, December 18th, 2013 11:37
Ahead of their final UK show of the year tonight, we talk to the band about their second album Join The Dots
London motorik merchants Toy recently released their second album, Join The Dots, out on Heavenly Recordings. It sees the band in an increasingly melodic and lyrical mode, one textured by introspection and self-awareness, revealing an intimate side to an elusive band. It also found the band working again with south London producer Dan Carey, with whom they recorded last year’s self-titled debut, as well as two 7”s on his Speedy Wunderground label, ‘The Bride’, with Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan and ‘I Go Out’, the collaboration with Steve Mason and Emilíana Torrini. Perennially touring - the band are playing Brighton tonight, before heading to the US and Canada in the new year - we caught up with the band’s singer and guitarist Tom Dougall ahead of some of their recent shows in Germany to talk about the new album.
What was the band’s approach going into the second release?
Tom Dougall: The touring schedule has been demanding, but we’re focused, and using the pressure to creative means, comfortable with the balance of our musical output and current lifestyle. We’ve progressed, quite rapidly, from recording the first single to support tours, then putting our own record out and touring to playing at festivals and gigs.
You’ve worked with Dan Carey again. What was the atmosphere like in the studio recording Join The Dots?
TD: Dan understands the energy of touring and the pace of being on the road, so he’s really effective in getting the studio time organised around the schedules of others. He rearranged his projects so that we could get studio time so soon after our first record.
When we spoke to Jeff [Barrett] from Heavenly Records and he heard how enthusiastic we were to crack on with Join The Dots, he made things easy, and had no objection to our plans. Combining their flexibility and motivation with our readiness to record would definitely sum up the mood around the record. We have those guys to thank.
How did the tracks come together?
TD:It was very similar to how the first album came together, really, except that we didn’t have as much time, obviously. We’d have the initial idea, come up with the demo version and head round each other’s houses to work through an idea; in that sense, almost the same methodology.
The thing that was different is that we treated it like a nine to five job. For the first record, the songs developed over a longer time period; this time we had to get our heads down, working every day for weeks, getting all the songs together and heading into the rehearsal studio, fitting this in around a festival schedule and gigs.
Did you take inspiration from knuckling down to a stricter time frame or was that more restrictive?
TD: It didn’t feel like pressure, we actually enjoyed the fact we were being productive, and keeping it that way. There was no collective, “Oh god, here we go again.”
How did you record this album? Was there a dynamic you tried to achieve in the studio? Last time, there was a bit of help from lights, lasers and smoke machines…
TD: We recorded and mixed Toy in ten days, while we did this one over a couple of separate, short sessions. We were able to come back to it, which definitely helped. We always have lasers, whenever recording. The smoke comes out at pinnacle moments, this time for the title track.
It gives a more intimate and inspiring atmosphere. As opposed to the conventional sterile studio environment, it pushes us further, and the smoke’s a signal that we’re locked into something.
There are particular tracks, ‘You Won’t Be The Same’, for example, that are melody driven, leaning towards a more folk-like element than was present on the first album. Was this intentional?
TD: That’s interesting, something I’d not thought much about. It was unintentional, although we do listen to a lot of that kind of music. ‘Conductor’, the first track, leads in with a narrative from where we’ve been over the last year, and I agree, there is a noticeable change at the second track.
Did you have any concerns about making your second album?
TD: The way we see it, when we’ve created something, we don’t finish until we’re happy, so it doesn’t really matter that much. What other people think, in particular, because we’re quite a strong unit anyway, so we don’t really take other people’s opinions very seriously, which makes what we do a lot easier, definitely!
Other bands, obviously, do get conscious of what other people think of what they’re doing. The way we’ve all seen it is that we’ll be doing this for as long as we can, anyway, so opinions do not affect the way we make music or whether we do it at all - it doesn’t really have a bearing, purely because we’ve got such a long history with each other and faith in what we’re doing. We trust each other, that’s why we end up making music that we’re all really happy with.