For the past 5 years, the three members of Two Door Cinema Club have been working hard to get their indie/pop/rock/electronica sounds out to the world. They’ve slowly but surely made their place in the music scene and have a steady growing fan base. When they were in Montreal last month, Sam Halliday, the band’s guitarist, told me that this was the biggest tour they’ve ever done anywhere, and it was the first time they’ve traveled with a truck. In my book, if your tours are getting bigger, that’s proof that you’re doing something right and that people like it. Sure enough, after seeing their show, I was definitely sold. It was really impressive and made me want to listen to their albums. I understood why they are where they are today, and since I had the chance to chat with Sam right before their show, I can also say they are very humble about it and they don’t take anything for granted. “It’s nice to know people aren’t bored of us. We’ve come back and people are here again so that’s great” he said.
Before we got into our serious talk, we broke the ice by talking about how he thinks he had “slept funny” the night before on the bus because his ribs were sore. I was expecting a crazy story about something that happened at the show the night before but he said they were “not that rock and roll.” He told me the bus is usually comfortable but that he had a nightmare that night where spiders were crawling all over him and that pushed him to get out of his bunk for a while. Being borderline arachnophobia myself, I completely empathized with him.
We then moved onto talk about their past year and all the things they had done.
“After we finished that American tour in October, we just concentrated on writing for a few months. So we lived together in a house in Glasgow and we had a basement recording studio/practice space set up in that house we rented. We worked pretty solidly for a few months.” He added that it was nice to have a normal routine during that time since a touring schedule, though it can become a routine, is always a little crazy. After a few radio shows in the US in December, the band went into the studio with Jacknife Lee in Topanga before touring for a few months. It wasn’t until April that the guys properly recorded the album.
“Then, we pretty much started festivals straight away so it’s been a strange year but we’re happy to be back on a tour bus, with some sort of structure and routine. Festivals are fun for a while but they tend to tire you out a lot more because you’re just flying around so it’s hard to get into a routine.”
Being in such a successful band ends up being more than just a full-time job. When you have to tour, record, make videos and do promo, you can’t just take time off whenever you want. He told me it’s tough because sometimes, they try to arrange some time off with friends and family but then something comes up like a big TV show that is so important you can’t just let the opportunity pass you by. Sacrifices need to be made but he said the people around them know this is what they do and understand that they can’t simply turn things down, so everyone’s really encouraging. And in the end, since this is ultimately what they want to do, the sacrifices they have to make seem minor compared to all the things they’ve accomplished and can potentially accomplish. When I asked him what the biggest thing that being in this band has brought him over the years, the main thing for him was travelling.
“Probably just the experiences and all the traveling we get to do; the people we get to meet and everything. I think we’ve already been to more countries than most people have been to in their lifetime so it’s great. I wouldn’t trade that for anything, I guess. It’s pretty nice because you can pretty much just have a conversation with anyone if they’ve been on a holiday anywhere or if they live somewhere in the world. There would be something I can say to them that is some sort of common ground.”
Our travel talk made me wonder how they feel when they go to another country for the first time where they may be less known and kind of have to step back down a little. He told me about the first time they were in the US.
“We were just starting to play the good shows in the UK and we were starting to be on a bus regularly. So it was kind of fun to come to America. As your first time here, you want to see all the stuff that we think is hilarious like truck stops and highways and it was great fun! We got in the van and we were following Phoenix around in their bus but we were driving in a van with our few crew members. We were driving 4-7 hours a day sometimes and sleeping in a Motel 6 for a few hours, getting up and having waffles; it was great fun!” He also added that it was grounding for them.
“It was kind of nice having that change and not getting too used to being on a bus and too used to playing nicer shows. We love coming back and playing the small shows. It was great because we were going into these dark bars in America and they have so much character. It’s also nice now that we’re doing shows like this where we can bring in a proper production and light shows and everything. This is the first time we’ve toured with a truck; this is the biggest tour we’ve done probably anywhere in the world so it’s nice to feel like all that time and effort we’ve put in is all evening out in the UK and in America.”
