Littlefoot: sarcasm, touring, and the dirtiest dive-bars Melbourne has to offer

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Littlefoot: sarcasm, touring, and the dirtiest dive-bars Melbourne has to offer

Words by Zachary Snowdon Smith

Littlefoot are in the business of laying down erratic and ear-traumatizing 2am shows in Melbourne’s darkest and diviest clubs. So why are they named after a cartoon dinosaur?

“We liked ‘Littlefoot’ because it’s a little sarcastic,” says guitarist and vocalist Ryan Buffalo. “A bit ironic, that we sound cute but we play heavy, dirty shit.”

The band take their name from the 1988 film The Land Before Time, in which orphaned apatosaurus Littlefoot searches for the Great Valley, a kind of prehistoric promised land. Now, Littlefoot are looking for their own Great Valley, a place where they can make music their way without being out of pocket.

“We were over heavy bands doing tough-guy names because it’s just what everyone does,” says drummer Dyllan Hatton. “We wanted to do something a bit different.”

Littlefoot cut their teeth playing past-midnight shows at Pony, the now-defunct Melbourne club, where they developed a skill for engaging with audiences and a healthy contempt for too-cool-for-school elements in the Melbourne scene.

“Pony was just really dirty, dingy and disgusting, but we loved it,” says Buffalo. “We always used to have fun, because people would go crazy.”

Buffalo recalls one night at Pony when the band picked up some unwanted fans. “We did have one incident with some neo-Nazis at Pony,” says Buffalo. “They really liked our music. After the show, they came over to say hi to me and shake my hand. It’s a predicament because they’re obviously idiots. You just have to be friendly and back away slowly.”

February saw Littlefoot release Fear Out East, a classically punk screed against church, state and the nine-to-five. The cover design by Melbourne artist God-Awful depicts a bloated, pustule-covered capitalist resembling Clive Palmer eating a baby while hovering his finger over an ominous red button.

Fear Out East’s tracklist includes a cover of Dead Moon’s ‘Walking On My Grave’, recorded with the blessing of Toody Cole. Recording the track was a labour of love for Buffalo, who fell in love with Dead Moon and the Seattle scene as a teenager when he saw the documentary Hype!.

“There are big things in Fear Out East – capitalism and religion, status and society,” says Buffalo. “But we’re not a very big political band by any means. A lot of our other songs are about sex, drugs and depression.”

Littlefoot are taking their EP on the band’s first real tour, a thoroughly DIY operation that’s seen the band and their equipment crammed into train carriages for 14-hour jaunts across New South Wales and Victoria. After hitting Sydney’s Valve Bar, Littlefoot plan to hop a train for the last stop in Melbourne.

“There’ll be a lot of stage antics, jumping around, getting down amongst the crowd, swinging some guitars around,” says Buffalo.

The stage is the natural habitat of a rowdy and extroverted group like Littlefoot, which may explain why their first full-length album is still taking shape. “When you record you can do everything exactly the way you want it to be, whereas live, you might not play exactly perfect, but you get caught up in having a good time and rocking out,” says lead guitarist Edwynn Rolfe.

The yet-unnamed album is planned for release around March, says Buffalo, and combines new material with songs the band have been playing for years. Littlefoot are dropping into the RMIT Sound Studio between gigs to work with Tim Johnson, a producer and engineer whose credits include Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Stereophonics.

“Recording is always a daunting process for me, because I’m never happy with the parts that I do,” says Buffalo. “I’m very picky. But when we play live it’s always fun.”

After the album drops, Littlefoot plan to hop across the ditch to play in New Zealand and to look for an indie label that will support them along the path to the Great Valley.

“We’ve been progressing as we’ve made the album,” says Hatton. “We’ve been going through a transition period of how we make music. Our pace has changed a little bit. We still like our old stuff, but we’re still progressing.”