Brooklynite Garage Rockers Petite League Share 'POCKETKNIFE': Exclusive
There’s a quintessential familiarity of American summers that often permeates a nostalgia for childish days spent outdoors. It is this feeling fused with fervent adolescent relationships and an essence of boyishness that fills the sound and aesthetic of Brooklyn-based DIY surf rockers Petite League, as if they are calling to return to the simplicity of boyhood.
“The whole point [of the band] was to be simple, and it still is,” Petite League frontman Lorenzo Gillis Cook tells Billboard. “Good music isn’t defined by complexity and I think that’s what Petite League has always been about.”
Having come from humble beginnings based in basement concerts of Syracuse University off-campus housing, Petite League revels in their simplicity. The emerging group is one who keeps things uncomplicated with lo-fi production, danceable riffs, and playful lyrics accompanied by Gillis Cook’s pleasantly punkish whine, making verses like “I fell for you and you know it” from their early track “My Black Lungs” feel like the ultimate declaration of love.
Though the group once jabbed on their debut record Slugger, “No we weren't all born in Brooklyn, I was raised another way,” they have since moved to Brooklyn to navigate the New York scene, pursue the project full-time, and are gearing up to release their upcoming record Rips One Into the Night, out Sept. 1 independently and on vinyl via The Native Sound.
“Petite League would not have existed without Syracuse’s influence,” says Gillis Cook, who grew up in Belgium as an American citizen yearning for his annual summer return to the states. “Because of the way I grew up and where I grew up in Belgium, there wasn't the American scene thing we have here where there are local pockets of kids throwing shows or a distinct sound in certain towns. There is much more of a culture from the basement up in the U.S., and I would have never been introduced to the kind of music that Petite League makes if it were not for Syracuse and seeing bands come up from that scene.”
This Syracuse garage band sound and Gillis Cook’s boyhood enamor of America shapes the band’s kitschy look and sensibility. He says, “We talk about abroad as this sort of magical idea, but when you’re a little kid who only goes to America in the summer, you don’t think of Europe as exotic.” It was in these summer visits he fell for baseball, and not entirely because of the sport, but because of its Americanisms, and when Petite League came into fruition, the band name and these Sandlot-inspired theme felt like the perfect homage to his collision of European/American worlds. Though Petite League’s baseball basis rarely seeps into their music, the youthfulness of it embodies the juvenile accessibly of the DIY group.
On Monday (Aug. 14) Petite League shares the latest single off their upcoming release, “POCKETKNIFE,” a raw song reflecting on friendships tainted by personal demons featuring solely Gillis Cook, his guitar, and harmonies. Gillis Cook says he was inspired to write the song after coming across a quote from Julius Caesar that reads, “When beggars die there are no comets seen; The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes,” reminding him of his own friendships wrapped up in drinking problems.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write another song like that because it’s just kind of happened,” he says. “It was one of those moments where it just comes from a brief, fleeting moment, but you capture it.”
Like “POCKETKNIFE,” Rips One came to be because Gillis Cook gave himself time to put his all into his music, rather than holding it secondary to a traditional desk job. “Rips One has just been [through] growth and I think it’s the record I’ve always wanted to make,” he says. “[Music] is just something you have to do if you have that sort of drive … Everyone needs that one thing that keeps their life unbalanced in a good way.”
While they are on the cusp of their third record, Petite League are just setting up at bat. From starting out in upstate basements to settling into the Brooklyn scene, Petite League is anticipating a home run -- even if that means keeping things perfectly simple with a hint of garage band wit. He says, “I’ve never really liked bands that take themselves that seriously.”
Listen to “POCKETKNIFE” and check out Petite League's upcoming tour dates below.
8/31 - New York, NY @ Alphaville (record release show with Aunt Sis and White Lighters)
9/29 - New York, NY @ TBD
9/30 - Syracuse, NY @ Space Camp
10/1 - Rochester, NY @ Small World
10/2 - Cleveland, OH @ TBD
10/4 - Chicago, IL @ Subterranean
10/5 - Milwaukee, WI @ TBD
10/6 - Madison, WI @ U. Wisconsin
10/8 - Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville