'Jackin' Off: Gale Brakes The Silence!'
Turin Brakes is a modern folk pop duo that hails from Britain. Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian were friends in elementary school and decided to try out for the cathedral choir because it would perform in front of the Queen of England, which it eventually did. The two childhood friends formed a band together and would record their freewheeling jam sessions soon thereafter.
Frayed by the ocean-hopping promotional commitments required to stay apace of their accruing popularity, South London's Mercury Music Prize-nominated duo took stock and hunkered down in their Brixton studio bolt hole to record their third album, the just-released JackInABox.
Chatting recently with Gale Paridjanian, I first wondered if it was true that the only reason both he and Olly had both decided to try out for the cathedral choir was because it would perform in front of the Queen of England?! "Not really, the choir was something we did by accident years ago and put in our press release years ago by mistake!"
Being that you both are childhood friends who formed a band together, at what point did it become Turin Brakes ... and why that name? "I guess we really became Turin Brakes in about 1998 when we finished a cassette of music for our own consumption. Olly was at film school and we had a new angle of making music, the idea was it was music for films that were yet to be made. I was really into soundtrack music at the time and Film school also seemed to give Olly a real confidence at delivering ideas. The name is two unrelated words stuck together to create what we hoped would only mean our music. At the time we really liked the ambiguity, we thought we could make anything under that name and people would have no preconception of what it may be like."
With the release of your 1999 EP 'The Door,' what did you soon begin to learn about the music business that you perhaps weren't fully prepared for? "When we started out things went very well straight away. We assumed that getting into the charts without trying, getting nominated for awards was just the way it worked for new bands. In retrospect we now see we were rather lucky, as there’s a huge amount of factors that will/will not work out at any given time. Also a label may well sign you for not sounding like everything else, and not sounding like a pop act, having integrity and uniqueness but at some point they will sit you down and explain that without “hits” things might not be so easy ... and “go on, write another hit, you know you want to …”
With the release of the new album Jackinabox, tell me what this album represents to you after all these years in the business? "We recorded produced and engineered this album ourselves which was something we’d been trying to do for ages. Not so much for control but more to avoid misinterpretation. The album represents something we always felt, that instead of the best equipment and the highest paid musicians in the world, all you really needed was ideas and ears. We made it with no pressure from any direction, over summer and really enjoyed the whole process. It represents a new era for us."
And, please tell us where the title originates and what it also could so easily have been called? "The title is taken from a track on the album with the same name. It is a very direct song and we felt this album was hiding nothing. We also liked the idea of a jackinabox being a bomb or a flower or a cocoon, something with potential energy."
"The working title for it was What's For Lunch? which described the working method in the studio but also the extreme state of the world, and forgetting about it. Like turning off the TV news in the wake of a disaster to try and get some rest."
You've been compared to the Norwegian band the Kings of Convenience and to some other so-called "quietcore bands" such as Coldplay, but are these fair comparisons of both the band and its music? "I guess when we first started the first thing people recognized was the acoustic guitars because apparently people hadn’t done that for ages ... although we all knew they had! It meant we did get put together with bands that we sound nothing like and have no real relation to, like the Kings Of Convienience. These days I usually forgive people who compare us to bands like Coldplay on the grounds of ignorance, but also how else do you describe music to people? It might be worth mentioning here that we made a conscious decision before making this record to not try to sound like Coldplay, like a lot of other British acts have done recently in order to garner success. But to stick to our own agenda and accety whatever fate that may bring."
Please tell me more about the writing/recording thoughts behind these three album tracks:
'They Can't Buy The Sunshine' - "Sunshine is a tongue in cheek take on situations that could crop up when selling “art.” It is based loosly on certain experiences over the past five years. The main message is there is a big part of being human that is priceless, or else you’re in trouble. The drums were recorded by Olly in his basement with one mic as a demo. The label loved the sound so much we not only kept them but used them throughout the album - sampled and played at various speeds. Drums are very important for a lot of our friends in the business."
'Asleep With The Fireflies' - "Asleep with The fireflies has in a few forms been around for a while, but we only really finished writing it this time round. We were aiming for somewhere between Badly Drawn Boy and disco! The electric guitar take was done very quickly whilst trying to get out of the studio for a quick drink, we rubbished it at first then sat in the pub listening to it all night marvelling at the hidden genius. Musical mastabation!"
'Last Clown' - "Last Clown is describing a fallen man warning a younger man to avoid the same traps he did in life ... loosely! We did a version with Tony Hoffer in LA and another after that but nothing worked till we were finally left all alone to muse over it at leisure. We then made a few mathematical adjustments and finally it shone out."
What cheesy '80s song would you love to cover if asked ... and why?! "Something by Huey Lewis. Maybe not the obvious 'Power Of Love,' something deeper. Why? There must have been someone buying all those albums. Admit it, he was a genius!"
Tell me more about your first paycheck(s) and what you spent all that money on back then?! "You mean Turin Brakes paychecks? We were very sensible, not wanting to share the same fate as other people we had seen who got a deal. When we signed for the first album they bought out champagne and a cheque so we wouldn't have to work whilst making the album. We made it last two years, paying ourselves an honest amount every month. It might be why we’ve survived this long. In life, if you want something go and get it, if you don’t want it you don’t need it."
Finally, if you were asked to record a single for charity, and had to choose 3 other musicians to aid you in the project (using no one from your band!), who would they be, what instruments would they play, and what would the name of the song be? "It would be called "Miss Worlds' Miss Guided Footsteps" and would have Britney spears on bass, Kylie on drums, and Fay from Steps on guitar. I hear they’re all very accomplished jazz musicians. I like jazz!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win a copy of their brand new CD, possibly SIGNED by the duo themselves, just answer this easy question: The band's debut full-length album, the Optimist LP, was released worldwide in May of 2001 on Astralwerks. EMI released the LP, which includes some songs from the earlier EPs, with a bonus disc ... but in which country only?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of their new, and possibly even SIGNED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before September 18th with your answer and the subject title 'TURIN BRAKES CD GIVEAWAY' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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