A bit faster, a bit heavier, a bit weirder, a bit more chilled out – all at the same time
“We’re running a bit late” the tour manager for Turbowolf tells me as he ushers me into The Ritz. Stepping out of the cold, we walk into the venue and it hits me straight away – Up on stage is a giant model of the two headed Death From Above 1979 logo that adorns their album covers. Later in the evening the eyes on the model will glow red and flash an array of colours, whilst Jesse and Sebastien smash through an awesome set. But for now it just sits there, whilst around it stage hands and crew members get everything ready for the evening.
DFA1979 are currently on a run of shows in the UK and Europe, with Manchester being their fourth date. Support for the tour comes from rad Bristol four-piece Turbowolf, and I catch bass player Lianna and vocalist Chris at the merch desk. They too are in a bit of a rush, but in good spirits as we chat. It must be hard not to have a smile on your face, touring with such an incredible band, and that’s pretty much the case as Lianna concurs “Everything’s been going really well, we’ve been treated really well – crew members are really nice. Apart from that, for all of us it’s like watching one of our favourite bands live every night as well, so it’s pretty much a dream tour for us to be on. Especially for one member, Andy – It’s all building up for him going on tour with Death From Above (laughs)”
“Basically, after this we’re gonna have to quit” Chris jokes.
These dates supporting DFA1979 on tour are just the beginning for Turbowolf this year. The month of April will see the Bristol four-piece release their second album, as well as head out around the UK on their own headline tour for its release. Following on from their critically acclaimed debut album released in 2011, Two Hands is their highly anticipated sophomore album out April 6th. Over three years since their previous album, it’s taken a while for Turbowolf to get this new record out, but as Chris discusses, it’s all for a good reason “It’s taken us a long time to write it, but we just wanted to make it really good. We spent time making it good, basically. We didn’t want to rush anything. We feel people appreciate quality over quantity. It’s taken us a while, but I think it’s a really good album, and I think that people are gonna enjoy it. I think we’re gonna get some new fans and hopefully our old fans will like the album as well. Well we certainly love it.”
Scoring as well as they did with the first album, I was eager to find out if the band had any sort of game plan going into the studio this time around. Chris: “No, not really anything too sinister (laughs) we just wanted to make a really good album, and something that represents where we’re at at the moment. We’re not the sort of band who writes to fit a trend or anything, we just tend to do our own thing. When people realise that’s what we are, they generally have a listen and go ‘ah, that’s pretty good actually’ So, nothing sinister, but we just wanted to make it really good – plenty of hooks as always, big choruses, interesting themes and interesting sounds, which is what we’re always all about, really. Just trying to push away from other albums, other people’s albums and music in general – trying to find our own space. I think we just kind of expanded everything from the first album. That’s what we tried to do on the first album, so I think it’s just an expansion on top of that. Again, pushing out in every different way. A bit faster, a bit heavier, a bit weirder, a bit more chilled out – all at the same time (laughs)”
Alongside the tremendous vocal stylings of front man Chris, Two Hands will also feature a number of guest vocalists. ‘Good Hand’ sees Chris joined on vocal duties by another tremendous vocalist, Pulled Apart By Horses front man Tom Hudson. Graham Hancoc, author of Fingerprints of the Gods, provides the spoken word intro to ‘Twelve Houses.’ Then there’s Chantal Brown of Vodun and Betty Cottam from Turbowolf’s early days, who feature on ‘Rich Gift’ and ‘Rabbits Foot’ respectively. Production duties were handled by Tom Dalgety, who has a laundry list of credits to his name, including Dinosaur Pile-Up’s Nature Nurture and Royal Blood’s critically acclaimed debut album. Chris: “We worked with a chap called Tom Dalgety, who is a fantastic producer and engineer. We worked with him on the album. We went to Rockfield for a couple of weeks; did the drums and the bass there. Then we went to Tom’s studio over in Bath and just worked there for like six weeks. We just all went mad, completely mad basically. ‘Cus we’re just in a darkened room, as you do, for about sixteen hours a day, every day. So we went fairly mad, and we made an album! If you wanna hear the madness, then buy the album.
It was really good working with Tom. He’s a great guy. He’s a total weirdo, so he just fit right in – instantly clicked with him as a person. I think that makes such a massive difference, it just really helps. He knows all this stuff, all the technical stuff. He’s the science behind the whole album, and we trust him. So yeah, that was the process really – Long days and complete madness, as always”
Madness is the word alright, and that madness has already seeped into the general population in the form of music videos for ‘Solid Gold’, ‘Rabbits Foot’ and ‘Rich Gift.’ Solid Gold sees Chris on the road to nowhere in a truly epic video. The video for Rabbits Foot is just fucking hard to describe; there’s a lot of layers to it. Not content in just being an absolutely storming single, the video is also immense. Rich Gift on the other hand can be (and has been) described as a chaotic, fucked up nightmare. That description was mine, and I stand by it – A series of unrelenting fucked up animations from the mind of Dax Norman. It’s brilliant.
