Sound foun­da­tions

“I’m a fan of beau­ti­fully made things,” ar­chi­tect-turned-elec­tro-whizz Eoin French, aka Ta­los, tells Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - | MUSIC -

Ar­chi­tects deal in straight lines, but it’s the twists and turns that one of their clan has taken on his mu­si­cal ca­reer that are far more in­ter­est­ing. Over the past few years, Eoin French’s work as Ta­los has seen his fond­ness for gos­samer elec­tronic beats, ten­der emo­tional moods and falsetto-friendly phras­ing take on a dis­tinc­tive form and shape.

That slow and steady ap­proach has now yielded a fine de­but al­bum in Wild Alee. It’s a record that is smartly cal­i­brated to mir­ror the Cork­man’s af­fec­tion for cur­rent hues and shades, and it also fleshes out his own nar­ra­tive.

The way French tells it, he sort of fell into both mu­sic and ar­chi­tec­ture. He re­mem­bers think­ing he’d do phi­los­o­phy or law in col­lege be­fore a last-minute change of mind led him down an­other path.

“I was ab­so­lutely ter­ri­ble at ar­chi­tec­ture at first and then I just found an in­ter­est in it. I met some lads and started play­ing mu­sic with them [Hush War Cry], and I think that was the start of en­joy­ing the de­sign stuff. There were peo­ple around me that were ac­tu­ally in­ter­est­ing and that spurs you on.”

He learned pi­ano at the Cork School of Mu­sic from age six to 12, but it was an­other cou­ple of years be­fore he got the song­writ­ing bug. “I don’t think I be­gan to write mu­sic un­til one or two of my friends did it and then I thought I’d like to do that.”

His mu­si­cal tastes were shaped by fam­ily and friends. “In a weird way, I found what peo­ple around me were lis­ten­ing to for a long way to be re­ally in­ter­est­ing, and I’d pick up stuff that way. My par­ents lis­tened to Bob Dy­lan, The Cran­ber­ries, Van Mor­ri­son, that kind of stuff. If we were driv­ing some­where, my dad would in­sist that his stuff would go and so you didn’t have a choice.

“In my early teens, my younger brother was mas­sively into hip-hop so that was there as well. When I was in col­lege and started play­ing with Hush War Cry, it was al­ways the others who were in­tro­duc­ing bands to me and I’d get deeper in that rab­bit-hole.”

When French starts talk­ing about his own mu­sic, there’s a very sub­tle change in em­pha­sis and he’s a lot more di­rect about what’s in­volved. Here’s a mu­si­cian who knows mu­sic is of­ten up there with life and death in the se­ri­ous­ness stakes.

French is fas­ci­nated by what he sees as the im­pul­sive­ness in many of the tracks on the fin­ished al­bum. “You work for years on a record or months on a song to get to that mo­ment of im­pulse. You’ve a song writ­ten and you know it’s wrong and you spend all this time try­ing to fix it and it all leads up to this mo­ment when it comes right. The mo­ment when it comes to­gether is like a splash of paint on a wall.

“The tracks on the al­bum are re­ally well-con­sid­ered and in­tri­cate. But the tracks have th­ese mo­ments of im­pul­sive­ness in them and, for me, that was the big­gest sur­prise, that it feels im­pul­sive for all the time spent craft­ing it.

“I’m a fan of beau­ti­fully made things, I love the idea of peo­ple spend­ing time craft­ing things. It does take time, there’s no avoid­ing it, you don’t ar­rive at that point in an hour or a minute. But with mu­sic, you spend all that time as well and then it’s down to that minute or 30 sec­onds when it all clicks.”

When the al­bum was done, French re­mem­bers mar­vel­ling at how all the time spent on it was dis­tilled down into one com­puter folder.

“All that work, all that time, and I ended up with all of it in a lit­tle folder on my com­puter. It was so strange. I re­mem­ber sit­ting at home with Ross Dowl­ing, who pro­duced it, af­ter weeks of record­ing and say­ing ‘Ross, what were we do­ing?’ In past times, you’d have it on tapes and stuff, but it was so strange to re­alise all that work was ac­tu­ally now in­tan­gi­ble.”

Farand wide

The in­flu­ences on the mu­sic come from far and wide. He men­tions the im­pact of peo­ple like Brazil­ian ar­chi­tect Paulo Men­des da Rocha and Ger­man painter Anselm Kiefer, as well as how ref­er­ences from theatre, lit­er­a­ture and film, things which have lan­guage, “bleed” their way into his songs. There was also the sea, which gave the al­bum its ti­tle (an alee is the side of a ship shel­tered by the wind).

“I al­ways think that the mu­sic is Ir­ish and it sounds Ir­ish, I hope, but I bor­row from the emo­tive ‘Prob­a­bly the best song ever writ­ten’ “We played at Euro sonic about four years ago and an Ice­landic friend of a friend of mine came in and watched the set and like ned me to Tim Buck­ley (above).

“I gen­uinely had no idea who he was–I though the meant Jeff–and he said‘ no, no his dad’ so I went straight off to lis­ten to him. Song to the Siren was a light bulb mo­ment, it’s prob­a­bly the best song ever writ­ten.” qual­i­ties of other mu­sic that I come across. I def­i­nitely think the Ice­landic abil­ity to evoke a par­tic­u­lar space in their mu­sic is re­ally im­por­tant .”

Now that the al­bum is fin­ished, French feels a lot more con­fi­dent about the live shows to come.

“I don’t think I ever felt com­fort­able play­ing the songs to peo­ple be­fore now and that re­flected it­self in the live show. That was a mas­sive thing. I never felt right on­stage un­til re­cently; I felt like, f*ck it, what is my right to be say­ing some­thing here? What gives me the rea­son to be making noise?

“I also think I en­joyed mo­ments in the shows with Hush War Cry more than I en­joyed the early shows with Ta­los. There was a re­al­ness to it, which I don’t think was there with Ta­los un­til re­cently.

“But it was more the fact that I felt the songs weren’t there and I didn’t think our set-up was right. From the very get-go, I never wanted to do this three-piece pads and elec­tron­ics thing be­cause it didn’t feel right, but that’s what we ended up be­ing for a long time. I never bought into it. It was only re­cently when it came to recre­at­ing the songs on the al­bum with as many peo­ple as we needed that I felt good. Now, it’ll be dif­fer­ent.” ■

Wild Alee is out now and is re­viewed on page 12. Ta­los plays But­ton Fac­tory, Dublin on April 21; Dolan’s, Lim­er­ick (22); Róisín Dubh, Galway (27); Live at St Luke’s, Cork (28); St Pa­trick’s Gate­way, Water­ford (May 12); The Set, Kilkenny (13); Voodoo, Belfast (25) and Spirit Store, Dun­dalk (June 22)

You’ve a song writ­ten and you know it’s wrong and you spend all this time try­ing to fix it and it all leads up to this mo­ment when it comes right ... like a splash of paint on a wall

Eoin French

“All that work, all that time, and I ended up with all of it in a lit­tle folder on my com­puter”

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