Turin Brakes: Urban emotionalists gig London tonight!
Turin Brakes’ third album ‘JackInABox’ is full of sublime songs about romance, dreams and delicately fragranced imagery that will be a huge surprise to their doubters, detractors and critics. Olly Knights [O] and Gale Paridjanian [P] talk about it as if it is their first album and, in a way it is. They are so enthused by the experience one is not sure, alike them, whether they’d rather get on the road instantly or go back and do some more recordings.
The two of them look bemused by it all, looking more like mature students than musicians, earnestly explaining everything in their record company’s office, overlooking the calm waters of a canal in West London and it is probably the ideal setting to discuss their kind of softish, gentler rock that embraces folk, psychedelia and odd bit of country.
O: “We are very proud to have made this record all on our own in our own studio in Brixton and it was a big deal to us because we, on the previous two records, had to deal with a lot of different people. Location of recording this album had a massive influence on this record for the difference of recording in Los Angeles. When you are away from home you miss your loved ones, friends, home comfort and only see your hotel and a studio that can get disheartening. This time we could take our time, there were no restrictions, it allowed us to make it at the more leisurely way. We fitted into our lives…”
P: “We made the previous album in LA in - two weeks!? It was crazy, mad rushing, non-sleeping… I can’t believe that so much importance is put upon these records but they are made in two weeks. It is absurd and this time we had to make this record work for us and we knew deep down that if we did that it would be a better record. It was very important to have this album made this way and that’s why it has a more positive atmosphere, more kind of an up-beat vibe.”
P: “It was very important to know that we could do it by ourselves because we are not going to disappear any time soon.”
Your statement sounds rather pessimistic, as far as the record industry is concerned?
O: “Things are changing very rapidly in the industry itself as well on the consumer-technological level. Downloading, possible destruction of album format, concept of a series of songs rather than one or a few, like an EP equivalent… The most shocking is the way people listen to music and it is very shocking they are listening to one or few songs only; it is okay if you are a singles artist but we are not, we work on a collection of songs, an album. What you are asking is the fundamental question right now.”
P: “I used to think that people were like me but then I talked to my girlfriend’s little brother, a teenager, and he had no mentality of ‘owning-a-complete-album’; he is happy to have music on his iPod and doesn’t really care how artists look, the artwork, other information… In the last few years it has changed and it is becoming scary although I hope there will be a mature audience for the albums. We don‘t make individual songs, we make albums.”
Dull, homonegeous world
The two have been friends since their schooldays in South London that developed into a full-time songwriting partnership: their first batch of songs quickly resulted in a seven-inch release (‘The Door EP’) that was issued by Brighton-based indie label Anvil in summer of 1999. An immediate outbreak of industry interest saw French boutique label Source beat off the likes of Domino and Heavenly to sign the twosome in early 2000. Quick recording of a series of singles, EPs and ‘The Optimist LP (released early February 2001)’, the inner-city folk music debut disc that got nominated for that year’s Mercury Prize.
With more than ½ million copies sold around the world Turinists continue making diverse album in this world that is…
O: “The ‘Lazy New World’, that’s what it is… iPod is putting consumers in the same situation as Walkmans had done a couple of decades before - an alienated listening. There are still clubs were you can share musical experience and I believe that’s what is going to keep music alive. People will, hopefully, want to hear songs played live - not just hear them in their digital form.”
Some people reckon that the non-materialistic music possession will lead to increased demand for people to see acts in concerts?
O: “It is possible and there is a logic to such thinking… And, it suits us - we love touring… We’ll be playing everywhere and although not as extensively as after the ‘Ether Song’ album, we’ll be doing enough. We have learnt how to pace ourselves and be happy; we’ll play a little bit less but of higher quality. You stop carrying during a long tour…”
P: “By the time we finished last tour we couldn’t remember why we wanted to ever make music, why we wanted to be in a band and go on a tour… We needed to take a long break before we could regain our creative juices.”
O: “Let me augment my statement about shows: we like playing live but not touring.”
Turin Brakes, once tagged the 'new acoustic movement', are a lot more rocky onstage and they attribute that to [P] “the joy of having our band behind us.”
Interchange of signals
Turin Brakes like to take care of even the tinniest details: on this album they were using £200 worth of a 100-year-old American harmonium pump organ they had found in the local branch of Oxfam. Spirit in the machine…
Working on songs, are you aware that you gonna end up sounding similar to some established artists, be it Steely Dan, Simon & Garfunkel, or Neil Young…?
O: “No, only in retrospect, when other people tell us what influenced us. You are so near to it that you don’t hear it but then you meet someone and they tell you it sounds like Crosby Still and Nash and you think, ‘Yeah, I can see it.’ It is a not a copy, it is just the way we do things, it is the sound we make. We don’t do a lot of talking about it, we don’t sit down and analyse, we don’t plot because, I guess, we don’t need to.”
P: “A lot of people tell us it is very reminiscent of that period Americana, folk-rock music… The opening track, ‘They Can’t Buy The Sunshine’, is very Californian… And, I think it is very important that it actually sounds like that whilst it comes from a completely different place. Our reality is grey and rainy in London and it helps you to get through when you create a song like that.”
Listening to ‘JackInABox’, it is easy to dig their standpoint.
09 June - Academy, Birmingham
10 June - Barrowlands, Glasgow
12 June - Ritz, Manchester
13 June - Shepherds Bush Empire, London
(Originally published 27 May 2005)