Dou­ble ex­po­sure

As their hotly an­tic­i­pated de­but al­bum is re­leased, Ir­ish duo All Tvvins tel­lJim Car­roll about form­ing a band as friends, find­ing their fee­ton the Dublin mu­sic scene, and tak­ing their sound to the wider world

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - LAUREN MUR­PHY

This is where it all starts. Lar Kaye and Conor Adams are walk­ing across Tem­ple Bar and past Bad Bobs.

It may not be the first venue that comes to mind when peo­ple think about al­ter­na­tive mu­sic, but it’s the first venue that fea­tured a set from the duo. That was Oc­to­ber 2013 and an ap­pear­ance at the Hard Work­ing Class He­roes fes­ti­val for the band then known as Tvvins.

The pair had known each other for years, but had only been to­gether as a band for a few months.

“We’d only started re­hears­ing as a band with our drum­mer Lewis (Hedi­gan) about two weeks be­fore that show,” says Kaye. When we got the gig, we weren’t even sure if we were go­ing to have a drum­mer be­cause what we were do­ing was so elec­tronic at that stage. We were in the stu­dio when Mick (Roe) our man­ager came in and said we were do­ing this. We couldn’t back out of it.”

“It was a good kick in the arse be­cause we’d have put it off oth­er­wise,” adds Adams.

Back then, they were both still com­ing to terms with be­ing in a band with a mate.

“You don’t know if it’s go­ing to work,” says Kaye. “In your head, it’s ‘Conor is the right dude’, but it was a bit awk­ward to be­gin with. It comes back to the re­la­tion­ship. We knew each other and thought it would work, but it’s of­ten dif­fer­ent in re­al­ity.”

“It’s like go­ing out with a friend for the first time,” says Adams. “I mean, I got on re­ally well with Lar, but when we first met up to re­hearse, it was weird. What do we do? And what­ever I do has to be the best thing ever or oth­er­wise, I’ll scare him off. It took a few weeks of 30- and 60minute jams of re­ally tech­ni­cal, weird riffs. It didn’t sound very good to be hon­est, but we both liked what the other does, so we thought surely it should work out.”

With­out a hitch

In the end, the first gig went off with­out a hitch. “I’d heard the name Bad Bobs but I didn’t have a clue about it,” says Kaye. “Any­one I said it to went ‘oh, Bad Bobs’ and I didn’t know what they meant. When we ar­rived that day, I was ‘oh, this place’.”

Bad Bobs is just one of the Dublin venues the duo have played in the past few years on the way to the re­lease of their de­but al­bum, IIVV. Add in the venues they’ve played with their pre­vi­ous bands (Kaye with Ade­bisi Shank and No Spill Blood, Adams with Cast of Cheers) and there prob­a­bly isn’t a stage in town they haven’t played on. Kaye even re­mem­bers a gig he did in the restau- rant which is the lo­ca­tion for to­day’s in­ter­view, al­beit when it was the all-ages venue The Ex­change.

Along the way, their sound de­vel­oped and changed.

“It was much heav­ier and there was more dis­tor­tion go­ing on,” Adams re­calls. “I was us­ing the M13 pedal, which has ev­ery ef­fect in the world, on the bass, and dis­tort­ing the bass. But at the same time, there were pris­tine tracks go­ing in the back­ground as well. It was a bit con­fused – heavy and mel­low.

“Like, we were play­ing Book from the very first gig. It’s on the al­bum, but it was in very dif­fer­ent shape then. Back then, it was like a metal-pop song. I had a re­ally heavy vocoder set­ting so it sounded like Cher’s

Do You Be­lieve mixed with a punk-metal thing.”

Their next show was a sup­port to Lady Lamb the Bee­keeper at Dublin’s Su­gar Club. “It was a very weird gig,” says Kaye. “It was seated and we were still get­ting sorted out.”

More sup­port gigs in Dublin fol­lowed, such as Edi­tors (Olympia), And So I Watch You From Afar, En­e­mies (But­ton Fac­tory) and Heathers (Academy).

“We knew were in a priv­i­leged po­si­tion from the start be­cause of our his­tory and con­nec­tions and we were given a leg-up,” says Adams. “The first time it felt like we were do­ing some­thing on our own was up-

There’s no real genre nerdism in our world, If you’re a metal dude, you can like it. If you’re re­ally pop, there are loads of hooks. We’re not try­ing to write that way, but it’s how it’s go­ing

stairs in Whe­lan’s. I know it’s only got a ca­pac­ity of 100 but it sold out.”

Phil Collins

That was in Jan­uary 2014 and Adams re­mem­bers a bunch of stu­dents from BIMM, the mu­sic col­lege where he was teach­ing, turn­ing up. “Even back then, we’d a lot of an­themic tunes, ones with Phil Collins’s re­verb snares. The set was half fast and heavy and half an­themic Phil Collins tunes. We were still con­fused at that stage.”

