At the end of a long period of caring for a loved one recovering from a suicide attempt, John Elliott, he multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter behind The Little Unsaid was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after suffering an emotional breakdown himself. “So many people experience this when caring for someone who’s ill,” he explains. “All your emotional and physical energy goes into trying to get that person back on their feet and getting sick with worry. I have no regrets about that, but it meant I didn’t have the capacity to see my own health deteriorating until it was too late. Everything in my life crumbled, and it took a long time for me to find any meaning in all that pain so that I could start to piece it all back together again.”
One year on, after a gradual return to a relentless touring schedule, Elliott and his band were back in the studio working on a new album with Jonny Greenwood’s producer and Radiohead engineer Graeme Stewart. The eleven hauntingly personal songs that make up ‘Imagined Hymns & Chaingang Mantras’ – the band’s fourth release to be crowd-funded by a stalwart core fan base – celebrate the reawakening of love and the imagination after emerging from a psychological crisis.
Combining minimalist electronics, cinematic strings, hypnotic piano loops and Elliott’s androgynous vocals, the lead single Symptomatic perfectly captures a sense of isolation, and personal struggle. Elliott’s sparsely poetic lyrics depict a person grieving the sudden return of their inner demons after convincing themselves they were ‘out of the woods.’ “It’s a melancholy tune, but as with all the songs on the album I’d like to think there’s always a flicker of hope in that darkness. In this case it’s the idea of letting someone in to accept and even love the side of yourself that still suffers from those old wounds, and the relief when that person doesn’t run away screaming.”
Having sold out their last three shows in London and played to increasingly packed venues across the UK, Elliott and the band will continue to build their reputation as a must-see live act during their upcoming autumn tours, with performances described as sliding between Nick Cave-esque fury and the tender sincerity of Leonard Cohen. “For us it’s all about chasing those moments of magic that occur in a room when the music and the energy of an audience creates sparks. The search for that magic is a constant driving force in how we deliver these songs, because it’s the purest reminder that we all suffer, that everybody is dealing with their own inner struggles and so many of us are just trying to keep it together from one moment to the next. If there’s one thing I’d hope people might take from these songs it’s that this side of ourselves is not something we should suppress or be ashamed of, but something to embrace and even celebrate. There’s unity and there’s joy in that realisation, I think – in us recognising each other’s pain and dancing together wildly in the face of it.”
Once you know the story, It’s hard not to be moved by the honestly of this beguiling track. Symptomatic is self-released digitally on all major platforms on November 12th Catch The Little Unsaid live tonight (6th November) at The Lexington in London.