“There is no stopping. This is it. This is the real deal.”
John Shields and Kevin Shields share the same last name, but they aren’t exactly related. They’re an alternative/ hip-hop duo that goes by Little Stranger. Their music could be compared to the music stylings of The Gorillaz and Twenty One Pilots, but still inhabits a quirky original strangeness. When asked, “Without using music terminology, how would you describe your music?” They decided, “Al dente ping pong, to the teeth!”
Q: You’ve accomplished a lot this year. You’ve been acclaimed “Hip Hop Artist of the year” two years in a row by The City Paper, you have been touring a great deal, releasing great content and recently came out with a new EP. What do you think has contributed to all of this success?
John : The biggest thing we have going for us is the fact that we do this full time. Day in and day out. We don’t work any other jobs. We live in the same house. We are in the band together every single day so our commitment and vision is identical. We both know what we want. We play our roles within a two-piece band that ensures that everything is covered. We are so focused on what we want to achieve.
Kevin: What’s worked for us this past year is that we have figured out what we want to focus on and letting the people that know better and letting them handle it better than us. We have a booking guy that hustles so hard for us. We have mentors, piers, and people to lean on. You can’t do it all on your own so having a team is crucial.
Q: What is the peak and the pit while being a musician in Charleston, SC?
John: “For me, the peaks are much more apparent than the pits. Being a musician in the scene that has so much mutual respect within the music community. Everybody involved has this respect for what the other is doing. It’s so cool to walk into a gig on any given night when you’re not only seeing your friends, but a bad ass musician on stage. You recognize each other and the scene as a whole.”
“Pits? It’s really hot in the summer - - - It’s the pits.”
Kevin: “It’s really easy to play a lot of shows and burn out in town and I’ll tell you why. With it being a good sized city, but not really a very big city, you get well connected pretty quickly. We have a lot of friends and people that want to give us gigs- and we are so thankful for that- but it gets to a point when there is too much going on. People may be like, “Well, I just saw them last week why would I go see them again?”
John- “Yeah you have to be careful where you’re playing here. If you’re trying to build a trajectory of growth because you can play, and maybe not burn yourself out- but burn your fans out. So every gig in town should be this next step. Get bigger and better. Really utilize each gig and then expand.”
Q: Money’s in tour now they say. How do you guys feel about that?
Kevin- “That has been our biggest goal for this year. To just hit the road and make the biggest sound we can and throw down. It’s been super beneficial. Literally tracing the East Coast up and down. I think we are at what… 95 shows for the year? We made it a goal and we just tried to kick it's ass.”
John- “I love so many things about touring, but it’s exhausting… in a van… finding places to sleep. The level we’re at right now we aren’t as quite as proper as it should be as far as hotels and things paid for, but when you’re doing it with your best friends, it’s a hard thing to beat. Literally your best friends, going through the same shit with you, you know? We have had some great nights in the van and we have had some awful nights.”
“You really gotta find that parking spot that calls your name.”
“There was this one time in Winston Salem where a fan took us back to this house and told us we needed to get these LSD gummy bears. He said, ‘We got acid from The Rainbow Family, you gotta take this shit. It’ll change your life.’ So we said okay, we’ll come over and we get there and there’s a bunch of friends over live streaming our first full-length album. Our video is playing in the background and everything… and we just look at each other like, ‘We have to get out of here- but we gotta get those acid gummies first.’”
Q: Before Little Stranger was Leaf Eater ( a solo project) and before that was Long Miles. With all these transitions what have you learned, taken away, and embraced? Is this project it?
John: “Long Miles was my first and foremost thing I was ever involved in. I started playing music with those guys when I was 16. We always thought it would be forever. We always thought we were going to make it. This is for life. You know, things happen, things change. As a band we were great, but outside forces, like family and change of relationships ended up putting a lot of pressure on us as a band. So, in the end we decided it was better to call it. So from there I had all this material without an outlet. So I decided to come back to Charleston from Philly, because I knew people in the music community. I could get gigs here and make some money in the meantime of creating a new project. I put out Leaf Eater as a solo project. I very quickly realized that I HATED being on my own. It’s so hard to get things moving on your own, because when things don’t go your way you have no one to commiserate with. Kevin and I, when we were up in Philly working on this side project, decided we would put out some tunes and realized “this is kind of dope. We work really well together.” It was super fun. Ultimately it came down to me formally emailing Kevin like, ‘I think you should uproot and come to Charleston and give Little Stranger a shot. There isn’t really a hip-hop scene here.’ It became apparent that once we started playing together here that this was a really good thing. So, I feel this is the best shape of a team I have ever been involved in musically. I felt really good about Long Miles for a long time, but I feel this is way more put together with greater potential.”
Kevin: “There is no stopping- this is it. This is the real deal.”
Q: Do you have any life or music advice that you’d like to share?
Kevin: “Oh, God. No, I try not to give any advice. When you’re late on rent, work at a deli and you’re a local white rapper… I try not to give people life advice. I could have never told my 10 year old self that this was where I was gonna be. Cause, this is a weird life to live. And it’s dope.”
Q: How do you find the balance between work life and time to fulfill the dream?
Kevin: “Work life is to pay the bills and find some peace of mind from locking yourself in the house. Some artists have their own studios, but when yours is John’s bedroom, you need a getaway every so often. The balance is pretty good right now. Trying to not do anything but play music to keep the focus… We’re getting there….We’re close enough that we can almost taste it.”
John: “There’s the classic conflict of artists not making enough money to pay the rent with their art, so you get a job to pay the bills. But, if you’re working a job that’s taking too many hours of your day then you’re not putting in the time to focus on your art. There’s lots of artists out there that are hungry; hungrier than you are, that are putting in the hours. We are lucky to be in a situation where we are touring enough to get by and in a living situation that is flexible. So a shout out to our landlord.”
Kevin: “Shout out to our parents!”
John: *Interjects* “They’re not our parents. Make sure that’s on the record. They’re just friends that are married and have a dog. They are not-our-parents.”
Kevin: “Hey, I actually do have some advice! Learn to let somebody help you and let them take the wheel for a while so you can focus on what you’re good at. Don’t try to control everything. It’s really easy to have your opinion, but it’s important to let those people do what they do. Cause they are good at it.”
Don’t be a putz.
You can find their music and their latest EP on Spotify.
For more information on Little Stranger go to http://heylittlestranger.com/