Published Jan 24, 2019As Little Junior's music would suggest, they have a bone to pick. The Toronto-based power pop quartet have spent their entire career fighting against the "pop punk" label, and with their upcoming material, vocalist Rane Elliott-Armstrong thinks they're finally going to shed it.
"If you asked everyone in the band what their favourite band was, the Pixies would be top of the list. We haven't really gotten that comparison a lot," he says. "I think our new stuff is gonna be more mature and we might lean into some cooler influences than, like, Weezer and Green Day and Blink-182, which we've gotten. Which we don't even really listen to, it's weird."
The tracks from Little Junior's debut album Hi, which came out on Royal Mountain Records last May, are a blitz of infectious guitar riffs and aggressive, confrontational lyrics about a wide swath of topics, including body positivity, jealousy, confronting homophobia and plenty of self-loathing.
"What inspires me most is what makes me upset or angry," says Elliott-Armstrong. "Most of those lyrics were written when I was 22 or something. I was still a snarky teenager kind of person." For the band's upcoming sophomore album, which is currently in its writing infancy, he promises a similar edge, but with more refined expression. "I've been in a committed relationship for seven years now. There are probably gonna be more love songs," he admits. "I can vocalize more astutely what I'm angry about in the world, so there might be more songs that have a bitter vibe, but are more eloquent."
Despite all the angst that's fuelled his songwriting, Elliott-Armstrong notes that there have been positives that have emerged from his lyrics. "We've had people come up and be like, 'Thank you for being a positive role model for my queer teenage daughter,' or we had someone come up to us and say that we gave them the courage to come out to their parents. I was so taken aback, because I never expected the stuff that we do to resonate that much with people," he says.
Since its inception, the band has been rounded out by Rane's brother Chai on drums, lead guitarist Lucas Meilach-Boston and bassist Jackson Beyer, who all cut their teeth together in their teens as synth rockers Dangerband. After dividing between Montreal and Toronto for school, the group eventually reunited in Toronto in 2014, at which point they felt the time was right to regroup, change their name and tighten up their sound.
As Little Junior get ready to record their second album, there are plenty more changes underway. Meilach-Boston is leaving the group, to be replaced by Zoe G., who plays with Rane and Beyer in punk band Bueller. The band are also adopting a more communal writing approach; where Hi was written entirely by Rane, Little Junior's forthcoming second album will feature songs written by all band members.
"Hearing other people's songs has been really exciting," admits Rane. "Chai showing me his demos has been shocking. I'm like 'Why didn't you write on the first record?' Just hearing everyone's voices come through and our sound morphing into what is one day will become is really exciting." Rane cites bands like the Breeders and Blur as influences for Little Junior's new material.
Though the band's lineup and approach are changing, Elliott-Armstrong says that the band's ethos and MO are the same as it ever was. "We're still a guitar band. It's gonna be rock music. My goal personally is to not get any pop punk comparisons anymore."
Little Junior play the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on January 26 as part of Exclaim!'s Class of 2019 concert series.