By Nicholas Jason Lopez
On Nov. 4, 2019, Melodic progressive rock trio Little King released their latest EP ‘Occam’s Foil,’ which was recorded at Krank Studios in El Paso, Texas during Summer/Fall 2019.
Little King is guitarist/vocalist Ryan Rosoff, bassist/backing vocalist Manny Tejeda and drummer Eddy Garcia. For a couple of songs on ‘Occam’s Foil,’ the band brought in special guests cellist David Hamilton, violinist Christina Hernandez and backing vocalist Monica Gutierrez.
The theme of the EP plays on the ‘Occam’s Razor,” a problem-solving principle that states, “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity,” as theorized by English Franciscan friar William of Ockham. The argument for simplicity and its “foil” or counter-argument, influenced the lyrics of the new songs, which take on the Opioid Crisis, religion, politics and relationships.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Rosoff about the release and more.
Music Bugle – How did you guys decide the band name and what does it signify for you?
Ryan Rosoff – That was a solo call. My previous band had split up and I had a grip of songs that needed to see the light of day. I pretty much knew that if I wanted to have a long and productive career, that I would have to drive the car, so I figured the best thing to do was be autonomous and then just make records with my friends. That was 23 years ago. I guess it has worked out. “Little King” is the Gaelic translation of my first name, “Ryan.” Made sense on a lot of levels at the time. “Don’t let the little king do the thinking for the big king…” Words to live by.
Music Bugle – What was your mindset when it came to the distinctive artwork for your last EP?
Ryan Rosoff – The theme of ‘Occam’s Foil’ is a counter-argument to the old theory of Occam’s Razor, which basically surmises that the most obvious answer is usually the right one. That was proffered by Father William of Ockham back in about 1347. Yes, I am a nerd. Father William was obviously a religious man and so I thought that the songs should be reflective of how much his theory has been bastardized and is just flat-out harmful in the modern world, so the cover is a blending of a medieval church electrified into present day! Or something like that. I had the idea after a couple artists had flaked on us. From there, Manny Tejeda – our bass player and damn good at building shit – constructed my vision from cardboard, silver spray paint, and – literally – burrito wrappers from Taco Cabana in El Paso. We photographed it inside the foyer of the studio at Eddy Garcia’s – our drummer and engineer – house. It’s instantly recognizable to anyone who has every passed out there. That’s a lot of people, as info. Then, we took it outside and lit that fucker on fire!
Music Bugle – Could you describe what the creative process was like for ‘Occam’s Foil’? How do you feel it turned out?
Ryan Rosoff – I always write the music first and then play the songs on my guitar a million times until I can play them with my eyes closed. Once I get to that point, I can then write the words and vocal melodies. I do this because Little King songs are complex and hard to play and sing at the same time. We don’t do a lot of 4/4, keys are different in just about every song and tempos vary a lot as well, so I have to have them nailed on the guitar before I can even think about the words. Typically, I will then record all of the music first and then sing when that’s done, but this time, we tracked the music in July of 2019 and then I went back home to Delaware and spent some time with the tracks. Manny sings backing vocals on every song and he lives just down the street, so we spent a ton of time practicing the vocals together once I wrote the words. They are personal and have a lot of meaning to us, so we wanted to make sure that we did them justice! Once that was done, we traveled back to Texas and tracked the vocals along with a friend of mine – Monica Gutierrez – and some string arrangements. I am thrilled with the results and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We are humbled, really. Or at least I am… not sure Manny has ever been humbled!
Music Bugle – How have you felt the group progress with every new release?
Ryan Rosoff – Just more confident, more skilled and vocally way ahead of where I have been in the past. The arrangements fit the vocals and vise versa. Listen to “The Skin That I’m In” or “Hate Counter” and you can hear that. I peaked. My band kicked ass, too. We just sound like guys that have their shit together and who don’t really sound much like anyone else. That’s all you can ask for. If at that point, people don’t dig it? That’s cool. We do and that’s what matters! I can’t make music for an audience. I have to make music for me and hope there’s an audience for it, if that makes sense.
Music Bugle – Did you have any material that didn’t make ‘Occam’s Foil’?
Ryan Rosoff – One song, yes! This is really the first time it’s been that way. Usually, if something doesn’t make the cut, it goes away forever, or maybe a riff or two will survive and morph into another song for the next album. When we were tracking ‘Occam,’ one song just didn’t cooperate. I was struggling mightily to play it to the metronome and Eddy just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t figure out what the problem was until much later, really after we were mixing. I was playing the main riff way too fast. Should have been slowed down, but Ed was rushing me through it, thinking it should be sped up. We always track to a click and if I can’t make it work, the song is cut. Now that I’ve got it figured out, it will be on the new record. I love the song and the arrangement will be intricate and include some unconventional instrumentation. Decent chance my son will be playing piano and my daughter will be on bass for that one, too. How cool would that be? Oh… for now, it’s called “Flatten the Place,” but that could change when the lyrics are done.
Music Bugle – How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected the band?
Ryan Rosoff – Obviously, we never got to tour behind ‘Occam.’ Never really toured ‘Legacy of Fools’ from 2008 or ‘OD1’ from 2014, either. Life intrudes, you know? So, I have a grip of songs that haven’t been properly showcased live. I have six albums worth of material, you know? So, we had selected all of the ones from the albums that fit together thematically, were fun and challenging and still resonated with me lyrically and vocally! We had a ton of festival dates in the queue and were gonna book club dates around them, but when Coachella cancelled, every other festival fell like a domino, so we were shit out of luck, but no worries… I sat home and worked harder than I’ve ever worked before on new material. I think the results this summer will bear that out. The new songs are so much fun, so intricate and just compositionally solid. Just sucks that we are gonna have to cut some more older songs live, but that’s the way it goes. Maybe, if people love it, we can extend the show to 90 minutes. That would be proper.
Music Bugle – Who are some of your musical influences?
Ryan Rosoff – Yeah, I have too many to list, but at the moment, I would say Rush – always – Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Soundgarden, Midnight Oil, Tupac, Snoop, Peter Tosh, Vivaldi, Coltrane and Iron Maiden. I know, I know…
Music Bugle – What has been your proudest moment while with the group?
Ryan Rosoff – Without a doubt, the response to the new album. Not even close. You never really know how people will receive it. Are we dated? Will anyone care? Am I crazy in thinking it might actually be pretty good? Biased? We are blessed with loyal fans and it’s just been incredibly gratifying to hear their feedback and to see the critical praise that has come with it. You don’t make music for the critics, but it’s a lie to say you don’t care, either. I care a little, mind you… not a lot, but when uniformly people you don’t know are praising your work, that feels good.
Music Bugle – When did you want to become a musician?
Ryan Rosoff – I’m still not sure I do…
Music Bugle – What is your favorite set of lyrics from the band?
Ryan Rosoff – “The Skin That I’m In” from ‘Occam’s Foil.’ It cuts deep, is auto-biographical, and turns some lemons into emotional lemonade: “Do you have a real regret/A moment that you knew/That when I was really gone/Your anchor would be, too?/Now I am in your head/Right where I want to be/And I wanted you to know/I’m at one with the skin that I’m in…”