Critical response to the singles so far has been great, with the video for Rich Gift making its premiere on Noisey. As for fan response, that too has been equally as good if not better, as Lianna agrees “I think they really like them. I think the videos, especially ‘Rich Gift’, ‘Solid Gold’, ‘Rabbits Foot’ have all had nice, solid reviews about the whole aesthetic and everything. ‘Rich Gift’ – a guy called Dax Norman did it, and it was a series of different gif animations, which he’d been working on for a while and put it together for a video for us. I think a lot of people liked that one, because I don’t think anyone had seen something so crazy for a while. We started a little trend, ‘cus we’ve noticed there’s a lot of bands at the moment who’ve started doing animated videos again afterward”
Chris: “I think it might’ve been just something in the air, maybe people were just getting bored of looking at people performing – who knows”
Another video is on the way too, with new single ‘Nine Lives’ incoming! The riffy new single was first aired on the BBC Radio 1 Rock Show, and is streaming on the Turbowolf website now!
Lianna: “I think that will be my favourite one, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled. We’re working on a video at the moment…That one I think will be my favourite, because the person we’re working with, which will be announced soon, is an artist I’ve liked for a long time”
All sorts of goodies are available with the pre-order of Two Hands, with the standard digipack CD and vinyl releases on one end of the scale, and a bumper pack of swag in the ‘Ultimate Collector’s Gold Vinyl Boxset’ on the other. For just 50 sheets, you get a copy of the new album on swish gold vinyl, a signed poster, a pin badge, a tote bag, a T-Shirt and even a pair of sunglasses! Strong, strong merch game. As posted on their Facebook account with the album announcement, ‘This stuff is all exclusive to the album release and will spread jealousy among your friends in years to come’
An odd bit of promotion for the new album came in a peculiar place for the band. Rabbits Foot was used unexpectedly in a football montage, complete with occult symbolism and voodoo veves! How strange…
Lianna: “For Blake, Blake loved that. It’s really good obviously to connect with new fans, but for myself or maybe a couple of us, I don’t have a clue about football. Funnily enough, when we found out that was happening, we were actually in Manchester on the Royal Blood tour on a day off. Blake went to find a pub so he could watch it. I think for Blake it was better, but it’s all good. You don’t really expect your music to be on football stuff if you’re a rock band, but it’s cool”
Chris: “It was the moment when all of our kind of normal people that exist around us, like our parents and family members who just think that we’re really just – I don’t know, I don’t know what they think that we actually do. They know we’re in a band, but they’re like ‘oh that’s nice, dyou do covers in the local pub?’ That’s what they think we do, really. I think when they see it on the football, then that’s like amazing. They’re like ‘that’s amazing, you guys must be like Oasis now – you must be a huge band’ and so it’s kind of weird. That’s the pinnacle, for them, of our existence. For us – it’s ok, it’s alright. It’s like being played on the radio, or being played on MTV or whatever. It’s just another bit of exposure. It certainly doesn’t do anything to us financially or emotionally, or spiritually. It’s like, whatever. But it was nice for people like that to realise that, ok – my son or my daughter is doing something that’s bigger than just playing down the pub”
To coincide with the release of Two Hands in April, Turbowolf are also heading out on a headline tour around the UK, taking in areas that have been missed whilst they’ve been supporting DFA1979. The tour finishes up in Bristol at The Marble Factory on April 22nd, a homecoming show which should be a big one for the band, as Lianna comments “Bristol – hometown show. I think that should hopefully be – ‘cus it’ll be our biggest Bristol show to date – hopefully, that will be the best one. We’re playing quite a few places which we haven’t played in a while. Obviously ‘cus we’ve hit a lot of the main cities on this tour, we’re not doing any of the same cities on this tour. So we’re doing, for instance, Coventry instead of Birmingham, places like that. Newcastle is our nearest one to Scotland, just because we’re trying to hit up places we haven’t in a while. Trying to cover every aspect, but all the other places we’re not playing our headline tour, we will be doing at some point this year”
As well as their headline Tour in April, Turbowolf will be bringing their live show to various fields up and down the country and beyond, as festival season heats up. So far they’ve been announced for The Great Escape, Camden Rocks, Kendal Calling and 2000trees, as well as Hurricane and Southside in Germany and Groezrock in Belgium. With the year they look to be having, on asking the pair where they’re going to be ending up this year, the answer didn’t come as a surprise.
Lianna: “Everywhere. We don’t have any lives now, since we started this tour, we’re pretty much away probably 80% of the time. There’s a lot of Festivals – I can’t off the top of my head remember which ones have and haven’t been announced, so I don’t want to say anything too much (laughs)”
Chris “We have more to announce, including some major UK festivals. We can’t say what they are yet, but we are gonna be playing some major UK festivals this year, as well as some major European ones”
Later on that night, Turbowolf walked out on stage to a packed out crowd at The Ritz and subsequently tore the house down. “It’s Friday night, Manchester” Chris hilariously shouted in between songs, entertaining everyone in attendance with his patter and then working them into a frenzy during each song. Turbowolf were a tremendous pick to support DFA1979 – the perfect pairing.
Two Hands is out April 6th, and I’d suggest you mark the date in your calendar. From what we’ve heard of it so far, it could end up being the album of the year.
You can hear the full interview, warts and all, below.