Another week, another interview. This time I have met the British band Tunng. Well, I have met 50 % of them in Berlin: Ashley Bates*, Mike Lindsay and Becky Jacobs. They were lovely and funny. I did the interview for FastForward Magazine, a German online magazine. If you fancy reading the German version, please go to their website:
With ‘Turbines’ the band release the second album without founding member Sam Genders. He left the band before ‘…And Then We Saw Land’ was recorded and released in 2010. 'Turbines' is full of beautiful harmonies with a bit of a Folk Rock and Electronic touch. Read about Ethiopian Pop, inspirations and drunken hugs below.
*In case you were wondering: Long-haired, bearded man.
Is the band a full time hobby or a part time job for you?
Mike: Different answers to different people, I guess. For me music is a full time job and hobby and life. Tunng is a massive part of that. But I’m lucky to be able to make a living out of music, maybe not a grand living. Tunng gave me the opportunity to do that, I think. What about you? [looking at Becky]
Becky: When it is going on it is very much full time but in between times we have other careers. In fact I’m a radio producer. We haven’t been playing together for a long time and in between playing and writing most of us have other commitments, other projects and other bits of work that we do.
Ashley: It’s a full time job but it doesn’t pay full time wage. You have to do other things as well. I make music. That’s all I do. Tunng is one of the things I do but when I’m doing it it’s full time.
It seems that it has to be full time when you’re on it. I have read that this time you’ve focused during the recording process - I was just wondering how difficult it was to change the recording process. For the last album you did it differently.
Mike: For all the other we did it differently. And every other album we have made has been done in one location which was a basement in east London. This album was not and that’s because our situations geographically have changed. I’m not in England anymore. People have moved out of London. When we chose to start making the record, we had to find a place to live, hang out, record and be focused 24 hours together. That was amazing. And that what has never been done before. So, pretty good.
Ashley: It was new and it was also essential. There wasn’t any other way we could do it.
Is it a difficult decision to say “I’m going to move to another country” when when you have a project like Tunng?
Mike: Well, I didn’t decide to move to another country, the other country decided it wanted me. [laughs]
You could still always say no…
Mike: I was powerless. I went there after we finished touring the last album and I had a bit of time and I chose to do a project there on my own. I ended up living there and staying there. Of course it is difficult because this is so much part of my life and this band are my friends. So, it’s difficult but we managed it, didn’t we? I come back a lot and we are together right now.
Did it influence your music writing as well being in Reykjavik (Iceland)?
Mike: I don’t know. I don’t know if it influenced my songwriting for this album directly because this was so much a collective equal writing. It’s not a partnership, is it? Because it’s six of us. But it influenced my confidence and I managed to get something out my system that I wanted to do as well. I was more able to concentrate on these projects and it was a lot more open. I can deal with that in that way.
Was it like this for the rest of the band as well?
Ashley: I mean this album is the first one that we have actually all written and recorded, all together, all at the same time through the whole album. It’s the only one we have done like that. It has always been bits and pieces here and there. Occasionally we might be four people writing but it was never all of us all of the time whereas this time it was. It’s different. To be honest it’s probably just quicker. Although it still took a year. The actually album probably was done in about 2,5 months. It was just spread out. I am not sure we could go into a studio for two and a half months and come out with a good album. We need time away from each between each session. When we were together that was what we were doing. I don’t think Mike was bringing any external influence into it at all.
Mike [to Ashley]: Did you feel external influences from me? Did you think I have brought anything to the table after my experiences?
Ashley: Ah, interesting.
Becky: The Ethiopian thing but that’s not Icelandic.
Mike: No, that’s true. We haven’t talked about it that much.
Ashley: See, that came in but I mean that never particularly…
Mike: I have got one point. I went to Ethiopia for a holiday for a month with my girlfriend and came back I was suggesting quite heavily that we make an Ethiopian pop inspired album. I was fully down with it because I thought ‘Wow, this music is really twisted’ and everyone else was like ‘nah, no’.
Ashley: None of us went there. We couldn’t get it.
Mike: But there were a few samples from Ethiopian Pop rhythms that we did start jamming to, so did made into the album. But I forgot actually that we haven’t talked about that that much. That was the original idea. Well, my original idea.
Ashley: It was the thing that kick started it off. Definitely. But how much of that permeated through to the final product? I think, it disappeared. It may have been based on it. So, obviously it was an influence but it didn’t shine through that much by the end of it.
