Two Door Cinema Club: From After-School Garage Jams To Hanging Out With Phoenix

Speaking to Kev Baird, bassist of Irish indie-dance trio Two Door Cinema Club, what started out as a scheduled 15 minute phone interview to discuss their debut album ‘Tourist History’ somehow warped into a half hour conversation about evil cats, lasers being so passe, unaccountable gas mileage spent on an impromptu detour to watch their favourite band play, and touring with his band mates: two brothers from other mothers. Their album has been warmly received by critics and listeners, their live shows are generating huge buzz (enough to land a supporting spot opening for Phoenix’s world tour) and in a few short weeks they’ll be hitting our shores for the first time ever to play Splendour In The Grass and a couple of headlining slots. Dancing shoes recommended…

Hi Kev. I’m from Pedestrian… Yes I know it. Yonks and yonks ago you guys put something up about the band. I think you were maybe the first people in Australia to talk about us so that’s how I know who you are and I’ve followed you ever since.

That’s pretty cool! Tell me about recording your album because it must have been a pretty amazing experience, first getting signed to Kitsuné [Foals, Hot Chip, Bloc Party] and then having Phillipe Zdar [Cassius] on board. Tell me about that journey… I guess the journey started like about this time last year – around the first time we met Pedestrian was when we first met Kitsuné . They wanted us to come over and play one of their gigs in Paris. They were just looking for someone to open for the gig and it turned out La Roux was headlining – who was one of the up and coming Kitsuné bands at the time. So the guy from Kitsuné checked us out and ended up loving it a lot more than he expected to, and it progressed from there. Getting to do your first album is like every band’s dream and we got to go to Paris with our singles and got Phillipe [Zdar] to mix a few… It’s really like a dream come true. In England when we were starting off at fifteen it is what we dreamed about: working in an amazing studio and coming out with a record that people wanted to listen to and people wanted to buy. That was kind of like our dream at fifteen and to be living that now it’s good – it’s awesome.

Your head must be spinning – considering you guys got together when you were fifteen, even though you’re still so young, in a way you’ve made it. You’re working with these great producers on a really reputable label… Yeah. I think we’ve had to get like a lot wiser than our years. That was the weird thing for us was: our other friends from home are at university or off somewhere traveling, and we’re trying to make these business decisions and life decisions that were going to affect our career and it’s a bit strange.

Do you think you’ve made any bad decisions for the band along the way? I think we’ve been very lucky and we’ve never made significantly bad decisions. I’m sure we’ve made tough decisions and bad decisions in the past. At one point we ended up going with this management company very, very early. They were just complete bullshitters, complete liars. They weren’t even a management company, just completely lied to us.

“We’ll take 40%” Exactly! It was a couple of weeks before we realised they weren’t legit and got really cynical about the music industry, so now we’re in touch with what we’re doing and involved in every single aspect of the band business. Luckily we’ve never had anything significantly go wrong for us.

Touch wood. Does the fact you’ve made so many good decisions for the band have much to do with the relationships between you and Alex and Sam? Well, when we first met we were at school together and we grew up in a small town in Northern Ireland where there was maybe a handful of other kids who loved, in our opinion, good music. We were the kids who had no interest in sport or fashion, who were listening to At The Drive In when everyone else was listening to their bullshit pop, you know? That kind of brought us together – we were aware of each other before we were actually friends, and eventually we realised how cool each other were ha ha ha! I guess we all loved the same band: really early Billy Clyro, when their first album came out, and we all played guitar and just started jamming. Some people will go to the cinema, some people will go get drunk every night, and for us what we did was play music. We would sit in Sam’s garage, or Alex’s garage or my garage and just jam, playing covers and writing music. I think that kind of characterised us at that time: we were inseparable. So we’ve been hanging out everyday since we were like fifteen. And we’re doing this band thing together and we all live together… I would say that I have two brothers, and Sam and Alex are my two other brothers. We’re so close that we’re pretty much like family which is strange.

It must be pretty exciting, then, to be going off on your first U.S. tour with your two non-fraternal brothers and seeing the world together. I can’t wait. I wouldn’t want to experience this the first time with anyone else. We’ve been touring for a year and a half, two years now so I guess it’s like a regular part of life now. We went all over Europe, we toured the U.K., but America is definitely a new thing for us…

Is it exciting to be touring with Phoenix because they’ve blown up and become so massive, especially in the last eighteen months… Yeah exactly. It’s really strange actually because we actually discovered Phoenix through being in the band because, early on, people started comparing us to this band called Phoenix. We thought “we keep getting compared to this Phoenix band, maybe we should actually go listen to them”. We’d never even heard of them! So we went and listened to them and just fell in love with them. We’re so proud of them, of their Grammy and being part of the same [label] family in France and America. We were on tour a couple of months ago in the U.K. and we had a day off and traveled six hours out of our way to go and see Phoenix in some other town. You know before going on tour you work out your budget so when you need money your label helps you out… anyway, a six hour drive there [to see Phoenix play] and a six hour drive back to where we needed to be wasn’t exactly in the budget.

Was it worth it? On the hush, I think the label are still trying to work out where that where that twelve hours of driving came from. But, like I said, we’re massive Phoenix fans and more than anything we’re just really excited to see them play every night.

From your touring so far, where have you found the best crowds or the most enthusiastic fans? We have the most fans I’d say in Paris. We’ve got more in Paris than we do in say Belfast or Dublin. It’s just quite strange. London is always good for like numbers – not so much for participation. They’re a bit too cool to dance [in London].

Kev, I also wanted to ask you about the Tourist History album cover with the kind of evil looking cat. What’s the story behind that choice. We’d been working with two different artwork companies and we just weren’t getting anywhere. It was getting right to the deadline and we were getting really nervous about it. And then we were sitting in this room in Tokyo because we were there playing a show. So, we were sitting in our label in Japan’s office, just doing interviews and our manager was there and he was just like “oh I just got this via email, over a new artwork idea from this other company” and we were like “oh yeah let’s have a look” you know, it can’t hurt to see it. He just put it up on the screen and we were just like: “that’s the album cover” straightway. It’s the picture of that cat and we were just like “that’s the album cover”.

That’s awesome. So, there’s no psychology behind it – it doesn’t have some deep symbolic meaning, you were just like “yeah that evil cat is what we’re about”? (Laughs) It’s just in your face. The fucking cat is looking at you.

Yeah, I’m just looking at it now… It’s quite an amazing photo. We really want to meet the cat. We’re kind of toying with either getting a huge big backdrop [of the cat photo] for when we play live, or getting the cat to come in and we’ll just like tie it to the drum and then it can just…

…Walk around? Just mosey along stage! I think the backdrop will be a bit more visually striking.

No lasers? I don’t know… We’ve seen all that stuff before. People are expecting there to be lights and expecting there will be a backdrop. At the moment obviously we would love to have this kind of stuff but we physically can’t, so I think it’s important for us to make [the performance] very interactive to the crowd. All three of us will speak to the crowd and keep it light-hearted.

Well, we look forward to enjoying that experience in Australia soon. Thank you so much! We’re looking forward to it too.