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Thirteen Senses - An interview


Interview by Jack Foley

Q. Congratulations on a great album. For me it's one of the year's best.
A.
We're really chuffed with it...

Q. I was going to ask about the reaction, which has been mostly positive. How does that make you feel?
Will.
We started it in December, so we waited nearly a year. And I think all the time through it, we were enjoying the recording and thinking thisis good, we were liking it. But at the same time, we were thinking, like, are other people going to like it? Is it going to be... connect in any way. But so far good reaction.
Tom: We've seen some really good reviews out there.

Q. What's next up in terms of singles?
Will.
Next up, in January, is Thru The Glass.

Q. Re-releasing it?
Tom:
Well actually it's a new version, because the first time it was released, it was actually the demo that we recorded in Cornwall, but remixed. But this is a proper new version, the one that appears on the album. It's been remixed again.

Q. It came out originally as an EP, didn't it?
Tom:
Yeah, just a little two-track thing. But it went down really well, actually. I think we sold out in the first week, on a really limited press, but we were chuffed with the results, because it was the first thing we'd ever done.
Will: I think it was a good track to introduce us, because it mainly only went out to most of the people that would have it - it would be the hardcore fanbase we've got now, and the radio people and press people. So it was a good way to get the name out.

Q. But you had some pretty high-profile Djs on-board quite quickly, like Steve Lamacq...
Tom:
Yeah, he was the first one. We did his first of the new year session, called The Evening Session, which was nerve-wracking but fun...
Will: It was our first experience on radio and it was live, on Radio 1, and we were in there being grilled about what was going to happen, you know, he's [Lamacq] going to talk to you for a minute and then you're going to play. And we heard the song before the introduction, then the introduction came on, and then he's there, talking to you... It's really weird.
Tom: First time you do it, it really takes you back, because you can hear this presenter's voice, but then it stops and you have to reply; it's not like he's going to carry on if you don't reply. It was cool, though, but it was just a weird introduction, so quick and quite intense.
Will: It was pretty much as soon as we came up to London from Cornwall, we were put on the radio. And then since then, everyone else has come on board. We've just had an email from Jo Whiley this morning.

Q. And you also have some high-profile support slots coming up - Embrace, Starsailor and Charlatans? A big December in London, because there's also a headline Barfly gig, isn't there?
Tom:
We've got a few headline dates in November as well, before and after the Embrace tour, but Embrace are adding more dates every day, so we'll be at Hammersmith.
Will: It's getting to the stage now where it's becoming very, very weird, because these bands that we did listen to death, like Embrace, and buying Embrace's album, and discussing how great they were, and now we're going to be playing with them. Yet, that was only five years ago.
Tom: We just thought it would never, ever, in a million years, would ever happen!
Will: Hopefully, we can pass that weirdness, though, and become an artist in our own right!

Q. So will they represent the biggest shows you've done then? Because you had to pull out of V2004, didn't you?
Will:
Yeah, we pulled out because I had tonsilities, which was a pain in the arse.
Tom: The biggest one we've done up til now was probably The Forum, with Keane.

Q. And which of the three bands are you looking forward to supporting most?
Will:
It would definitely be close between The Charlatans and Embrace, but I think Embrace will probably be bigger, just because of The Good Will Out. But with Charlatans, at the same time, Tellin Stories, I love that album. I don't know.
Tom: But Good Will Out, for me, was a really important album when I was 14 or 15.

Q. When you say you're nervous going into a Radio 1 studio, what's it like appearing on-stage? Especially when you sold out the 100 Club for your first gig?
Will:
To be honest, just because I think we do the live thing a lot more, playing a gig is not as big a deal. You get the usual nerves and wondering how it's going to go, hopefully you're going to play well, but once you're there you just forget about it and play. Certainly, when I do live radio, though, there's always something in my mind saying, 'this is live radio, going to a lot of people'. Over time, though, I'm sure we'll do a lot more and we'll be fine.

