Coming Back Stronger | An Interview With Jackson Simmons Of little image

Within the world of Dallas-based group little image pre-COVID, the ensemble was marching along, being young and obsessed with underground indie rock. The band released its first album, Musings, back in 2017, with songs driving muffled guitars, pounding drums, and earnest lyrics. As time passed, little image noticed that the growth since the release of Musings was apparent, and some changes needed to be made musically.

The time away from the public light allowed little image to regroup and take stock of what was next.¬†Communication between the group members became more concrete than it was and allowed the freedom to flush out newer influences within the writing process.¬†The self-titled album from little image (dropped last month via Hollywood Records) has an energy that wasn’t present in their previous effort. Drawing comparisons to COIN and Walk The Moon, little image enlisted producer Chad Copelin (Third Eye Blind, Sufjan Stevens, and 5 Seconds Of Summer) to help push further the band’s vision of what they wanted to do sonically.

When did the discovery of music begin for you? What was the time like?

When I was a kid, my dad owned a bakery in Texas, and I would watch VHS montages of 90s music videos in the back. Eventually, I started building drum kits out of wheat buckets, and my love for music was just built from there. 

In the early stages of the band being together, you bonded with underground indie rock. What was about those artists you were diving into that connected you?

It was how natural it all sounded. I was obsessed with the way a lot of my favorite artists could make you feel like you’re in the room with the instruments. All the weird time signatures, clean guitars, and trashy drums had a special sonic inspiration on me. 

I read in an interview that you turned down a record deal in the band’s early years. How difficult was choosing to be on yourselves rather than being on a major label?

We were honestly just very young and eager. We had some wise people in our lives sit us down and just weigh out the pros and the cons, and we just decided it was best to focus on the music first and foremost before anything else. 

What has Dallas meant to you with your growth musically?

Almost everything to us. I think building a pretty big following in our hometown really pushed us to go try it in the rest of the world. 

Can you talk about the mood when the plans for the band were scrapped after the pandemic began?

At first, it was very discouraging. We didn’t talk to each other much during the early stages of the pandemic, we had just built a team with booking and management, and it was all at a standstill. But looking back, it was really good for us to take a second; as ready as we thought we were to jump right into being a full-time band, we still had a lot of stuff to figure out. We just decided to embrace the situation and find a silver lining in one of the weirdest times the world has seen. 

Was there any concern about how fans would turn away from the slight change in your music?

100%. I remember being in the studio for the first time, and we were all messing with synths, and I said out loud, “Guys, we’re a guitar band,” mainly just out of fear that people would be thrown off by such a different sound. The more we dove into it, the more I found comfort in trying new things and stepping outside of what I’m used to, and now synths are one of my biggest passions in music, and we’ve found a way to utilize them in our own way. 

What songs on the album will give listeners and fans a good sense of the new direction you took?

The first track, “EGO”, and the song “WORTH IT” were the first two songs where we found our groove with the new sound we wanted to make. They both kind of set the tone for the type of album we wanted to make.

Writing the lyrics for the album had to have been affected partly due to what you felt during this transition.

I would say partially, yes. We wrote the first album in high school, and the more we grew up we just started to look at the world differently, like most of us do. Really looking into the time we live in, we just noticed in ourselves and most young people that there are some deep-rooted problems with how young people view themselves and the pressures social media push to look and act a certain way. 

How important were Chad Copelin and Jeremy Lutito in the recording process for the new album?

Both played a huge part in helping us pull off what we wanted to pull off. We wanted something fresh, and Jeremy was the first to really push us to step outside our comfort zone and just try some stuff. Chad was so crucial to helping us perfect a lot of things; he has such a good ear and is really quick to add something a song is lacking. 

Panic! At The Disco, as you know, are about to call it quits. After touring with the band, what were your favorite moments during your run with them?

Yes, we, fortunately, were able to hop on two of the shows on their tour, and it was a pretty surreal experience. Probably my favorite moment was rolling up to an arena in our 15-passenger van and tiny trailer and having to squeeze our rig in between all the massive buses in the arena. We’ve been in our van in so many different venues, and to see it at some of the biggest venues in the country was so funny and amazing. 

Do you stop to wonder what the band would be if you were moving forward how you did before the pandemic?

All the time, and as tough as that time was, we truly just wouldn’t be as comfortable or ready as we are now if we didn’t have that time to reflect and focus. I feel like we needed to go through some stuff together and get out of it to be where we are today. 

Photo Courtesy: Tyler Krippaehne