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A Compromising Situation


Interview: Heather Metherell

GALE Paridjanian and Ollie Knights, the two halves of Turin Brakes, are busy people. Looking exhausted after days of interviews and TV promotion, they're slouched together on a leather sofa quietly tolerating countless journalists; and all for their new single, '5 Mile'.

The buzz around the track is that it was originally written for the next album, but that the band was so excited with the demo they decided not to wait. Instead, they took four days out of their grueling American tour to record both the song and the video. To go to those lengths to get it out to the public, Gale and Ollie must have thought it was pretty special?

"Oh, if only that was the truth. If only it was based on a purely musical decision," says Ollie, shifting slightly on the sofa. "But it isn't."

"We've been kind of really caught between a rock and a hard place. The kind of feedback the label was getting from mainstream radio was that there were no more singles on the album. But we knew it hadn't run its course.

"A lot of people could fall in love with that album and we felt like it hadn't been given a chance, you know? And it was suggested that we come up with a very poppy radio friendly single."

And that's just what 5 Mile is. Much happier in sound than the material on Ether Song, and not what you may expect from a band so often described as 'melancholic'.

"The song itself was left over from the album session," explains Ollie, "but we all really like it. There was something very different about this song. It was kind of lighter. Everything on the album was very heavy which is always tough to then sell to people."

But it is a decision that doesn't sit comfortably with the band's philosophy on making music:

"We've always picked, like, our artistic credibility over success," says Ollie quietly, "We've never compromised that just to be successful. I guess we crossed the line slightly on this one and feel slightly weird about it. We've learned from this experience though. We would just say no next time."

Despite their concerns about the release of 5 Mile Gale and Ollie know it is a great track, even though it has distinctly different sound from their earlier work.

This could go some way to rid them of the 'misery' tag that they have been stuck with since the release of their debut album, The Optimist. It is something that the band have struggled with over the past four years:

"It's amazing how similar every description of us has been," says Ollie, laughing, "I actually think the problem is that people find it really hard thing to review because it does sound pretty original really.

"It's easier to just look at what someone else wrote and say the same thing. Not that many people bother trying to work out a good way of describing it. They can say what they like; it's just that we tend to get described in a very lazy way."

And they're not wrong. Nearly every review written about Turin Brakes describes them as a folk band or compares them to Radiohead, Jeff Buckley or Travis.

But Ollie is adamant that it's not a big deal. "It used to frustrate me greatly but now I just don't care. I realised I was spending far too much time worrying about that."

"We get to enough people, we make enough people realise that we're not this traditionalist middle of the road folk music."

This newly found confidence is a measure of their success. The past four years have seen Turin Brakes go from strength to strength, and see their single, 'Painkiller', reach number 4 in February this year - the biggest hit they've had so far.

They recorded Ether Song in LA, with the guidance of Beck's producer, Terry Hoffer; the mention of whom makes Gale sit up and look interested for the first time in 20 minutes.

"He's like a cross between Woody Allen and Prince," Gale says, grinning from ear to ear. "He's hilarious, he's smaller than I am, about 4 foot something and weighs about 1 and a half stone."

"He should be in lord of the rings," says Ollie laughing, "But they would have to make a whole new race for him. He'd be a Thobbit."

"We got on very well," enthuses Gale. "He got what we were about and we got what he was about, and it just flowed right from the start. It was great. I can't imagine that we'll ever find a producer that we click with like that again."

They even plan to work with him again at some point. "It would be lovely 'cos we're just kind of mates with him now," says Ollie, " I think he'd be offended if we didn't work with him at some point."

In the meantime, the guys have their hands full with the release of 5 Mile over here and in the States, and then a UK tour that starts in November. They have also been asked to put together an 'Another Late Night' compilation:

"We're really excited about that. It's really refreshing," says Ollie. "But you definitely have to fight the thing of just wanting to be shocking with the stuff that you pick. I think we got over that idea and thought in a way lets put something together that won't be that shocking but is so good that they'll love it."

"It'll have the strongest things we listened to in the past decade on it, from pretty old right up to brand new," explains Gale.

"Yeah," says Ollie, "we still don't know exactly, but it'll be lots of different stuff."

But for now it's promotion, promotion, promotion. The highlight of which must have been the incomparable Des and Mel show, on which they appeared last week.

"Des just waved at us robotically," says Ollie laughing, "He's bright orange - like an Ooompa Loompa but taller"

"Can you imagine if he wasn't taller?" says Gale. "It would be really scary."

"Yeah, but it would make it quite a fun show to watch," argues Ollie. "Especially with Mel next to him - she's about 7 foot."

"She'd be like a big praying Mantis," Gale grins, "folding her long arms round Des."

A few unfortunate critics may have labelled their music sombre and miserable, but they certainly don't lack a sense of humour.

According to Gale, if they could describe their music it would be: "The 21st Century Everly Brothers. Or the Everly Brothers meets Pink Floyd."

So keep on the look out for an acid rock version of 'Be-Bop-a-Lula'. And remember - you heard it here first.

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