Are you satisfied with the songs? I remember reading that on the last album you’ve changed the song afterwards.
Mike: Yeah, definitely, we are very satisfied but I think they could have also gone in many other directions than the way they ended up. And I think live we do have an opportunity to explore other ways of presenting these songs because they went through different formats whilst recording. Let’s see how we get on. There are loads of elements. But as we were just saying everybody had certain amount of opinions on the way these songs should be completed. Mostly we agreed but sometimes we didn’t.
What did you do then? The boxing ring?
Mike: A few hefty passionate discussions followed by a couple of drunken hugs. I have to come up to Ashley in the kitchen. He was vigorously doing the washing up about 6 in the morning after a twisted chat.
Lindsay: That was the only…I don’t even remember.
Mike: I gave him a hug in the Kitchen.
Lindsay: It’s the only time I actually said “fuck you”, got up and walked out.
Mike: He got the wrong end of the stick a little bit, I think.
Becky: No, not the end of stick. [all laugh]
Mike: I mean that’s what it’s all about when you work closely together and care about what you’re doing. Satisfied we are but I am sure there could be other versions of the album that we equally be satisfied with.
Was is difficult to end?
Mike: It was quite difficult to just wrap it up and hand it over. We were working on it whilst we were still doing the final mixes, you know.
I have read a lot of interviews from the last album. It seems like a common problem for you.
Mike: Often the albums are sort of puzzled together, mostly it done in a studio environment and produced as if it was electronic music. People would come in one by one. Because it was such a band thing it was produced and approached differently. All tunes on previous albums have different versions. For this one I don’t think we have loads of crazy different versions. I think we were all just striving for ‘the version’ sort of thing. It wasn’t always easy but I hope it doesn’t sound like that.
You’re swapping lines a lot on this album - is it just a coincidence or is it kind of showing that you been long together as a band?
Becky: That’s sweet. We have always… not always but certainly the last few records we have shared the vocals. This time we have done it a bit more in terms of overlapping things and finishing, not quite finishing each others sentences, but having words overlapping and go on and say something different, so I guess when you got a bunch of people that will sing it is nice to try out different things.
Mike: I remember having a conversation about doing this idea before we really started it with lyrics and stuff. It was said “it’s all of us singing at the same time again” which we do quite a lot on the record but it was a choice to try to utilize the three different voices. Especially in that tune “By This” which actually Ashley worked a lot on the lyrics, too, which lyrically also take over from each other. The last word of each sentence is the first word of the next person. It’s really nice.
Ashley: Yeah, the conversation I remember having was possibly as far back as the last album and it just didn’t for whatever reason ended up on that. And I don’t know, maybe it was something talked about at the latter end of it.
Mike: I think it’s probably because we weren’t so confident without Sam and everything. This Album we were confident to have single voices being their own voices and we’re more used to our own voices. I never considered myself a singer, still don’t really. I sing quite a lot so probably it’s time to get used to the idea that this is what I am doing.
If enough people tell you that you’re a singer just take it in and pretend to be one.
Mike: Exactly. Or if you sing enough times. I don’t think, people think I am a singer either but I force it on them. [laughter all around] But we have character in our voices, I think, and we use that more on this record, especially Ashley’s. He was always pretty buried on the last record, you are kind of featured quite prominently on a couple of tunes.
When you write your songs, do you have the audience in the back of your mind because for example”Once” is such sing along tune?
Mike: That would be nice. it doesn’t happen too often, sing a longs.
Becky: Sometimes crying, I have seen. I have seen some all snogging.
Mike: Those two 16 year old girls in Australia that sang along to every single song so loudly right in the front…
Becky: ..oh my god, yeah, really out of tune…
Mike: …and we couldn’t even hear ourselves and they were so bad. That was quite exciting. […] My moment on the album that I am looking forward to live is on “By This” when me and you [looking at Ashley] do the duo guitar after the breakdown bit […] and we’re gonna extend this for at least 10 minutes. And we both are going to crowd-surf…
And the audience doing air guitar?
Mike: Alright, yeah, that wouldn’t be singing, would it? I was just thinking about myself.
Well, if you’re having fun, the audience will have fun, I guess.
Becky: I think, that is how it works. I think people do pick up when you’re not having a great time on stage. I have read things like “they looked a bit pissed off” and I remember thinking “that was because we couldn’t bloody hear anything”. People do pick it up. If you feel great, you get something of the crowd and I get something out of you and that are always the best shows.
How is it to be 10 years together?
