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Anglo-American duo Big Deal’s debut album Lights Out spans sparse confessional grunge to anti-twee love songs. How can only two guitars make such vibrant music asks DAN JONES.


y the time that you are reading this interview, London based duo Big Deal will have wrapped up their first U.K headline tour and played sets at both Reading and Leeds festivals. Kacey Underwood, the Californian half of the band who moved to England at the age of 19, met his musical better half, Alice Costelloe, through Alice’s mother with whom he worked. “Both our band’s disintegrated around the same time last year and we found ourselves starting to write together,” Kacey tells Playmusic just after they’ve finished a band practice. A story as old as time, we thought, but apparently not… The introspective grunge that radiates from Big Deal has certain mystical

properties that most of the duo’s girl-boy counterparts fail to capitalise on. While Tennis, Summercamp and Slow Club all create delicious vibes, Lights Out, Big Deal’s debut album, confirms that they are the gatekeepers to lovelorn, tormented lyricism. ‘You only want me for the songs I write about you / about how I like you’ the duo harmoniously coo on the stripped back frame of ‘Chair’. Yet while a solemn air of despair aches throughout the album, Kacey doesn’t believe it’s as heartbreaking as some people make out. “We tried to keep as much of it as we could up beat and positive,” he explains, “Our barometer for that is different to other peoples because for us the record is kind of like happy, its happy but its sad.” Recorded in just over seven days, Lights Out was recorded quickly due to the minimal approach in which the band only used two guitars to make the album. This swift turn around was important to ensure clarity was at the height of the band’s priorities. Alice believed over-production could’ve jeopardised the records raw outcome. “I think that it was good that we made it quite quickly and we didn’t have loads of time to over -think things otherwise we could’ve kept going back to the same track and end up making it worse than it was to start with! We had that motivation to make sure it ended up being a record of how we sound now without too much messing around with it.”

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Two’s Next...

Writing together, in partnership, appears to be one of the benefits reaped

from a limited line up. “We’ve never really wrote (sic) with other people before so it is easier because if you can’t finish something then someone else can help you,” Alice confirms, “One of us may start a song but generally the other person finishes it.” This sort of connection is rarer than Unicorn eggs, and something that Big Deal certainly prosper from. Two solemn peas in a pod! Replicating the album live, with such a simplistic approach, was always going to be important for the band. They didn’t want to make a record full of instruments they could not duplicate on stage, yet while the two of them will just play guitar when they hit the road, the eclectic Sonics that swell beneath Lights Out are incredibly varied. Stripping things back and them amping them up gives Big Deal that extra dynamic level that many duos find hard to establish. “We wanted to be in a band with the two of us, we didn’t want there to be a situation when there’s a bunch of other people involved,” Kacey says, “You then have to think about all the different sounds you need in order to keep it interesting and I think in the studio we kind of had the ability to have more sound than we can pull off live. We had to pull ourselves back a bit to make sure we weren’t getting into that territory.” Regarding the duo’s choice of instruments used during the making of Lights

Out, former guitar teacher Kacey tells Playmusic, “I used a very cheap classical acoustic guitar for lots of the rhythm on the album, and its rigged up with a pick up which is a strange combination which shouldn’t really work, but it does.” Much like the Big Deal concept. Tales of agony told above just two guitars has all the makings of a car crash in clichés, but something distinctly enigmatic has been triggered between the collaborative songs, the ranging echoes of the guitars and the simplicity of their pensive musings. If Alice and Kacey don’t think Lights Out is a bleak penning then lets just hope the duo don’t end up hating one another because their next instalment could be apocalyptic. PM

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