Q. Given the rapid rise you have enjoyed, how big a blow was the tonsilities in the Summer?
Will:
It was quite big, because I mean in the Summer, we hadn't done a load of gigs. We'd been finishing the album and doing one-off things, so the V Festival was something we were looking forward to doing, and hopefully it would have been in front of a nice big audience. But, yeah, I'm just unlucky with things like that, they come at the worst times. We also had a thing at The Eden Project, in Cornwall, right before V, and that was where it kicked in - I realised I couldn't sing. We pulled out after one song. We went on and I started singing and it just went... and that was it!
Tom: You could hear the moment at which it went, and then yeah.

Q. But you are expected to be one of the big festival pulls next year?
Will:
With a bit of luck. But that was the other thing with V, it was our only... we did T in the Park, but we missed out on Glastonbury and all the others, so it was our only chance at a festival.

Q. You were at One Big Weekend, though. How did that go?
Will:
Yeah, that was good, from the second half on, because we were competing with Razorlight. When we started, there was like the first two rows and that was all, but as soon as Razorlight finished, there was a swarm of people and the tent filled up, so it ended happily. But we can understand that people would want to go and see Razorlight.

Q. They are one of the bands of the moment...
Will:
They're great.

Q. I saw their performance on Parkinson, with the gospel choir...
Will:
Oh it was brilliant. Did you hear them doing Hey Ya on Radio 1? It was cool. But they did that with gospel singers again. And they're doing a new version of Fairytale of New York...

Q. Any plans to work with gospel singers for you guys?
Will:
We'd probably be classed as copying. We've been thinking about it, yeah, and we have a lot of ideas for some things we'd like to do in the future.
Tom: Something to make our TV performance as good as that!

Q. You've said you've been working on this album for about a year, so are you now thinking in terms of new material and the second album?
Will:
It's only starting to creep in. We're not really going to think about recording or writing, but it's getting to the stage where I'm starting to burst with creativity, because I haven't had time to do anything. We've got a week off coming up, where I'm going to go home and sit at the piano, and pick up the guitar and see what comes up. But generally we're not going to concentrate on anything other than the first album for now.

Q. You've been compared to bands with some pretty high-profile names. Keane, obviously, and Coldplay and Radiohead. What do you think about those sorts of comparisons? Do you think it helps you, or would you rather not be compared to anyone?
Will:
I think it definitely helps you to a certain degree at the beginning. But we want to get to a stage where people start to see our sound as our own sound, you know. If in a year's time people are still saying that we sound like Radiohead and Coldplay and Keane, then I think there would probably be a problem. But obviously, we've got the pianos, and we've got the nice melodies, and nice vocals and everything.
But when we first started out and people were saying that we sounded like these other bands, we thought 'that's great', so the people that read about us will think that if they like those bands, they'll get into us as well.
Tom: But we want to shake off that comparison as well and develop an identity of our own, which I'm sure will develop over time.

Q. But it's certainly a good time for guitar bands at the moment. There does seem to be a re-surgence.
Tom:
Yeah, it's really coming to the front at the moment and there's a lot of bands being signed, which is cool, and a lot of bands coming up and making an impact.

Q. Going back, then, when did you form and when did you first realise that you were going to become musicians. When was it that you decided to chase the dream?
Tom:
Three years ago, three and a half years ago now we started the band...
Will: It started off as, you know, I had some songs, let's get a band and play them. But as time went on, we played more, got more serious and our goals raised until we had to get a record deal. Then all our energies were spent on recording, playing and sending out demos. That was a year ago, last November [2003] that we signed.
Tom: In fact, I think it was August last year, we'd sent out about 100 of our demos that we'd recorded ourselves to all the major record labels, not to anyone in particular, just the label, and we were doing a gig in Bristol, cos we'd tried to set up a load of gigs so that the labels could come and see us. And we got a phone call that afternoon from Joel at Island Records, who said, 'oh God, I just heard your demo, it's great, I'm coming down'. Two hours later, he was there and he was just so enthusiastic that, from there, it just snowballed. It was just amazing. We went on holiday to France and just every single day while we were away we had a phone call from Will's dad, who was managing us at the time, saying 'oh, there's another label on board', or 'this label wanted to meet you'. It was really exciting. It seems so bizarre that it should happen that way.

