- Fri, 2010-07-16 12:12
The Hoosiers burst into the charts in late 2007 with their debut album, The Trick To Life, which swiftly became a UK number one. Their combination of a playful presentation with the traditional band format came together to make a tooth-achingly sweet concoction of guitar-led pop that, once inside your head, refused to leave again. Now they’re back with album numero duo, The Illusion of Safety, and a new sound to go with it.
I Like Music spoke to the lads about the new album, finding a new musical direction, using (imaginary) bears to kill (imaginary) small animals, and suing Abba.
“I Like Music because…it transcends the barrier between body and mind.” Irwin
“I Like Music because…my music teacher had massive tits.” Alfonso
ILM: You're back! How does it feel to be here again, doing photo-shoots, videos, interviews…?
Irwin: It’s fun! You just feel so lucky to have a job to come back to! Let the good times roll!
Alfonso: We’re back in the public eye now. We love being in the public eye!
ILM: Choices is the first single, why did you choose that one as the comeback?
Irwin: It grabs the attention! It retains elements of the first album, but is quite surprising. There are other tracks on the album that bridge the gap between where we were and where we’re going to, but I think it was quite key for us to be bold.
PHOTOS: Hoosiers Interview - take a look at the photos taken during the interview...
ILM: The video looks really fun, what was it like to make?
Martin: Watching is always the most fun! Shooting is fun, but sometimes it is really hard work. We had to work for about six hours in one day! Haha!
ILM: Was it your idea?
Alfonso: No, it was really the directors’. They were the same directors who did the first three of the four videos from the last record.
ILM: So you’re mates now?
Alfonso: Pretty much, yeah...
Irwin: It helps to have people that you have a good working relationship with and understand where you’re coming from.We were going to go to Thailand, but the Icelandic volcano stopped us. We ended up doing it in a warehouse in Neasden. I’m not bitter! Haha! No, we’re incredibly lucky to even be doing this, but Thailand would have been nice!
ILM: Next time maybe!
Irwin: Yeah, you’ll notice with the next one there’ll be a really tenuous link with a tropical island!
ILM: You mentioned referencing the first album, but also moving forward. With that in mind, how did you approach writing the new album?
Martin: We got it wrong at first. We started approaching it entirely the same way as the first album. We did about five or six songs and then had to scrap them and the way we were working. We just picked up other random instruments, or started with drum loops. At some points we were all standing next to synthesizers and not knowing what to do!
ILM: Did you bring a load of new equipment into the studio?
Alfonso: Initially we were in Toby Smith’s studio, who was in Jamiroquai. He’s the synth godfather! The synthfather!
ILM: What was it like working with Toby?
Alfonso: He’s almost like a fourth member really. But we kind of had to move on because it wasn’t working. It got a bit sterile. Not that it was anyone’s fault, we just needed fresh blood.
Irwin: We knew we wanted someone who could give us fresh input. Looking at people like Madonna or U2, they work with cutting edge producers who can reinvent their sound.
ILM: I suppose it’s quite hard coming back into the studio for the second album having been away for so long...
Alfonso: Yeah, when you’re gathering and writing songs, getting ready for the second album, you don’t know where it’s going. You just throw yourself in, and it takes a mistake or showing it to a few people who aren’t really getting it to progress. You need to hit that brick wall before you can make the jump forwards.
Martin: It’s really hard to embrace change. When you hear something you might think you don’t like it because it’s new and different.
ILM: You mentioned drum loops and a greater degree of electronics involved in this album. How will that translate to your live show?
Irwin: That was another mistake we made. We went down a whole different avenue and ended up having to throw away a load more songs because they just sounded like a singer over a backing track. We didn’t want to lose our identity as a band, cos there are so few around at the moment. Successful bands like Friendly Fires and Ladyhawke have produced live sounding records whilst still embracing that electronic element. That was something we had to find our way with, so we still built it up on a base of live drums, bass and guitars, adding in the synths and drum loops afterwards.
ILM: And is it still just you three on stage?
Alfonso: No, we’ve also got Sam Swallow on stage with us playing keyboards. He’s been with us a while, and was much more involved in the writing and recording this time. We also have the two Philpot brothers who play brass.
ILM: So it’s like a proper party on tour!
Alfonso: Yeah, if it was just us three it would be miserable!
Irwin: I think it was George Clinton who said that a great gig starts in the dressing room and spills onto the stage. I like that idea.
ILM: What do you look forward to the most about playing live?
Irwin: There are those certain moments when it just fits and you know people are enjoying themselves. That’s why you don’t mind playing the older songs. When you see people react to it and having a good time it’s so flattering.
ILM: Do you have any routines before going on or after coming off stage?
Alfonso: We murder a few small animals.
ILM: Before or after?
ILM: With bare hands?
Alfonso: Oh yes. We have a bear and we force his hands to kill them. Otherwise it’s just us killing small animals. With a bear it’s just nature.
