Dollars to Pounds: Big Deal

September 02, 2011

When an audience watches Big Deal, glasses make it only midway to mouths and conversations fall away to a hushed silence. Hiding behind hair and guitars, Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe’s combined power lies in the awkwardness and intimacy of their straight-speaking songs: crushes are distracting, unrequited love is frustrating, communicating emotions is hard and it’s tough to concentrate on homework when your hormones are going haywire. And yeah, age differences can be a bitch. Watch an exclusive live performance of Big Deal playing recent single "Chair," above, to understand.

Here are a few facts about Kacey and Alice:

Kacey was a guitar teacher part timing at the school where Alice's mom works. Kacey met Alice when Alice’s mother suggested Kacey give her daughter a few lessons. The Sonic Youth and Big Star covers soon fell by the wayside though, and when their respective bands imploded around the same time, the pair became Big Deal.

Kacey was born in a house in the desert in Joshua Tree. His household was extremely religious. He eventually flew to the UK to study at Cambridge before dropping out and starting a band. “I still feel like I’m doing a lot of things for the first time because of the way I grew up and I think that’s something that people don’t quite understand. They think she brings a teenage naivete and I’ve got experiences, but I don’t have as many as you might think. We have similar outlooks.”

Alice is from London. “According to Kacey my family are super-liberal. I never thought about things in those terms because I’ve never known anything else. I guess it’s kind of nice that Kacey’s got to have a bit of growing up in a liberal family too, by being part of mine. No one in my family is musical but they all appreciate music and most of them are artists and writers so they understand the importance of making the most of something you love.”

Alice knows why the pair clicks. “We are best friends. It makes working together very easy. You go on tour and you get to spend every day with your best friend: what could be better? We pick up each others slack. If I need help with something Kacey can fix it and I do the same for him—in songwriting and life!"

I tagged along with Big Deal during their recent appearance at Reading Festival. Click through to see the band backstage.

At 8AM on Saturday, August 27, 2011, I'm with Kacey and Alice in Big Deal’s splitter on the way to Reading Festival. It’s too early to think. Alice eats a banana, Kacey eats some of Dean’s Doritos. Dean Reid is a close friend and Big Deal’s producer. Today he’s doubling up as their guitar tech. Kacey spots a hickey on the left side of Alice’s neck. Kacey teases Alice, ceaselessly. Alice laughs, looks embarrassed, buttons her collar and flicks her hair to conceal the evidence. We’ve heard reports that Reading festival is a muddy swamp. Alice has come prepared with wellies, but all Kacey’s wearing are a pair of composition book-printed Nike high-tops. We stop off at two stores on the way, but they’re both sold out in his size.

We spot a pair of discarded boots on the side of the road. Kacey investigates, sniffs and dons the boots. Alice looks faintly grossed out.

The van pulls into the festival site. Backstage is sloshy, but it's nowhere near as gloopy as front of house.

Kacey and Alice warm up in their portakabin.

Alice is so nervous she feels sick. Kacey and Dean are still teasing her.

She needn’t have worried. They nail it. “I’m relieved to have made it through our first Reading, without barfing.” Kacey starts in on the whiskey but then they’re told they have to do a live TV performance.

Afterwards the pair kick around the festival checking out bands till the main event, The Strokes, a band which the duo bonded over early on.
Kacey: “I think The Strokes were the perfect mix, they were cool but their music also has moments that you know that it comes from a very emotional place." Passes and wristbands requisitioned, we watch The Strokes from the side of stage. They’re ecstatic.

Alice: “We were like nerdy superfans singing along to all of the words." Afterwards, Kacey says, “That was amazing! I am glad we were there to lend them some moral support.”

Big Deal’s debut LP is out on Mute on September 5.

From The Collection:

Dollars To Pounds
Dollars to Pounds: Big Deal