In 2009, Little Kid’s lead singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Kenny Boothby released “Train,” the first song of what would become the band’s debut record, Logic Songs. “Train,” the album’s closing track, is almost ten minutes long and has one quiet verse at the beginning which is overtaken by the tape-recorded cacophony of a train barreling down the tracks. It’s admittedly a strange song, but the soft inquisition within the verse (“The train is coming our way. Can’t you feel the earth rumbling?” Boothby asks), its lo-fi sound, and, of course, the train (which weaves in and out of Logic Songs), captures the magic of the album — released ten years ago this week — and, in retrospect, previews the qualities that continue to make Little Kid such a special band.
“I was 19 when I did the first song,” reflects Boothby over video chat from his home in Toronto one Sunday night. “I was still a teenager, still Christian, and I was pretty straight-laced in a lot of ways. When I think back to this version of Kenny, I was definitely a bit of a weirdo. I think about this album as being the first album that I made, and I included a ten-minute train recording at the end.” Laughing, Boothby adds: “that’s pretty ridiculous to do.”
While Little Kid is now a four-piece band (comprised of Boothby, Megan Lunn, Paul Vroom, Liam Cole, and sometimes Brodie Germain, and whose most recent release, Transfiguration Highway is, comparatively speaking, an expansive alt-country recording), in its original form, Little Kid was just Boothby. He was living in London, Ontario, when school was in session and spent two summers in Huntsville. He was in various bands in high school, but “Train” was Boothby’s first serious effort and the first time he recorded music by himself. Boothby steadily released more songs and posted them on Bandcamp (then just a blossoming music platform), Facebook, and Tumblr and they received attention from music forums and blogs. Eventually, Boothby decided to commit to making an album, releasing Logic Songs in 2011.
Logic Songs is a fuzzy lo-fi folk album full of found sounds and is steeped in Christian imagery and doubt. It’s an album for the devoted and the undevoted and for anybody who deeply relates to feeling uncertain. Although Little Kid has now released five other records, Logic Songs continues to be one of their most beloved by fans. “I think that for 19- to-21-year-old Kenny, I’m very proud of what I did. Some of it is pretty bold and very demanding,” Boothby says. “Even though lyrically it’s not my favourite record, I think thematically it’s a strong one, and sonically, it’s totally different than our other ones. It has one of the most distinct universes when you listen to it. It’s an interesting world to enter for a bit.”
To honour the tenth anniversary of Logic Songs, Vroom remastered the album and tomorrow (April 9th), Little Kid will release ten lathe-cut double LPs full of unique goodies, ten deluxe cassettes with bonus tracks, and a run of standard cassettes. To celebrate this blessed occasion, we asked Boothby to break down each track on Logic Songs for us.
“The Train Behind My House”
Around the time that this was recorded, I would bike around London a lot and record stuff on my tape recorder. One day I was biking, and the train crossing [gate] was stuck for some reason, and so I turned my recorder on. No train came so I just sat there and recorded the bell for a few minutes. It sounded really interesting on my tape player – that bong of it – and I thought I could make it the beat of a song.
This song is built around a metaphor. A train track was behind the house where I lived with my friends, and you could hear the train passing, and I was thinking about how I wouldn’t notice the train anymore after living there for a while. That was also a time where I was doubting my faith and re-evaluated where I sat on that stuff so it struck me as a good parallel because I was thinking that if God has been in my life and is constantly there, if I’ve come to think that He’s not there anymore, it’s like the train that’s passing and now I don’t even notice it.
“You Might Not Be Right”
This song is similarly built around a pulse. I used to have this big Hammond organ that was really beautiful, and it had a speaker in the middle that you could hear starting up. It had some really great [features] too. You could hold a chord down, and it would pulse, and you could change its speed, so I built the song around that.
This is the pop song of the album. We played this at shows for a long time but it’s almost comically poppy — like, pop-punk. A big idea for me then was that I could be wrong about all of the things that I assumed growing up. That was really confusing to me. That’s in a lot of the songs: what if everything that I had thought was true was wrong. How do you know what you think is true is true? It’s a simple summation of that in the chorus and a lot of just random imagery in the verses but it’s a fun song for sure.
I remember that I had a big Word doc on my computer where I had my songs that I was working on, and this was number nine on my list, and I kept it as “Song 9” for no particular reason. I wrote this in Huntsville and I recorded it in a backyard on the day that I wrote it. It was recorded on this big — I don’t know what it was for — but it was a portable tape recorder, it had a handle and a big speaker. It was cool, but it wasn’t good for recording music because it pitched everything a little funky. There was a gutter with dripping water next to one of the major roads in Huntsville that I tried to record with the same machine I recorded the song with, but you mostly heard traffic, but that’s what I put over the whole song.
I did two takes of it and kept the second one. It has flubs in it, and I wish that I re-recorded it with the lyrics right. But it has a nice feel; I think because it was in the backyard. I was listening to Bob Dylan a lot that summer, and I wanted to make a song with a protest feel, and that’s what the song started as, but I don’t know if that’s how it turned out.
