Two Door Cinema Club: “I think you have to realise how disposable you are”How to travel the world on 30 minutes of music. That was the theme of Two Door Cinema Club’s existence for much of last year.
The Northern Ireland three-piece’s infectious 2010 debut Tourist History climbed through the blogosphere, onto the independent charts and then into mainstream media, steadily making its impact on foreign shores. But with the breaking of each new digital or physical boundary came a new tour, and by late 2011 the band were ready to drop their passports and schedule some studio time.
The result was Beacon, a follow-up record polished to perfection by the now California-based producer Jacknife Lee (R.E.M., U2, Crystal Castles). Talking to guitarist Sam Halliday, the relief of having some new music to play is evident. Not that it’s all peaches and cream: Beacon’s sonic lustre has provided its own difficulties in the live environment – the nightly challenge for Two Door Cinema Club has gone from one of boredom to one of fidelity.
TheVine caught up with Halliday over the phone during a tour stop in France. He was a placid, friendly presence on the end of the line as we discussed France, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Australia, as well as his own homelessness.
I’m guessing you’re in France, Sam.
Yeah, I think we’re in Nantes today.
You’re signed to [French label] Kitsuné – has that facilitated a larger fan base in places like France? Has it made it a destination for the band?
Yeah, I guess. It’s nice. This time we’re doing a bit more of a regional tour, playing a couple of places we haven’t been before. So it’s nice to be able to do that. But it’s not crazy over here [laughs]. The show in Paris is kind of big, but I’m not going to big us up too much. It’s nice to be able to do that in France; to be able to do the regional tours.
Where’s home for you guys at the moment?
Alex and Kevin live in London, but I don’t really have a house at the minute [laughs]. I just have this massive suitcase with me, for the past few months. It’s kind of awkward. Especially when we go away. There was a time over the summer whenever we would go away for the weekend at a festival and I’d turn up with this massive suitcase and just drag it around everywhere. So it’s kind of annoying, but at the minute I don’t really have time to do anything about it.
Like when you go backpacking with friends and there’s always some jerk who brings a suitcase.
[laughs] That’s me, yes.
Do you guys get back to Northern Ireland very much?
I got back a few times over the summer, but we don’t really get back too often. I was a back a bit more often because I didn’t have a house [laughs], but otherwise it’s just holidays. We’re going back for maybe six days at Christmas, but we’re off again on Boxing Day to come over to Australia, which is super nice but then it would be cool to have a couple more days at home. But at that point I think I’ll be sick of the freezing cold weather, so yeah.
I’ve noticed that when people talk about Two Door Cinema Club they tend to conflate Northern Ireland with Ireland –
Does that bother you at all?
Not really. It’s such a tiny country, why would people know? I’m sure there are things about places in the world that I don’t know. It doesn’t bother us that much. Sometimes when we’re away, depending on where we are, we’ll tell people we’re Irish, because otherwise we’d be considered British. I think sometimes Brits abroad get a bad reputation and people tend to love the Irish – especially in America, where it can be the difference between a free drink and someone hating you all night [laughs].
Tell me what Northern Ireland’s like. Is it very different once you cross the border?
Not massively. You don’t get boys riding around on horses up north. That seems to happen down south [laughs] – it’s hilarious. I remember one time we were driving down to Dublin, and there are just these boys in tracksuits riding about on horses with a rope around them. That’s weird. But no: we still have nice little pubs and we’re pretty similar; the accents are a little bit different, but it’s very similar we seem to find.
If people do think about Northern Ireland on its own, they tend to think about sectarian politics and violence and so on. You’re not a politically driven band at all. Did you feel any social or artistic pressure growing up in Northern Ireland to tackle that sort of stuff? To be that kind of band?
Not really. We lived in a place where there wasn’t really much of that sort of thing going on. We lived in a little seaside town. I think if you grew up in other parts of the country where there was violence at certain times of the year that might affect you personally, but for us it just popped up on the news every now and again.
I guess it meant that maybe there wasn’t so much of a strong link between the north and the south in terms of gigs. Growing up, we played a lot of shows in Belfast and maybe a couple of other cities around, but we never really ventured too far other than a couple of support shows in Dublin. Until we moved away from Northern Ireland we didn’t really do too many shows in Dublin. I guess it was because we were still at school at the time and it was quite far to go. But they are still very separate in terms of countries. It’s a much bigger deal to go down south, even though it’s not that long a drive: “You’re going down south? Wow.”
So, Beacon. You’re now into playing it live. I read you had a real challenge, Sam, working out how you were going to do that with your pedals and so on. How have the live shows been going?
Yeah, it’s going okay. But it’s definitely a strange experience learning how to play your second album – because we’d never played the songs live before. We had ideas, but more melodically than sonically, like, “I have an idea and this is what it sounds like, but I want it to sound a bit more like this” – and you’ll play something or you’ll reference something, and then Jacknife will help you get there. And then you think, “Oh, wow. That’s great.” Then you get in the rehearsal the week before the tour and you’re like, “Hooowwww did we do that?!” So there’s a bit of compromising that you have to get to terms with. But every time you go to see a band it sounds a little different live, and you don’t really notice because you don’t have the record there in one ear looking to score people down. So there are definitely a few differences because you have to compromise – you can’t have eleven different guitar sounds coming from the same amp. Unless I want to bring eleven guitars on tour, there’s a little bit of compromising that has to be done.
