BioOver the past decade, New York City's Ida has mapped their own space in the American underground music scene, defying easy categorization with unpredictable, emotionally charged, frequently memorable live shows, and a series of distinctly voiced records. Driven by three strong singer songwriters and telepathic musicianship, Ida has never accepted the straitjacket of resting on their accomplishments. Whether playing and singing quieter than Joao Gilberto in his living room, or blasting full volume ecstatic guitar noise, Ida embraces a broad template of musical ideas- from acoustic chamber pop, old time folk, and free improvisation to minimalist drones, shimmering harmonies, Krautrock ambience, and bad Prince covers. Throughout it all, Ida has remained a steadfast pillar in the independent community, collaborating with numerous individuals from well respected bands, organizing and playing benefits for a wide array of political and artistic causes, and running their own record label, Last Affair.
Ida formed in 1992 as a duo when fellow Brooklynites Elizabeth Mitchell and Daniel Littleton began writing songs together. They soon enlisted friend and upright bassist Rick Lassiter to join them. The trio recorded the Songs from the Ranch tape that winter on their 4-track, and began playing shows in New York City. When a copy of the tape fell into the hands of Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thompson, owners of the staunchly independent and highly influential Simple Machines label, the two offered to put out Ida's debut full-length.
In Spring 1994 at Excello Recording in Williamsburg Brooklyn, Ida recorded Tales of Brave Ida a collection of hauntingly beautiful love songs and ambient instrumentals. When Lassiter moved back to North Carolina, Daniel's brother Miggy (White Magic, Blood on the Wall) joined the band as drummer and multi-instrumentalist. Ida hit the road on their first tour opening for Tsunami. Tales of Brave Ida received enthusiastic reviews, eliciting comparisons to the forceful, somber sounds of the Velvet Underground and Nick Drake. Ida had arrived.
1997 brought constant touring as well as the band's third full-length, Ten Small Paces. The album was a scrapbook of sorts, nestling five covers from songwriters as diverse as Bill Monroe and Brian Eno between ten original tracks. Recorded in various stops while on tour (including a recording session with His Name Is Alive mastermind Warren Defever), the album exuded a loose, offhand "mixtape" feel that perfectly suited the warmth and intimacy of the group. These qualities helped make it one of the band's most beloved albums. Ida toured the first of several tours with the band Low, and began touring regularly with genius violinist Ida Pearle (Ted Leo, Magnetic Fields, William Parker). In Fall 1997, knowing the end of Simple Machines as a label was near, Ida signed with Capitol Records.
The Capitol album Will You Find Me was completed in May 1999. However some significant changes had taken place at Capitol Records since Ida's signing -the president was fired and the entire staff was replaced by robots- and the band spent the next six months in limbo. Ida realized that even though they had completed (recorded, mixed and mastered) one album, they had actually recorded enough songs for two full-length LPs on Capitol's dime. Ida eventually won back ownership of their Capitol master tapes.
In 2000, Ida found a new label home with New York's Tiger Style Record who released Will You Find Me. The release was named album of the week by Jon Pareles in the New York Times, August 18, 2000, and named among the year end "best of" lists in both Spin, and the New York Times. The quieter the band got, the more people seemed to pay attention. The band spent the year touring with various ensembles including longtime member Ida Pearle, original drummer Miggy Littleton and newer collaborators Trip Gray (Joe Morris Trio), Zach Wallace (Flashpapr), Dave Curry (Willard Grant Conspiracy, Thalia Zedek), Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good to Me, Flashpapr), Jacob Danziger (Flashpapr), Andrew Hall (The Moonlighters, Sparklehorse), and Amy Domingues (Threnody Ensemble). They toured with Pedro the Lion, Low, Shannon Wright, and Julie Doiron. A year later, Tiger Style released The Braille Night, the second of the Capitol-era albums which aptly re-created the intimacy and magic of Ida's live performances. The Braille Night served as a fitting companion piece to Will You Find Me, the perfect ending/beginning of a new century for the band.