Tiny Little Houses suffered for their art on second album Misericorde

OPEN WINDOW: Tiny Little Houses frontman Caleb Karvountzis, second from left, took cold showers and fasted during the writing of their second album Misericorde.
OPEN WINDOW: Tiny Little Houses frontman Caleb Karvountzis, second from left, took cold showers and fasted during the writing of their second album Misericorde.

IT'S not often indie-rock songwriters cite the likes of ancient Christian historians and philosophers like Eusebius and St Augustine of Hippo as major influences.

Even the relatively more modern texts of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment (1866) and John Steinbeck's East Of Eden (1952) are hardly brimming with ideas for pop songs.

But Tiny Little Houses' Caleb Karvountzis is anything but your conventional indie-rock frontman.

Since emerging from Melbourne's fertile scene in the mid-2010s with their '90s-inspired slacker-rock EPs You Tore My Heart Out (2015) and Snow Globe (2016), the four-piece have taken a unique view to their music.

In 2018 Tiny Little Houses released their debut album Idiot Proverbs, which dealt broadly with depression and anxiety, but on their new record, Misericorde, Karvountzis maps out a path forward.

After devouring the writings of Eusebius and St Augustine of Hippo, Karvountzis came to the belief that salvation can be achieved through suffering.

"In the modern life we are over comfortable and I think as many comforts get given to us, as a society we're still not addressing certain issues like depression, suicide and anxiety that keep going through the roof, no matter how developed we get in the Western world," Karvountzis says.

"For me it's telling that comfort is not the solution to some of these problems.

REFERENCE THIS: Misericorde was partly influenced by ancient Christian history and philosophy.

REFERENCE THIS: Misericorde was partly influenced by ancient Christian history and philosophy.

"We have a spiritual problem, and even if it's not a spiritual problem for people if they're not religious, there needs to be something physical for grounding in their life that they can latch onto in a world that's been demythologised or demystified."

The album's title is taken from a narrow knife called a misericorde - meaning mercy in French - which was used in the High Middle Ages to euthanise knights that were mortally wounded.

It was out of Karvountzis' self-imposed suffering that songs for Misericorde emerged. For three months he took cold showers and fasted during the day.

"I think it's something that everyone should have a go at," he says. "Cold showers, fasting, these are things that put you in a better frame of mind throughout the day."

These days Karvountzis still tries to maintain a disciplined approach by abstaining from meat on Wednesday and Friday and he avoids TV and social media.

Misericorde also sees Tiny Little Houses explore bigger themes. Since the release of Proverb Idiots Karvountzis has gotten married and songs about girls have been replaced by lyrics on technology addiction (Emperor), brotherly jealously (Golden Boy) and ego (Smartest Guy).

"Before I was married I was a romantic, not in a romantic way of being a Casanova, but being a romantically-led guy who was maybe a little confused with emotion," he says.

"That's where the songwriting went. It was very emotional and melodramatic. That's always going to be there because I'm always going to be an emotional person, but there was less for me to write about in that respect.

"I think I've balanced myself out a lot more and had more opportunity to write songs and stories and disconnect a little bit from the songwriting and hopefully be a bit more rounded out, and not be so emotionally driven."

Tiny Little Houses' album Misericorde is out now.

This story Tiny Little Houses build album on discomfort first appeared on Newcastle Herald.