Following the release of their seventh studio album the wonderful Lost Property at the end of January this year, Turin Brakes took to the road and toured throughout the UK and into Europe to give fans an eagerly awaited live treat of their new work. I managed to see them perform at three dates on the UK tour and was certainly not disappointed.
Being keen to find out if the experience from the other side of the stage was as good as I had found it, I caught up with Rob Allum, band Manager and top class drummer at the end of the European dates to ask him about touring, festivals and the future for Turin Brakes.
You’ve just got back from the European leg of the current Lost Property tour. How did you find it?
It was a blast! We had big crowds and lots of encores so it’s feeling very onwards and upwards for us in Europe. It’s all about what the audience feeds back to us and when you get full rooms it’s already buzzing before you step on stage.
Reviews have been very positive on the dates already played. How was the reaction from the audiences (both in the UK and Europe) to being back and playing the new material live?
The new material has been going down very well. Lost Property seems to have tapped into something new and fresh so people are reacting likewise I think – newly and freshly!
What has been your favourite gig so far and why?
All the shows have been genuinely very special on the Lost Property tour so far. Something new seems to be happening in a positive way. Favourite show on the UK tour was probably Pontadawe Arts Centre near Swansea. It was a new venue to us and a beautiful room with lovely people running it, but what was even more beautiful was the singing of the audience and the sheer joyful atmosphere of the night. I really liked all the Italian dates too as the crowds were great and it felt like summer the whole time we were there! The food wasn’t too shabby either.
I’ve heard that unfortunately you’ve lost instruments when touring in the past! Anything you know of missing this time?
Only a small portion of our minds… Our opening act – Dog Byron – are rather fond of Grappa and they sometimes made us drink it late at night till our brain boxes were all a bit raggedy!
Do you have any touring traditions as a band?
Yep, we try to keep it a SMIU (small mobile intelligent unit) and travel very light, with minimal crew and minimal fuss, each of us taking responsibility for our own department with skill and respect for each other. Doesn’t always work perfectly, but it’s become a good tradition within the band. One of the sort of rituals we tend to do is a bit of a tradition now – after soundcheck we get the hell outta the venue until showtime so we can relax and remain attached to the real world going on outside. Usually to have a civilised drink together while Eddie hand writes the set lists.
Who’s the worst traveller?
I’m not sure about that. Good question. I think everyone has got pretty good at it over the years so we don’t seem to have a big problem with that. Olly doesn’t always sleep well so I guess he’s probably the worst. I have an ear problem which messes with my balance, but none of these things are that tricky to get around. Everyone will miss certain things about home too, but we are all pretty philosophical about it and understand that one part of life informs another.
As the manager of the band do you find that you treat touring any differently now?
Yes. In the 5 years or so I’ve been managing TB I definitely have enjoyed a lot less big socials after the shows. I have too many things to do and take responsibility for nowadays (both after the show and the next day) so there’s not as much gallivanting about as there used to be for me. The others are still free to gallivant as much as they like!
You’ve got lots of festivals coming up in the Summer including Isle of Wight and Splendour. What’s the best festival that you’ve ever played and why?
We’ve played some great festivals big and small. Often the small ones are much more manageable to hang about at compared to the mayhem of the biggies (and we are often headlining smaller festivals). I suppose the most memorable ones have been some of the biggest – Glastonbury, main stage on Saturday evening was pretty hyped. It’s the big icon. The one every band wants to play. I had a few issues during that show with my monitoring but that’s another story. Also V Festival in Chelmsford was pretty immense. An incredible crowd of 28,000 for our set on stage 2 surprised the promoters I think. It’s also the only time I can remember seeing girls in the crowd sitting on their friends shoulders stripping off their tops trying to put the band off their stride. It certainly worked, as we all wondered if we had suddenly turned into Led Zep or something!! Needless to say our partners (who were side stage) seemed less enthusiastic about that crowd. But it was a lovely sunny day and an amazingly enthusiastic crowd which felt like a billion dollars!
How different is it playing a festival to a usual gig?
Festivals are very different on a practical level. You don’t get to soundcheck – so you go on stage cold and hardly ever can hear everything you need to, at the volume you need, to be able to play your best show. That’s a BIG challenge. The second main difference is that you are playing to an audience many of which don’t know your songs (or maybe just know 1 or 2 songs that they’ve heard on the radio), so you have to try to build a set that is both bulletproof from a technical point of view and also accessible and entertaining to both fans of the band and the people in the audience who don’t know anything about you. Also, at a festival it is possible to feel like just another piece of meat rolled out on a conveyor belt full of other bits of meat (who probably bitch about you) so you have to be careful not to get into that mindset. What we try hard to do instead is bring our own unique atmosphere to the stage if possible (our own headline shows feel like a big gathering of good friends) and what could be nicer than being amongst friends eh?
The Autumn tour starts in November and you’re playing some locations that you didn’t visit earlier in the year. Is there anywhere you’re really looking forward to playing this time round?
Looking forward to all the shows on the second instalment of the Lost Property tour. Glasgow is always a full on crowd of amazing folks who make us feel like the Beatles or something with their incredible enthusiasm. You feel like you are surfing the biggest wave as the adrenaline kicks in. I also love the prospect of playing the new towns we haven’t played before (remember Pontadawe).
Obviously you’ve been playing tracks from Lost Property when touring. Which of the new songs do you think has worked out the best live?
I think ‘Jump Start’ often seems like the one that is having the most immediate effect live. Like Olly said; “that should be the theme from Top Gun 3”.
And are there any tracks that didn’t quite work out as you’d expected in a live environment?
We played ‘Rome’ on the first night of the UK tour and I think and it was thought that it didn’t go down as well as we hoped so we mothballed it more or less till we hit Italy! They liked it straight away! I reckon on the next round of shows ‘Rome’ would go down fine as people will have had time to get into it on the album for longer. Who knows what we’ll play next time? It could be a Jazz Odyssey….
‘Save You’ has recently been released as a single and is on the Radio 2 playlist. What can we expect next from the album?
I think you can probably expect ‘Jump Start’ to be the next cab off the rank as far as singles go. It’s got the kind of sound that could be a US Country number one and I’m fairly sure that if Take That released it it would be number one here in merrie England too! Hahahaha!
It looks like you’re going to be pretty busy until the end of the year. Can you tell us what 2017 will hold for the band?
2017 could well be an Australian tour, a possible US trip, summer festivals and a bunch of one-offs or little clusters of shows around Europe and the UK. Hoping to get to Ireland if possible too. So, we are gonna be busy enough as we move towards maybe not leaving it too long before the next album… to be continued…
On a personal note, what other projects are you involved in outside of TB at the moment?
Musical projects? Or do you mean like doing up the loft? I’m still a High Llama. We have a new album out on Drag City called ‘Here Come The Rattling Trees’. It’s not like TB, but it does also hail from South London as it is a load of little stories from Peckham. We are performing the show in full with actors and everything (we did a run in Soho last year) at the CLF Theatre Peckham on 23, 24, 25 May. The show may also travel later this year – check out www.highllamas.com for details. You are all welcome to buy me a glass of wine after these show as I don’t have to be a responsible adult after Llamas shows!
P.S. I’m not doing up the loft as I don’t have one!
Many thanks to Rob for taking the time to speak to us. Turin Brakes are playing at various festivals across the UK during the summer and you can find all the dates and ticket details of where to catch them on their website.
The UK Autumn tour starts in Cardiff in November and tickets are on sale now.