Mike: It’s about 8 years since we have been together, 10 since I met Sam and this started to happen. The first album was 2005. How is it, Becky?
Becky: It’s nice. I mean it’s like…
That sounds so convincing. Now I can see why you needed a couple of months between each session. [laughter]
Becky: It’s like family. We love each other and sometimes it is difficult. I think it’s like that. And we have a brilliant time together and sometimes it’s a bit challenging, especially for me because I am the only girl.
Mike: But it’s been a good 10 years actually, it’s been probably the most amazing 10 years ever. I mean without this: 10 years, who knows?
Becky: I don’t like to think about that.
Mike: If we wouldn’t have done Tunng what would we have done? We wouldn’t have been we, I would have hoped to still be making music relatively successfully. But this was a breakthrough for me and continues to take us on adventures all over the world. It’s been the best 10 years in my live and without it who knows what would have happened.
Becky: When you ask me about singing in Tunng: someone else was asking me to sing in a project and I felt I had to decide between the two because I had a full time job and I couldn’t do both and I went and tried to do some music with the other guy. He was really annoying and I thought “oh, choose Tunng”.
Ashley: I have a day job making music but it’s not with people. It’s on my own in a studio.
Do you miss other people?
Ashley: I miss other people. That how I thought I definitely want to be in a band and Phil [Winter, member of Tunng] was saying the same thing and we were talking. So, I have been in a band with Phil but it could have been some weird electronic Rock band. It could have gone all sort of ways - Possibly kind of punky.
Thank you for the interview.
The album ‘Turbines’ was released last week on Full Time Hobby last week and will be released this week in Germany and I assume everywhere else as well. In October Tunng will be on tour through Europe and UK. Please have a look at their website for the dates.
Thank you for reading,
No matter how shit this summer will be like, musically it is already splendid. Stagecoach set out to (finally) release their debut album on Alcopop! Records….after only 10 years and several EP’s they have finally made it! And it is brilliant. I have already had high expectations as I love basically all of their music even though (or because) they have changed so much in those years. Starting being a country band (with far less members) to a more than just a power pop five piece.
“Say Hi To The Band" is a little journey through their history. Not only the country history shines though in some tracks, they also put a new version of "We Got Tazers!" on the record. The song and EP "We Got Tazers!" was released in 2009 and got me into this band. They transformed this number from a fine structured pop number into a little less fine but somehow matured rock number - as if they grew up a little. That reflects throughout the whole album, I think.
There are songs like “VideoShop" and "56k Dial Up" which I really love. Especially "56K Dial Up”* is one of my favourites as it is about a topic I have been talking about with other people (in interviews) a few times as of late. It about this generation (and others) where you work hard just to waste your money on the newest technical shit which is already out of date the minute you buy it. And if you can’t afford it: pay in rate, use your Credit Card.
“VideoShop" is in the first seconds maybe a bit nostalgic but eventually it’s not bad to grow up and plot a plan for your future…I’ll work on that part of my life and hopefully have this feeling some time soon myself.
“Action" is what the title says. Great track for driving around with open windows, walk fast around town with the sun shining. You know what I mean. It’s highly enjoyable. Just like "WorkWorkWork" and "Nothing Leads You Astray”.
It almost seems they’ll have to add a sixth (at least live) member - some of the songs, e.g. “A New Hand" have some beautiful trumpet (or so) going on. I already want to hear that live and sing along to this song, arm in arm with that stranger next to me and sway to the music.
Well, in a way you can say this band shows more façades than you could imagine ever hearing from them, being a bit more grown up without loosing their trademark of extremely catchy songs bursting with energy.
If you fancy to what the band meant with the songs and not my thoughts you can go to DIY and have a read. I may join you on that one.** Also, you can pre-order the Album on Alcopop! now. It’ll be released on Monday (May 13th).
Thank you for reading,
*Note to those who are too young: that was how my generation annoyed their parents. We would connect to the internet via the telephone lines from 7 to 10 pm and none of our aunts, uncles etc. could reach our parents as the telephone was blocked and cell phones weren’t common at that time as well. Oh, we had more than one loud discussion about that.
**I don’t read other reviews and stuff like that until I have written my own…
P.S. They are on tour. The are excellent live. Go and say hi to the band from me!
