We speak to Kevin Baird, the bassist in Two Door Cinema Club in the midst of (yet another) world tour. A sleepy, friendly chat on fan-appreciation, mysterious art-work and why playing live is their “bread and butter”.
“I think we are playing in Minneapolis”, yawns Kevin Baird, “but I haven’t got out of my bed yet.” As I am calling from the UK around lunchtime, I suggest that with the time difference it must be pretty early for him in the States. “Yes, it is!” he responds, before a humble “well actually it’s not. I’m just lazy.”
So begins my conversation with the bassist of Two Door Cinema Club, a band who are anything but lazy. Formed in Northern Ireland in 2007, the band is comprised of three school friends; Baird, alongside Sam Halliday (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Alex Trimble (vocals, rhythm guitar, beats, synths). Over the last five years they have released two albums – “Tourist History” in 2010 and “Beacon” earlier this year – and toured their euphoric, celebrated live-show tirelessly. As Baird points out, the band is “pretty much 99%” of their lives. It’s an attitude that has encouraged unbridled devotion from their legion of fans (sample mentions on Twitter: “if you listen to Two Door Cinema Club then I love you”, “if you don't like Two Door Cinema Club I hate you” and “Two Door Cinema Club are the definition of perfect”). As I soon discover, the devotion is mutual.
I understand your new album was produced by Jacknife Lee (U2, Bloc Party, Weezer, REM). How did that come about?
Basically someone recommended him to us, as they thought he could be a good fit. We were up in Scotland writing and we set up a conversation over Skype. He just said there and then that he’d like to work on it.
Was he someone you had looked up to in the past?
We knew what he’d done. We liked what he’d done; we had some of the records. But I guess we never really thought he was within our reach. We didn’t know whether he’d work with us, or if he was too big.
You mention writing in Scotland, but I understand you all grew up in County Down in Northern Ireland, where you wrote your first album. To what extent do you think geography has affected your sound? Do you think it’s changed since your move?
I guess in the early days, back in Ireland we definitely worked a lot more than I think we would’ve anywhere else. We had a lot of spare time and we spent that time practising and writing songs together. I don’t think Scotland has influenced our sound much. I think it was more what we’ve done over the past few years, all the times we’ve been away.
I imagine the writing process on the second album must have been quite different, as you are on tour quite a lot.
Mmmhmm [laughs], all the time.
"I guess the live shows are the bread and butter of being in a band"
How do you write the songs? Is it entirely collaborative?
It’s collaborative and it always has been. That’s very important to us. I don’t think any of us would be able to give up pretty much 99% of our lives to do this band – all our energy, go away all the time - if we weren’t a creative member. It’s all together.
But you have a drummer you tour with.
Yes, that’s correct.
Is he fully integrated the band?
Our drummer Ben, he’s been with us for about three years. He is a member of Two Door Cinema Club. But we have different roles to play. In the creative process it has always been the three of us. I don’t think we’ll feel like changing that anytime soon, we’ve been doing it since we were 14. We’ve been doing it a long time; we are very comfortable doing it that way.
How did you meet?
Just at school. Growing up together.
Going back to your first record, I understand Philippe Zdar was involved and it was released via Kitsune. How did that come about?
Philippe mixed a couple of the tracks, but it was produced by a guy called Eliot James back in London. Yes, that record came out through Kitsune. I guess it came about because we were meeting a lot of labels, but everyone was a little bit flaky, nobody quite knew what we were about and what we were going to do. There wasn’t exactly a tonne of offers on the table! Kitsune were a label that kind of got what we were trying to do and let things happen as we wanted them too. We just loved the people. When we signed with them there were like 5 people working at the label. We knew everyone; we knew exactly what they did. It was just a really nice family vibe. We got on well with everyone.
It seems although you were embraced by the public, before the press. Is that something you would agree with?
Definitely. I definitely agree with that. We definitely pressured people to write about the music and play our band.
How did you pressure people?
No [laughs], I mean it got to the point where people could hardly not write about us anymore. It was clear people liked the band. I think at the start people didn’t really know what we were going to be. I guess there were clearer options of bands who should have been a lot bigger. Bands with a more typical background, who were from Manchester and already had the look, who sounded right and slotted in with the plan. But people liked our band. People liked the different type of music and people liked coming to our shows. I think it’s because we got a reputation of putting on live shows as well. I guess it got to the point where people couldn’t ignore us anymore, it was happening.
Your live shoes have a reputation for being quite euphoric. Is that something you actively pursue?
Yeah. I guess the live shows are the bread and butter of being in a band. It’s what we spend most of our time doing, being away on tour with the band, playing shows. We want to get up and have fun! We want people to have fun. We don’t spend time doing shit just to fill time or be atmospheric. We want people to come in there and bounce, lose themselves a little bit and just have fun.
"We probably appreciate our fans a lot more than a lot of other bands do because we didn’t have that instant success"
It seems that often nowadays – perhaps due to a shift in recording techniques - people make an album and then have to figure out how to play it live; rather than playing live, honing the music and then recording it. Which do you think you fit into?
The first record definitely was crafted through writing songs then playing them live and changing them. We had that luxury. But this record was strange for us. This time around we were just writing in a room, demoing it and not playing it live. We spent a lot of time on this record trying to learn our own parts.
The artwork on the last album was interesting. Can you tell us a bit about it?
The whole artwork thing is very mysterious. We’ve always worked with this company called Megaforce, a Parisian collective who do a lot of music videos and artwork. They did the first record. There was this really great guy that we got to know quite well. We loved his style. So when we finished the album and we were thinking about the artwork - we had a really rough idea about the style that we liked - we got in touch and said what we imagined. We didn’t want our faces on the cover, we didn’t want it to be like “real-life”. He came back with this sketch. He hadn’t shot the photograph already, the budget wasn’t massive and he didn’t want to shoot the idea and then come back and us not like it. But we thought it was great and said “yeah, shoot it!”.
Finally, going back to your fans; you seem to have quite a close connection with them, communicating via twitter for example, is that something that is important to you?
Definitely. Definitely it’s important. I guess it’s like modern day fan-mail. We probably appreciate our fans a lot more than a lot of other bands do because we didn’t have that instant success. We didn’t have sold out shows the first time we ever played in London, we weren’t signed at the first gig - where you would associate your success with that one person, or a couple of people that spotted you, you know? We appreciate our fans, the people who came to our shows, we are not going to forget that.