IT HAS been one hell of year for Co Down’s Two Door Cinema Club. In just 12 months they have gone from being unknowns into a band about to release their debut album and on the cusp of big things.
Two Door Cinema Club released their debut single ‘Something Good Can Work’ in March 2009. Soon after they began receiving regular airplay from the BBC’s Steve Lamaq while French label Kitsuné sought to sign them.
Now, just a year after the debut single comes Two Door Cinema Club’s marvellous debut album Tourist History, to be released next Monday, followed by a gig at Strange Brew in the Róisín Dubh on Thursday March 4 at 9pm.
It is an exciting time for the Ulstermen, but bassist Kevin Baird is keen to point out the band are no ‘overnight sensation’.
“For the press and people outside it looks like things happened quickly but we have been together for three years writing and playing songs and touring for two of the three years,” he tells me during our Monday afternoon interview. “We built things up from the grassroots in Belfast, then the UK, then Europe. To find somebody who regards what we are doing as worthwhile is quite nice.”
There is a real sense of anticipation over Two Door Cinema Club. Music magazines and blogs have been talking excitedly about them and last December the band made the long list for the BBC’s Sound Of 2010 poll. The anticipation is justified, but do TDCC worry they will become over hyped?
“It’s really nice for people to rate us,” says Kevin, “but we are nervous that if the album doesn’t do well people will say it’s all been hype, but we are not trying to be a hype band. We want to have substance behind the hype and we’re hopeful we’ll be OK.”
The band - Kevin, Alex Trimble (vocals/guitar ), and Sam Halliday (guitar ) - came together in 2007 in Bangor, Co Down. However Kevin and Alex had encountered each other in a previous life, when both were boy scouts.
“Yes that’s true,” laughs Kevin. “I don’t remember Alex but he remembers me. I was part of the ‘cool crowd’ and he was the fat ginger kid, looking at us wishing he was our friend, but we didn’t include him. It was passive bullying and I feel bad about it now.
“We met up again at about 14/15 in grammar school in Bangor and found we were into the same music, early Biffy Clyro and At The Drive In, and played guitar. We became friends and played in Sam’s garage, and progressed from there.”
Given Alex’s surname is Trimble, is he a relative of a fellow Bangor resident and former Ulster Unionist Party leader? “He did go to the same school as us and lives in Bangor but he’s no relation of Alex,” says Kevin, before laughing, “that’s probably just as well as we’d like to keep politics out of it!”
Two Door Cinema Club are proud sons of Bangor and the town has produced a noticeable slew of creative individuals - crime author Colin Bateman, Belle & Sebastian bassist Bobby Kildea, and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Jonny Quinn. Comedian Eddie Izzard also spent part of his childhood there. So is it a good place to grow up if you have ambitions to be creative and musical?
“I wouldn’t say it’s a massively creative place music wise,” says Kevin. “Bangor is a great place to grow up though and that did have some input into the writing of the album. Bangor was a great holiday resort in the 1950s and 1960s before people started going to Benidorm.
“When we were growing up it was the ashes of a tourist town, ‘Oh look there’s a run down theme park’. When we started going out on the road we felt like every song and us were tourists in every venue. We felt it was important to give the album that relationship to what we were then and what we are now, so that’s why we called it Tourist History.”
Tourist History could well be one of the pop and indie releases of the year. TDCC’s sound is an exciting mixture of pounding, danceable rhythms, melodic and hook laden pop, and huge choruses, all topped off by Sam Halliday’s thrilling (and daring ) guitar work, which combines complex post-rock riffs with the precision of light funk and disco.
“Sam is an excellent guitar player,” Kevin enthuses. “He comes up with these amazing riffs and is a melodic person. He makes sure everything is right and he felt his guitar parts for the album were not finished until they were finally recorded. He was constantly working on them from when they were written to when they were put to tape.
“Sam’s guitar work is an expression of how he feels and for me it’s the same. If it sounds good with just four notes I will play that but I also get very bored with bass players who play along with the chords. Alex writes all the lyrics but is concerned that not everything should only come from one point of view.
“He want to include the perspective of all three of us and we all try to express ourselves through the parts we play and complement what the other is doing. All of us are songwriters and want to do something that is challenging and melodic. We just want to be interesting and enjoyable.”
The Northern Irish music scene is at its healthiest since the punk days of the late 1970s. Co Down is where Two Door Cinema Club, The Answer, Snow Patrol, and Ash hail from. Japanese Pop Stars and Fighting With Wire are representing Derry, while Belfast can boast And So I Watch You From Afar and Not Squares.
“I think it’s the separation of the North,” says Kevin in explaining Ulster’s creative resurgence. “We’re sort of cut off from Dublin and the rest of the scene in Ireland and while we’re part of the UK we are a separate land mass. I think that gives you the time and opportunity to develop and grow.
“That separation means you’re under no pressure and you can play gigs for a year and a half before you get any hype. By that time you have had a chance to grow. That’s a positive thing. There is great camaraderie and solidarity between the bands here and it’s an awesome scene.”
Support is from Kowalski. Gugai will be DJing afterwards. Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and Zhivago.