May 11th -The Labour Club, Northampton
May 12th -The Star, Guildford
May 13th -The Cellar, Oxford
May 14th -Birthdays, London (Launch with Joanna Gruesome & Tyrannosaurus Dead)
May 15th -The Zephyr Lounge, Lemington Spa
May 17th -The Great Escape, Brighton
May 18th -Rough Trade West, London
May 18th -The Nag’s Head, Rochester
May 30th -The West End Centre, Aldershot
May 31st -The Buffalo Bar, Cardiff
June 1st -Santiago’s, Leeds
P.P.S. That was a really crap headline, wasn’t it? Well, I find it funny through…
Photo (c) Naomi Goggin
A couple of month ago I told you to go to a Nada Surf concert in order to see their support act Tall Ships*. I hope everyone followed this advice (if they were anywhere near you). Now they are coming back to mainland Europe for some shows on their own. And once more I just want to tell you to go to one of the dates as they are one of the best young bands you can find out there. They are a bit matured since the first time I saw them, they are not swapping their instruments any more but they will give you a fine rock show full of wonderfully fine structured melodies, beautiful, science using lyrics and three of the most handsome looking guys around. I hope they play a bit longer and more songs.
Have a good week,
09.04 - FRANCE, PARIS, Point Ephemere
10.04 - BELGIUM, OPWIJK, Nijdrop
11.04 - NETHERLANDS, HAARLEM, Patronaat
12.04 - NETHERLANDS, MAASTRICHT, Muziekgieterij
13.04 - NETHERLANDS, DEN BOSCH, W2
14.04 - GERMANY, HAMBURG, Molotow Bar
15.04 - GERMANY, KöLN, Underground 2
16.04 - GERMANY, BERLIN, Comet
17.04 - GERMANY, MüNCHEN, Muffatcafe
18.04 - SWITZERLAND, NYON, La Parenthese
20.04 - LUXEMBOURG, LUXEMBOURG, Out of the Crowd Festival
21.04 - FRANCE, LILLE, La Peniche
And in case you haven’t heard of them before have a listen to they debut album "Everything Touching":
*And I was quite happy to read that the Rolling Stone (german) made them some sort of insider tip after seeing them live. It’s well deserved.
Because Tall Ships is their support band on Nada Surf’s tour through Germany, Austria and Austria. You often hear people moaning about support bands and how useless they are. Well, I can tell you that you want to see the support this time - they are an amazing live experience. I know I am almost too late to tell you about this tour but sickness got in my way.
After two EPs Tall Ships have just released their début album “Everything Touches”. Once more they have created Math Rock hymns at the finest - it’s complex, occasionally playful melodies, it’s controlled chaos and sound explosions and some rock guitars. What I like is their liability to scientific bits in their lyrics and the pictures they use in them. You can already find this tendency in titles like “Phosphorescence”, “Murmurations” or “Ode To Ancestors”. Behind those titles one will find songs about love with wonderful lines such as „Because within you every particle is perfect, and your beating heart is the sum of many working parts. You are a triumph of natural selection, every mutation leading to your perfection…“.
I love the final and most epic song “Murmurations”. The song seems to reflect life up to a certain part. In the beginning you can hear something that sound like echo of the baby’s heart (you know when they check that of a pregnant), the blithy childhood and slowly growing up and the the wild years as a young adult. And the you find love, settle down a bit become calmer and in the end - as the children voice my suggests - start a family. It’s just amazing how Tall Ships build this song up layer by layer up to the climax and then collapse. Just beautiful.
With “Books” and “Ode To Ancestors” they have reworked two older songs. They brought both songs to the next level. They have grown a lot since their self titled EP and “There Is Nothing But Chemistry” without changing their sound too much. I think their sound became more organic, more like a whole than every before. When you watch them live, they are a bit greater in every way. It is simply impressive how they create their songs live with just the three of them. They all play everything that is on stage. They rotate so much on stage that you could get dizzy.
