Musicians KC Underwood, 29, and Alice Costelloe, 19, are Big Deal, a London-based boy-girl duo who are not only generating buzz thanks to their xx-meets-Moldy Peaches slacker rock, but because their age difference has led to rumours of an illicit teacher-student relationship. In reality, they are just a pair of unlikely friends who happen to make beautiful music together. BULLETT sat down with the duo at Glasslands in Brooklyn as they blew through New York on their way to SXSW, to get back to their real origin story, their true feelings about their band name, and the best road trip music.
BULLETT: There are a lot of rumours circulating about how Big Deal got started. Can you clarify for us?
A: I’ve been in bands since I was 12. When we met, I was probably about 15 or 16. Both of our bands started falling apart as we met, and we just started bouncing ideas off of each other.
KC: I knew Alice’s mom, because she worked at a school in London where I was teaching music, and she would talk about her all the time, like “Oh, my daughter’s in NME this week.” We didn’t plan on writing together or anything, we just had these experiences that led us to talk to each other about music. She sent me a demo of a song, and I had an idea for it, and I sent it back to her and we had a song. And then we just started doing it that way.
Were you always a Big Deal?
A: We weren’t really taking it seriously. But then we got a gig and we thought it was really funny, so were were like, Uh, yeah, our name is Big Deal.KC: We got national press after our second gig, and we were like, well, fuck. We didn’t even really think we were starting a band. So we’re thinking of different names, but they were all probably as bad as Big Deal.
A: I also have a theory that the worst band names often do the best, like The Beatles.
KC: I totally disagree! Anyway, there are worse ones than Big Deal. Basically, we didn’t think about it enough and now we’re stuck. We thought at the very least that when we released the record some terrible cover band would sue us and we would have to change our name, but no one has.
Do you prefer working with just the two of you to being in bands of 4 or 5 people like you both were before?
KC: This is way easier. And we totally respect each others opinions. I love the way that she writes, and the way that we work together is like a holiday compared to what I’m used to. It’s so much easier and so much more enjoyable. We really trust each others voices and although we don’t always agree, and do have prolonged arguments on songs, they always end up being better than they would have been because of it.
A: When there are just two people and you both care and you obviously want it to be the best it can be, but you don’t necessarily always hear things the same way, you have to argue to get there.
Does the age difference affect the music?
KC: I’ve got a very young heart. We share lyrics, but I think the teenager mentality is the stuff that really pops out versus the seasoned curly fry mentality.
A lot of your songs, videos and production are somewhat stripped down. Are you reacting against pop music’s tendency towards overproduction?
KC: You do have all those New York kind of lo-fi, rough-sounding bands that I think are more reacting against that kind of thing. We’re not really reacting against anything, we’re just doing what feels right to us at the time. If we say it’s a reaction to overproduction, that’s more of a justification or rationalization—we really just did it because we had those guitars. We used what was at our disposal. At the same time, we work very hard on the songs, but it’s more like just going with what’s there, and if it works and you get a good sense and feeling about how it’s working, then you keep going with it. Which is what we did.
What does Big Deal listen to when you’re on the road?
A: On our last tour we listened to a lot of Kurt Vile’s record, The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, Liars.
KC: You end up listening to a lot of the bands that you tour with and get exposed to, because it’s hard being constantly barraged with so many bands out there. Sometimes the ones that stick are the ones you know. And we’ve toured with some good bands in the last few years, and we ended up listening to them. And I also end up listening to a lot of the ‘90s music that is always kind of buzzing around, that I always come back to.