Playing the record live probably gives you that opportunity to think a little more about the songs. A couple of months down the track, is it still just as exciting for you?
We’ve had the album a little bit longer than everybody else, obviously, and I listened it loads at first. And now I haven’t listened to it for a little while, so I suppose we’re not quite as excited as when we first got it, obviously, but I still love playing the songs every night and that’s probably why I don’t listen to it everyday. [But I’m] Still excited about the songs, definitely. It’s nice to have a set full of songs that we’re really happy with. It’s nice to be able to play for longer than an hour and have different options in the set. It’s nice to have those slower songs, it’s nice to have those songs that are a bit different and mix it up a bit.
Your first album was released when you were teenagers. Since then you’ve grown up and toured the world – life’s completely different. Do you look back on your teenage selves – those guys who wrote Tourist History – as being completely different?
Um, not really [laughs]. I don’t think I’ve changed that much. I think I’ve definitely done a lot more than my teenage self. I still I have similar attitudes to things and I still feel very similar. I don’t want to take it all too seriously, which I think is a good way to be. I think musically I’ve been exposed to a lot more music and a lot more goes on there, but I think at the end of the day I like what I like. There are still always things that I listen to that stay the same, and I think my attitude to things is very similar. Generally, I like things that aren’t too serious, so that’s probably why sometimes the album sounds a bit juxtaposed in a way – some of the lyrics are quite melancholic whilst the music is quite upbeat. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s because we don’t want to make sense of the band sometimes. Someone might be pouring their heart out, but I just want to have fun, which is interesting.
Beacon does feel like a more intimate record than your first, and like you’re a bit more comfortable doing something like that now that you’re a bit older – engaging with your own personalities a bit more, so to speak.
It’s definitely come with more confidence – the confidence to try out the slower, more different songs, and not have to try to have to get people’s attention with fast, four-to-the-floor songs.
You did a heap of touring after Tourist History. Did you feel anxious to get back in the studio and keep that momentum going? Did you feel overdue to sit down and write it?
We were just so excited to get back into the studio and write songs. There’s nothing worse than playing songs every night and you feel you could play better songs if you only had the time to write them. We were beyond the record a couple of years later, but at the same time it was nice to play it so long, because it obviously meant things were going well for us. Also, it gave us time, because when we’re on the road we don’t write songs but we write little ideas and little melodies and things like that. Because it had been so long since we had taken time to write, when we did start to take the time to write there was a lot of stuff to go on, a lot of ideas to work on. I think if we had stopped just a year after the album the ideas would have dried up a lot quicker. There was a fair degree of time pressure – we only gave ourselves four or five months to write the album – so it was nice to have so many ideas to keep the ball rolling
It’s interesting, though, because bands are supposed to record to feed the touring side of things – touring’s become the main avenue of earning cash – and yet there barely seems any time to stop, write and record an album.
Yeah. It’s a hard one to do, because especially on your first and second album you don’t want to take much of a break, because you haven’t really cemented yourself as a band that people love. I think you’re still that band that had those couple of songs. You have to understand that people move on pretty quickly, especially when you’re a teenager; nowadays you are listening to loads of bands at once. Ten years ago you might have had a couple of favourite bands that you had to go and buy their record. People are listening to so much more nowadays and it’s so disposable, and so I think you have to realise how disposable you are. And yeah, we didn’t want to take a break between the first and second [albums]. It was tough.
We should talk about Australia. Are you looking forward to getting back down this way?
We’ve always had a great time in Australia and we haven’t been there in so long. People there are great, especially at festivals. It’s very apparent when people are having fun, you can really see it. A lot of crowds around the world are a lot more reserved and that’s not too fun to play in front of, so it’s nice to see people having fun.
It feels like you guys have gotten a lot of traction down in Australia compared to other countries. Is that a fair comment?
Yeah, it is. Definitely. I think a lot of the radio play that we’ve gotten – that’s what we hear about most. triple j, for example, is just a fantastic format. Obviously it’s really popular in Australia, and that’s amazing because they play current music. A lot of countries don’t really have that on such a scale. So it’s just fantastic for bands from further afield.
What are the plans for 2013?
Another tour of the UK and another tour of Europe in January-February, and then in March we’re going to South America, which should be super nice. We’ve never really spent too much time there. We’ve only been to Brazil. There’s America in March, and then I don’t really know too much beyond that [laughs] – the festivals over the summer, I guess.
Matt Shea (@mrmatches)
TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB – AUSTRALIAN TOUR 2012-2013
FRIDAY 28 DECEMBER – TUESDAY 1 JANUARY – THE FALLS FESTIVAL, LORNE & MARION BAY
SATURDAY 29 DECEMBER – FESTIVAL HALL, MELBOURNE
TUESDAY 1 JANUARY – FIELD DAY, SYDNEY
THURSDAY 3 JANUARY – HORDERN PAVILION, SYDNEY
SATURDAY 5 JANUARY – SOUTHBOUND FESTIVAL, BUSSELTON
MONDAY 7 JANUARY – THE TIVOLI, BRISBANE
TUESDAY 8 JANUARY – THE TIVOLI, BRISBANE