Doves

This Bird Has Flown

May 06, 2010 Photography by Derrick Santini Web Exclusive
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Those watching the progress of the Manchester, England-based band Doves over the past 12 years have probably all had the same thought at some point: When will their American ship finally come in, in a commercial sense? That consideration is purely a matter of comparison, however. With Coldplay forming around the same time and moving in a lighter though not completely dissimilar direction to Doves, it seemed only a matter of time before the trio of brothers Jez Williams (guitar, vocals) and Andy Williams (drums, vocals) and singer/bassist/guitarist Jimi Goodwin would have their own "Yellow."
     
Regardless of their slow-burning momentum in the U.S., the band has taken its time over the years to craft a four-album catalogue of solid, memorable, guitar-driven pop-rock songs. Always a considerably bigger act on their home turf, Doves' last album, 2009's Kingdom of Rust, missed the number one spot by a hair of Lady Gaga's head, as Jez Williams explains below. The band plans to take an open-ended break before plotting their next move, but in the meantime, the new The Places Between: The Best Of Doves provides an excellent career placeholder. In our interview with Jez Williams, he reflects on various moments in Doves' career.

Hays Davis: You three knew each other back when you were playing with other bands in high school. What kind of music were you playing at that time?

Jez Williams: I suppose we just learned our instruments, really. I was in a band with Andy. Jimi was in his own band, so we were really in separate bands. I suppose Jimi was doing sort of mod covers, like The Kinks, and Quadrophenia, The Who. We were sort of doing our own stuff but the occasional cover crept in there, like Blondie, "Hanging on the Telephone." You remember that one? And Bruce Springsteen, "Born to Run." [Laughs] We were, like, 14, 15 at this stage, just messing around, just finding our feet, really. It was really cool: You're in a band, you're at school. It's pretty good, man. Good times.

Why do you think you guys clicked at the point where you decided to form a band together?

We clicked later on, really. We were going to Manchester nightclubs on a night out, and we were kind of into the same music. We did a lot of growing up since we were in bands in school, about a three or four-year gap when we met in the nightclubs, in the Hacienda. It was an amazing time, a revolution, really, going on musically. We found all of us evolved in it separately, and we were really surprised. "You're into this? We're really into this." We thought we'd try and have a go of it ourselves. We really wanted to take dance music and put our own stamp on it.        

You first formed as Sub Sub.  How would you describe that band's sound compared to what you later did with Doves?

It was more dance music, more dance-orientated. It was a lot more electronic, with a drum kit. When it was happening in England it was a very fresh, new thing, so we were really on that scene quite quickly, because it felt so new. It was a lot more electronic. We were quite eclectic even as Sub Sub, really, because we were doing this kind of underground dance music. Then we had a massive hit in England. This was, like, '93, in the charts. That's kind of when we went overground, if you like, sort of mainstream. Then we sort of almost went back to the underground after that, you know. We didn't feel we were quite ready for all that. We weren't kind of...wise enough. We were quite young at that period, so we didn't kind of capitalize on it. We kind of squandered it, really. [Laughs

There was a fire that some have said was the catalyst for the band's change. What happened?

People say it was the catalyst, but...

Maybe it just makes a good story.

Yeah, a lot of people seem to think that. We had a studio fire and we were, like, faced with a decision of carrying on. So, we decided to carry on. It happened so long ago. It was quite liberating, in a way, because it helped wipe the slate clean and I thought it seemed like a fresh start, and a kind of fresh moment in time to give ourselves another name. It kind of gave ourselves a fresh excuse, in a way, to say, psychologically, 'Let's start again.'

When Doves first started, how did you see the band in terms of where you fit with what was going on musically at the time?

We came in, ourselves, on the end of Britpop. That's made a word by the media, but it kind of seemed to be a thing going on. We didn't want to be anything to do with it. We were kind of amused by it, and didn't want to be associated with that whole scene. We liked to think of ourselves as the kind of opposite. It was, I suppose, 1997, 1998. 

What were some of the first songs Doves recorded where you felt that your new sound was really taking shape?

We were in the studio, this derelict sort of industrial kind of land where people tend to have forgot about, so we did a lot of our kind of nurturing there, really. "Break Me Gently" was one of our first songs that we did, especially with Jimi singing, and thought that sounded pretty good. There was a lot of trial and error. Those were early songs that put us into a different kind of place than our previous band.

The first single from The Last Broadcast, "There Goes The Fear" reached #3 on the U.K. singles chart but was only released for a day before it was deleted. What was at work behind that?

I don't know. Why does a band release a limited edition of 800 records? It was to do something different from the norm. Just wanted to try something different really. I can't remember exactly whose idea it was. It might have been the manager's, but we were kind of into it. A kind of statement, in a way. We liked the fact that you could only get a hold of a certain amount of this or a certain amount of that. Especially in this day and age of readily available bits of music, it's kind of nice: a physical copy that's precious to you because you managed to get to the shop that day and actually own that. It was a kind of love thing, really.  

By the time your first and second albums were out the band had established its sound and had received quite a bit of recognition for it, especially in the U.K., with the Mercury Prize nominations for both. When you prepared to write and record Some Cities did you feel the urge to evolve that sound? 

Our intentions with Some Cities was to almost take out the layers in our music and make it more stripped down. With that album we were also wanting to make a few social comments about the area we lived in. There's a lot of subject matter on that album dealing with change. Buildings get ripped down and replaced by more generic ones. It kind of gave ourselves a bit of purpose to write about it. We also listened to a lot of Motown and northern soul, and I think that came out in that album. It was a definite change. Our albums do tend to change character and personality with every release.

Did you go into the work on Kingdom of Rust with any new approaches in mind?

I think we were all kind of going through a dark cloud, really. We're incredibly proud of that album, but it did take an awful long time to get right. It was a struggle at times, and we all were going through various different personal things in our personal lives, but we stuck together and made it through to the other end on that album, kind of saying, 'That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger,' you know. We didn't know how people were going to feel. We'd been away so long and the musical landscape had changed. In the U.K. it went to number two. It's a bit of a Doves curse: Lady Gaga beat us by four records to the number one spot. Four copies. Some people say we actually did sell more because independent record shops are not, like, chart-registered, and Lady Gaga doesn't really do independent record shops. So, that was a typical Doves story. Still, to go away for four years and to be appreciated like that, we were really pleased. It was great. 

I understand that the band is taking a break for a while. Is anything in particular triggering that?

I think the time now for Doves is, we're going to go away and do stuff for ourselves, do musical things. After we finish touring this year it's time for us to work on side projects. I want us to come back, reconvene after that, with a new-found sense of purpose. A fifth album, just to come off tour and to go back into the studio...we need more challenge, and we need to change that kind of system-tour, album tour. [Laughs] Not in a particularly prolific way! The idea is to bring some new energy.  
 
(www.doves.net)



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Christian DelaRosa
May 10th 2010
9:56pm

Can’t wait till your next album guys, and hope you guys can stop by Texas sometime, particularly Fort Worth.

Jared
May 11th 2010
10:10pm

Nice interview, great questions.

Mike Martone
June 7th 2010
1:35am

This is a special band.  They may not get the fame of other big ticket bands but their fans all know they are musical geniuses.  Fame is so overrated. When you have the respect of people who know you, there’s no better compliment.

Alessandro
October 22nd 2012
9:22am

of the market when it come toa0L.A. steret style. a0 I met Evalotta, founder of HiStyley.com, at The Doves Studio X Style Wax Poetic event a couple weeks back and she was lovely! She mentioned Hi Styley has some exciting things