Skip to content

East India Youth interviewed: “I think there’s a little bit of George Costanza in Total Strife Forever”

January 15, 2014

Original article on the 405 here

East-India-Youth-interview-405

It’s been a remarkable 15 months in the life East India Youth, and an even more remarkable 24 months or so in the life of the man behind EIY: Will Doyle.

At some point in our lives many of us have made that dramatic, “tough” choice and face a decision that will almost certainly change the course of your entire life. Quitting your job. Breaking off something. Moving away. Coming out. Sacrificing something. Upsetting someone. Whatever. It’s the moments after this that can be the most telling and where we find a great deal about ourselves. Search that soul.

Will Doyle broke off his first project Doyle and the Forefathers that was starting to enjoy a taste of success, and subsequently started to make music for himself – almost as an act of catharsis to get through the process of figuring out what to do with life next. The chances are that you’ve heard the following almost-anachronistic story of when Will gave a copy of his album Total Strife Forever to John Doran of The Quietus, at a chance meeting at a gig (an easy chap to spot in a crowd, all beard, hair and outrageous attire). The Quietus liked it so much they made East India Youth their first ever release on their label Quietus Phonographic Corporation (well setting up the label especially for his Hostel EP release essentially).

Total Strife Forever received an official release this week to huge critical acclaim (Will is genuinely overwhelmed by the reaction to the record – not even a ‘mediocre’ or simply ‘good’ review as he states with disbelief). And rightly so, an album that traverses through numerous genres, themes and emotions. Low-era Brian Eno soundscapes, to reach for the skies pop pomp; ravey synth heaven to wholly, nebulous introspective tones. It’s the quintessential ‘album as a journey’, a journey mirroring Will’s own tale. Read our review of it here.

In Cafe OTO I sat down with the well-dressed gent to discuss his album, “crisis albums” and emotions, Eno, getting lost in Croatia and other matters. Given the emotional impact of the album you could be forgiven for thinking Will is something of a dark intense character. If a Sunday broadsheet were to do a feature on him you may expect sentences such as “As Will pondered the question, he paused in his own world for an eternity as stared deeply into his English Breakfast tea, clasping the sides before muttering an intense soliloquy…” and so on. But he’s not – chipper, cheerful, full of excitement for the album release and an easy-going, genuinely funny guy to have a cup of tea with. For example, we start by deciding the most mundane question opener. Favourite colour perhaps? “Yes, how about your first pet?” he suggests and responds… “I had two cockatoos, Rolf and Sydney. Absolutely beautiful birds”, before us going into a tangent on how pets will always die and what’s the correct length of time to pass where you can make light of said death. Oh he’s patient as a saint too (my audio recorder not recording much of the first take, mainly due to me not pressing the record button).

I should make a disclaimer at this point that I know young Will Doyle personally, having bonded over a love of The Simpsons and surreal dance moves over the past year. So excuse the awfully chummy [laughs] dialogue that journalists always crowbar in to show how much fun they’re having with an act. Read the mildly-edited transcript of our conversation below.

Talk us through the process of how you lay down a track from inception to the end, how you go about making a track.

It’s different every-time. Because when I started to make the album, it was so heavily opposite to my methodology before that (in Doyle and the Forefathers), now it just seems like such a mystical thing to me. I can’t quite remember how I made it? Now even more so since it’s been a long stretch of time since I worked on it. Well I’ve been tweaking bits of it and looking at the whole thing, but not at the separate projects that make the songs, and the midi notes, details and all that. When I listen to it now – not that I listen to it that much – I think “How the hell did I come up with that?”. Not that I’m so amazed by it, it just feels like that there’s some things that I would never have thought to have done… consciously.

You talked once about “working against instinct, and “doing the wrong thing” in relation of Total Strife Forever

That’s right… what state of mind was I in? How did I get to that conclusion? So with the working against instinct idea – I was so heavily into that method of working at the time that now I can’t even associate, I can’t even think back to what decisions I made as they were totally the opposite to what I could do… it now feels like a different person doing it.

