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
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.”
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. alltvvins.com
All fired up Conor Adams and Lar Kaye from All Tvvins.
ALL TVVINS IIVV
★★★★ Warner Bros