“We’ve been through a lot together, and we’ve kind of become this weird family.”
Life in Teleman is noisy. When I speak to Tom Sanders, vocalist and guitarist in the Hackney-based indie-pop quartet, the sound of circular saws and street noise wipe out his considered answers, and a number of other people vying for his attention punctuate the call. He has managed to escape to a stairwell between one appointment and the photoshoot for this very issue, and it sounds like the day is taking its toll.
It’s a busy time to be the frontman of Teleman, with their third album, Family Of Aliens, hitting terra firma on 7th September. “This will be the last album to ever have been recorded at Skull & Bone Studios in Hackney,” Tom says. “They’re turning the area into flats. It’s difficult for a business like that to compete with the profitability of going residential. It’s a shame, but studios and venues are all going that way in London, and it’s changing the way bands in the city have to operate. It’s tough.”
Any jaded feelings are understandable. While Teleman have been together since 2012, the musical history of its members stretches back almost 15 years, including time as the now-defunct Pete and the Pirates for three of Teleman’s roster. “I didn’t realise it at first, until I had to write out all the lyrics for the new album, but how I feel about our relationship as a band found its way into a lot of the songs,” Tom says. “We’ve been through a lot together, and we’ve kind of become this weird family. We’ve all worked our way through our own hard stuff in the past, and until recently I don’t think we handled the stresses of being in a band in the right way. But at the very least we’ve all learned that it’s good not to be a cunt to one another.”
While Tom says he’d be unable to pinpoint any conscious influence on the sound of Family Of Aliens, which leans more than ever into their electronic tendencies, feelings of otherness and alienation became a persistent thread. “Disconnect in our lives is something which made its way into the album, for sure. It’s hard not to think about life – life on Earth, the feeling of being alive, and the strangeness of it all. It’s easy to feel like an alien, like you don’t belong, and apart from everyone else. When I write, I want to move people in any way I can, whether that be a literal and physical response, or emotionally, and I think that feeling of alienation is something a lot of people can relate to.”
“It’s easy to feel like an alien, like you don’t belong, and apart from everyone else.”
Fans of Teleman would argue their tackling of existential themes like these, coupled with a keen ear for a hook, is what makes their sound distinctive, and while Tom seems content to have stumbled across meaning in the music post-process, he insists the ultimate goal is to have fun. “Music should cause a reaction, and when we started writing Family Of Aliens I wanted to make sure there was fun and a strong melodic heart to it.”
Like the melody which wraps Teleman’s lyrical core, Tom looks for the positive veneer in everything we talk about, while remaining doggedly aware of the reality. “Touring used to be all about getting fucked up, to be honest. We’d feel as if we had failed if we didn’t drink all of the booze that was given to us. But you do a week of that – of being drunk or hungover, night after night – and you begin to hate each other,” he says, referring to the tour which followed the release of their previous LP, Brilliant Sanity. “Since then I feel like we’ve learned how to do everything better: the touring, our music, and all the other stuff which comes with being in a band.”
“We don’t know what it is about Bristol crowds, but we always get an incredible reaction. There’s just a palpable energy. I can’t explain it.”
Teleman hit the road in support of their third album this month, taking in two Bristol dates along the way. “We don’t know what it is about Bristol crowds but we always get an incredible reaction. There’s just a palpable energy. I can’t explain it; it’s just such an intense response.”
With the rock ‘n’ roll excess of previous touring cycles behind them, Tom is throwing himself into preparations for their upcoming stint. “Touring now is all about making sure the show is watertight, meeting new people and travelling to new places. Right now we are concentrating on just being as solid as we can,” he says. “The setlist on a tour like this is make-or-break sometimes, as you want to get the balance right between airing the new stuff and making sure everybody gets to hear the songs they want to. The next few weeks are just practising up and making sure we deliver everything we can.”
Teleman headline Thekla on 27th Sep, with an in-store at Rough Trade on the 8th. Family of Aliens is out on the 7th via Moshi Moshi.