Interview: Toy

Interview with Toy



Thanks to a clutch of incendiary singles and support slots with The Horrors and Primal Scream, Toy are one of the most talked-about bands on the indie circuit. We persuaded front man Tom Dougall to tell us the story behind their eponymous debut.

Questions and answers

Hi Tom, so you’re at Leeds Festival today? How did your gig go?

Yeah, we were really happy with it. It was an early show but there were quite a few people there and I think we did a good job. (Laughs) We’re playing Reading too, but we’re going to play Rock En Seine first. So we’ve got to drive all the way to France and then all the way back up...

Right, your name’s officially google-proof. What’s the story behind it?

Well, one of our friends had a Victorian toy box which just said “Toy Box” on the front, and our logo is taken from that. We were looking for a name and we thought it fit well because of the different connotations: it can be a playful thing or it can be something slightly more sinister.

And can you explain how the band came together please?

Me, Dom the guitarist and Panda the bass player used to be in Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong together before Toy, but we actually knew each other at school. And we met our keyboardist Alejandra when were about 18, and our drummer Charlie a year later. We’ve all been best friends for years and always knew we wanted to be in a band together.

We hear you had some pretty negative experiences with your record label in your previous band. Has it left you wary about the industry?

Yeah, completely. We realised that we don’t want to be on a major label. Now we’re on an independent label, we have control of what we’re doing and better lines of communication. We don’t have to pander to anyone. So yeah, I think we learned a lot from that.

It’s very difficult being with the majors, unless you’re willing to play the game. Essentially, if you want control over what you do, there’s no point in being on a major label, because you’re just going to end up getting frustrated and being let down.

So congratulations on your debut! How was it working with Dan Carey?

Yeah, it was great. He’s just a really cool guy. He’s sensitive to how to get the best out of different bands, I think. And with us, he realised that we were at our best when we were totally excited about what we were doing so he just tried to capture that live-feel, with us recording each song in two or three takes, with minimal overdubs. The whole album was recorded and mixed really quickly, in about 12 days. But we also had a little party in the middle of it so... (Laughs)

You left your debut single, ‘Left Myself Behind’, off the album.

Yeah, well it came out quite a long time ago and we wanted to make room for/give people the opportunity to hear as much different stuff as possible. Also, that track was produced by a different producer, and it has quite a different sound and feel to the other songs on the record. We like the way the album hangs together and I think it would have disrupted the balance a bit. But it’s still one of our live favourites.

What’s your favourite track on the album?

Probably ‘Dead and Gone’. If you were going to play one of our songs to someone who’d never heard us before, I think that’s the track that encapsulates best what we’re trying to do.

You’re frequently compared to bands like The Horrors and S.C.U.M. Do you feel an affiliation with those bands?

Well, we’re really good friends with a lot of those bands. We’re all from the same part of London and we’ve hung out together for about the last six years. So, because we listen to quite a lot of music together and have got each other into different types of bands, I think we share quite a lot of the same influences.

But we take more of our musical cues from older bands, really. Classic bands like The Velvets and The Stooges, 70s German bands like Can and also 60s pop bands like The Byrds. We’re just big music fans, I guess.

You’ve had a lot of support from the indie press so far. Does it matter to you what the rest of the industry make of the album?

Yeah, it definitely does matter. It’d be great for reviewers to get it and get behind it, but inevitably not everybody’s gonna like it. We’d like the general consensus to be positive but, whatever happens, we feel really happy with the album and that’s the main thing.

How has the material been going down with audiences?

It’s going down really well. Obviously, the audience are going to respond better to things they’ve heard before, so when we play the singles, people know the words and sing along. But even new songs they’ve not heard before are getting a good response when we play them. It’ll be interesting to see which ones are people’s favourites once the album’s out. ‘Dead and Gone’ is one that’s going down well so far, definitely.

For the benefit of those who haven’t seen you live yet, what can they expect from a live show?

It’s a big wall of sound! Hopefully it’s sonically interesting and will make people enter into a different headspace. I think when we’re playing at our best we can make people lose themselves.

What’s been your favourite album of 2012 so far?

We don’t really listen to a lot of new bands really. Though Panda played us the collaboration between Ariel Pink and R Stevie Moore, and that was really good.

What’s the plan for the rest of the year?

After the album comes out, we’re gonna do a headline tour around England, including a show at Heaven, which is going to be our biggest London gig. And then we’re going to do a European tour in November and that will take us through to Christmas, I think. We’re gonna be pretty busy trying to write songs for the next record too. We’d really like to get it out by September or October next year. We’ll definitely be able to get the songs together.

Finally, what’s been the highlight so far, and what would you like to achieve ultimately?

We recently went to Japan to play the Summer Sonic festival and that was absolutely amazing. We hung out in Tokyo with some of our Japanese friends who used to live in London and had a really great time.

And in terms of goals, we’d just like to stay together as long as possible, make as many albums as we can and continue to develop and make interesting music.