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Listen: Little Fuss writes 'complex female characters' into pop songs

Cody Von Lehmden and Olive Martinez of Little Fuss. (Courtesy Little Fuss)
Cody Von Lehmden and Olive Martinez of Little Fuss. (Courtesy Little Fuss)

This is an exclusive song premiere, part of WBUR's effort to highlight New England musicians.



In their old apartment, Olive Martinez and Cody Von Lehmden lived in adjacent bedrooms that shared a very thin wall. The two musicians could hear every song the other was writing — every cringe-worthy lyric, every half-baked melody. But sometimes it led to magic.

“Whenever one of us would be working on something cool, we’d slowly turn it up to hopefully elicit some sort of reaction,” Von Lehmden says.

And so it was that one day Von Lehmden was playing around with a sample from an obscure rap album from the ‘90s by a Florida duo called Rufftown Mob. The sample came from the song “Broke City,” which, like all the tracks on Von Lehmden’s vinyl copy, was too scratched to play all the way through. “I never knew what it sounded like except for this one portion, which was the drum loop of that song,” Von Lehmden says. “And I just thought it was such a cool beat.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the wall, Martinez was coming to the same conclusion. She started humming along, quietly, into her phone.

By the end of the day Martinez and Von Lehmden had written “I Want a Secret,” which appears on the pair’s first full-length album as Little Fuss. In its final form, “I Want a Secret” is a devious earworm built around a fizzy bass line only distantly reminiscent of the ambling boom-bap beat of “Broke City.” Instead, Von Lehmden programmed a more up-tempo loop that is somehow both ominous and playful. The song ends with Martinez, in her ethereal falsetto, singing:

“I want a secret/ Just to keep it/ To myself.”

The line was inspired by a period in Martinez’s life when she was discovering newfound confidence. “I was so shy in high school,” she says, but when she got to college (at Berklee College of Music, which Von Lehmden also attends), she started to come out of her shell. “I Want a Secret” is about her desire to enter a party and “be that person who walks in and has that mystery about them, an ‘I-know-something-you-don’t-know’ kind of attitude,” Martinez explains.

“I Want a Secret'' is the second track on Little Fuss’s upcoming album “Girls at Parties.” Martinez and Von Lehmden co-founded the band in 2020 and later added Vitor Olivera on drums and Delia Martin on bass. “Girls at Parties” is set for release on Jan. 12, 2023.

Cody Von Lehmden and Olive Martinez of Little Fuss. (Courtesy Little Fuss)
Cody Von Lehmden and Olive Martinez of Little Fuss. (Courtesy Little Fuss)

Martinez and Von Lehmden describe the project as a concept album, with each song written from the perspective of a different female narrator. “Girls at Parties” puts a feminist twist on themes common to young adulthood, like the desire to belong and the discomfort of being perceived by other people. Martinez says she was influenced by the novels of Jane Austen, who wrote incisively about social dynamics through the eyes of women. And while the dearth of female perspectives is widely recognized in film and television, the same cannot be said for pop music, Martinez argues.

“Lyrics, though they aren't usually viewed as critically, they have the same exact themes and issues that need to be addressed,” she says. “[A] goal of the album was definitely just writing complex female characters into pop songs.”


Little Fuss' debut album "Girls at Parties" is set for release on Jan. 12.

Note: The audio for WBUR's music premieres comes down after the track is released. You could still listen to the track via the streaming service embed above.

Related:

Amelia Mason Twitter Arts And Culture Reporter
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for WBUR.

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