“Logic Song / We Waited…”
I realized after that this song is fully a rip-off of a Microphones song. It’s almost identical to the song “Solar System” from the album Mount Eerie. I subconsciously stole it.
My cousin, who I was living with, was going through an atheist phase and talking a lot about reason and meanwhile, at church, I was hearing the opposite. I was hearing that you should have faith, and so those things felt very at odds in my life. This song is kind of sarcastic. In a sense, it has a Christian message, and I’m actually defending faith in a lot of these songs, to be honest. Any of them that sound anti-God were actually more satire in my mind. I was trying to make it pro-Christian in some ways, but I think the song still shows a lot of my doubt. Around the time I wrote this song, I was starting to think that I was going to make an album. I didn’t have a title yet, but I was noticing these threads emerging in the songs. So that’s the title track, but it’s also, in a thematic sense, the core of the album.
“Let There Be Light”
This one shows a lot of my struggle with my faith, and it has lots of “why God why?” kind of questions. Why won’t you make it clear to me if you want me to believe in you? Why won’t you spell it out for me?
It’s got clarinets on it, which is kind of fun. For a while, I would play clarinet on all of the albums, but my embouchure has become so terrible that I don’t do that anymore. Lyrically, there are parts that I feel a little clumsy about, but it’s one that I still feel nice playing, and I think it’s a very Little Kid song. It’s a template, with its slow 3/4 time, that we can trace a lot of songs back to. It’s not a country song, but it’s getting a little close to the feel of a lot of our more recent songs.
When I was getting into tapes, I would go back home and dig through old tapes, so I found this one tape that my sister’s piano teacher sent her for ear-training. I thought it would be cool for the song to start on the first note that she played. This was the last song that I made because I felt like I had all of these songs, but I needed a breather in the middle.
At the time, I was listening to a lot of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Silver Mt. Zion and post-rock, and they would include a lot of field recordings and found sounds in their albums. I don’t acknowledge them enough in my mind as an influence on me because it seems like their music is super different, but I listened to [WHY?’s] albums Elephant Eyelash and Alopecia so much in 2008, and Elephant Eyelash has a lot of found sounds including parts of a tape that his Dad sent to his Mom. Because of that record, I realized that these recordings can be very personal.
I think that “Bearably Sad” is another early example of a fairly Little Kid-type song. It also has the 3/4 time and has a little more of the country bounce to it. Lyrically, it’s kind of funny. It’s all a mistake that I made. There’s a mewithoutYou song [“Torches Together”] where the lead singer asks, “Aren’t you unbearably sad?” And then there’s another song by El Obo in which their lead singer asks, “Aren’t you unbearably sad?” and those bands were friends, so I don’t know if he was just referencing the mewithoutYou song, but when I heard that I thought, “oh, it’s from the bible.” But it turns out that I was wrong. I do feel a bit silly about the song now, but I think it’s mostly because of my mistake. It’s my mewithoutYou fanfiction.
The song is satirical too. I would sing it years later, and it wouldn’t feel like a satirical song, but at the time, it was more like “look at the arrogance of this person who can go on without God.” Honestly, a lot of it was pulled from a sermon I heard at the church I went to. The pastor, when speaking about the Israelites escaping Egypt to the promised land, was saying that some people are just content to stay in the desert and not get what’s promised to them. So the song is saying that sure, I’m sad, but I’m fine. I’m rejecting God’s promise for me. Now if I sing it, I’m relating to that person, but at the time, I’m thinking this person is wrong and this is foolish. It’s interesting the way it has changed.
“Birthright” and “Logic Song” might have been written around the same time because it’s very much about logic too. My views are so different from this time, but I, as a very Christian person, was coming up against this staunch atheist stuff, and that didn’t jive for me, and it still doesn’t. Neither of those schools of thought are too inviting to me now, but at the time, they were the two, and that’s why there is a clash: because they’re two extreme views.
“The Lord Made Me Leave You”
This is one of the most potent songs. That was the first time I wrote a song where I was like, okay, I need to talk to somebody before I show it to everybody else because it’s so much about this person and our shit. At the time, I was dating somebody who wasn’t a Christian, and that was a problem, apparently. I was on the worship team at church, and when they found out that I was dating this person who wasn’t a Christian, I had to go for lunch with the pastor, and he showed me the verses from the bible that say don’t be yoked to a non-believer and he told me basically that I had to stop seeing this person. And I said sure to him, and then I didn’t do it. So that song is about that conflict, and that was a big conflict for me. I was being told that it was wrong, it was in the bible that it was wrong, but it didn’t feel wrong to me. So I was doing lots of research too. The song’s final verse is like the person’s response, and it has a lot of almost verbatim bible verses that are countering the idea. That’s one that I will still play and feel good about.
I recorded “Train” in 2009, and it was my first serious song. It’s a simple song — there’s nothing really to it musically or lyrically, and then there’s the train recording at the end. I was really into trains for some reason. It was almost a joke, but with me, there’s a lot of things that are almost a joke, but I really like them. That was like peak irony time; I feel like with hipsters, too. So it was kind of a joke, but I also did think that trains were really cool, and I’d sit by the tracks and hope one would come by.
The track breakdown was edited for clarity and length.