Two Door Cinema Club

TDCC are back with creative fire in their loins and a whole new centred sense of purpose. They’ve had the fights. They’ve had the inertia. Now for the action.

From the outside, Two Door Cinema Club is one of the greatest alt-pop success stories of this decade. It was fan-driven fairy-tale stuff; three seventeen-year-old schoolfriends from Bangor Grammar School in County Down – singer Alex Trimble, guitarist Sam Halliday and bassist Kevin Baird – form a band in 2008 inspired by the sounds of Foals and The Maccabees, but with a succulent melodic twist all their own.

“We just pushed it too hard for too long,” says Alex. “We had so many opportunities to take a break in the six years or so that that lasted, but we didn’t. We toured for a couple of years and then we made a record while touring, we were in and out of the studio after festivals, back in making a record, then we were out on tour for another two years. And then again, we made the second record while we were still touring and then back out on tour for another two or three years. That’s not healthy for anyone. We became absolutely defined by the band and nothing else. That’s the point in your life, for most people, when you go out into the world and meet people and discover your values, your real interests; you form opinions about different things. As everyone has probably always known, from the outside we’re very different people and we were constantly afraid to deviate from what the idea of who we were and the band was.”

So, once two years of touring the band’s sophomore album Beacon wound up with a sold out show at London’s O2 Arena in December 2013 and after their headline set at Latitude 2014 was cancelled when Alex was hospitalized with stress-induced stomach ulcers, the band decided to take a lengthy break. Alex moved to Portland, OR and began exploring other creative outlets such as writing and photography – he toured the US in a mustang with a photographer friend for an exhibition entitled Mustang Margaritas – and developed an interest in eastern philosophies and meditation. Kevin moved to LA to conquer his anxiety issues and Sam settled in London, got married and enjoyed life as a house husband. When they reconvened in mid-2015, all tensions shed and free of the sense of contractual duty that had suffocated them (obviously we’re doing this now because we want to do it, which is a really nice feeling as opposed to ‘we kind of have to’,” says Sam), TDCC found a new lease of creative life.

“We realised, for whatever reason, at that moment in time it wasn’t going to work, the three of us being in a room together trying to write a song,” Kevin explains. “We’ve tried that so many times in the past and we were quite guilty in coming up with the thing that offended each of us the least rather than the best thing. So we did a lot of it over email, which was great. Everyone had that extra layer of protection of ‘I’m not in the same room, I can send an email, close my laptop, drop the bomb and leave’.”

Over the course of five months the band pieced their third album together from their home bases. “We shared it and commented on what each other had done, what we liked, what we didn’t like,” Alex says. “We threw our ideas on top of each other’s and pretty soon after we went straight into the studio [with Jacknife Lee in LA once more] and made it. It was so quick and organic and very naturally occurring. We waited until the right time and it was certainly the right time. There was no overthought, there was no anxiety, there was very little self-consciousness. It was very much a train-of-thought record, we got on board and we rode it until it was finished.”

The band challenged themselves to indulge a wide and varied range of styles and influences stretching way beyond the traditional Two Door sound to take in Prince, Madonna, McCartney, Chic, Krautrock, neo soul and modernist pop, Gameshow, the result, is by far their most enthralling and danceable record yet, albeit one full of the uncertainties of finding yourself and your place in the world. “Bad Decisions”, “Ordinary” and “Are We Ready? (Wreck)”, all tackle Alex’s discomfort with modern life, what he calls “the information generation” and the societal pressure to engage with the brain-frying online whirlpool.

“I discovered this term weltschmertz, the German word for being at odds with the world around you,” Alex says. “The fact that it was a fully coined term and related to so many people that have existed and do exist made me feel it was okay to not exist on the same level as everyone else, it was okay to be comfortable doing your own thing. “Are We Ready? (Wreck)” was me… not attacking the world around me but outlining why I don’t really get it and why I don’t fit in with it.”

Elsewhere, their sense of dislocation is highlighted in “Je Viens De La”, a song inspired by a seminal 1960s sci-fi French film shot entirely in still frames “like a slide show about time travel” and “Gameshow”, which concerns the shallowness of the music industry games they were required to play. “The whole world that we were in and what was expected of us, the disparity between the life we were living, the life we wanted to live and the life we were expected to live. It did feel a bit like a game show at times, fickle, false, fleeting, feeling unable to wrap your head around it.”

How do the band feel about embracing bigger pop elements? “I feel really good about it,” Alex says. “We’re not embracing the pop that’s going on right now in a melodic sense or even structurally. Sonically we went the other way and started to experiment a lot more with things like using samples and more electronics. The two biggest inspirations on this record were Bowie and Prince, for me at least. Both total pioneers who did whatever they wanted to do. They really straddled that line between insane pop and total avant garde craziness. Bowie’s death was a huge wake-up call to me that we’d lost one of those amazing guys and it suddenly hit me that no-one’s pushing that boundary anymore, so I thought maybe we could try that. We haven’t gone anywhere near as far out-there as Bowie did, but this could be the first step on the road to really pushing the boat out. There shouldn’t be a formula to pop music, but there is now. But you can do whatever you want. If you maintain that pop sensibility, if it’s within you – and all of us have grown up with great pop music – you can write those super-huge melodies but make the lyrics slightly more obscure. That give and take, it makes it far more interesting.”

Having relaunched with a trio of Irish shows in the guise of their own cover band Tudor Cinema Club and an ecstatically-received string of dates in Mexico, TDCC are back with creative fire in their loins and a whole new centred sense of purpose. They’ve had the fights. They’ve had the inertia. Now for the action.

Based In: Ireland, UK
Sam Halliday
Kevin Baird
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