Since their latest album “Beacon” had just been released a month before our talk, we just couldn’t skip over the subject. I asked how the response had been so far and he said it had been nice but that it was also weird because this time, people were anticipating the release. “Tourist History” was their previous album and it was also their debut so back then, they were just starting out. This time, they had fans that had been waiting to hear new songs from them so it was a completely different feeling. He did find it heartbreaking that it leaked a month prior to the release however, but nowadays, it seems to be impossible to keep your album from going online before it comes out. They didn’t dwell on it though, and the band was pretty excited that it was so well received.
“It’s charted really well, not just in the UK but also kind of all over the world. I think we were more excited about the fact that we got Top 20 in the US than number 2 in the UK. The aim for our band for the past year has been to focus on North America and trying to be taken seriously over here so that was really encouraging.”
I then mentioned their single ‘Sleep Alone’, since I was curious as to how they decide which songs to ultimately release as an album’s promotional output. This time around, the guys marked down 5 potential singles. They weren’t necessarily their 5 favorites but rather, they’re the songs that would fit most on the radio at the moment. If you want your single to get radio play, there are certain unwritten rules out there.
“You’re not going to have a 5-minute track on the radio with no proper structure; it kind of has to have a verse-chorus-verse-chorus feel. ‘Sleep Alone’ was one of the first songs that we had written for the record and it sort of felt like it wasn’t too much of a departure from the first record so it was the best one to go with first. I think if we had come out with certain songs on the record, it would’ve sounded like we sort of ditched our sound entirely. It was more of a transitional track. We just wanted it to fairly represent ourselves.”
He then told me the story behind another song off “Beacon” called ‘Pyramid’, which was inspired by a day off the guys had in Mexico when they all went out to the pyramids together. The song starts out with “Take me to the pyramid…” and though that can sound like a metaphor of some sort, it’s really pretty literal.
“We got shown around by a native of the land so the temples meant something to him and he explained the whole ancient ritual stuff and it was just nice to get the chance to do things like that when you’re on tour. Sometimes, you just go in, do the show and leave so it was really special.” He went on to explain that the band was brought out to a bar in the middle of nowhere afterwards. Ponchos and other Mexican things were sold there and they were all suckered into buying 100$ worth of stuff each because they kept being offered free tequila samples. I guess no matter who you are and how many times you’ve toured the world, no one is safe from tourist traps.
As I asked him to start drawing something that represented himself and saw the typical ‘I’m bad at drawing’ cringe, we touched on the subject of today’s society of short musical attention spans. It’s a pity, but there’s no denying the fact that people are less and less inclined to buy albums nowadays, whether it’s because they’d rather download or stream or whether it’s because they simply pick out the two tracks they like and buy those on iTunes. Though it’s rather difficult to compete against the possibility of getting free music, Sam thinks the band has songs that can appeal to the second group of people at least, since they have catchy 2:30min songs. He says they’re also good at getting remixes done and the usually appeals to that type of crowd as well.
“I don’t think there’s a way to get people to listen to a full album anymore. But also, I think it’s important for us to have good albums so we always put the effort in to have an album full of tracks that we all love. I don’t know about this whole streaming music thing. It’s kind of hard to adapt to that. I don’t know if people use that more to listen to full records or whether they just make their own playlists and put it on their phone or something.” I mentioned that the whole concept of creating your own playlist caters to today’s music listeners who don’t limit themselves to one defining genre anymore. He felt the same way but he still thinks it’s a little short-sighted and that this was the reason musicians are just starting to play the same music now.
On a lighter note, we started discussing his experience in the band. “I love it but it takes up all your energy”, he said. His love for it wins though because he still hopes the band will have the chance to keep making records and play in places they haven’t gone to yet, which came to no surprise since the whole travel experience was what he appreciated the most from being in the band thus far. “We’d just love to go to places that we haven’t reached yet. That is kind of the aim. This year, we’re hoping to play more tours in South America and stuff so that should be fun.”
At that point, his drawing looked about done so he started explaining it. “This is a swimming pool and this is the house I’d like to live in, in the background. I’m homeless at the minute so it’s kind of in the distance. This is just a table with some tea and chocolate on it and a TV because I like watching movies. This would be my house with my den over here and a pool in the den. It would be great.”
As our short time together came to an end, he apologized for his lack of multitasking skills, since he felt as though he had put his full concentration into drawing something properly and neglected the questions I asked during that time. I assured him that he did perfectly well and that he had more artistic skill than he gave himself credit for.
To learn more about the band, check them out on their website: