Two Door Cinema Club are breaking free – and getting weird
Influenced by their move back to an indie label, Two Door Cinema Club's new album False Alarm is built on experimentation.
June 26th, 2019 Update:
Today, Two Door Cinema Club have announced forthcoming headline shows in Australia throughout November, which will join their select shows at Grapevine Gathering this year. Find the tour dates below:
Thurs 21 Nov – Forum, Melbourne
Fri 22 Nov – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Thurs 28 Nov – Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Fri 29 Nov – Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane
There’s a certain feeling we’re all familiar with that we get when we listen to a particular band or song from when we were younger. There's that track from an earlier time that takes you back to an experience and causes you to feel those same emotions today - nostalgia - whether it be a dance hit that reminds you of being out clubbing as a fresh 18-year-old, or simply a song you can’t help singing along to. This feeling of nostalgia has such a presence with many artists and their listeners today in 2019 and has helped some big names remain relevant in-between album cycles and time on hiatus, including a little band from Northern Ireland with a huge sound, Two Door Cinema Club.
Originating from County Down in the UK and consisting of Alex Trimble (vocals, rhythm guitar, synths), Sam Halliday (lead guitar, vocals) and Kevin Baird (bass, vocals), Two Door Cinema Club have established a name for themselves as a group not afraid to evolve and grow through means of experimentation, taking their signature - and sometimes nostalgia-inducing sound - and injecting it with moments more adventurous and free-thinking, opening them up to new flavours as they grow. On their new album False Alarm, due out this Friday, their sound is driven by classic indie rock guitar riffs and hooks embellished with dancey, electronic synth, injecting moments of dance, funk and disco underneath the vocals of Trimble reigning over; signalling new sounds and a newfound energy without taking away from their knack of crafting accessible indie-rock that has seen the group become such a mainstay over the years.
False Alarm marks the arrival of a slightly ‘off-centre’ sound for the band when held in comparison to their past work, incorporating new energies to prevent what's become their signature knack from becoming too out-dated within an industry seemingly falling over itself to find the next big thing. Satellite, for examples, sees a much more monotonous and bass-sounding vocal style from Trimble over the top of a various mix of synths and disco-style beats in the background. Although this experimentation was touched on their 2016 previous album Gameshow, it’s much more set in stone this time around and when we go further back to 2012's Beacon, it’s not as noticeable; primarily non-existent. Tracks like Next Year and Sleep Alone from Beacon are full to the brim of indie rock drum beats and distorted guitar melodies, characteristics that essentially defined what Two Door were about during this period and that now, seven years later, is largely left to slight shadings.
Essentially, the band have found comfort in experimenting and trying new methods when creating this new album, and this flexibility as an artist is debatably one of the most important things in finding longevity. They’ve decided to take a risk by embracing electronic-pop, and going off how easily the public have taken to their album teases thus far - Talk, specifically - it’s set to be a wise move with a successful outcome that, if so, may push Two Door Cinema Club into a niche zone where they're nostalgic yet forward-thinking, bringing the old together with the new akin to Vampire Weekend, but in a slightly different way.
In saying that, however, there are moments that ooze with that signature Two Door Cinema Club touch. While their album does indeed focus on that aforementioned electro-pop twang, it's mixed amongst stylings that are distinctly Two Door, like ruckus-inducing guitar riffs that'll be stuck in your head for days following; the stylistic vocal swagger of frontman Alex Trimble, but in a way that feels more like a shading than anything else, focusing on the new; the exciting; what's next. There's also Two Door's lyricism, and how they're able to convey often heavy topics with light-heartedness and accessibility. Dirty Air, for example, comments on how society is easily drowned out by technology and how these advancements might actually be forcing us to take steps backwards, but you probably wouldn't get that through its summery chords and warm vocal sways.
This experimentation and freedom to try new sounds may be due to the fact that this album marks the first release the band have made with new independent label, Prolifica Inc. In the past, artists aplenty have spoken on how moving away from major labels with side-projects have given them the much-needed freedom to tackle something new, triggering moments of experimentalism that on False Alarm, for example, really shine through. In Two Door's case, their previous three albums were overlooked by major labels like Parlophone and Warner, and with this arrival of fresh sounds, it raises the question whether moving away from big names and into a different territory may ultimately work in their favour/
Set to explore this new album and show it off down under, Two Door Cinema Club will be returning to Australia for Grapevine Gathering in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia on the 23rd November, 30th November and 1st December respectively - tickets and info can be found here, but in the meantime, check out below what lead guitarist, Sam Halliday had to say about the new direction the band are taking with False Alarm.
So False Alarm sees you signing to Prolifica Inc, which marks your return to an indie label after working with majors for your last album release. Why did you feel like that was a necessary move for this record?
Prolifica Inc are our management company, and we’ve been with them for since forever - like over ten years. We signed with Parlophone for the last album and we had an okay time, but we missed a lot of things that we loved about going through co-op and being sort more of a traditional indie group - we loved having more indie-minded people in international territory. I think something that we learnt before, was when we’d go to Germany or France or wherever, we’d meet people who were in the industry. It wasn’t just like a nine 'til five job where they feel like they have to cover you for the interview then they’d be like “oh good luck with the show see you in a year”, you know?
I think it also took away a bit of freedom for us, and there were certainly more hoops to jump through. They like to spend money and that can often introduce a lot of red tape which can be difficult to work around as a band, where as this time it's been far simpler. I think this time around we’ve taken back a lot more control, we’re a bit more involved with our own sort of destiny which is nice. It just feels like there’s a lot more funding had with marketing and promo and stuff, so it just feels a lot more like were in control.
For you guys, that would be one of your main priorities as well - you want it to be your music, your name, your band, your control.
Yeah definitely, I think it’s kept at a distance from certain aspects of band life - especially when you’ve done it for so long - and it’s quite easy to just let other people deal with it and you’re like “oh well they’ll just sort music videos or the artwork” or whatever. It’s quite easy to get a bit jaded in that sense. It’s really refreshing to have that control back.
It's interesting you mention the album artwork there because with this latest one, we’re seeing you three guys on the artwork which is something I don’t think we’ve seen before. It’s like you’ve finally found that identity and that place and you’re putting that out to the world, and I think a lot of your fans are really loving that.
Yeah. I have to say I think the label and managing people were very happy when we decided to be on the cover. We definitely had some doubts for a second, but we just felt that with the artist - Aleksandra Kingo - and seeing her Instagram page, all her shots had people in them. It made us stop and think 'we better step up here and be on it ourselves.' Unfortunately, I think we were pretty dressed up so I don’t really know if it’s like the most recognizable picture of us, but the whole idea was to create almost like a fictional world because then it tends to be a bit plastic on the cover and a bit false and a bit wonky.
Hence False Alarm, right?
I think just touching on that whole ‘lack of restriction’ you had with that label and how you’re saying it feels like you have much more freedom; that’s obviously something you were attracted to, but why was that so important?
It gets quite tiring sometimes when you have to get permission for everything you do. Especially whenever you’re on a bigger label, you’re not necessarily a priority, which is sort of hard to deal with. I remember when we were with Kitsuné, we were like one of the only bands - so I think the whole thing is just very different.
Is it almost like a weight coming off your shoulders?
It wasn’t a terrible experience, it was just very different. It was a lot more corporate and it just feels nicer to be back with more ‘music-y’ people. It’s not that there weren’t ‘music-y’ people in the job, it was just that there was a lot more turnover in staff and shit like that just didn’t really make it feel like there was as much of a family feel when we stayed with Parlophone.
Did that freedom that you got have a major influence over making False Alarm?
I think that we’ve always been quite lucky in that we’ve never really had an A&R that’s been there with us making a record. We’ve always sort of been allowed freedom, although this time around, we didn’t go through anybody from any record label ever coming down to it, so it kind of stopped us wasting time, in that sense. I feel like a lot of the time you spend almost two days pretending to record. I suppose whenever you’re making an album it’s quite a vulnerable process and I think in terms of people who you actually don’t necessarily feel super comfortable with, it can be quite awkward when you start to doubt yourself and you second guess things, so I suppose it really does have an effect on it
I feel like you’ve made a lot of room for experimentation with this album. Like Gameshow, it’s almost got that disco-y/dance-y vibe and it feels a lot more fleshed out. With that freedom in mind, was that a move you made on purpose?
With the experimentation, I think this album is probably one of the ones that we had the most time to record. I think we had a lot more time for experimenting with ideas and developing demos a lot more. I think the total process was something like 18 months from when we started. First, it was demos being made and then, just listening to the differences with Alex, who would have went out to LA on multiple occasions to work on those demos with Jacknife Lee and then, once the demos were more fleshed out and could structure themselves, Kevin and I would get together to work on our part. We then all came together in London for a couple of weeks to record the album during a session in RAK studios. I think that usually what we would have done is we’d spend like a month together in the studio and just do an album however I think this time there was a lot more time for Alex and Jacknife to get creative.
