We didn’t want to play that game anymore, because we’ve already lost playing it twice.
Ahead of ArcTanGent Festival this month, we decided to get some time in with UK circuit mainstays Tellison. Our Rhys Buchanan talks with frontman Stephen Davidson about the fest and their upcoming album, along with their least and most favourite corners of the music industry.
We’re dead excited to see you at ArcTanGent later this month…
Yeah! We’ve never played it before, but lots of our friends from bands like Tall Ships and so on have and we always hear amazing stuff about it. I think we’re probably the most pop band that are playing this year so it will be a fun experience. It’s something that often ends up happening to us; people who like more punk music than ours somehow like our band so we often end up on bills with people we wouldn’t traditionally match with. It always works out though.
You’ve got your fair share of festival experience, surely that will come in handy?
I think with festivals, more and more people are going there to have a good time. It’s about having a holiday with music that makes you feel good and escape what you do the rest of the time. That’s the difference between a festival and an evening show where people have been at work in the day. If you play a festival people are there to have a good time, the only thing that I’ve really learnt is to try and feed off that. If you can get into that mindset of enjoyment it’s such a different emotional experience to playing a club show.
You recently played solo in Bristol, at an Electric Harmony showcase. It must be great linking up with those guys?
I love them, Rob behind it is amazing, I know I’ve been fairly cynical about the music industry but he’s an example of someone doing it right and doing it for the right reasons. Also, doing it properly in a world where it’s so easy to just do what other people do. He cares about music and puts on shows he likes, for people he’s interested in — and thinks other people will be interested in too. He also treats you amazingly well compared to some promoters, it’s super organised and professional. I think Electric Harmony is amazing for Bristol and I’m really glad that people exist who still do that stuff… and don’t get bogged down by the difficult things with live music.
Tell us all about that new album you’ve got in the works…
This, our third record, is basically about failure. We’ve spent ten years being a band and we’ve been down a long bumpy road; this album is about that but also about accepting it in a way we never have before. The music industry, often, is about pretending everything is fine and that your next record is going to be the greatest you’ve ever made. I really don’t want us to do that anymore as a band. The next record is about us dealing with that and being more honest. We didn’t want to play that game anymore because we’ve already lost playing it twice.
Would you say you’ve embraced that lyrically then?
Lyrically it definitely deals with all that stuff. It’s very bold and honest rather than trying to shy away from anything. That was particularly at the forefront of my mind when writing. So rather than ignoring that I thought it would be better to use it. Musically we’re still a band trying to refine our art and get better at songwriting in a classic sense. It’s super hard to write something that’s familiar and good. We’ve been trying to mess around with the formulas that exist within indie rock and try to make them interesting, appealing, exciting.
Not many bands out there are dealing with those kind of subjects through their music…
No, but when you talk to them everyone is having a very similar experience. In the journey from ordinary people trying to write some songs to putting it out there through PR agents and record labels, everyone has this weird inclination to pretend they’re bigger than they are. Everyone’s twitter feeds are overly jubilant about them playing some show at a terrible venue in a terrible city. It’s kind of disheartening that people lie about stuff like that. It gives a false impression, if a band are pretending to be rock-star-famous and you go to see them and they’re all bummed out, it’s not genuine and it’s not sincere; and that’s all I’m interested in being.
Play a local show. Get your friends to come. If you want to record a song, go and record a song. You don’t need anyone else to help you.
You recorded it back in London, was that a productive environment?
We recorded it above a burger restaurant in Islington, it was an environment born out of necessity. We do most of our greatest stuff before we get to the studio. We’ll go and sit in a rehearsal studio and play the songs in a very workmanlike way. That’s the creative part there, and it’s always with an eye on how we’re going to play it live. You know, how’s this going to translate when you’re in a pub in Lincoln and the PA doesn’t work? How are you going to get across the intention of everything you felt when you wrote the song?
As an artist with independent values, do you have some closing advice for people starting out?
If you want to do something then just do it. Play a local show, get your friends to come. If you want to record a song, go and record a song, you don’t need anyone else to help you. A lot of people who think they know how to get this tangible idea of ‘success’ really have no clue. Actually, you’re the person who knows best about your thing. Just do it yourself and if it’s good other people will be interested.
Check out a bit of ‘Edith’ right here: