Interview: Turin Brakes
15 years on from the release of the bands groundbreaking debut album, 2001’s The Optimist LP, Turin Brakes are still going as strong as ever. Continually pushing the limits of the Balham duo-turned-foursome’s finely tuned songwrtiting and instrumental skills, the band have turned out a weighty catalogue of seven studio releases, a handful of highly praised EP’s and toured the world several times; effortlessly adding to their growing international fan-base.
As original duo and founders Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian, along with recent inductees Rob Allum and Eddie Myer prepare for a brand new tour of Europe, starting February 18th and seeing in dates in all major cities throughout the UK including Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and London, and fresh from releasing their phenomenal new collection, Lost Property, we caught up with front-man Olly Knights to discuss the bands career, new collection and plans for 2016. Here is what Olly had to tell us….
Brendon Veeers: Hi Olly! Where do our questions find you today?
Olly Knights: About to leave my house in London for a live radio session….
BV: Things must be fairly busy these days with the release of your next album this month. Can you tell us a little about the new record and how long did the process of putting the record together take?
OK: I started writing in 2014 but we didn’t get together and really work on it until the end of 2015. We jammed out the ideas we had as a four piece and went with whatever we were most enthusiastic about.
OK: We had a song with that title that I noticed seemed to contain a theme that re-occurred across the record, the theme of loss and what to do about it. I’ve always had a thing about lost property, there’s something about the idea of all this stuff being left behind that once meant so much, does the stuff know it’s someone’s property? Is it somehow infused with that person? Most of the human experience has loss at its centre, be it material or something far deeper.
BV: How would you best describe the sound and general vibe of Lost Property?
OK: It’s beefy and wide, we dragged 1978 into 2016.
BV: When it came to writing Lost Property, from what well would you say you drew the most inspiration from?
OK: I never really sat down and thought about any one thing, usually writing for me at least is just like taking a mind photo, I really trust that, the more I think about it the worse it seems. I like to just let it out and then maybe re-arrange the puzzle until it makes a curious kind of sense. Usually themes start to emerge. It’s amazing how creativity can take care of itself as long as you let it.
BV: Can you explain the artwork of Lost Property which is very mesmerizing? Who came up with the album artwork for the new album and whats the story behind it?
OK: It’s by Sam Chivers. He did the album before too, we love his work. This was actually a piece he’d already done but it just looked like our album cover to us so we asked if we could use it and he kindly let us.
BV: Did you go in with a pre-conceived goal of how you wanted this new record to sound or was it more organic and spontaneous than this? Is it safe to assume that you are happy with the end result?
OK: We had quite a strong idea yes, but always with wriggle room. We like the album before so we wanted an update rather than a total re-think. Something that felt modern but classic.
BV: You have quite a few records under your belts so far. What would you say are the key differences between Lost Property and previous studio albums?
OK: The last two feel connected and different to all the others. We behave more like a band than a duo which has given a new energy and direction.
BV: The new record is unmistakably Turin Brakes which is great news for your fan-base. Do you or have you ever felt pressure from the industry or whatever the current musical trends are to change things up and go more mainstream or dip your toes into other genres?
OK: Well this is the constant battle, how to stay true yet grow and be aware of the world. I think we got it pretty good on this new one; it’s more aware of current music than We Were Here. It’s joining the party a little more but it is still 100% Turin Brakes. If it was a person it would be heading out for a social evening rather than hanging in the garden alone.
BV: Can you tell us about tour dates. When can fans hear these new songs in a live setting?
OK: We hit the road on February 18th and don’t really stop for an entire year!
BV: Are there any plans in place for the tour to be taken abroad in 2016?
OK: Yes, but it depends how it’s received. We aren’t rich enough to point at maps and go anymore (smiles).
BV: What are your feelings when it comes to performing new songs on tour – songs that listeners aren’t familiar with? Do you get nervous or feel apprehension about introducing new songs on tour or do you consider this to be an enjoyable aspect of being on the road to promote new material?
OK: Nerves happen but are acceptable. We made this record in a very live way, playing together all at once. So the tour just feels like a natural extension, not some totally separate thing like it sometimes could in the past.
BV: A few years back we got to see you perform The Optimist LP live at KOKO and in its entirety. Would you ever consider doing a tour like this again in the future, for either The Optimist LP or any of your other studio releases?
OK: Maybe, but it felt a bit like being traveling theatre. We like being free to change the script.
BV: You have played some fairly unique shows over the last decade or so as you have toured the globe several times in your career. What shows standout as the most memorable and why?
OK: The London Eye, the Post Office tower, Brixton Academy…. It’s still crazy for us to look at the city we love and be able to point at some of its most iconic buildings and say we’ve played them!
BV: Of all of your accomplishments to date – what would you say has been the bands proudest moment?
OK: Always the latest record and shows. It always feels most vital in the now. We feel proud that we are still doing what we love and making music that’s appreciated.
BV: Of all the tracks you have penned and of the albums you have released together, what track resonates the most with you? Is there a single song that holds that extra special place in your hearts that perhaps never saw a single release?
OK: There’s a special magic in the very earliest recordings, the stuff we did in Gale’s and my teenage bedrooms. Some of it got on the early EP’s and By TV Light on the Optimist was taken directly from early recordings. Our youth is entwined on them forever!
BV: Aside from the upcoming release of Lost Property, what else is on the Turin Brakes horizon that you can tell us about?
OK: We’re looking forward to getting out to Europe and beyond. We always have an adventure. I hope more songs are born from the experience.
BV: Thanks Olly – a pleasure as always – looking forward to seeing you on the road
Turin Brakes new studio album Lost Property is out now.