Collaborative Effort
Little Tybee is a Multi-Media Melting Pot

By Lee Valentine Smith

One of the most ambitious and artistic bands to play the Atlanta Jazz Festival is Atlanta's own Little Tybee. Debuting in 2008, the ensemble is a kinetic network of artistic expression. While not strictly a jazz band, the members bridge elements of progressive, psychedelic, classical and folk. Onstage and on record, the sextet exhibit an instinctive swirl of genres which proudly defies limited categorization. Comprised of Brock Scott (guitar,vocals), Ryan Donald (basses), Pat Brooks (drums), Josh Martin (guitar), Nirvana Kelly (violin) and Chris Case (keyboards), the band encourages fan interaction and collaboration. Insite spoke with principle songwriter Scott as they plotted their festival appearance.

It's great to see such a diverse band on the jazz festival line-up.

We're definitely not typical straightforward jazz but we do draw a lot of influences from jazz. I think sonically it's similar to a lot of what the audiences are used to seeing at the festival. Maybe with a little bit more of a pop tinge to it but still I think [our sound] is intricate and thought-provoking enough to satisfy even savvy veteran ears.

Your music really defies categorization.

I think the biggest compliment you can give a musician is that it's unique or something that seems familiar but you can't quite pinpoint what it is. It's fun little puzzles that we make and a lot of ear candy, especially if you put on earphones, there's a lot to take in sonically.

What is the Little Tybee songwriting process?

I usually come to the band with either a flushed-out idea or at least some of the ideas. Then we get together in sectionals or micro-practices, as we call them, where it will just be me and then maybe Josh on guitar and Ryan on bass, or some combination of a few of us at a time to flesh out the basic ideas. We look at it kind of as a mini-orchestra. In fact, our violinist Nirvana plays in a string quartet and all of us have different projects that allow us to bring many different things to the table.

At this point you must have a sort of unspoken language.

Yeah, I've been playing with some of these guys for 15 years. We started down in Savannah in middle school, some of us. So we definitely speak the same language. I will write things already knowing what the other members will bring to the table. It's like a musical family, really.

The band name doesn't really offer any clues about the style of the band. It could even be a country band, but it's obviously not.

Yeah we could be like a hip-hop group, you just don't really know. We did try a little country a while back, too. We were actually the house band in Laramie, Wyoming for a couple of nights back in 2010 or so at this place called the Cowboy Saloon. It reminded me of a scene from the Blues Brothers movie at the club with the chicken wire. People were just throwing bottles at them. They kept yelling at us to play country so we just had to wing it.

Improvisation comes in handy sometimes.

Yeah but that's more in our jazz realm, I think.

The radio imagery on the latest album and video is intriguing.

My dad gave me that radio years ago and it was just serving as a mantle-piece. Then one time I was traveling through Spain and I'd brought that radio with me. I had the idea of filming the radio in different locations, just as a visual stimulus. Then I decided it'd be a cool idea if I get a bunch of these radios and just started mailing them around the world, kind of an open call. It's a 1967 General Electric transistor radio and it turns out there's a whole transistor radio community out there. A lot of them were just super-excited that I was bringing attention to these old radios. So the final video ended up with like 60 collaborators from around the world, just random people who wanted to be a part of the project. From that imagery we made custom flash-drives and vinyl. The whole thing was crowd sourced.

Everything about the band seems to be a true collaborative effort.

Yeah we have a collection of about 20 artists that we collaborate with - videographers photographers, visual artists. We're all about collaboration.

And the videos go where you can't afford to travel.

The Internet is such an incredible tool. You could either choose to tour for six months at a time and maybe play - if you're a really good band - to like 1000 people a night. But even if you play 40 shows, that's just 40,000 people. But if you have one video that goes viral, you may have 250,000 views in a week. It reaches more people than your van could ever drive to - and it's a lot cheaper.

You kick off a tour at the festival, and then what?

Then we go six weeks out on the road. We will be doing two loops of the US and Canada and driving out to California. Then we start working on the next record and whatever fun projects that spark our interest along the way.

Little Tybee plays the Next Gen Stage at the Atlanta Jazz Festival on May 27 at 12:30 p.m.



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