It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode called The Opposite where George thinks, “If every instinct I’ve ever had has been wrong, then doing the opposite MUST be right”

Yes I remember that episode! I think there’s a little bit of George Costanza in Total Strife Forever

Also that’s part of my emotional experience at the time, I was so encapsulated in that period; everything that was going in my life was captured. So going back to how I actually make the tracks… I don’t know. I don’t think about it that much when I’m doing it I think that’s the way, just don’t be too conscious of the process. Or at least that’s the way that album was made. I don’t think I’ll be able to make another album like that for a long time. The methodology is definitely going to have to be different next time, and it will have to be more considered? But I also don’t feel the need to make such a visceral outpouring of emotion as I do feel like Total Strife Forever was. As I’m in a totally different space in my life.

You were reacting against your situation with this album as you weren’t so happy, but now

Yeah you can’t force that sort of thing to come about so everything will have to be more considered this time, it will reflect where I am in my life now. Everything I do will be more considered when I made the next record.

I’m fascinated by emotions and music. I know Sufjan Steven’s The Age of Adz is an important album to you, as it is for myself. Can you expand upon why this is, and how it is so emotionally powerful?

I remember hearing The Age Of Adz – I mean I loved Illinois and I loved records that he had done previously, but because he hadn’t done anything for so long I had him somewhat written off as “he makes quite sentimental folk music”, even though the orchestral arrangements were really cool and he’s obviously a talented guy, I figured “That’s the space he’s going to operate in”, which is quite ambitious in itself. I NEVER expected that album (The Age of Adz) to come about, not in a million years. Even if you go right back to Enjoy Your Rabbit that’s quite a weird electronic record – it doesn’t quite have the same emotional aspect.

I think I heard ‘Too Much’ (from TAOF) and thought “okay this sounds interesting I’ll check it out”… and straight from the go it completely took me. It was the perfect time of my life for that record to come along. There was so much going on. It was around about the time that I started making tracks for TSF, so I really felt the need to have something to emotionally invest myself in. No just my own music but another record that I could completely throw myself into and be comforted by that in a way? Or relate to it. And with how big it sounds, the grandiosity of it… that totally chimed in with my emotions and how I felt at the time. And yeah that record works for me.

But there’s also humour in it, for example with ‘I Want to be Well’ that’s such an amazing track – he kinds of screams “I’m not fucking around” over and over and the first time I heard that I just burst out laughing. I mean I wouldn’t tell him that (laughs), but I think there is humour to be found in these darker, or more intense places… though not sure I’ve explored that so much.

Well, you named your album Total Strife Forever, that’s a flippant, funny thing to do?

Ha ha yes this is true! There are a few other records that do this emotional aspect well…

Such as, off the top of your head?

Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritialized, that works in a similar way – although that one’s a bit more direct as in “this is my crisis album”; The Age of Adz isn’t quite as direct as that, it’s a bit more oblique.

But I like albums where you feel like the person is having the breakdown, this crisis album aspect. I’m not saying they’re getting angry or going crazy, but they’re trying to encapsulate this feeling that they can’t do with any everyday words but it comes across in music, and that’s a really interesting idea and I felt like that I had to do that in my records. What albums do you have that kind of emotional response to?

Oh… again, off the top of my head Deerhunter’s Microcastle. One of those right time, right place experiences…

How does it feel that someone will have that experience to our record?

If someone did have that experience that does make it all worth it. It does sound like a bit of a cliché to say, like “I’m doing it for the fans man(!)” – actually I’m quite selfish about the whole thing really, I do it for myself… but I never ignore the fact that I have found serious comfort and solace in a lot of those types of record. I’ve found joy in those types of records, I’ve found intense emotions in others records – and if I’m able to project that and give that to someone else then it makes it so worthwhile you know? Then it doesn’t feel that what you do is such a vanity project, and it’s not like you’re just profiting off your own ego all the time, it actually means something to someone else and that’s very cool, I like that idea a lot.

How has the live stuff evolved since you first started playing as EIY – it must have been about a year ago now?

