“Usually for bands like us, where we’re from, we don’t get that lucky break. But we just kept going . . .” Two Door Cinema Club talk strategies for mega-success with Tony Clayton-lea
Animal Collective are keeping it simple, they tell Jim Carroll, p6
IT’S HAPPENED BEFORE and it will, no doubt, happen again: take a bunch of teenagers from a smalltown grammar school, put musical instruments into their hands, dress them in the la-di-da clothes of the day and wait until they sell more than one million copies of their debut album.
“You occasionally get the feeling that someone has messed up in admin,” says Two Door Cinema Club’s bassist Kevin Baird on the band’s – and there is no other way to describe it – stratospheric success over the past two years, “and that someone hasn’t checked our backstage passes. The way we look at it is that we really shouldn’t be here. When we started crawling up the ladder in profile, especially at festivals, we felt that someone was going to come along and tell us to leave the premises.”
Back in 2008/2009, a year and bit after they formed in Bangor, Co Down, they recall living on a diet of supermarket value meals and bottles of water that they’d, er, appropriated from the venues they played to double-digit amounts of people. Now? Well, now they headline festivals in Europe and beyond, and sell out 3,000-capacity shows. Now, they travel in tour buses that have wine racks full of Chardonnay-this, Chateau-that and Champagne-whatever. Now, they loan out their lead singer to global events such as the Olympics opening ceremony. Now they are so successful that their second album ( Beacon) leaks online a full month before its official release. Oh, yes, things have indeed changed.
What should have happened to 2DCC, of course, is what occurs to 90 per cent of similar status bands. “In theory, obviously, what should have taken place,” says guitarist Sam Halliday, “was that we should have stopped touring a year before we did – which was a year before it all started to get crazy. What should have happened is that we shouldn’t have been as lucky, if that’s the right word. Mainstream radio didn’t play our songs, mainstream magazines didn’t cover us, but we just kept going, and usually for bands like us, where we’re from, we don’t get that lucky break. But we kept going, people got on board, we toured for another year, and that’s when it started to kick in.”
Even for an independently-minded band such as 2DCC, the perceived natural progression – signing a record deal, recording an album, releasing the album, touring the album, going back into the studio and recording the second album, all the while playing compact venues – didn’t win them any quick reward. In short, they slogged away for a while. It wasn’t working. They slogged away for a bit more. It still wasn’t working. And then they set their sights on America.
“It was about creating our own design,” reveals Alex Trimble, the band’s lead singer and one of the is-that-really-who-I-think-it-is surprise performers at the aforementioned Olympics, “and not following that typical formula, which is undoubtedly the reason why it worked. There is a formula for bands and major acts on big labels – what happens is strategised. For independent bands, even, there is a set formula that most will follow. For us, though, we thought why should we do that. Clearly, the so-called strategies didn’t do us a lot of favours, so we decided to do something different.”
Something different definitely worked. Perhaps the mixture of youth, ambition and freedom from certain responsibilities assisted their passage to continue touring and playing shows virtually non-stop, and seeing such effort set into momentum the swing from playing in small bars to 50 people to venues where they now play to thousands.
“We were getting messages from all around the world on Twitter, email, Facebook,” says Trimble, “and we thought that if the demand was there, then we should give the fans what they want. When we started, we were in the game primarily for ourselves, but in order to keep it for ourselves, we knew we had to give a lot to other people, because these are the people who allow us to do what we want to do.”
Is that a big sacrifice? Not at all, explains a selfless Trimble, an attitude that once again reflects their million-selling, ingenue status. “You can put it in ways that makes it sound like a sacrifice, but the feeling you get going to these places and seeing people’s reactions – knowing that you’re giving other people a good time – makes us happy in a totally different way.”
They cherish their songs, is the implicit admission; they create them in a closed room with no one else around, with no one else in mind, and that is the only part that needs to be for them. “Yes, we’re artists, creative types; that’s what we love to do and that’s why we’re in this,” elaborates Trimble, “but we’re also entertainers, and we’re there to give fans an experience, an emotional uplift – joy, if you like. And that also makes us very happy.”