INTERVIEW

The student and the teacher.

Photography by Elinor Jones

“Oh my god, it’s just so embarrassing!” Alice Costelloe rolls her eyes and possibly her insides. She’s just been asked if Kacey Underwood, her musical soulmate and verbal sparring partner is also her boyfriend… and she looks unimpressed. “People see a girl and a boy on stage and they think… well, you know what they think.” Stifling a smile, the English Alice playfully shrugs off the idea that the American guy toying with his hair to her right could propose a jot of romance. Kacey’s a bit more pragmatic. “You hear songs about being lonely and that’s what is playing out in front of you, a boy and a girl singing about each other. It doesn’t bother us what people think, although I remember telling one person we weren’t a couple and she got really, really upset!”

Big Deal are just that to a lot of people. Whether it’s breaking hearts with admissions of platonic relationships or melting minds with their plaintive, stripped down songs Alice, Kacey and their guitars have only been playing together for just over a year, but they are already living up to their ironic moniker. This outfit is a lot different to the pair’s previous projects, though – Kacey sang in Little Death; Alice made the teenage boys swoon in Pull in Emergency.

“We are both so used to being in a full band on stage with somewhere to hide,” explains Alice. “I was singing songs that I didn’t even know the lyrics to.”

“People never noticed the mistakes before in a loud rock band,” says Kacey.

With Alice still doing her A-Levels and Kacey teaching music, he often comes across as the elder statesman of the group, providing plenty of ammunition for Alice’s sharp tongue.

“We met after I gave her a couple of lessons,” explains Kacey. “Nothing serious as she already played in a band. We just hung out with friends – her mum actually works at the school I work at, and she was always talking about her daughter’s band and how great they were, and I’d just get annoyed. We talked about music a lot and at some point it crossed over into writing together.

“Opening up the song writing process to someone else, I thought was just awesome!” he adds. “Whatever your job is, it becomes easier if someone else is there to share half the workload, doesn’t it?”

Well if you put it like that…

“I just think you have to know someone well enough to put yourself out there when you are writing a song, otherwise you would always be on guard.”

Taking that precious connection on stage was a different matter for Big Deal, though.

“In our first song at our very first gig, we started to play and the sound man hit a button and blasted out I don’t know what!” Kacey laughs. “It was electro or techno or something and there we were carrying on.”

Alice’s eyes roll again. The more time spent with her and Kacey, the more gentle differences in dialect become apparent – Alice very English, Kacey a very anglicized American. Those on stage discrepancies, though, are what gives bands like Big Deal their unique charm.

“Yeah, it’s seen to be human isn’t it,” agrees Alice.

“If we were at a gig we’d want to see that too,” says Kacey, “but at the same time people will look at that and think we haven’t done enough work or dismiss us as lo-fi, but it’s not like that as we are trying to produce the best.”

London indie label Moshi Moshi must think they are getting it right – out now on their singles club the languidly lush ‘Talk’ follows up their innocent debut release ‘Homework’, and while the progression on the page is evident, all Big Deal songs come from the same place.

“We had this conversation when we first started,” says Kacey. “We were listening to ’60s classics, really sweet and naïve sounding, but from a dark place, and we liked that juxtaposition.”

“We just want to write honestly,” says Alice, “and that was what was going on – when we wrote ‘Homework’ I had some homework to do!”

The tenderness of Big Deal’s lyrics seductively entice you in before poisoning your cuppa and burying you in the garden; a stark contrast but it gives them a depth and substance.

“We don’t really know how to write any other way,” says Alice.

This intriguing paradox and a way with a tune brought Big Deal attention from their very earliest of gigs, and now a highly anticipated album lies just round the corner on what many would consider an unlikely home.

“Mute Records were there right from the start,” says Kacey. “It’s a great label and it’s quite different. The head of the label came down to see us and stayed right the way through. It was pretty scary, but they have been great. It’s all been really casual, but they are very professional too.”

Just the two of them in the studio must have been quiet?

“Just us and the Internet, so I wasted loads of time showing Alice Dave Chappelle videos.”

Alice laughs. “There’s this one where they keep saying, “darkness, darkness, darkness,” and we have started one of our tracks with the same words. We laugh every time we hear it.”

Having bonded through a love of music, talked about it so much and lived it day to day, is there anything musically that Big Deal clash on? “We have a Led Zeppelin dispute,” explains Alice. “I don’t like it.” Kacey stops playing with his hair and brings up ABBA. “That’s my Dad!” she says. “He has these songs that he plays when he thinks nobody is home, so I’ll get in and he’ll kick the CD case under the sofa. The world needs to know this!”

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