Three friends bond over a shared love of electronic music and decide to start a band — a common-enough origin story. But for Brooklyn’s Little Daylight, success began to trickle in before playing even one show.
While working on songs, Nikki Taylor, Matt Lewkowicz and Eric Zeiler decided they wanted to remix other artists — no matter that they knew no established musicians, and had only one demo to their name to illustrate their talents. First on the list was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, who’d just completed a new uplifting folk track, “Man on Fire.”
“They were willing to give us a shot even though they didn’t really know our stuff, and we didn’t even have a lot — or almost any — released music at that point,” said Taylor, the singer-keyboardist. “They didn’t have anything to go on. But they were a band that doesn’t get remixed very often, so it was a new experience for them.”
Little Daylight, who performs Monday at The Independent, turned the song into a tribal celebration.
The band continued by reaching out to their favorite bands, asking for permission to remix their songs: Passion Pit, The Neighbourhood, Niki & The Dove, Ra Ra Riot, Freelance Whales, and most recently, Sky Ferreira, and Bastille.
By the time they released their first EP of original material, last year’s sometimes haunting, sometimes dance-pop, always melodically luxuriant Tunnel Vision, they were on their way to being booked for South by Southwest in Austin. Only problem was, the trio had yet to play a live show.
Looking to play in front of a people, but not wanting the pressure that comes from a live debut hyped by New York’s music blogs and press, Taylor, Lewkowicz and Zeiler made up a fake name and bio for their first show.
“We (wrote) that we were a group of French existentialist philosophers who believed that modern music was inherently bullshit; something silly,” Taylor said. “We showed up expecting zero people, and there was about 75 people there, thinking that we were going to be Phoenix playing a secret show.”
It was a pretty quick ascent for the trio, who didn’t even start the band until 2012. Lewkowicz (guitar, keyboard) and Zeiler (bass) were high school friends in New Jersey and had played in bands together, while Taylor met the two through a former boyfriend. She had also performed live before, as a back-up singer and keyboardist. That was not enough for her, and she wanted her own spotlight.
“That moment when all eyes are on you, and you are carrying the presence of a room…and connecting with the energy that’s there, I’ve always liked a lot,” she said.
After spending time at an upstate New York retreat, working on music that turned out to be their first few original singles, such as the twitchy “Overdose,” with its militaristic drum beat, and the ethereal slow dance that is “Name In Lights,” they dubbed themselves Little Daylight for the late nineteenth century fairy tale about a princess who is only able to come fully alive after the moon rises.
Through the EP and their remixes, Little Daylight built strong Internet cred early. They didn’t want to blow their chance in front of a big audience at South by, Taylor said. One of their pre-festival shows featured an audience of four people: Their manager and the opening band (to be fair, it probably would have been more had they not hidden their true identity).
“We knew something was going to go wrong,” Taylor said. “We just wanted freedom to make serious mistakes and just get them out of the way.”
That pressure to succeed isn’t as strong now that the band is on its first headlining national tour (they’d passed through San Francisco twice last year opening for Bastille), and full length debut Hello Memory is being prepared for a summer release.
Taylor, Lewkowicz and Zeiler don’t have to try as hard to find new artists to remix, either.
“We’ve been able to have the benefit of becoming friends with more bands, so we’re in a nice place where we can do remixes for our friends,” Taylor said.
Follow writer Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter and RomiTheWriter.Tumblr.com.
Little Daylight, Flagship, Terraplane Sun
April 21, 2014