It hasn’t evolved a lot in terms of set-up, but it has changed a lot in how it sounds I think. I’ve learnt how to segue everything in a bit better and smoother. It sort of goes along with how I remastered and remixed the album – it just sounds fuller and more dynamic and bigger, it’s a lot louder now as well. I’ve become more confident playing… but what I want to do over the next year is be less tied to standing there behind the keyboard; when people watch electronic musicians they want to see them doing something don’t they? There’s that slight doubt that they’re just pressing play and checking their emails that is fair enough. So there’s been times when I’ve tried to make myself appear more involved than I need to be because I’m sacred that people think I’m not doing anything but who gives a fuck what they think, I’m doing everything I can out here, I’m putting myself into it. I mean I do have the physical element of playing the bass guitar and singing – so I think that makes it worthwhile to watch anyway, even though I am manipulating that many sounds on stage.

I’d like to do a couple where I leave the backing track running and either just walk around with the microphone or maybe set-up an extra mic over there (points to the middle of Cafe OTO) and I can just go and stand with the guitar and get into that, rather than having to worry about triggering the next bit, and having some variety to it. So over the next year it should change a lot. I’m still getting used to it and a year’s not that long – some bands take two/three years to get that good live don’t they? I’ve still got a bit of work to do in that respect.

Would you work with any visual artists, or have you?

I want to yeah. Even it term of my music video I waited until the last minute to put a video out, just because I think that the world’s too saturated with that sort of thing – people making videos just for the sake of it sometimes. I just wanted to make sure that whatever my first gesture was in that medium was really good, and was as good as possibly could be and wasn’t just for the sake of content. And I was really happy with it and it really did the job – Joe Spray who directed it was totally on the ball. And I love the new one we did as well even though it’s more abstract than ‘Looking For Someone’ is, but ‘Dripping Down’ is really stylistic, it looks really nice.

I want it to be the same with my live visuals, because I think that some people can come up with stuff that’s too throwaway. I haven’t got the money to spend on that sort of thing, but I do want to try and do the best I can with it and make sure that it’s really worthwhile, and it’s immersive, and people get into it, and it’s not just black and white silent movies playing behind me while I play, or random colours. I should put er…

A Windows 98 screensaver?

Yeah exactly! It’s too throwaway all that stuff, so I want it to be good. I haven’t got anyone in mind though so… this is an appeal to anyone out there… I’m making a broadcast here, ha ha

Do you tailor your live sets to certain crowds, or festivals, or moods?

That’s the good thing about playing by yourself, you don’t have to have rehearsed this tight thing. When you’re in a band you’ve got this set and unless you’re really savvy and dedicated – and you know I’ve been in loads of groups (maybe that’s why they weren’t so successful) we couldn’t be bothered to make more than the one set that we had. You didn’t think much about the context of where you’d be playing that often. Now that I don’t have to worry about having to rehearse with other people I can do whatever I want and feels right for that situation. Although having said that there was no real way I could have made my set fit playing in the blazing sunshine at 4pm in Croatia! It was cool and I’m glad you guys enjoyed it (and it made me feel a lot better) but, this album doesn’t really fit that context… so you can do the best you can with it, but sometimes the odds are against you and you’re just playing to a few people sun bathing.

[For context we spent some time with each other at Unknown Festival in Croatia – see the review of that and EIY’s set here]

Well that’s what I think of when listening to your album in my dreary South London flat, people sunbathing in blistering sunshine on a huge comedown.

That’s alright, that’s nice!

I was reading an interview (from early 2013) where a festival website asked “Do you have any festival tales to tell” and you answered “No side-splitting stories yet, but ask me again in September and I’m sure something would have occurred”.

So my question to you is, how long were you walking around in Rovinj for?

About three hours? So I left you at the festival, and it took me long enough to find where the shuttle buses wee going from (to town), and I found the stop by the main entrance and I asked someone and they were like “Yup get on that bus that’s any minute now”, so I waited and got talking to someone else who also confirmed I had to get on this bus. So that’s TWO people (giggles), got on the bus, got dropped off in the middle of town and was told “yup you have to get off here” and got off, and thought “I have no idea where I am!”

