East India Youth
Let’s go back to the beginning. What’s your earliest musical memory?
Drumming on an empty ice-cream tub with some felt tip pens, when I was maybe three years old? I used to just run around the house singing nonsense syllables to no real melody, trying to imitate the style of Michael Jackson. Which was weird.
Did you grow up in a musical household?
Not really. My mum really liked music but she hasn’t really bought anything for years. It was my older sisters that started getting me into music, really. I remember I actually stole OK Computer by Radiohead from my sister’s CD collection when I was about 10. I think I then went off to buy it not that long afterwards...
I was the first one in the family to take up an instrument, though. I started off playing violin when I was about nine, but I gave it up after a year or two to play guitar, because it was much cooler. And as soon as I got my electric guitar, I started writing songs instantly; though probably not very good ones. I started learning how to record myself on the computer when I was about 12/13, and that’s how I continued. I haven’t ever really stopped writing since.
You first came to prominence in Doyle & The Fourfathers, but you’ve been quoted as saying you felt “generally unfulfilled by the content the band were creating.” Why was that?
I think I’d gotten so used to making music by myself in my bedroom that – when I finally got into being in a band – it felt like a totally different process. I would write the core parts of the songs and bring them to the rehearsal room for everyone to input into, and I wasn’t always sure songs were progressing in accord to the initial vision I had for them. But that’s just what compromise is, isn’t it? The thing is, I didn’t really feel fulfilled by making those compromises: I was much more interested in taking what I did to – what I thought was – the logical conclusion.
And you became increasingly drawn to electronic sounds?
Yeah. I think just by accident, really. I wasn’t inspired by anything particularly electronic; it was just the tools I had at my disposal at that point, like recording software with in-built synthesisers. I was just experimenting, and learning how to use synths by making a lot of mistakes. But what came out of my experiments felt more expressive to me than anything I was creating with the band.
The first track I finished was ‘LOOKING FOR SOMEONE’, and I kept returning to the process every now and then until I built up quite a large stockpile of tracks. And then when the band finished, I collected them all up and I was able to see that a record was forming before me, which was exciting.
TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER is hugely diverse. Were you conscious of integrating a variety of styles into the record, or is it more a reflection of your personal tastes?
I think the latter. I’ve always had this great hunger to explore as many different styles of music as I can. Even in the band, every song would have quite a different flavour to the one that preceded it. Not necessarily in terms of progression, but in terms of me trying out different ideas. And because the majority of the album was made over a two year period, I’d gone through lots of different phases of what I was listening to and being influenced by. So the album was only ever going to end up that mad, I think.
But my way of tying it together was to make sure that the tracklisting was perfect, so that it created some sort of sense of a journey or a dynamic structure. I had the TOTAL STRIFE suite tying it together conceptually too, and that came about because I was just so attached to the main musical theme of part three, and I wanted to display it in a few different permutations.
You’ve alluded to the fact you were writing the album during a difficult period of your life. Can you elaborate on that?
Everything was changing at that point: it was like there was this massive state of flux for me and lots of people around me. I mean, there were plenty of things going on that I don’t feel comfortable talking about in an interview – like family issues and heartbreak – but I thought it was important to note where the atmosphere of the album came from.
For a while it just felt like there was no real escape from the place that I was in physically and emotionally. So making an album was sort of a document of that, but hopefully an antidote to it too; allowing myself some form of escape via that music.
And that’s where the album title comes from?
Yeah, totally. I do think that album title perfectly sums up the mood and the theme of the album.
Why is it stylised in capital letters, then?
It’s a bit of a joke, really. I thought that because the album title was quite grandiose and a bit dour, I wanted to give myself some kind of humourist distance from it. Putting all the titles in caps felt like a ridiculous thing to do – and a ridiculous thing for other people to conform to – making it this big, ridiculous statement. And I was quite happy with that!
The album’s been finished for a fair while, so how are you feeling now it’s finally about to be heard by everyone?
I’m a bit anxious at the moment, but I think the day it comes out I’ll feel this nice sense that I’ve abandoned it to other people. I’m really looking forward to other people listening to it – and either liking it or hating it – because I think it really helps you look back at what you’ve done, and ask questions about it. I’m going to feel like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders and like I can finally move on, and start work on another album.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
Getting to work with the guys from The Quietus has been great because I’ve always looked up to them. I’m a big fan of their website so the fact my music has been appraised by them – let alone the fact they had enough faith in it that they’d go out and start a record label to put out my EP – was an amazing thing for me. I got a great sense of validation, and drew a huge amount of encouragement from that.
Finally, what are your hopes for 2014?
That people like the album and that I get to make another one, really. I’ve got quite modest ambitions for next year. I’m fully prepared for things to be a lot busier than I anticipate, but I’m really just looking forward to going out and playing the album on tour. As long as I survived unscathed by this time next year then it will have been a successful 12 months.