Back in May last year I spoke to Olly Knights from Turin Brakes about their forthcoming new album. At the time there wasn’t even a title for the album let alone a release date so I was keen to find out all I could.
The band treated us to some short and sweet video teasers online back in October and not long afterwards it was announced that album number seven would be called Lost Property and we could expect it to be with us in January 2016. Details of a tour followed and it has been a very exciting time in the Brakes camp over the last few months.
Their last studio album, We Were Here, was released in late 2013, and so far the singles that have been released from Lost Property (entitled 96 and Keep Me Around) in the pre-empt to the album release have been extremely well received. I spoke to Olly last year and asked him what we could expect with the new album. This is what he said:
So, how did it feel to be back in the studio and at Rockfield of all places?
It was actually great, we worried it would feel too similar to the We Were Here sessions, but as always it took on its own identity as did the music.
Has the creation of the new album been a labour of love or did you find it an easy task?
We’ve done more pre-recording work than ever this time. We spent about three months in my little garden studio playing and playing and playing all the new ideas until we knew what really felt great to play together, so important! Once we de-camped to Rockfield we had barely enough time to get through all the epic material, but somehow we did it by the skin of our teeth. Ali Staton our co-producer/engineer virtually gave up sleeping to get it done!
You have something of a reputation as a band that sounds different on every record – what can we expect this time? Is this likely to be a return to your folk roots or a side-step into pastures new?
I’d say it’s more of a pastures new type of record, but with all the experience of what happens when we leave our comfort zone thrown in. It’s unmistakably TB, but with some new twists and turns both sonically but also deep down in the routes of the songwriting. We wanted to go straight for the jugular on many songs, so working out what the real point the song was trying to make was either lyrically or musically and then making damn sure it makes it!
Is it a conscious effort to change your sound or just a natural progression for your music?
A bit of both. It’s almost impossible for new identities not to be forged every time we commit to an album, everything is changing all the time including Turin Brakes. However we are much more aware these days of our “legacy” and often discuss the virtues of protecting it or the opposite.
You’ve spoken to me before about selecting the right track as a lead single when you release a new piece of work. How’s that panning out this time?
We’re being very grown up about it, we know there is this enormous monster called UK radio that comes into play (whether we like it or not). So we’ve seen it as an artistic challenge to create a few things that could work really REALLY well in that world, but that doesn’t betray what we feel is our identity as a band. I can’t predict what will happen, but it will be very interesting I hope. I like to think that if we get it right the fans will be happy.
You did a large tour when your last album “We Were Here” was released in 2013. Any plans to tour with the new album and if so on what sort of scale?
Always, but it’s too far away to know the details yet.
I enjoyed watching the short and sweet video clips you posted on Twitter of your time in the studio, although they were somewhat frustrating! Is it an easy relationship for you all to work together in that environment? Does someone usually take the lead?
We’ve gotten pretty good at working together, but there sure is pressure, from us and from time mainly. We have had to become experts at it or else we’d never have made it this long. We all have our ways of behaving, positive, negative, slow, fast but I see it very philosophically, essential parts of a musical whole. Having said that I am of course usually right about everything, ahem!
Your lyrics always seem to me to be very personal. Do you find writing new songs easy?
They are always born from my experience of life so I’m not sure if they could be anything other than personal, but I always keep an audience in mind. I really don’t enjoy music that doesn’t seem to care for its audience and is primarily self-therapy. I want someone’s truth, but I want it presented with intelligence and a little distance, so we can all get somewhere new I guess.
Is there a central theme for this album and if so can you enlighten us on what it is?
It’s all too close at the moment to sum up, but I keep seeing threads, repeated ideas and images. If “We Were Here” was a little outer space obsessed then this stuff seems to be inner space obsessed, “when we turn the telescopes fromthe sky to within” is a lyrical example. I enjoy the notion that inner space can be just as vast and curious as the big black and is in fact inseparable from it, a universe on the tip of every finger. These things get smashed together with the poetry of the everyday on the new album.
This will be studio album seven. Does it get harder to be creative after all this time or does your inspiration become easier with experience?
No it gets easier, what gets harder is dealing with your own history. We had the wonderful curse of being told excessively that the very first thing we did was our best work and could never be eclipsed, how do you carry on from there? We plough ahead because we can’t really help it and most of the time we love what we do.
What are your hopes for this album?
I’d love to see the music reach a wider audience again, it’s been a while. I’m not embarrassed about the idea of making music that resonates with lots of people, just as long as it’s bloody great. It’s nice to feel your building something rather than just cruising I guess.
From a solo point of view, do you have any plans to write and record a second album?
I do, but it keeps not happening. We were quite busy co-writing even during “down time”, but at some point new ideas will saturate my being and I will have to get them out before they evaporate, because they do.
We’re planning a Turin Brakes day on the Record, Rewind, Play site to coincide with the album release (if possible). The hardcore element of this means a day of listening to your entire back catalogue and writing a review of each of the albums! What album of yours is your personal favourite to listen back to and why?
I enjoy Ether Song a lot because it’s such an expressive and brave sounding record. When I think about how much pressure was on us at the time to repeat and eclipse the debut I’m proud of our slightly left turn that we made into artistic and edgier territory. I mean it’s hilarious that we sometimes get described as this sort of “soft acoustic duo making nicey nicey folk to forget” have you heard “Little Brother” or “Panic Attack” lately? Think again!
And finally, just out of interest, what other artists are you enjoying listening to at the moment? Any recommendations?
I have a stack of vinyl from Laura Marling, Jessica Pratt, The Staves, burning a hole in my conscious at the moment. It’s safe to say my leaning towards strong female artists hasn’t lost its drive. Still looking for the next Joni Mitchell I guess.
Massive thanks to Olly for taking the time to answer my questions and I do hope this has given a little bit of an insight about we can expect from the new material. The release of a new record is always an exciting time for the fans and no doubt there will be lots of interest around this album coming out. Head over to Ether Site to keep up to date with any news and I’m sure we will be sharing a review of the album here in due course.
The tour starts in Nottingham on 18 February 2016 and you can find all the dates on the official band website here.
Lost Property is released on 29 January 2016. In the meantime, have a listen to the wonderful new single ‘Keep Me Around’.
A version of this interview appeared on Record, Rewind, Play in November 2015