It was like… 4:30 in the morning. So I started walking in the wrong direction for an hour (more laughing)… and then I was trying to check on my phone but couldn’t get any signal or data, and didn’t know where I was going. It’s like a small town isn’t it? A tourist town so no-one was about at this time in September, no other foreign people there, and only people who didn’t speak English who were a native to the place. Luckily I managed to convey the hotel name to someone who said ‘yeah if you just walk over there… 2 kilometres! You’ll find it”. You won’t believe the sense of… I was just overjoyed when I saw the hotel. I went round the back of the hotel and because it was dark I didn’t recognise it. But then it revealed itself to me and saw the sign and ‘Ahhhhhhhh’!’, and I got to bed at 7am.

Yeah I woke up at 11ish and had six texts from you or so, each getting increasingly more panicked in tone…

It wasn’t pretty that. Good fun though! That was probably the only good story I had.. festivals are good and everything but there’s a lot of sitting around and not doing anything when you’re performing that is. You can’t enjoy yourself in the same way, you have to wait until after you play and a lot of the time you’re straight off again as you’re not sticking around for the weekend. The performing is really fun and if you get to stay at the festival over the weekend then great, but I think there’s this misconception that the whole process all the time is exhilarating and exciting – and it’s not, your traveling most of the time and that’s boring as hell, looking out on the motorway). So you have to try and find as many ways to make it as interesting as you can for yourself.

After you left I saw Jon Hopkins the next day…

Was that a secret set? That wasn’t billed was it?

Yeah it was billed! I think it must have been the Friday, I can’t remember the chronology of the days…

Ahhh I would have paid to stay another day had I known. I read your write-up of it and it and sounded like one of your highlights of the year..

Pretty much – of my life really. It was genuinely almost a spiritual experience. Going back to what we were talking about the impact of ’emotional albums’ – that (Immunity) would be one of them. And seeing it played out live, especially in that stunning setting and bedraggled state of mind, was a step-up from (on record), and the resonance of it all…

And it’s interesting that because… you normally associate those emotional albums as having lyrics that you often relate to, but actually, yeah his record doesn’t work like that does it? Really intensely emotional album. I mean there are lyrics with King Creosote. But you can’t hear them, they’re totally oblique…

I think in a way the lack of lyrics (in Hopkins) sums up that notion that when you talk about powerful/emotional albums, you can’t articulate, or theorise, why they are so emotional… words become more of an irrelevance.

Yeah definitely. So, it can be really hard to convey that. It has to be the right time, right moment. You can’t plan for that sort of thing “right I’m going to make this piece of music that conveys this emotion” – that stuff just creeps up on you. ‘Total Strife Forever III’, the third permutation of that theme that runs throughout the album, was the first one that I finished (from the LP). And the main theme of that, the way it bends and it’s quite slow, the notes are coming in on each other, sustain for a long time – that took me a few hours to get; and I did have that thought in the morning that I was going to make something that I knew I had to get this thing down, I just needed to.

So what I did was I drew notes on completely at random on my music software, and I worked with that and went with a really basic synth sound and I developed it into the sound that it became. And I sat there and listened to it for an hour or two thinking “this is exactly what I was trying to convey”, having this sense of awe about it. Not at my own ability, but the fact that it came out of nothing, it came from this random process, and it absolutely encapsulated how I was feeling at that time. And that stuff creeps up on you. That’s what’s exciting, that’s why I make music. You can never plan for it to happen… the poignancy of what you’re doing is so on the money. But it was such a mystical process where you feel like you haven’t been part of the process – you’ve been a vehicle for IT

It’s overcome you, as opposed to the other way round…

Totally and that’s what I like about it all – and a lot of that happened over the course of making the album, there was a lot of moments where that was apparent.

How does it feel to be told that your music “brings the sadness”?

[Much laughter] Well, the story is that I was at a music night with Luke from The Quietus, it was in the small hours of the morning and we were feeling a bit worse for wear. And a girl comes over to me, out of the blue, and leads with “You bring the sadness to The Quietus”. Not even “your music” like you said, it was “YOU bring the sadness!”. It kind of freaked me out a bit.

Future work?

