Despite simply being another stranger standing in a sold-out crowd at The Brightside (10 March), I almost felt as if I knew Tiny Little Houses’ frontman Caleb Karvountzis.
Partly being a long-term fan of the band, partly having briefly interviewed him, and partly the result of conducting countless research; when he stood and tuned his guitar alone on stage in the dark I wondered how many others recognised him.
He resurfaced with the band some ten minutes later, starting the set with their debut album’s title track, ‘Idiot Proverbs’.
It was short though I wouldn’t say ‘sweet’, not the dictionary definition at least; the lyrics very aptly summarised the darker themes of their record: the fallings of starry-eyed millennials, career monotony and finding peace among life’s chaos.Click here to read our recent interview with Tiny Little Houses.
2015’s ‘Soon We Won’t Exist’ proved a little less gritty than recent tracks though could very well disguise itself as a 2018 release; highly-rotated single ‘Entitled Generation’ was surrendered surprisingly early, audience chanting the chorus brazenly, Caleb abandoning his guitar halfway as its sound unexpectedly dropped out.
Tiny Little Houses pulled back the pace with the two of the grungiest additions to the album, slower verses of ‘Everyone Is’ and ‘Caroline’ seamlessly transitioning into each chorus’ headbanging territory.
The lightness of their earlier sound was particularly evident when 2015’s ‘Easy’ was juxtaposed next. The band publicly expressed their goal to write ‘something big, something that sounds confident’ with producer Steve Schram on ‘Idiot Proverbs’; hearing an indie-rock snippet of their debut EP proved they were successful in progressing.
“This song’s about growing up in the country,” Caleb announced, ‘Nowhere, SA’ bluntly expressing the frustrations of small-town living.
The band stopped to offer their thank you’s before performing fan favourite ‘Short Hair’, backing it up with the softest and most streamed song of their discography, ‘You Tore Out My Heart’.
“We released an album this year,” guitarist Sean Mullins said, sheepishly. “Do you like it?” The crowd cheered approvingly, he grinned, genuinely pleased. “Really?”
They performed two lesser-known ‘Idiot Proverbs’ tracks before rounding off the set with stellar single ‘Garbage Bin’. It was described by Caleb as: “Written while I was going through a tough time,” but despite its sad foundation, it ironically sparked the night’s most positive, most rowdy response.
I wouldn’t solely describe Tiny Little Houses as a punk band though they’re certainly on the border, but unlike comparable Australian acts they don’t need a live performance to hit their prime.
Not to say the gig was disappointing, quite the opposite; often artists of a similar nature are simply best absorbed on stage, big parts of their persona built by their chaotic, rock & roll stage presence.
I adored watching the musicians work their way around their instruments though the band doesn’t rely on cheap performance values to succeed; they were very placid, down to earth nature perceptible from a mile away, comfortably riding off an arguably more powerful strength: their lyrics.
Even being somebody who will automatically boycott lyrics for melodies it’s very hard to disregard Caleb’s words; on a surface level they’re relatable and witty though listening contemplatively has triggered more sentiment for me than what any love song has.
His realistic, pessimistic, slightly nihilistic perspective is so refreshing it’s no surprise ‘Idiot Proverbs’ has been widely critically acclaimed.
Millennials (I’m an offender) are frequently burdened by idealistic expectations and a desperation for approval and career success; Tiny Little Houses have grasped these issues and creatively presented them in an empathetic, light-hearted, even humourous way.
Perhaps I feel as if I know Caleb Karvountzis because our values are so in line. But hell, that band could base an album off an ideology totally incomprehensible to me and I’d still be a stranger standing in their crowd every, single time.