Lorenzo Cook Talks Petite League and Syracuse DIY

Geoff Nelson

Petite League

cap“No we weren’t all born in Brooklyn/I was raised another way,” warbles Lorenzo Cook, in one of the great lyrical fuck-you’s in the history of origin stories. The lyric comes from “Dibs, Hi”, the closing track of his first full-length as Petite League, Slugger. The next line is an iteration of the first, “No we weren’t all born in Brooklyn/and I don’t care about LA.” Beginnings matter to Cook, and so do endings, as the recently graduated Syracuse student stares out at the unfolding ribbon of adulthood and the release of his second Petite League LP, No Hitter on May 23rd through Yours Truly.

Cook was raised in a supportive, artistic household in Belgium before coming to the US to attend college. Cook, who initially recorded as Spark Alaska, started Petite League in 2014 with drummer and collaborator Henry Schoonmaker. The pair, united by life in a university, was recently driven apart by graduation. It’s a familiar story, and yet the fuzzy, pop songs of Petite League resound as more than a dilettante-ish college avocation.

Cook’s songs confront despair with uncommon ebullience. On the glistening pop of Slugger’s “Not Always Happy”, Cook’s winsome tenor, which vaguely recalls the confessional qualities of Weakerthans’ John Samson, leans into the hook, “I love the way she left me/it reminds me I’m not always supposed to be happy.” Petite League songs are frequently fuzzy, overflowing with melodic nuggets designed for instant repeat. The lyrical fatalism never fears irony. Lead single, “Annie” from coming LP, No Hitter, features Cook singing to the titular character, “Annie, you’re my nightmare on Elm St./Annie, you could have killed me in my sleep.” However dark things get in the world of Petite League, the future looks blindingly bright for the band. For geographic irony, despite his stated lyrical distaste for LA, Cook plans to move there for the summer. Cook took some time from a litany of graduation festivities to discuss how the band got together, the scene bubbling up in Syracuse, and what the hell comes next for Petite League.

What’s one big thing people miss when they listen to your music?

That’s a really good question. One big thing is how quickly Henry works. He will hear the song once and 20 minutes later be ready to record his parts. I’m always impressed by that. I think another thing that people don’t really understand is how much work it takes to do it all on your own. We do everything from the recording, mixing, making the tapes, printing our merch, all the artwork, the shipping, and reaching out to press. It’s part of the process and I love it. We juggle that with school and running a venue out of our basement, but it’s all fun.

What’s your relationship to the music scene at Syracuse?

Over the past year, we turned our house into a little basement venue called the Scarier Dome. We had a show every weekend, bringing in touring bands who would otherwise passed over Syracuse as well as local acts. Syracuse is right in the middle of a circle between New York, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Cleveland, and Philly, and there are so many people here who live to support the arts but there aren’t a ton of opportunities outside of the small local scene. We sort of aimed to put Syracuse on the map for touring bands as well as bringing up acts from Syracuse and SU. There really is something bubbling under the surface here with talented bands like Super Defense, Minnoe, The Fucking Wolfbats, and The Nudes from here as well as the labels like Ghoul Tapes and Spit Fam Tapes. Something good is happening in Syracuse and there are people dedicated to bringing it up. I think it’s actually the perfect environment to start something. I don’t think Petite League would be a thing if we weren’t in Syracuse. I owe this place a lot.

What were some of the most memorable music experiences—listening or performing—of your childhood?

I played in a band from the 8th grade to my senior year of high school called Throw Television that really shaped my desire to write and play music as long as I could. We were sort of serious in the Belgian indie scene, which was a lot of fun to be a part of at the time. My parents made sure there was always music in the house as well. I think all those collective positive outlooks on music shaped the way I wanted to get into it on a creative level. I wrote my first song before I covered anything and it has been that way since.

Petite League Scarier Dome

Scarier Dome hosted its last show in May.

My family moved to Brussels from Arlington, VA when I was 3 years old. My dad works for an international organization and got a permanent job over there. I went to a French speaking public school for 10 years and then went to the international school of Brussels where I graduated in 2012. Brussels is home. It was definitely not a regular way to grow up but you’re given a lot of independence as a teenager in Belgium so it’s a lot of fun.

When did you start playing music as Petite League?

We started together our junior year but I had started recording demos on my own the summer before. I had recorded a song called “Surviving October” and asked Henry if he could help out with drums due to my inept rhythmic abilities. It wasn’t until this past year that we started playing shows though, because we spent some time abroad right after things started taking off. [Slugger] existed without us ever playing the songs together live.

Who are some artists whose music crept into the recording of Petite League songs?

I don’t think this was ever a really conscious decision but looking back on the songs we’ve finished I hear a lot of Radioactivity and The Marked Men, Cloud Nothings, Young Rival, Tokyo Police Club in the writing, and “Whole Wide World” by Wreckless Eric is really important as an overall theme I work with stylistically. I listen to everything though, from Future to Sales, I’m sure it all works its way into Petite League somehow.

How did you link up with Yours Truly for the release of No Hitter?

I met Frances Capell a little while back on Twitter. She had liked something having to do with Slugger and there was a mutual following that occurred. She was doing some work with Yours Truly at the time but not full-time. We became pretty good internet buds, talking about music and stuff. She was hired as a producer for Yours Truly at the beginning of the year and she asked if we might be interested in [them] doing a piece on Petite League. The answer was obviously “yes”, and I think it really did sort of kick my ass into gear and work harder on making a follow up record. They wanted to do a piece on the band and the house we live called Scarier Dome, but it turned out that it was good timing to do a premiere of the new record as well. [They’re] amazing people at Yours Truly. They came to Syracuse to do the piece, and it was honestly one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time.

What are your plans after graduation and how will Petite League continue to evolve through the next phase of life?

Not really sure what will happen with Petite League as it exists right now. I’m moving to Los Angeles for the summer to follow up on some job leads and Henry is going to work at home in Massachusetts for a little while. I’m definitely going to continue writing and working with Petite League and hopefully Henry will be around to be a part of that as well but we’ll see where we end up and go from there.

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