As 2014 went on, the band gained mo­men­tum. They played a “fucked-up show” at Birth­days in Lon­don, where a load of record la­bel peo­ple came along ex­pect­ing to see a pop band. They sup­ported Ar­cade Fire and Pix­ies at Mar­lay Park and were the first band of the week­end on the main stage at that year’s Elec­tric Pic­nic.

By the time they played the main room in Whe­lan’s in No­vem­ber, they had a record deal and a new name. “There were a lot of bands called Twins and there’s a lot of bands also called Tvvins,” says Adams, “and then there’s one band in Ja­pan, these sis­ters who are ac­tu­ally twins with a mil­lion hits on YouTube.”

They were also be­gin­ning to at­tract a new au­di­ence.

“We thought we’d get old fans of Ade­bisi and Cast of Cheers, but that didn’t hap­pen at all. There were hardly any of them,” says Kaye.

“It was the first time I no­ticed a mixed au­di­ence at shows, which was kind of strange. I’m not giv­ing out about it, but Ade­bisi al­ways pulled male metal nerds so it was in­ter­est­ing to reach a dif­fer­ent au­di­ence.”

“There’s no real genre nerdism in our world,” adds Adams. “If you’re a metal dude, you can like it. If you’re re­ally pop, there are loads of hooks. We’re not try­ing to write that way, but it’s how it’s go­ing.”

A 2015 head­line show at the Academy made them re­alise things were mov­ing up a notch again. “We re­alised the band had reached a big­ger stage than our pre­vi­ous bands,” says Kaye. “Nei­ther Ade­bisi nor Cast of Cheers had head­lined the Academy. We’d sup­ported bands there, but we’d never done our own shows. That was big.”

Fol­low­ing a fes­ti­val ap­pear­ance last month at Lon­gi­tude, they’ll head­line the Olympia later this year, an­other land­mark on the jour­ney. These days, they’re con­cen­trat­ing more on gigs abroad than at home.

“What’s the point in just play­ing Dublin again and again?” asks Kaye. “It’s not re­al­is­tic for me or Conor. This band aims to be big­ger than just an Ir­ish band and that re­quires work­ing your ass off tour­ing dif­fer­ent places.”

“If you play too much here, it be­comes a case of over-ex­po­sure,” adds Adams. “Peo­ple go ‘well, I can catch them again’ when they know you’ll be back around in a few months.”

Conor Adams and Lar Kaye have been here be­fore, but never bear­ing quite as for­mi­da­ble a state­ment of in­tent. Both mem­bers of All Tvvins have form on the Ir­ish mu­sic scene; Adams fronted the Bloc Party/ Foals-es­que Cast of Cheers, a band who never quite ful­filled their huge po­ten­tial, while Kaye en­joyed a small but de­voted in­ter­na­tional fan­base as vir­tu­osic gui­tarist of in­stru­men­tal math-rock­ers Ade­bisi Shank.

The ex­pec­ta­tion of such a pair­ing may be one of loud, fre­netic riffs and off­beat time sig­na­tures, but in re­al­ity their de­but al­bum is a much more con­sid­ered af­fair. Melody plays a cen­tral role through­out these 10 tracks, whether it’s the chim­ing glock­en­spiel that opens the al­bum on

Book, Kaye’s sub­tle flour­ishes on the in­sis­tent groove of Too Young to Love or the soar­ing, an­themic cho­ruses of The Call. Adams may not be ca­pa­ble of Adele-style emo­tional bal­ladry, but his swarthy voice is per­fectly suited to this style of mu­sic.

Most im­por­tantly, this is a pop al­bum through and through. Though the pair’s in­die roots are au­di­ble in patches – hints of Talk­ing Heads fil­ter through End of the Day, Adams’s bass play­ing re­calls The Po­lice on the com­par­a­tively som­bre Too Much Si­lence and there are vague nods to LCD Soundsys­tem’s sim­i­lar brand of dance­able pop-rock through­out – it’s easy to imag­ine these slickly pro­duced songs on main­stream ra­dio. That’s largely down to the top-class pop pro­duc­ers they’ve worked with here, Matt Schwartz, Jim Ab­biss and Dan Grech- Mar­guerat among them.

With zig-zag­ging synth riffs fill­ing out their sound and lend­ing a clubby am­bi­ence to songs like Dark­est Ocean, Thank You and the jud­der­ing beats of soar­ing closer Un­be­liev­able, All Tvvins tick sev­eral boxes at once with­out sac­ri­fic­ing any of their cred­i­bil­ity or com­pro­mis­ing on their in­die ideals.

Put sim­ply, this is feel­good mu­sic at its finest.

Pho­to­graph: Ruth Med­jber

All fired up Conor Adams and Lar Kaye from All Tvvins.

Pho­to­graph: Ruth Med­jber


★★★★ Warner Bros

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