Q. How did you all first meet?
Will:
Well, me and Adam were friends from secondary school, since the start there, so we've known each other for quite a long time, but we met Tom and Bren just over three years ago.
Tom:
Yeah, we just kind of hooked up and went about it together. Started off playing acoustic gigs for a bit and then took drums after that. It was quite good, actually, because our first three or four gigs were in this tiny little pub in St Ives, in Cornwall, which were just sort of singer-songwriter nights, and we just went up and did three songs, but got a really good reaction from that, which was really encouraging.
Will: I think the fact that we got encouraging reports back from those performances, that's what spurred us on to carry on. If we'd played those songs those nights and it was.... it could have been different.

Q. So when did you first pick up the guitar?
Tom
: I started playing in Year 10, so I was 15. I started off playing drums... or piano when I was six, and then drums and bass and trumpet, before finally settling on guitar.

Q. And Will? When on guitars and piano?
Will:
I first started quite young on guitar. I was probably about six or seven when I got my first guitar. But I gave up on it when I was about nine or ten, for about five years, and forgot about it. And I only started piano about three or four years ago, when we started the band, as a new avenue to explore.

Q. So what inspired you to do that? What was the point when you realised this was definitely going to be the career-path for you?
Will:
Um, I think when I realised that there was no other career path [laughs], when I'd messed up at college, and it was the only ray of hope. If we could pull this off, it was going to save me...
Q. And Tom?
Tom:
Well, I'd always had a uni plan, so I suppose it was when we started getting some interest from the label, and so I thought this is what I want to be doing and gave up everything else to carry on with it. But I'm really happy that it's turned out like this.

Q. You've commented, as well, that Cornwall wasn't one of the easiest places to get going...
Will:
It it a really hard place to be in a band, if you want to get a deal, but at the same time it does give you a chance to develop out of the eye of the London scene. Because if you start a band in London, I'm sure you're going to get an A&R guy coming along at an early stage, as soon as they hear about you, and obviously you're not going to be prepared, so they will just write you off. But with us, it just gave us a chance. We were off the radar for everyone for like two years.
Tom: We were gigging for about two or three times a week for about a year and a half and it did so much for us in terms of timing and getting to know each other's sounds, and that type of thing. When we actually got picked up by the label, it was at quite a developed point.

Q. And the album is very personal when you listen to it. What were the themes that inspired it?
Will:
The themes... I don't know, well it was basically a document of my life; of things that I've seen and things that I've done. So hopefully those will ring a bell in other people's ears as well.

Q. And if you had to pick out a favourite couple of tracks, what would they be?
Will:
My favourite is probably Automatic or History, I'd say.
Tom: Yeah, I agree. I love all the tracks, actually, but Angels and Spies and Saving, tracks like that are slightly more quirky, and they're great tracks. But there is something about History - I love it, it's just a beautiful song. And Automatic is just really big in the way it builds. It's great.

Q. And looking ahead to 2005 now, what's the plan for next year? How do you top 2004?
Will:
I think we'll just keep touring a lot and playing. Trying to get more people to buy the album...
Tom: We just want to get our name out to as many people as possible, and keep doing whatever we can to do that.
Will: I think probably towards the end of the year we'll be thinking possibly about album two.
Tom: And hopefully some decent spots at festivals next Summer.

Q. What about America - does that hold any interest?
Tom:
We've been once - for the South by Southwest Festival - and that was cool, but I think we're going to concentrate on Britain first.
Will: I guess it depends on how well things go. I don't know how things like that work yet, when you get sent to America or not.
Tom: I suppose they probably want to secure a base, a real solid base here, that's not going to fade with time. And then you can go out there, because it's so big.

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