Ida Marches On

New York band Ida emerged from its brief major-label experience — with Capitol Records — nicely intact. The members even carried away some Beatles, Beach Boys, and choice jazz titles from the Blue Note catalog. Daniel Littleton's only regret is never getting his hands on a copy of the box set by former Pink Floyd leader Syd Barrett. But much more importantly, says Littleton, Ida got out of Capitol with its music — specifically, the tracks it recorded for its new album, Will You Find Me.

"It took a lot of time and energy from us, but it could have come out a lot worse," the 31-year-old singer-guitarist explains. "Basically, we got somebody to pay for a lot of recording and a lot of mixing. We got to work in great studios, and we walked away with our record. And we got to put it out on our own terms. That's really exciting."

There is a drawback, of course. Will You Find Me was finished during May 1999 and was supposed to come out last year. But Ida, which reached an agreement to leave Capitol after the executives who first signed the band also split, had to find a new label (Tiger Style). The group now finds itself promoting material it still likes but has lived with for nearly two years.

"We definitely have moved on. The songs have changed a lot," Littleton says. "We've toured with a lot of people, bigger bands, and we've ended up stretching out the songs with extended improvisational sections that just came out of playing them live. I'm much more interested in the new songs right now, but it's great to revisit these songs and find new ways of interpreting them."

Littleton and bandmates Elizabeth Mitchell and Karla Shickele (daughter of classical music humorist Peter "PDQ Bach" Shickele) are doing that as a trio on its current tour, with augmentation only from a viola-playing friend.

Meanwhile, the group has been spending time in suburban Detroit with another pal, His Name Is Alive leader Warren Defever, mixing tracks that didn't make it on to Will You Find Me and recording some new tunes. "I have no idea where it's going to go," Littleton says. "We've got three different writers and instrumentalists, which has become a much more creative factor in how the songs develop.

"We're still interested in kind of f--king with how we think about songs," he adds. "Maybe it's just that we're inept; none of us is any good at writing choruses and verses and straight-up structures of songs. At some point, I'd like to learn how to write a chorus, but right now we're more and more interested in making songs that still have a certain kind of open-ended structure."