Big Deal Band Homework

Hometown: London.

The lineup: Kacey Underwood (guitar, vocals) and Alice Costelloe (vocals, guitar).

The background: Another day, another boy-girl outfit. But hark, we hear you cry, in the manner of a church hymn, why are we writing about them so late? Because we missed the beauty of their fuzz-toned acoustica when everyone else was raving about them last year. Oh, and because they're the latest additions to the lineup of our first ever New Band of the Day night at Camden's Barfly on 26 January and we thought, you know, if they're good enough to play our show, we should return the favour with some words.

You must have heard the one about the 29-year-old American man and the 18-year-old Brit girl who met after the former taught the latter how to play Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr songs on guitar. The relationship between Kacey Underwood and his former pupil Alice Costelloe has been the subject of scrutiny ever since, with people suggesting they're members of that new league of coupled-up pop duos such as Summer Camp or Tennis. It's easy to assume they're involved, such is the intimacy of the performances on their debut album Lights Out (and the fact it's called Lights Out probably doesn't help). The absence of a rhythm section, and focus on vocals and guitar (acoustic and fuzzified electric), make it all seem even more up close and personal, while the lyrics are suffused with romantic longing. Well, maybe not suffused but we counted at least two instances of same. "Want to be your lover, trying hard to be your friend," they sing at one point, although someone far cleverer than us noted that Underwood and Costelloe sing in unison (like Slow Club as opposed to, say, the xx), implying each member's lyrics aren't necessarily directed towards their musical other half. Meanwhile, on the song Cool Like Kurt, Costelloe teases: "Take me to your bed, don't take me home, I want to be old, I want to be older." Silly old us, jumping to conclusions.

Still, where would pop be without sexual intrigue? Then again, the drama of implied intimacy would be nothing if it wasn't played out against a backdrop of narcotic melodies and aching chords. It's funny there's a song here called Cool Like Kurt, because a lot of this stuff sounds like grunge, only without the volume and the emotional violence. Not that it's insipid, just the rage and despair are hints rather than hammer blows to the head. As album openers go, Distant Neighborhood isn't exactly Whole Lotta Love, let alone Love and Mercy, but it sets out Big Deal's musical stall quite nicely. Chair does the same with their lyrics: these are songs about nostalgia, reminding us of that strange paradox about how you never miss your youth as much as when you're young. The standout song is Homework, which perfectly captures the desolation of adolescence. "Can't do my homework, I can't concentrate … it's ruining my grades," sings Costelloe, and Big Deal's trick, one they pull off again and again, is to make such issues seem real, not remote. "When you're not around, I suffocate" – that's a great line by anyone's standards; another paradox, beautifully expressed. Should be a good gig.

The buzz: "It portrays the gamut of romantic and sexual longings … with the honesty you would expect from someone who recently experienced them, but with poise, melodic nous and a musical maturity that doesn't forsake youthful vitality" –

The truth: Shoot out the lights – but let's hope this relationship ends better than the one between Richard and Linda Thompson.

Most likely to: Make you feel at home.

Least likely to: Make you feel like doing homework.

What to buy: Lights Out is on Spotify and was released in September by Mute. Big Deal release new single Talk on 5.

File next to: Slow Club, Nancy and Lee, Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell, William Reid and Hope Sandoval.

Thursday's new band: The Darcys.

Big Deal were a pop/rock band composed of Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe. Underwood was raised near Yucca Valley in California while Costelloe came from an artistic household in London.[1] They rose to prominence following the release of their second album June Gloom which received airplay on BBC 6Music in 2013. Support for the band from grass roots movements and Lauren Laverne of 6Music have seen the band invited to tour Europe with Depeche Mode in 2014. On 1st September 2016 they announced they had decided to break up.

Lights Out[edit]

2011's Lights Out 12 track LP is a collection of folk and grunge folk songs and was released without a drum or bass track. Produced by Underwood and notable producer Dean Reid who had worked with Nelly Furtado and Lana Del Rey[2] the boy / girl folk simplicity with twin guitars and harmonies produce what Sam Wolfson of NME called "More grungy than gooey" and saw the release of 3 video singles "Talk", "Chair" and then followed by the haunting "Homework". While "Talk" became a single release in its own right, it was "Homework" that emerged as the duet's first writing attempts together.[3]

June Gloom[edit]

2013's June Gloom was released on June 4th and featured regularly on BBC 6Music radio. Its lead single Swapping Spit was accompanied by a live video clip all in VHS taping style. The heavy, grunge guitars of Costelloe and Underwood coupled with the heavily compressed explosive drumming of new addition Mel Rigby saw a distinct change from 2011's Lights Out. Bass guitarist Huw Webb provided a musical shadow to Costelloes rhythm guitar work and with Rigby brought the band from a dual guitar folk duet to an explosive wall of sound live band of dynamic shifts and crafted songwork. Heather Phares of allmusic[4] reviewed June Gloom and wrote "Here and throughout the album, Big Deal is nostalgic not just for the sounds of the '90s, but for the best -- and worst -- parts of being in love."

Notable live gigs in support of June Gloom include July 13 at Herk-De-Stad'd Rok Herk and London's Love Box on the 20th of July and Secret Garden Party in Cambridge on the 27th of July. With a doubling of personnel on stage, live performances at this time strongly acknowledged the shoe gaze influences of Underwood and Costelloe with the band minimally interacting with the audience. Live performances were also reminiscent of influences of Pixies wherein the polished June Gloom album was recreated live with the assistance of multiple effects (mostly from Underwood) and translated from studio to live successfully.


Pic from side of stage from Left, Mel Rigby, K.C. Underwood, Huw Webb and Alice Costelloe
Kacey Underwood's pedal line up for 2013's June Gloom
  1. ^" Big Deal: Albums, Songs, Biogs, Photos". 
  2. ^"Dean Reid - Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. 
  3. ^" Big Deal: Albums, Songs, Biogs, Photos". 
  4. ^Heather Phares. "June Gloom - Big Deal - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. 

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