I think it was probably just the selfish reason of wanting to try something new. I guess it can be almost a bit like you feel like you’re repeating yourself sometimes if you just do the classic thing that you’re probably known for or what’s comfortable. I think that it comes quite easy to do that sort of thing; forgetting to build some routines outside the role. It’s just more exciting to go out and try something different.
Moving into the themes of the album, there seems to be a main focus on issues affecting society like climate change and pollution and Dirty Air is a good example of that. Was that a plan all along throughout the making of the album, or did it just kind of morph into it during writing sessions?
Yeah, I think whenever lyrics are being written now, it’s just a lot of what comes out at the time. It’s not necessarily a whole of ‘good lyrics written before the album is made’ and then that kind of decides what the albums going to be about. It’s very much discovering what the album’s going to be about as the songs being written and as the recording is happening. In hindsight yeah, a lot of it is to do with climate change and I think more generally just an observation of where we're at in modern society and how we’re 'tied to the gunship' - like we’re so advanced yet were taking steps backwards as well. Technology moves on so quickly we’re taking a step back. Life has become easier, rather than better necessarily a lot of the time and things like the whole climate chapter that was in is probably a massive part of that.
Would you say there are any other themes that we might not have mentioned that stood out to you or that are quite important to yourself?
I think the difference may be this time around focusses on a bit of modern society and technology as well, but I think the difference now shifts to the band in general in a better place. I think before with Gameshow, it came from a point of view of ‘this is terrible and that’s kind of it’ whereas this time around I think it’s from the point of view of ‘we’re all in it together’ and laughing at it and mocking it and sharing and talking about it in a very tongue in cheek way. I think that’s reflective of where Alex’s mindset is at in general with such a good attitude to things. Unlike before on the last album, where it was more the suspicion of social media turned terrible and not really getting any answers. I think it’s just a realization that we're all sort of doing these things that are sort of damaging.
Moving on, you guys are playing a show in your hometown of Bangor soon. Is that a coming full circle type moment for the band?
It is, but it’s kind of strange. It’s a place that whenever we were kids, there were no shows there because it’s a small park. It was the park where I walked through to get to school, so it’ll be very strange. I know every time we come through, we’re like gods in Northern Ireland. I guess it’s because people really love homegrown talent, we love to see our own do well. We’re such a small island - like we still can’t get over the fact that George Best [Manchester United player] is from here - so yeah we’re hoping to cling onto the coattails here and move up on the rankings of Northern Irish celebrity-ism.
Going from Coachella and Glastonbury and Splendour in the Grass down here in Australia, is there anything in particular that you are drawn to, about going back home and playing back home? Or is it just that whole home town show quality that comes with it?
I don’t know, I think with things like Glastonbury and Coachella and all, you’re not expecting people to be there. Maybe not so now, but like the first time we did those performances, it was like 'we’re just these guys from Northern Ireland, it’s not like we know anyone here that’s definitely going to come,' so you’re kind of surprised people know about you. It’s very exciting, it’s a big deal to even be there. I feel like the hometown shows are always like ‘oh this should be good, we know people here’ and then sometimes it’s a bit of a letdown. I think because we moved away from here when we were 18 and we were part of the local scene playing in bars and things but when we started to release music with a record label and things, we were living in London and we’d left kind of big here in terms of playing live shows, we never really seem to have that great a crowd, so we're hoping this one, fingers crossed, might be a bit better than we’ve had before.
You’ve got an album here that’s like an extension of the last one, Gameshow with a lot of dance-y themes in there. How do you translate that into a live show?
I don’t know, we just do. No, I mean we’re in a really nice place now. We have the luxury of four albums now, and if you look at a lot of what we’ve been through, especially as we get older, songs from the first album seem to get faster and faster every year with some changes in there. We’ll be taking Bad Decisions from the last album, after a nice break, with a nice up-tempo kind of jam here because it’s nice to have different feels and different rhythms in the set now. There are quite a few different rhythms going on which just brings a whole different feel to the setlist and I think that’s a real big thing now - an album that in a couple of years it’ll bring a nice dynamic to the set that freshens it up.
Two Door Cinema Club's new album, False Alarm, is out June 21st. Catch them at Grapevine Gathering this November/December.
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