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07.07.2016 / words: Rich Lee
Fifteen years since their celebrated debut The Optimist LP and Turin Brakes are back with a new album, ready to win the crowds at Always the Sun festival with their uniquely soulful sounds. We spoke to the band’s Rob Allum ahead of their visit to Guildford this September…
The Optimist is fifteen years old this year and regarded as one of the first great UK albums of the millennium. What went on in those recordings that produced such an iconic work?
Essentially, Gale (Paridjanian, guitar) and Ollie (Knights, vocals) had written these songs and put them together on their little four-track in their bedroom. If you listened to the demos, all the atmosphere was there already before we went into the studio. And that original atmosphere transferred across brilliantly.
You joined Ollie and Gale on drums for that first album. Did you imagine that you’d still be a part of Turin Brakes 15 years later?
You know what, when it started I don’t think even Ollie and Gale thought that we’d still be here. But there was me, Eddie (Myers, bass), Gale and Ollie: we all played on that first record and thought at the time, ‘this is an album, maybe there’d be a second album’, but I didn’t have any great ideas about whether I’d be in it for long.
But what I did know, right from the very first moment, was that there is such an incredible chemistry between us when we play in a room together. And that energy was there right from the very first moment we played ‘The Door’. It was unbelievable. Some bands have it, some don’t and maybe it only comes along once in a lifetime so I think you have to hold onto it when it does.
The first video Save You (below) from your new album Lost Property evokes some striking WWII imagery from the Blitz. Where did that idea come from?
It is striking. It’s a video director mate of ours, Pryce. He’d originally started the video for a track off our last album, ‘Blindsided Again’, but he never finished it because he’d got too busy. But when we needed the video for this we thought, hang on we’ve got all this footage and ideas let’s just reshoot what we need. So it’s actually kind of two different vids in one. The idea is ambiguous but bombs, explosions, trying to save yourself, but there’s more than one way to save yourself, and one of the best one’s is to sit tight and things will sort themselves out.
Turin Brakes are famously tireless tourers. What do you enjoy about life on the road?
It’s the most straightforward, honest transaction: you turn up somewhere, you play music to real people, they react and you react back. It’s immediate and that’s why we love it. Our long-term fans are always amazing and loyal, you couldn’t ask for better, but the new guys that come along also seem to react really warmly which we feed off.
If we didn’t tour we’d be looking to do some form of extreme sports just to get the adrenaline kick, that hit.
How much have your travels as a band been an influence on the sound of Turin Brakes?
It definitely influences the music. There was a lot of Americana to it, particularly early on, so those widescreen vistas and panoramas spring to mind. But the more you travel the more you take on and absorb. We’ve been in Italy recently and a song from the new album ‘Rome’ came out of that and other travels. It can’t help but influence how you think about the world, and also appreciate what you’ve got back here at home.
Any decadent backstage riders for Turin Brakes?
Well we drink Courvoisier, that’s pretty hip-hop isn’t it? And some real ales… to keep it real (laughs).
You’ve said that you have an amazing memory for the gigs and places you’ve played. If you had to pick your favourite?
I’d say when we did V Festival… 2003? It was just amazing: a beautiful sunny day, the crowd were so up for it. When the crowd is going wild you can’t help but surf on top of it. It was ridiculous; girls were taking their tops off like we were Led Zeppelin. Our girlfriends were looking on behind the stage, wagging their fingers at us!
But I’m really looking forward to Always the Sun Festival. There’s some great culture in Guildford and so it’s a great thing for the town.
For more on Turin Brakes visit
Buy the new album Lost Property
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