A Conversation With Tiny Stills
As the month of August begins, summer is now in full swing. But what are you to do if you haven’t yet settled on the perfect summer jam? Look no farther than Tiny Stills, a self-described “indie pop cocktail of heartfelt lyrics and catchy hooks,” to be the soundtrack of your next road trip, adventure, or afternoon by yourself at home! With the band currently finishing up a string of California tour dates, songwriter and frontperson, Kailynn West, took the time to answer some questions and give a peek behind the scenes of Tiny Stills to fans old and new.
We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the accidental first Tiny Stills tour [with Anthony Raneri and Allison Weiss, after What’s Eating Gilbert had to drop off at the last minute] – could you reflect a bit on that and how things have changed since then?
That first tour really lit a fire for me, and now with my upcoming plans I’m thinking bigger. It was the first time that I felt like Tiny Stills found an audience, and it was validating and really inspiring. So inspiring that I got my first tattoo on that tour. It was really painful. Love makes you do crazy things, you know? I loved that tour, and now I’m onto more tattoos and more tours. I’m taking more chances and believe in myself a little more than I used to. Im planning farther ahead now than I ever was before, and I’m actually going back out on the road the last week in July (so.. next week!) and am currently planning my second album and Kickstarter for 2017.
Patreon is something that’s really interesting to me and I think you really hit the nail on the head when you say, “It’s really easy to enjoy great things for no cost, but that doesn’t decrease the value of the art we consume.” How does that idea affect both your creative process and the way you present yourself/your music to the public?
I share a lot of things on my Patreon subscriber feed that I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with the rest of the internet community. That is a community of people who I consider differently than the rest because I have a personal relationship with all of them. They support me financially and it allows me to write more for Tiny Stills, so they get to see a different side of the process. For example, I was digging through my computer and found a video that I recorded of the first time I finished “Someone More Like Me” the whole way through and I shared it with them only. They get demos and covers of songs I like. They’re not casual listeners, they’re my internet family, and I can share different parts with them that no one else gets to see and I don’t worry too much about it. Its really nice. I’ve had Patreon for about a year now and this month I’m doing my first paid post. I don’t do them frequently but when I do it’s a lifesaver!
Is there something in particular about the relationship between audio and visuals that drives you to put the extra effort into creating videos over simply releasing tracks on their own?
Sometimes I use weird things to make sounds and most people wouldn’t believe it unless they saw it. I did a video once with my old band where we used a car to make the whole drum beat for a Beyonce song. Sometimes the videos are more interesting depending on the sounds I use but it’s really just so that people have more to grab onto.
The idea behind the name Tiny Stills is that each track is it’s own snapshot of a particular place and time, each telling a somewhat concise story. Is this something that makes the writing process easier because of the parameters or harder since you are condensing so much into a short amount of time?
I think it’s easier because in some ways I give myself permission to feel those feelings again and get back into the original headspace of why I started writing something. It’s freeing. It also helps me keep my focus. It reminds me of that Walt Whitman quote “Do I contradict myself? Very well I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” Each song is treated different. I’ve been told I have a “genre identity crisis” but at some point you have to stop listening what other people want you to do and just make the music you want to hear.
Attention to detail seems to be something of high importance with the layering of your music, videos and other products you put out, and even individual interactions with fans. What draws you to this and how does it affect the way you work?
I always want to make something I care about and sometimes that means it takes longer. It stems from a kind of neurosis of being efficient, too. I don’t want to half ass anything and then have to do the same thing twice. I want to record it the right way, I want to release it the right way, I want it to be personal and meaningful, and I don’t EVER want to have to do it again because at that point I’m exhausted and can’t mentally afford to do it again. I’m moving on to the next thing at that point, which is usually recovering from the process so I can do another creative thing.
What is the writing process like for Tiny Stills? Is it hard to balance things out with the fact that you’re a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, but also have fellow bandmates?
I always write the lyrics first. Being a multi-instrumentalist makes me highly aware of my deficiencies as a singular person who tries to play all the parts. I am a songwriter first and foremost. I will make a rough sketch of an arrangement but the truth is you never know what a song will feel like until you flush it out with a band. I’ve changed keys and tempos of songs after playing through them with a band. Luckily I play with really nice, awesome, talented, patient people and we’re all friends and we enjoy making music together as much as we like hanging out.
Part of your Bandcamp bio describes your lyrics as “lyrics you would quote on AIM if AIM were still a thing.” What would you say is the most quotable lyric you’ve written?
After a particularly sour breakup: “I wish you all the best in what you do. I hope you get nothing more than what I got from you”.
One song that I always come back to as being some of my favorite lyrics I’ve ever written was from a particularly lonely time in my life is my old band Black Kettle’s song “Recycled Hearts”-
“I came here in the hopes that a stranger would understand
what it feels like to wanna hold someone familiar in their hands
and if you can relate then please don’t hesitate to give in
we’re recycled hearts looking for a piece to make us whole again
you don’t need to feel ashamed…
I don’t need sympathy just someone more like me”
The sequel to that song is “Someone More Like Me” which is on Tiny Stills’ first album, and I really enjoy those lyrics too. They still resonate with me. “I think all I’ll ever need is someone a little more like me, it might be the hardest thing to find- a heart that’s hurting like mine but I’ll keep looking.”
You’ve hit on the idea of music as a community before rather than a competition – who are some of your favorite artists and inspirations at the moment that you think others should be checking out?
These artists will 100% without a doubt save your life:
Just Friends, Harriet, Two Inch Astronaut, Cayetana, Charly Bliss, Courtney Barnett, Allison Weiss, Yellowbirddd, Psychic Love, NADA SURF!!, Pinegrove, PUP, Insignificant Other, The Velvet Teen, This is Me Smiling, The Weakerthans…
I keep playlists on Spotify of all my current jams so if you want great new music find me on there! Tiny Stills!