I’m going to need some time to sit down and spend four/five months or longer on it. I’ve had the last year-and-a-half of putting this record out and remastering it, the amount of new music that I’ve finished it quite minimal, so it’s given me a lot of time to come up with a lot of ideas and carve a direction for myself; so when I do get enough time for myself to sit down and start working on it, it won’t be like starting from scratch. Hopefully it won’t be three years to the next one. It won’t be the same laborious process. I don’t know when I’m going to get time to do that as this year will be quiet busy, possibly in autumn or something. It will be good to sit down and get immersed in the process again and really throw myself into the next record – it’s not something I’m king to be able to do in my spare time.

I feel a certain degree of pressure as the response to this record has been overwhelming. I mean I don’t want to take notice of that too much and start to ‘believe’ in all of that (praise). But as a music fan myself and someone who loves reading reviews and music writing – you do build up an expectation (as a fan) of what the next record will sound like, and it’s wrong to separate my creative self form my music loving, music buying self. I buy into the trajectory and narrative of people’s careers, so why shouldn’t I consider that in my own one; to completely remove myself from that situation seems silly to me.

Although I never think that you should let that dictate what you do, and make you compromise what you do, it’s just important to acknowledge that that kind of thing goes on, to not ignore it when you’re creating your next work. To be able to make a strong album I think – people who have gotten on board with me will appreciate the next one, I’m going to have to spend quite a big chunk of time dedicated to doing that.

I came up with a weak Foals pun for your next record if you want to hear it?

Yeah, go on…

Holy In The Myre? (instead of Holy Fire). I feel like it could be honed down better…

(laughs) My idea was… Wholly Fire (spells out ‘wholly’ to clarify the wordplay)

Yes! That’s smoother, let’s go with that one..

In interviews you’ve stated your admiration for Brian Eno; tell us the story of when he came to your live show?

I was supporting Vondelpark at Bush Hall last February or March and I thought it was a really average gig, I thought I played alright, but there was a lot of people talking, I didn’t have a long soundcheck and I was set-up on the side of the stage. So yeah it just felt really average and I was kind of glad to finish playing, pack-up etc. I went backstage and my girlfriend comes running into the dressing room as says “Brian Eno was here!” and I was like “No he wasn’t, it was just some bald bloke that looks like him” but “No for real it was him”. Wow. Shit! I went out into the crowd and my manager was there and he told me that he’d sorted it all out. I didn’t get to meet him – probably just as well as I would have been a bit of a wreck. I don’t get starstruck that often but he’s probably my biggest influence and someone whose philosophies and methods, just the way he looks at being a creative person is something that I take on board quite seriously so to have him come – I heard after the gig that he really enjoyed it – I was over the moon, I don’t think I’ve been that excited in ages.

Do a collaboration!

Possibly.. I haven’t been in touch, but you never know what could happen. I talk about him in pretty much every interview so I’m sure he’ll catch an interview that I do..

Take the hint Brian…

Yeah come on mate! I think one of the questions I had in a different interview was “Any future collaborations coming up?” and I was like “not unless Brian Eno starts answering my letters…”

This is another broadcast plea? A visual artist, and Brian Eno

Yeah – though in truth I’ve only sent him a 12″ and a postcard, I haven’t pestered him or anything as he must get a lot of correspondents, a lot of people wanting to work with him.

To be honest I don’t even really want to record with him, I just want to have a chat; I just want to do what we’re doing now and have a cup of tea you know? Imagine what a great conversation that would be, and the ideas that you’d come out with after that! It would probably be more worth that than actually sitting in the studio with you and tinkering with things. Yeah I like that idea, I just want to have a cup of tea. [Lifts up the audio recorder on the table and says] “Can I have a cup of tea with you Brian?… Please?”

I think James Blake just actually had a cup of tea with him didn’t he? I heard James Blake was working with him before the album came out…

You’ve kind of got similar hair to James Blake?

Yes he might mistake me for Blake and go “Hey James how you doing?” and I’m like “He thinks I’m James Blake, I’m going to carry this on”. But yeah, James Blake had a similar experience, people are going to think I’m copying him now…

Total Strife Forever is out now.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: