May 25 2011 10:08 AM

Little Deadman buckle down with a new 7-inch and a busy schedule

Spencer Rabin has been working on a tighter schedule lately
Photo by David Rolland
The world outside was anything but orderly one recent Sunday. Just after noon, the weather shifted between patches of sun and May gray. Meanwhile, the tree hanging over the table on the patio of Golden Hill’s Krakatoa coffeehouse threatened to brain the members of Little Deadman with kamikaze seedpods. But the environmental chaos was of little consequence to frontman Spencer Rabin; what’s been occupying his mind lately is focus.

“I feel like that’s something in my life that I’m more interested in,” Rabin says. “Focusing on things.”

His comment is grounded in the major differences between Little Deadman and previous projects that Rabin, guitarist Anthony Levas and bassist Tyson Wirtzfeld have collaborated on throughout the years. (The trio recently brought in drummer Brian Dahl, whose last band, indie-pop outfit Gray Ghosts, called it quits last year.)

Lately, the guys have taken a more pop-oriented approach:

Little Deadman’s energetic, lo-fi sound draws influence from the straightforward songwriting of The Clash and the fuzzedout melodies of The Jesus and Mary Chain. By comparison, Rabin says his previous project, Red Feathers, a dark blues-rock group, was more of a “derivative band.”

“I love ’60s rhythm and blues, and I felt like people thought that type of music was more interesting—that it was more unconventional today because it was all over the place,” he says. “But having more of an accessible pop sensibility in this new music actually makes more sense to me, because there’s a thread that runs through everything.

“I used to think that was sort of negative—that you’re not choosing the best songs, that trying to create a sound is contrived,” Rabin continues. “But in the end, focusing on things has enabled me to really hammer in on what I want to say.”

You can hear the sound Rabin’s aiming for on the “Shooting Seagulls” 7-inch that Little Deadman will release this week. Recorded with the help of Keith Milgaten, a local sound engineer who also heads the band Jamuel Saxon, the 7-inch features two songs that show off contrasting sides of the same tonal coin—where “Shooting Seagulls” builds on a driving and danceable beat, b-side “Fear is Not the End” turns the shoegaze dial up to 11. The reference points are clear, but the urgent, stripped-down production and Rabin’s dreamy, underwater vocals sound fresh and new.

But focus has also started to become a matter of necessity in day-to-day band activities. Rabin’s been splitting his time between here and northern California, where he’s pursuing a master’s degree at San Francisco Art Institute. Even with time off for breaks and weekends, every minute spent working on Little Deadman in San Diego has to be mined for maximum potential.

“You have to schedule practices because people are so busy,” Levas says. “When he comes down, we focus—like: ‘OK, we’ve got three days to practice before this Karl Strauss show [on May 14].’ So, that’s what we had to do: practice late, work out the parts.”

“But I actually kind of like it in a way,” Rabin adds, “because when we get together, we’re focused. We have a schedule. With every other band I’ve been in, it’s like: ‘Get together and drink beers.’ It’s fun, but it’s not efficient. I like working—that’s fun for me, as much as goofing off and jamming. So, for me, it actually works out.”

It’s a good thing the Little Deadman crew enjoys the schedule, because things are about to get a lot more hectic. With their 7-inch out, not to mention extra songs available for download on Bandcamp, they’re ready to get going. During the past couple weeks, Little Deadman performed at Karl Strauss’ Beach to Brewery Beer Music Fest and held a listening party at El Take It Easy, the North Park restaurant and bar. This week, they’ll play an in-store show at M-Theory Music and headline a record-release show at The Casbah.

And then? The band isn’t sure. They haven’t embarked on a full tour yet, but an opportunity with locals Cuckoo Chaos could be on the horizon. Rabin muses on the prospect of building a concept record and even making a short film inspired by the open road.

But all of that will come with time. Right now, the important thing is focusing on the present—and all of the possibilities that right now brings.

Little Deadman will celebrate the release of their “Shooting Seagulls” 7-inch at The Casbah on Thursday, May 26, with Chairs Missing, Plateaus and DJs Mario Orduno and Brandon Welchez. They’ll perform at M-Theory Music on Friday, May 27.