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Interview: Turin Brakes

8 min read

Longtime friends Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian – aka Turin Brakes – return this month with the release of the duo’s sixth studio album, We Were Here. Combining a spectacular blend of blues, rock and the bands lyrical genius, We Were Here marks the bands 12th year recording and releasing records together and a record that sounds as fresh and unique as any of their previous collections.

Turin Brakes have struggled over the years to reach the heights that a band like them deserve to enjoy and have often been unjustifiably  lumped into the same generic pool as fellow acoustic acts despite having a portfolio bursting with some of the most engaging, intricate, and emotive pennings of any band around today or of the past decade.

We were given the opportunity to catch up with Turin Brakes front man Olly Knights this week to talk about the bands latest studio album, their views on being compared to fellow acts over the years and whether the latest studio album suggests anything about the future of the band. Here is what Olly had to tell us:

TurinBrakesWeWereHereBrendon Veevers: Hey Olly, how are you doing?

Olly Knights: Good thanks. Recovering from a weekend headline gig at Lyme folk festival and it’s good beer.

BV: The band’s gearing up for the release of your new album, We Were Here which is out on September 30th. How is the band feeling ahead of the release of the new record?

OK: The feeling within the band is great, we are really happy with the new album, it’s got all the things we want a Turin Brakes album to have so hopefully the fans will dig it!

BV: Is there ever any apprehension or expectations about how well a new record is going to do or be received by audiences?

OK: Ha ha of course. Anyone who says there isn’t is lying. It’s not unusual to feel sick with nerves quite often when your in a band.

BV: Talk us through your creative process a bit. How long does it usually take for an album to be created from scratch?

OK: For us, I will usually have a sudden flurry of writing and then I start sending little demos to Gale. Then we start to talk and see if we have a joint vision. After a while it starts to roll on it’s own. This time we involved our drummer Rob and bass player Eddie from a very early stage as we wanted this record to have a deeply worked feel, the kind that comes from years of playing together, one of our current strengths. It’s probably taken a year from start to finish.

BV: The lyrical content and instrumentation has always astounded me with Turin Brakes records because they are both so intense and engaging. Do you ever fear running out of ideas or getting writers block?

OK: Yes, that’s why we took 3 years between albums this time. We could never stomach just going through the motions, we all knew the only point of making another TB album was if it was bursting with life. I made a solo album called If Not Now When between the last album and now and it really helped me re-discover my muse, that of the loneliness of the human condition.

BV: With such an impressive and musically intricate body of work, where does the band draw inspiration from when sitting down to write an album?

OK: We have a feeling we like to reach, it’s so hard to explain but we usually know it when it turns up. We also wanted to make an album that had that lovely mid-tempo 70’s groove, ala Neil Young, Pink Floyd, even Supertramp! A kind of quiet unhurried confidence and swagger, we let the songs be long if they wanted to be, with larger breaks than normal so Gale could just build and let fly on the guitar. Nothing is forced. It all has a flow and sounds warm and fat.

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BV: What are the best songs, in the bands eyes, within the new track-listing?

OK: Well I can only speak for myself but the moment Blindsided Again swells in still blows me away. We really caught something that day in the studio. I think it was our very 1st take too and the groove of the band just makes you nod your head. It’s one of my favourite moments of anything we’ve ever done. I also love the last two tracks Eraze Everything and Goodbye – they both have a sad feel but are totally uplifting to me too.

BV: Your last album, Outbursts, was released back in 2010 so it has been a good few years between releases. What’s the band been up to in between Outbursts and the recording of We Were Here?

OK: We are always messing about with new music and experimenting. Me and Gale also do some writing for other artists occasionally and we’ve been playing shows constantly around the UK and Europe, going to the towns that we’ve not been to before, it’s been great.

BV: Your fan base is very loyal and most of them have been with you from the early years. Have you encountered any over the top or obsessive fans who have perhaps, crossed the line in terms of being a Turin Brakes fan?

