Get to Know a Band: Leftover Cuties
Our guest this week is Leftover Cuties. The band features Shirli McAllen as the lead singer, Austin Nicholsen (bass and ukulele), Stuart Johnson (drums), Ryan Feves (bass) and Mike Bolger (keys, trumpet, horn and accordion). We're really happy to have them over and ask a few questions about the formation of the band, recent successes and plans for the future.
SongFreaks: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, it is really appreciated. First off could you describe the band (its music and members) for those who haven’t heard of Leftover Cuties?
Thanks for having me. I'd say that our music is influenced by classic music of past times but it's also modern and original in it's own right. The instrumentation of the band is upright bass, drums, piano, horns, ukulele, female vocals, and male harmonies. Sometimes we feature the accordion as well as saw, stylophone and some other noise makers.
SongFreaks: So the band was originally just Shirli and Austin at the start, right? And it was at this time that you came up with your big single ‘Game Called Life’. Could you take us through the story of how the song was created?
The band did start with Austin and I jamming one night. It was a slow night at the bar I was working at, so I wrote some lyrics on napkins. Later that night, my friend Austin who was playing bass with me on my solo project at the time, came to my house with a ukulele. He started playing a nice chord change, I pulled out the lyrics I wrote and started singing over it. We wrote Game Called Life in about five minutes, recorded a demo of it the next day and forgot about it for two years. One day I was going through some music on my computer and i stumbled across that demo we made. Only then it dawned on me that there was something magical about that song and sound, and it all started from there.
SongFreaks: Once ‘Game Called Life’ was in place the band in its current form seemed to take shape. Does this song signal the point where Leftover Cuties decided to take a new direction musically?
Well, this song is what started the band really. It was a new musical direction for me personally. I felt like in a way I found my true voice. All the missing pieces fell into place and the band was formed and ready to go.
SongFreaks: To me your sound and style seems to have a big band and roaring twenties influence. Yet your website states that “To call Leftover Cuties retro or throwback would be too easy, and frankly dismissive.” Thus how would you classify the band musically and stylistically?
If I was to choose a genre I would call it pop noir or alternative. I think that we do our own thing and we don't try to imitate anything or limit ourselves to one era or sound. We try to stay fresh and new and we like writing pure and simple songs that make people feel good. I think that from one release to the next we are evolving, maturing and experimenting more and more.
SongFreaks: Do you see any other bands emerging that play the same style of music as you do? Or are you one of a kind so to speak right now?
There is definitely a revival of older music these days, but I think that every band is doing it differently. I feel like we are one of a kind when it comes to our song writing and sound, but I guess that's for other people to decide.
SongFreaks: Your song ‘Game Called Life’ is perhaps best known for being the theme song for the Showtime series ‘The Big C’. As well your song ‘Smile Big’ was featured in a Samsung ad for the Olympics. How have these endorsements helped the band and how shocked were you when you first found out that your music had made it on a TV series?
I wasn't shocked, just really grateful and excited for the opportunities. Both features has helped us tremendously in spreading the word and getting our music to far away places. We've gained many new fans and it's been humbling to see peoples reactions and to get so much love and recognition.
SongFreaks: Where did the name leftover cuties come from?
It came from that same bar I was working at. A few of my favorite co- workers had left our work place for one reason or the other, so my friend Josh came up to me and my friend Maria (another co-worker) and said: "you guys are the leftover cuties". Instantly a light came on and I knew this would be the name for the band. It had a few different meanings for me and I thought it would be a great fit.
SongFreaks: I noticed on YouTube that you enjoy playing covers such as ‘Poker Face’ or ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ by Bob Dylan. Do you find playing cover just as fun as playing originals?
I like playing originals a bit more than playing covers, but it's really fun to see the reaction when you've played a well known song in a completely new way. People really get a kick out of it. At some point we had a good collection of songs that we put a spin on. We recently recorded and released a cover EP called Departures, it was really fun making it.
SongFreaks: Last questions, what can we expect to see from the band in the near future?
We are working on a new album right now that's going to be out early next year, and we are also heading to Barcelona next month to shoot a music video for one of the songs. We are also planning a tour around the release, we're really looking forward to that.