Just minutes before Little India walked on stage for their very first performance, band members Conan Karpinski, Andrew Dixon and Dallyn Hunt were upstairs inhaling nasal spray to try to calm their nerves.
“That was the most nervous we had ever been,” recalled Dixon, Little India bass player and vocalist.
“All of our friends came out and they had no idea what to expect. We had no idea what to expect. We had never played on stage before.”
It was January, 2013, and the band was opening at Joe’s Apartment nightclub (now Studio Records) in Vancouver for friends in another Langley band, Derrival.
The group of 19-year-olds started playing together for fun after graduating from Walnut Grove Secondary and had even written a couple of songs. But never had they done anything very serious.
“When we first started jamming together and practising, we always thought that playing downtown at Joe’s Apartment would be our goal,” Dixon said.
“We thought that would be the coolest thing, to make it to Downtown Vancouver and play a show. And sure enough that was the first thing we ever did. We were just blown away at the experience and it was the most exhilarating thing ever.”
Not only did the band receive an encore at their first show ever, they also were asked by management at the nightclub to headline another show one month later.
“I was surprised the audience was actually into it,” said Karpinski, lead vocalist and guitar player.
“(Our friends) knew that I was playing music, but I think they were more surprised when they saw what Andrew and Dallyn were playing and that they were actually playing well … I don’t think that anyone knew they could actually play instruments, to be honest.
“I think that everyone thought it was kind of neat and just a funny joke. And then we actually impressed them.”
From there, the band was approached to play at several nightclubs in Vancouver. They began recording their first EP, Up All Night, in Karpinski’s “music room,” located above the garage at his home and self-organized a Western-Canada tour.
They also added a fourth member to their band, guitar player Tim Morrison, and went on to win the The Shore 104.3’s Best of B.C. and CFOX’s Seeds competitions.
This past May they did their first Canada-wide tour with Irish band, Kodaline.
Now, Little India is one of the final 12 bands in the 2015 PEAK Performance Project. Up for a grand prize of $102,700, the band performs in the competition’s showcase series at Fortune Sound Club on Oct. 8.
Fans and supporters can vote for them online from Oct. 16-23.
“We’ve come a long way from where we were in 2013,” Karpinski said with a laugh.
“When we started, Dallyn couldn’t keep a drum beat.”
Although none of the band members had professional music training growing up, they do have a great deal of musical talent.
Playing a mix of alternative-punk rock and electronic pop, Karpinski describes their music as “pop songs, but it’s hidden. We layer it with electronic elements and funk and rock, so by the end of the day you wouldn’t think it is a pop song.”
Collaborating together to create their songs, most of the writing begins with Karpinski.
“Each song is different because it has to come from someplace,” he said.
“There’s no point in writing if it doesn’t mean anything at all.
“It’s always drawn from something within. I also like that many of the lyrics are ambiguous. The great thing about music is that you can listen to a song and you can find something in there that you can relate to. And the song can become meaningful to you.”
This ambiguity is also reflected in the band’s name.
Little India comes from an inside joke the friends had back in high school. They played on the basketball team and did a Christmas gift exchange of used books from the library. Karpinski was given a book titled, Little India.
“When we were trying to come up with a name, we wanted something that would relate to us,” Dixon explained.
“But at the same time, have a name that would appeal to the music we wanted to play and also be ready to change with genres.”
So far, their name has done them well.
This past summer Little India played their largest show yet at the Squamish Valley Music Festival, sharing the stage with some very big music names.
“We still feel like random dudes. Like why do we keep getting to do these things, play at awesome venues and share our music?” Dixon said.
“This took it to a whole new level. We were hanging out with k-os backstage. We were standing beside Marcus Mumford backstage. It was just crazy insane.
“Definitely gave us even more of a taste of what it could be like if we keep going after it. It was inspiring for sure.”
The band members all have day jobs for now, but eventually they hope to be doing music full time.
“The hardest thing — I’m sure a lot of kids our age experience this — in music is where it doesn’t pay the bills,” Dixon said.
“And it’s kind of scary to devote all of our time because its not concrete in what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life and if its going to pay you. Especially this last year, trying to balance school with work and this.
“You can’t have your toes dipped in too many large ponds, and that’s some really good advice we’ve had.”
While the band works with the PEAK Performance Project in bootcamps, they are recording an acoustic charity EP to benefit Vancouver organization Mealshare. In their spare time, they are also working on a new full EP to be released in 2016.