Here is their newest video for “Gallop”:
And a bit of Nada Surf just in case you don’t know them either or if you have forgotten how they sound. It’s „Waiting For Something“ from their current album “The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy”:
Tour dates of Nada Surf and Tall Ships:
10.11 Karlstorbahnhof, Heidelberg (D)
11.11 Bahnhof Fischbach, Friedrichshafen (D)
12.11 Hirsch,Nürnberg (D)
13.11 Rosenhof, Osnabrück (D)
14.11 C-Club, Berlin (D)
15.11 Meier Music Hall, Braunschweig (D)
16.11 Jazzhaus,Freiburg (D)
17.11 Zeche, Bochum (D)
Nada Surf http://www.nadasurf.com
Tall Ships http://www.wearetallships.co.uk/
Berlin is a city full of artists, full of musicians, so it is no wonder that I occasionally discover new and awesome music just by talking to people after a concert. A couple of weeks ago I have met new Berliner Jesper Madsen after a wonderful concert of Dad Rocks!. And that is how I learned about Echo Me - the musical project of Madsen. He moved from beautiful Copenhagen to Berlin when he is signed to Für Records, a Berlin based German/Danish record label for is upcoming self titled album “Echo Me”. It is not his first release. Last year he released folky versions of songs of a punk rock band called The Freudian Slip which sound lovely but completely different from Madsens upcoming debut album “Echo Me” and from the music The Freudian Slip actually makes (which is how things like this should be done).
Madsen wrote a bunch of partly really catchy kind of Folk tunes which are more than just Folk tunes. It seems that every song has influences from other genres and some come with a bit of weirdness. It is a very eclectic album that allows the listener to discover new little sounds and twists with every listen. One of the most catchiest songs on this album is certainly “Left By The Fire” (watch the video below). In this song he combines a drum driven melody with some “I am easy going” whistling and lyrics about someone who just seemed ruin everything. It is followed by “The Actor & The Play” which was and still is a bit confusing - it took me a half of the song and a closed browser to realise that all the disturbing sound actually belongs to the song. It’s a bit like Madsen doesn’t want you to sink into the softness of its melody, as if he wants you to be aware of the reality. I don’t know - I may need a hundred more listens and actually asking him.
The interlude of “The Memory” reminds me of an unsettling western… it may also be because of the guns which are displayed in the booklet next to the lyrics*. And when I am listening to “Packing My Stuff” I get a certain Country feel and not only because he wrote lines like "Packing My Stuff I’m Heading/My Own Way/I’m Getting Off This Train/Camping Outside You Better Stay Away/At Least For Today”. No, it is also because he uses acoustic guitars, labsteel guitar, Banjo and a lot of harmonica. And the way he sings fits just perfectly to that song.
Another song that impress me with its weirdness is “Darkest Hour”. The Hit organ and the whistling give it some kind of funfair feeling - not the “modern” funfair but the ones where you could see the strongest men of the word, women with beards, the miraculous elixir of Dr. Whateverhisnamewas and other travelling performers…but it doesn’t sound like gypsy music actually.
With “Write Me Back” Jesper Madsen goes a bit more Rock. I basically like this song because I am a woman who happens to wonder every once in a while why certain people wouldn’t write me back - however because of the lines "Those Were The Words/That I Last Heard Coming From Your Mouth" the song becomes a bit creepy for someone who watched too many CSI and Criminal Minds episodes. So, maybe it is actually good that they won’t get back on me…
However, as I quite enjoy weirdness of any kind, I very much enjoy listening to this album as it provides the the good and interesting kind of weirdness - not the weird weirdness where one struggles to get any kind of connection to it. Another thing that I really like is that despite he explores some many different sides, he always sounds effortless and he always adjusts his singing to the certain topic and style. And the album still sounds like one piece and not a collection of randomly chosen sounds and genres. The album doesn’t make me wonder if he “still” has to find his own style - he has found it in the diversity.
The self titled album “Echo Me” will be released on the 19. October and is available digitally on iTunes already. And now watch the video for “Left From the Fire”:
Tour dates (where as far as I heard Madsen will bring a full band with him):
19.10.2012 DE-Berlin, Antje Oeklesund (Release Party)
24.10.2012 DE-Hildesheim, VEB Club
25.10.2012 DE-Goetingen, Heimathafen im Pool
26.10.2012 DE-Wuppertal, Bürgerbahnhof “Endstation Sehnsucht”
04.11.2012 NL-Groningen, Melodica Festival
09.11.2012 NL-Amsterdam, Skek
11.11.2012 NL-Rotterdam, Le Vagabond
16.11.2012 DK-Aarhus, Vestergade 58
17.11.2012 DK-Kopenhagen, Huset i Magstræde
23.11.2012 DE-Dresden, Ostpol (PPZK Songwriterfestival)
24.11.2012 DE-Stutgart, Café Galao
06.12.2012 FR-Paris, Pop In
17.12.2012 DE-Hamburg, Stellwerk
18.12.2012 DE-Hannover, Glocksee
20.12.2012 DE-Berlin, Aufsturz
21.12.2012 DE-Weimar, Kasseturm