Irish indie rockers Two Door Cinema Club just finished recording their as-yet-untitled follow-up to their breakout 2010 debut, Tourist History, in a Los Angeles studio with producer Jacknife Lee (R.E.M., Snow Patrol, U2). The album marks a huge leap for the band, who were still in their teens when they wrote the tracks for their debut.
"We have been around the world a couple times. We’ve been in the most insanely amazing places and in the weirdest places you can imagine," says bassist Kevin Baird. "So we have more to write about now."
We chatted with Baird at length about this band's upcoming LP, expected out sometime "right after summer," he says. Here's what he had to say...
How does this new album differ from TDCC’s debut, Tourist History?
We wrote the first record over three or four years; we had a lot of time to pick and choose tracks. It became less a record and more a compilation of singles; a compilation of what we thought were our best songs. Obviously we had a lot less time to write this record, and we wrote at least 70 percent of it in a three-month period as we were living in a house together. So it’s a much more cohesive effort. Musically, [the sound] expanded past the first record. We’re working in a lot of things that we thought were missing on the first record. A lot of the songs on the first record we wrote when we were 17,18, 19 years old. Now we are 22, almost 23.
Yeah. We have been around the world a couple times. We’ve been in the most insanely amazing places and in the weirdest places you can imagine. So we have more to write about now. More than just, you know, being a teen and living at home with your parents and going to the bar with your mates. So it’s definitely a far more confident album. When we were writing songs for the first record we had no idea where they were gonna go. We were longing, hoping that someone would take notice of what we were doing. It took us a long time to get used to people wanting to see our shows.
But having your whole life to write your first record, then just a few months to write your second—was there any pressure?
Undeniably that’s a factor. It’s something that we are very aware of. It’s nerve-wracking knowing that there is an expectation. It’s infuriating when a band releases a record that’s brilliant, but it’s a departure from what they did before, and people are like, “This is rubbish. It sounds nothing like what they did before.” But you need to progress. People’s musical tastes change. Look at the last four years of what you’ve listened to! It broadens; you get into different things. People always talk about a band selling out, signing on with a major label and putting their songs on a commercial or whatever…
You have a different definition of “selling out”?
Yeah. To me, the real essence of a band selling out is when they rip themselves off time and time again and there is no progression. No progression, no excitement. It becomes mundane and like a job, like working in an office, hitting the same buttons every day. That’s not what music is about.
How do the band progress on this album?
We focused on a lot of the things we thought we were lacking, like song structure and sonic variation. There were really fast-paced, in-your-face pop songs [on the first record]. We have those fast-paced pop songs on this record but it’s more of a variation through the record, which we are really, really excited about.
I heard that early on in the process for this new record, Two Door Cinema Club left London and rented house in Scotland to write new material…
Yeah. We’ve lived in London for years. We tried writing there and couldn’t. There were four of us in a two-bedroom house. There was no space; you couldn’t even fit your guitar in the room. We tried rehearsal studios but they had no windows and we got depressed about it all. We wanted somewhere with space. So we moved up to Scotland and rented a nice big house together. We had a basement where we put all our gear. We lived together for three months and worked. Everyday we’d wake up and go down into the studio room and write songs. We never had a schedule. And thankfully the ideas were flowing.
How did you end up with Jacknife in Los Angeles?
Jackknife was a name that we’d thrown around over the last couple years. On the first record, we didn’t have the budget to work with a big name producer. This time around the budget wasn’t exactly massive, but we wanted to step up the production and work with someone we felt was right for the songs. But we were iffy about working with him or not. Then we had a Skype conversation and everything just clicked. It helps that he’s Irish as well. Irish people seem to just get on together for some reason [laughs].
Tell me about some of the new songs, specifically...
There’s a song called “Pyramid,” which is about this day we were in Mexico. We had a day off and we went to see the pyramids. It was an incredible day. Walking around the pyramids you see that it really is a wonder of the world. There’s another song, which is about our frustrations with trying to be a band and our experience writing in London...
How do you spend your downtime in L.A., or in the studio?
We're living in Venice, but you have to plan to have free time aside from the 12 hours you spend in the studio each day. We took some weekends off; we saw the Hollywood sign in the hill. We went to Coachella. In the studio, I play on [the iPhone app] Draw Something. We’re playing it constantly. And I can’t live without YouTube. We get in the studio at 10-11 in the morning and work right through 10-11 at night or later. You have to take a break from music sometimes and we spend a lot of time just watching funny videos on YouTube. It’s like being a student; sometimes you don’t know what to do with the time on your hands.We filled that, though by buying a bunch of vintage guitars.
Yeah. We bought a lot of vintage guitars and I don’t think we could live without those any more. On the first record we each had one guitar, and half the time our producer wouldn’t let us use them because they would sound so bad. We bought two vintage basses. Alex [Trimble, guitar and lead vocals] and Stan [Halliday, lead guitarist] both bought some vintage guitars and keyboards, including this... it’s not a keytar, because it has plastic strings and you strum chords and it sounds like you’re ripping on a keyboard. It sounds terrible but it was interesting for half an hour. We are buying ridiculous instruments like that just to see what they sound like.
What else are the Two Door Cinema Club dudes crushing on these days?
Sam and I are big Mad Men fans, so we have been very excited about the return of that. It’s nice to be in America and actually get to watch it on the TV, instead of scouring the Internet so you can watch it back in England. Music-wise, Jacknife is getting us into loads of stuff we didn’t listen to, like Kraftwerk and Little Dragon. Also, there’s a band from Ireland that we are good friends with and we’re totally obsessed with their music. It’s like fan-boying on your friends. They’re called the Cast of Cheers.
The band will be hitting the road for a world tour following the album’s release—what’s your craziest tour story?
It’s hard to find one that’s less than R rated. It’s also a hard question because, well, I don’t remember! But last year at Coachella we had a bit of a mental time. We met Danny DeVito, which was fun. We had our picture taken with him. Then he called Alex a bitch for smoking in his face. The weirdest experience was when this guy came to our dressing room and said, “Hey guys, I’m Mick Jones’ manager. Mick would really like to meet you.” So he leads us back to Mick Jones’ dressing room. We enter this room that’s like a bathroom—it’s tiny. But there are like 30 people packed in there. When we opened the door a cloud of smoke emerged. There was trash everywhere. We walked in and were introduced to Mick and we talked for about 15 seconds. I don’t even remember what he said; we were all pretty drunk and so was Mick. It was an insane experience being at Coachella last year because we hadn’t been around this celebrity festival thing. So, yeah, we have a lot of crazy tour stories ... But I will probably never tell those to anybody.