ILM: Is that as a group, or just you?
Alfonso: That’s just my thing. I don’t want to drag them into it...
Irwin: We warm up for an hour as well.
Alfonso: Kill small animals with bears, and warm up for an hour.
ILM: What are fans of The Hoosiers like?
Alfonso: We have a couple of keenos. Real staunch fans who always stick around. It’s lovely! For some of them we know their parents, go round their house for tea…
Irwin: I was stopped walking down the road with my shopping once by someone who came up to me and he asked, “excuse me, are you Irwin?” I was like “yeeeees…” and he told me “my daughter knows you.” It turned out I knew her cos she’s always on our fan pages and forums and stuff. It’s really odd having people’s parents stopping you! We do all our own twitter stuff and try to answer all our emails and stuff ourselves, but it’s like another whole job. We’re aware that in this day and age as a pop band you need that presence, but at the same time it does suck some of the mystery out.
ILM: What advice would you give to any fledgling musicians out there who aspire to get to where you are?
Martin: Don’t do our type of music better than us.
Irwin: Yeah, don’t be too good. No-one likes a smart-arse.
Alfonso: For us it was just a matter perseverance. And take good advice. From people other than your folks. The moment for us when things started happening was when people told us how shit we were. You’re in a little room jamming away and you hear what you want to hear. You get buoyed up and think it’s pretty good. We got some advice from Toby who said “look, that’s really not good enough, you’ve got to work on this.” Dedication and good advice.
ILM: What are your earliest musical memories?
Irwin: I remember being on a swing when I was about four, singing this song that I thought I’d written. I was thinking how brilliant I was. Then I found out it was Abba.
ILM: Always the same.
Irwin: Yeah, it’s been like that ever since.
Alfonso: The lawsuit is ongoing. Irwin is still pushing the claim to that song.
ILM: How about you guys?
Alfonso: I was always in the car with my parents, kind of getting led by what they listen to. Your big ‘80s hits. My dad was a big Genesis fan, so Phil Collins is a big hero. Great songwriter. Duran Duran as well, and Spandau Ballet.
Martin: The first single I ever had was She’s Got The Look by Roxette. I used that for motivation whilst building Lego!
ILM: What are your music collections like now? Are any of you record collectors?
Martin: I’ve started buying vinyl. But only of albums that I absolutely love. I’ve only got five!
Alfonso: He means the band Five. He absolutely loves them.
Irwin: You know that thing of how you listen to 20% of your collection 80% of the time. That does kind of happen. Al and Martin, I think, prefer a bit of space, which is healthy from a song-writing point of view because it means we’re not always being bombarded with other people’s ideas. I live with someone who works for a record label, so there’s just music everywhere. And I’m a hoarder. I’m always collecting stuff even if I don’t really know if I like it yet! At the moment I’m really liking Beirut, Interpol and the new Scissor Sisters album.
Martin: There are also those albums that come and go, and you really enjoy them for a moment, and then the ones that always stay with you. A few albums that really mean something to us as a group are Sufjan Stevens, Come On Feel The Illinoise, and Midlake. Elliot Smith, Doves, Flaming Lips.
ILM: There’s quite a lot of guitar-heavy stuff there.
Alfonso: Yeah, less of the pop. I think you try to keep away from the stuff that you do. It’s more refreshing that way.
ILM: How about gigs that you’ve seen that you'll never forget?
Irwin: Flaming Lips were a massive influence on us. We watched them when we were recording the first album and they just blew us away.
Alfonso: The live show is always so original!
Irwin: It’s not just a gig, it’s an event. It’s not enough just to play now. I saw Scissor Sisters the other day and they put on a great show.
Alfonso: I saw Jon Bon Jovi the other day. He was fucking terrible! It was self-indulgent. It looked like he was just going through the motions. And he danced like my dad.
ILM: How do you think the digital revolution has affected you as a band?
Irwin: You do reach more people than you might have done, even if it is through illegal downloading.
Alfonso: It’s a tricky subject, and it sounds bad coming from us because it seems like we just want money, but money does need to come into the industry. So many people make a living out of this. Engineers, producers… People don’t need to make quite as much money as they do, but there’s certainly a balance to be had. I don’t think you can blame a kid, cos they don’t know it’s wrong. You just have to raise awareness, but no-one seems to be doing that.
Irwin: Sadly, it won’t be the more established acts losing out, it’ll be the guys who are just starting out. No-one will have money to sign them and take a chance.
Alfonso: As soon as you take the money out, people are less willing to take risks. That’s where the danger lies.
Irwin: Both Bruce Springsteen and Prince had their first two albums flop, and it was only their third when they came good...
Alfonso: In this day an age there would be no Bruce!
ILM: What are you future plans beyond the release of the new album?
Martin: Overall we want to finish our contract with the record company. It doesn’t matter how big we are, just as long as we can keep making music.
Irwin: I’m going to launch my own range of fragrance. Everyone does that now.