Up-and-coming duo Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood talk pop
Kim Taylor Bennett
Armed with just one electric and one acoustic guitar, Londoner Alice Costelloe and Californian Kacey Underwood quietly wow audiences with their dusky songs that pulse with lovelorn yearning and teen angst. With her crystalline vocals Alice is the perfect partner for Kacey’s dreamily hushed tones. A truly mesmeric musical pairing, but it is not, as their songs suggest, a romantic one. ‘Talk’ is out now on Moshi MoshiSingles Club. Here’s what you need to know about them.
It was Alice’s mum who brought them together.
Kacey ‘Her mom is a teacher at the school where I teach guitar. She was always talking about her daughter being in bands and she said Alice would like some lessons. We’d play guitar and talk about music, and then we thought it’d be fun to write something together, which turned into ‘Homework’. I liked it instantly better than anything I’d been working on by myself.’
Prior to Big Deal, Alice was in jittery indie-popsters Pull In Emergency and Kacey was the frontman of grunge-pop act Little Death, but the Alice/Kacey union was a no-brainer.
Alice ‘My band was imploding anyway. Everyone was going off to different universities and it was really hard work. This just fell into place.’ K ‘It was the same with me. The decision was made for me, in a way. I didn’t have to go, “Okay, I’m putting more of my heart and energy into this band,” it was just clear because my band imploded at the same time.’
On stage the pair hide behind their hair. K ‘Well, think about it, we’re two people on stage with instruments, no backing track, no nothing, being really, really upfront, making music that’s real straight. You have to have some way of making people feel less uncomfortable.’
And their lyrics are uncomfortably intimate. A ‘Initially, I felt so nervous I was even singing that I forgot about how revealing the lyrics were.’
Still, it’s a straightforwardness that the duo embrace. K ‘I think it’s one of those things where we were both looking back to a time when people were allowed to say things because they hadn’t been done before. Now, in music, everyone’s trying to find a different way to say something instead of just saying it. You can tell someone you love them and it doesn’t matter if it’s been said a million times before: it’s still perfect for those two people. That’s still the best music.’ A ‘The whole idea was to be completely honest and cheesy, and once that’s your aim it’s not embarrassing whatever you say. K ‘It has to make us cringe and it has to be embarrassing…’ A ‘If it’s not, then it’s not a good song.’
Alice manages to juggle the band with being a full-time A-level student. A ‘We just confirmed a tour just before my first exam! It’s a bit tricky, but I can’t wait till the summer when we’re free. I don’t know if I’m going to university, but I want to do well enough so that I can!’
They make two awkward halves of a rather lovely whole. A ‘We’re both really driven to do something we care about. It’s quite rare to find someone who cares about something as much as you do and is working as hard as you would. K ‘You know that Velvet Underground song ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’? It’s kind of like that. You forget you have something because you’re too caught up in your own head, overthinking things. We each make each other better. It sounds like marriage counselling! Not that I’ve been to marriage counselling, but we watched a movie with it in last night. Which movie was it, Alice?’ A ‘I didn’t think it was going to be how it was! It was called Couples Retreat. I thought it was going to be a bromance-comedy. It was so bad. It’s in the bin now.’