It’s the unlikely pairs that catch your attention. Alison Maclean’s an award-winning songwriter and a drummer, already pretty unusual in the music world. Chris Ioannou’s a gifted singer, bringing a voice brimming with grit and treacle. Together they are Little Creatures, a duo steeped in classic pop-rock, with bright melodic hooks and just enough crunch to really sink your teeth in.
Like a lot of great matches, Chris and Alison didn’t even realize what they had when they first started playing together. Originally, Chris was the rhythm guitarist and backup singer for Alison’s band Calling Wendy, the first outfit that Alison put together on her own. Alison was searching for the right vocalist, one that matched what she heard in her head. Many talented women took a stab at fronting the band, but over the course of two years none of them really stuck. Through it all, Chris was there, strumming and chiming in with his burnished harmonies. The turning point came when a storm knocked out the power at the Durham International Festival. The audience was getting restless as the uneasy seconds became long silent minutes. Rather than pack up and go home, Chris jumped up on stage and played the entire set with nothing but a borrowed acoustic guitar and his bare voice. The crowd was mesmerized. At that moment, Alison realized she’d been barking up the wrong tree. Chris was her front-woman. Man. Singer. You get the idea.
They started writing together and Little Creatures was born. The new band had its official unveiling for the History Channel’s “What’s In a Name?” in 2011. The highlight of the show was being mentored by Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman. He gave a 9½ to “Breakdown”, one of Alison and Chris’s first collaborations, and Chris even got to teach Randy a lick on guitar! Then Randy plugged in and they blasted through the song together. Just a little awesome.
Alison got her start banging sticks on skins for the band MAdE. Part of the burgeoning Canadian alternative rock scene of the early 2000s, MAdE was signed to Universal for two albums. After the band’s demise, her songwriting began to get Alison a lot of attention, something the diminutive drummer never expected. The demo of “Tennessee” won the MIX 99.9 Standard Radio Songwriting Competition, and landed second place in the Unisong International Songwriting Contest in the AA category. Since then, Little Creatures’ songs “Lovelorn” (2010) and “The Letter” (2012) have also won accolades from the ISC, bolstering their rep for soaring melodies and memorable songs. Their songs have been embraced by radio, and they’ve been playing around Ontario, honing a tight live show around Chris’s crackling onstage presence. Their shows have also been a great venue for the band’s critter-conscience. In the fall of 2012, Little Creatures organized a benefit for PAWS (Peoples Animal Welfare Society), raising over $2,000 to help homeless, abused and abandoned animals.
Currently, Little Creatures is finishing up a full-length album as a follow-up to their self-titled debut EP, recording at The Pocket in Toronto.