Fronted by Stockholm based songwriter Simon Stålhamre, SMALL FEET draw from American influences, drawing comparisons to Neil Young, Chad VanGaalen and a Scandinavian Woods. Stålhamre was a virtual recluse after leaving school at 15 and whilst working at mundane jobs, built up a wealth of intelligent, imaginative and magical songs. Their debut album From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like the Ocean is due out on 14 August.
The album’s opening tune, “Gold” (which you can listen to here), boasts a rich impatience in its summons to “Just split the stone and hand me the gold.” This is the voice of someone who, at his wit’s end, has stumbled upon beauty after years spent in the gloom, something the song itself makes starkly clear at its start: “When I was a boy we never talked about the dark,” he sings, “and what the dark might bring.” Fortunately, as From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean progresses, it demonstrates the degree to which “the dark” is but a backdrop for vivid sweeps of imagination, each song streaking the blackness with the brilliance of his homeland’s aurora borealis.
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The band are heading to the USA in July to perform on NPR’s World Cafe on 13th July, a KEXP In Studio confirmed for the same morning and a WFUV session confirmed for 6th July. Previous singles “Rivers” and “All And Everyone” are receiving significant radio play here on 6 Music (Steve Lamacq, Lauren Laverne). There are plans for some UK shows in August.
It seems baffling that a songwriter as adept as Stålhamre, is only now releasing his first record. Having quit school at 15, he nevertheless possessed a natural intelligence and gift for music, yet he was shuffling a pack of demons that provoked an increasingly reclusive lifestyle. So, instead of attending school, he employed TV as his academic mentor – learning English from the American shows that dominated his small country’s schedules and working in jobs such as a nurse, a fly-poster and a café worker, and was about to enroll in a course to become a city bus driver – while, all the time, building up a catalogue of songs, which due to his isolation seemed destined to remain hidden.
Encouraged by Jacob Snavely (an ex-pat American musician), Stålhamre’s artistic emancipation was spurred on by the inheritance of one of a cluster of historically protected, 18th century cabins on Södermalm, an island in central Stockholm. Owned by the government, the cabins are leased to artists and Stålhamre’s uncle passed his contract on to his musical nephew. He converted the cabin in to a studio and assembled a band (with Snavely on bass and drummer Christopher Cantillo), and it soon came to represent both refuge and breeding ground for Stålhamre’s creativity.
From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean finds Stålhamre literally whistling his apocalyptic woes, employing an alchemist’s dedication to what once seemed impossible. This is the voice of someone who, at his wit’s end, has stumbled upon beauty after years spent in the gloom.