Avon Dale’s Little Ditty EP is a collection of plans and accidents. In that way, it’s a lot like your mid-20s.
The structure of the record – its four main songs are complimented by what the band calls ‘little ditties,’ ranging in length from 90 seconds to a couple of minutes – creates an inertia akin to the feeling of the waning days of youth. Those fleeting little ditties pull you forward from one moment to the next. It’s easy and inevitable and always just a bit unfinished.
Oh 25, you’re no friend of mine.
“The ‘ditties’ were the fragments of songs we would play between our serious writing sessions that we ultimately loved more than the full length songs,” says Conrad Polz (lead vocal/guitar). “We hope that where we’ve placed them gives context or juxtaposition to the full length songs and ultimately balances this record.”
I trade my pay checks for strings and rust / I won’t give up
The album was recorded, and largely written, at Ardent Studios in late 2015 and early 2016 with engineer/producer Mike Wilson.
“Mike was our master of Zen and conductor of all things when it came to keeping a positive and productive environment,” Polz says. “We also had a lot of help from Memphis musician/producer Rickey Shelton – this record would not have been possible without the hard work and talents of those two and we are so grateful for their involvement.”
Little Ditty is the follow up to Avon Dale’s 2014 debut EP Dress It Up, and the band’s second record at Ardent with Wilson producing. Originally formed in Champaign, Illinois, drummer Alec Heist accepted a position in Memphis with Teach for America in 2013 and Polz ultimately followed, finding a teaching job of his own. They met bassist Drew Allen not long after, and he quickly became an essential element in the formula. Little Ditty was recorded during spring, fall and summer breaks from school.
Do I miss the cage? / That cooped up town where I was born and raised?
On Little Ditty Polz’s voice shines, begging comparison to Ben Harper and Kings of Leon’s Caleb Followill, and the record’s most memorable moments pair it with energetic melodic lines and witty, honest songwriting.
Perhaps accidentally, the little ditties steal the show. Polz wrote standout track “Soul” after a conversation at a holiday party a few years ago.
“Every year my parents have a Christmas Eve party in Chicago, and every year the same people show up with the same story,” he says. “Because I’ve lived in Memphis for a while, everyone is usually pretty intent on talking to me. Regardless of what I say, everyone always has some advice to give. Those conversations are painful but inevitable so I just smile through it.”
Don’t you come running here talking the same old shit like you did last year
Another standout is “Powerful Word,” though Polz admits its meaning is less clear. “Just preachin’,” he says. “It means something, but altogether, nothing. Still trying to figure that one out.”
If the jury’s still out on “Powerful Word,” though, the message of the final track on the EP, “25,” is clear. The song is a thesis for Little Ditty.
“It’s about the strange age of 25,” Polz says. “It’s the perfect age to still be a drunkard but in some weird way, you’re an adult. It doesn’t feel real. We’re still on our parents’ insurance and cell phone bills – we don’t have a clue. 25 is sweet but no one ever realizes it until it’s gone. It’s the perfect balance of responsibility and freedom.”
That’s the balance of Little Ditty. The transition, the uncertainty, but ultimately, the optimism and hopefulness of 25.
Avon Dale’s Little Ditty is out October 7 via all major digital retailers.
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