[Photo © Sunday Best Recordings 2014]
“It’s a particular thing that just goes through your head when you write a song that is like: ok this just is the album opener…”
Dark tones of a synthesised orchestra emerge like the first few seconds of a Stanley Kubrick Sci-Fi on opening track ‘The Sunlight’ from New Build’s sophomore album: Pour It On. A light arpeggio bleeds into your left ear before rhythmic staccato drifts into your right. All three ideas seem to merge into a pulsating melody and Al Doyle begins to sing ‘The Sunlight isn’t bright enough today’ helping envisage a pinky-orange sunrise; only stuck, halfway buried in the horizon – teasing the beginning of something.
New Build is Doyle’s most recent venture, having been a member of the electronic outfit Hot Chip and sadly retired LCD Sound System. He is joined by fellow Hot Chip-ian Felix Martin and electronic composer Tom Hopkins. When talking about ‘The Sunlight’ Doyle explains “It was always going to be the first song on the album. It’s a particular thing that just goes through your head when you write a song that is like: ok this just is the album opener – it’s what we open the live show with and everything. It has the quality of being some kind of greeting.”
Pour It On has an architectural quality that focuses on the rhythm and melody whilst a vast amount of underlying elements result in a hypnotic swirl. Agreeing, Doyle states “It’s something we strive for. I’m not sure how successful we are with it. We always start off as simple and stripped back as possible but it never really ends up that way. They end up being very multi-layered and quite dense in terms of their construction.”
Admitting that Pour It On’s writing process was “fragmented” Doyle is still proud. Describing his own sense of creative growth, he teases “I felt as though the record really hangs together a lot better than the…” but interrupting himself he assertively states “I mean I’m still proud of the first album”. Thinking in retrospect he details how the first album [Yesterday Was Lived & Lost] sounded like “a band trying to find their sound.” In comparison, for himself, the new album is “more focussed in term’s of it’s direction”; synopsising its sound as “electronic and relatively dark.”
Doyle’s main instrument, the guitar, hardly features on the album. It ensues the natural response of “I really feel a bit sort of naked without it.” However, from working with Hot Chip and LCD it is preposterous to think anybody could come out of it with just a love for the guitar. The excited tone in Doyle’s voice, recalling how they “got to borrow this really cool little synth off of Joe Goddard [singer of Hot Chip]”, is enough to go by on this.
“We used to meet on a Friday, buy a couple of beers, totally improvise music for about the length of a 90 minute tape and then sit back for another 90 minutes… That was the full extent of it, we never gigged”
“It’s really hard having to wear the two hats all the time” explains Doyle, describing how in recent Hot Chip sessions new songs have been “quite chord-y” in their construction. Reassuring how it is “done really well” he admits that it wasn’t the direction he intended for Pour It On; “I kind of wanted things to hit a little level while playing and just occupy those sort of particular spaces – exploring that in an intense way.”
Continuing Doyle says “there was a period where I was deliberately going into the studio in the morning and literally turning the keyboard on and playing a thing and then that was the thing. Just as an exercise in spontaneity. Also just in terms of a very pure response to what Felix was doing.” Speaking further upon his inspirations for the album Doyle brings up Brian Eno and the story of an experiment where Eno “just recorded the sounds that were outside his studio – like car noises and birdsong and random things. Then he sat down and sort of learnt it as it were. So even though they were random collections of song you can learn it and find a sort of structure or way of making sense of it. I was trying to apply that process to what we were doing.”
© Sunday Best Recordings 2014
“It definitely is more exposed in New Build. I guess I have invested a lot more emotion into the songs. I don’t really know if I’m totally cut out for it. I mean it’s a learning process for me.” Continuing “Something I probably learnt from seeing James in LCD was the way he was able to physically position people on the stage, to give him the most support as a lead singer.” He adds “I think having the drummer right next to you is very energising, rather than having them at the back. I don’t have that anymore but I do have Joy playing steel pans so she is my kind of moral support – which I need for sure.”
Doyle’s music career is not directly associated with Leeds but after university, living here for two years pre-Hot Chip, he couldn’t help but find himself a band, well sort of. “We used to meet on a Friday, buy a couple of beers, totally improvise music for about the length of a 90 minute tape and then sit back for another 90 minutes; listening to what we had recorded. That was the full extent of it, we never gigged. It was the purest music making experience that, even now, I have ever had and still look forward to those Fridays. One of the guys played a Roland Juno synthesiser, not really knowing how to play it or what it did but he was just able to make sounds out of it that even now, I have the same synthesiser, I can’t make it do what he made it do – it’s insane. I haven’t thought about that in a little while, I wonder what they are up to now? Perhaps I should get in contact with them”.