start helping others do the same as well.
It’s really about starting a label run by artists for artists, sharing the resources we have picked up along the way to make sure anyone we’re helping can effectively put out their music and collect their earnings without much compromise. It’s not about holding anyone back; it’s just about making sure good music is being put out the right way, which sadly isn’t always the case.
What’s next for the band? Any tours in the works?
Who knows! I guess it depends on what happens with this record. I kind of take it as it goes. I put in so much energy into putting these things out that I really only plan as far as the release date once it’s all said and done. I’d love to tour more in 2019 and 2020, hopefully put out some more records on Zap World, and just generally make sure that the music is involved in as much of my life as it can be. I have high hopes!
You can catch Petite League performing live on the rooftop of Elsewhere on June 20th with Future Generations.
Petite League’s entire discography is available on various platforms, including cassette and vinyl, via Bandcamp
All images courtesy of Petite League.
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