OK: Ha ha, it’s been close but who am I to judge, the music is theirs, I love how bonkers people get over it.

BV: The new album, from what we have heard so far, sounds like it has adopted a much more Americana/Bluesy/Psychedelic sound to it than what we have heard on previous records. Is it a fair assumption to say the new album is quite a blues orientated collection?

OK: It has some blues for sure, it’s a real guitar album, we let the guitars lead the way….

BV: The album title could be easily construed to mean this record is your last – if you dive deep into the meaning of We Were Here. Please tell us the band isn’t going anywhere anytime soon or is there a confession to make?

OK: If there’s still an audience then we have no plans to stop, it’s our lives after all! But these days I’m really just into day by day, right now it’s great and were all buzzing, tomorrow who knows but it’s been incredible up to now, even the bad moments have been necessary. I deeply appreciate the ride we’ve had.

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BV: Have there ever been any moments during the last decade where Turin Brakes were close to parting ways?

OK: Of course, it’s been tough I won’t lie, coming in and out of fashion, surviving the peaks and ditches. This record has kind of proved (to us at least) were still worth the bother.

BV: What aspect of releasing new material do you enjoy the most as a band?

OK: Playing it live, always such a thrill.

BV: You have written so many amazing songs but some of your best are unreleased tracks like, in my opinion, songs like Bye-pod (from Dark on Fire) and Paper Heart (from Outbursts). What songs from your back catalogue are you most proud of?

OK: I think Rain City really has a special magic and also the secret track from Ether Song – both became firm fan favourites and seem to have a slightly supernatural feel that keeps them timeless. It sounds wanky but when I was writing them I really did have the intention of harnessing something etherial and magical, a feeling of the possibility of an afterlife in some way and all these years later they do seem to conjure an odd personal sprituality.

BV: The band’s evolved over the years and you have incorporated Rob Allum and Eddy Myer within the bands promotional activities as well as on stage as your live band much more over these past few years. Is it safe to say that Turin Brakes is officially a four piece or will Turin Brakes always remain Olly and Gale?

OK: This album is certainly a product of the four piece, Edd and Rob both know so much about us now and have really strong ideas themselves and are both astoundingly good musicians. It seemed crazy not to use them more at this point. Having said that the duo is always driving the bus! We know that’s what makes this whole thing special, our take on the world which we started when we were in Primary school!

BV: The band has always been compared to other acoustic acts who formed or were popular in the early years of Turin Brakes and we find that a real shame as Turin Brakes has a powerful uniqueness that we believe is incomparable to any other band. How do you feel about being compared to other artists? Is if a form of flattery or is it something you prefer to dismiss?

OK: Well it’s really nice you see things the way you do. I’m not one for moaning as we’ve been really lucky and had lots of support but equally we sometimes feel we’ve been shoved into boxes we don’t really belong. I challenge anyone to sit with our entire musical output for a while and say we are anything but our own unique selves. We’ve certainly been the victims of many lazy brush off comments and perceptions over the last 14 years which has been damaging. We live in hope that the band and it’s fans get the benefit of the doubters some day and until then we are a lucky little club who have a real appreciation & understanding with the people who *get it* and were very grateful for that.

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BV: You have played some interesting venues and festivals over the years. Anywhere you would love to play that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

OK: We’ve done some stunners, the London Eye, the Post Office Tower, Glasto main stage, even a mental asylum! Not sure what’s left! The Shard?

BV: Along with the release of an album, anticipation of tour dates comes in equal measures. What are the plans for this album – where will you be headed and will it involve any overseas dates?

OK: We have our biggest UK tour for over a decade coming up in Oct/Nov, then it’s Europe and maybe even the USA as we have a proper release over there for this album via Red River Entertainment. We love Australia too so you never know!

BV: Thanks for your time Olly.

OK: Merci’

Turin Brakes new album We Were Here is out on 30th September.