Track-by-Track: East India Youth on “Culture of Volume”

William Doyle on Every Song on His Sophomore Album

Apr 17, 2015 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Web Exclusive
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When we interviewed East India Youth (aka London-based electronic musician William Doyle) last fall for our Best of 2014 issue it was in celebration of his 2014-released debut album, Total Strife Forever, being one of Under the Radar's favorite albums of the year. Doyle may have still been promoting Total Strife Forever, which was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, one of Britain's most prestigious music awards, but he had already finished his sophomore album, Culture of Volume. The album hadn't been announced yet at the time, but Doyle promised that it was "a bit more pop-leaning," adding, "There are more vocals, but it still flits between different styles. I thought about honing in on one aspect of the sound, but I realized that sort of erratic behavior is part of me."

Culture of Volume, released last week on XL (Doyle's first for the label), does indeed shift between styles, from the euphoric pop of "Beaming White" to the more straight-up dance beats of "Hearts That Never" and the drone/noise outro of "Manner of Words." And it is also a more accessible release than Total Strife Forever, which only had four songs with vocals and had a four-part instrumental title track spread throughout the album, with the distorted start of part four sounding as though your speakers were broken.

Doyle played one of Under the Radar's SXSW parties this year and there he told me that it's his intention to release his first three albums in quick succession, to keep the momentum going. So expect a Culture of Volume follow-up soon enough.

"Songs are living things to me, you have to nurture and cultivate them," says Doyle and in this track-by-track interview, he takes us through every song on Culture of Volume, touching on the inspirations and influences, as well as the recording process, of each track.

 

 

"The Juddering"

William Doyle: "This was the first track I created after finishing Total Strife Forever, so it seems fitting that it is the opening track on the new album. This track immediately felt like 'the opener.' It really set some kind of scene, for what I thought would end up being an entirely instrumental album at the time. I remember making this in my bedroom in East India in London's Docklands area and there was a very heavy, intense fog surrounding the docklands that day. I'd been for a cold walk into Canary Wharf and the mist was covering the tops of the buildings. You could barely see outside from my bedroom window and it felt like I was much higher up than the 4th floor at home. The atmosphere certainly contributed to the kind of towering scale of the track. This track remained pretty much the same right through the process of making the album." 

"End Result"

"The initial genesis of this track-the chorus-predates most East India Youth material. I was just very attached to the bare bones of the song I had written, but had been trying many different arrangements for years. I finally hit upon the right combination one day when I was working in the 4AD studio in London, and it was definitely a 'eureka!' moment, the kind that rarely happen, but are so powerful and addictive when they do that they basically become the whole goal of every creative process. The melodic aspect of the instrumental outro was from a completely different song that sounded like something from Pleasure Principle-era Gary Numan. I was unhappy with that framework though, and transported it into the more piano-led song that 'End Result' had become. It all seemed to click; the lyrics are some of my favorite on the whole record."

"Beaming White"

"This is another song that had its main melody and chords hanging around for a while and it was another case of working out how to dress these two things correctly. I've really wanted to make a Pet Shop Boys-style pop banger for a while and this seemed like a good opportunity. It was all about making sure the groove was right in the chorus parts. Graham Sutton-who mixed the record with me-helped retool the drum parts into something that had a lot more thud to it than the original dry 'real sounding' drum kit that I had. I admit this song tips slightly towards nostalgia, which I try to avoid, but I feel it works very well in the context of the album. Will this be as pop as East India Youth gets?"

"Turn Away"

"In September 2012 I thought I was making an album in the vein of Quarantine by Laurel Halo, which is when the original musical ideas for this track originated. Then, in February 2013, I was trying my hardest to make some kind of grand, motorik, relentless anthem à la 'The Past is a Grotesque Animal' by of Montreal. I failed at both things, but out of these the barebones of 'Turn Away' were born. I didn't even notice that I was writing something that was largely in 3/4 time signature when I started it. Only when the bar lines weren't adding up did I realize. But this gave me the idea to try out the melody in a 4/4 section as well, which allowed me to slightly fulfill my Neu!-style Klaus Dinger dreams. I think this has the strongest pop hook on the album. The lyrics bizarrely 'came true' long after the song was finished. A common and spooky theme on Culture of Volume."

"Hearts That Never"

"This took the entirety of the album recording to complete. It was all about getting the structure right. It used to be a much longer and less vocal-heavy track, with all the same builds, but the pay-offs didn't feel intense enough. When I became comfortable with the idea of chopping away at it, like some bonsai tree, it started to become a stronger and stronger track with each chop. Ramping up the vocals and using the new structure to form a better vocal track, the 'song' aspect of the track really started to glisten. This is becoming a favorite to play live and I'm really happy with the production-the way it moves around the stereo field and the constant fluctuations of dry and wet signal."

"Entirety"

"This is a homage to the time I've spent going to raves-mainly of the quite heavy techno variety-at Corsica Studios in London for the last three or four years. It's had a huge impact on me musically and socially, and I wanted to pay my respects in some way. I don't consider myself a dance producer and I would never count myself alongside some of the absolute wizards that I've experienced during this time-Perc being the prominent figure in my appreciation-but I am very fond of this track. It's slightly camp and ridiculous, doesn't take itself too seriously, and ends with what essentially sounds like going for a piss in the Berghain in Berlin. It provides a great midpoint build to the album before we drop off into the ether again completely."

"Carousel"

"This song flowed out of me completely easily, and it was another memorable moment during the writing and recording of Culture of Volume. Months of working hard on tracks finally pays off with some strange alchemical moment of inspiration, and a thing of raw emotion appears before you. It's hard still to really talk about what 'Carousel' focuses on lyrically, but as with most of my songs it is mainly something abstract, the words are there to paint an atmosphere related to a time or a feeling rather than be specifically about them. This is definitely my favorite song on the record, and perhaps my favorite song I've made yet."

"Don't Look Backwards"

"This has the oldest history for any East India Youth song I've written. Going back to 2008, this is where the original idea for the song came from. At the time it harked back to Björk's Homogenic, and was basically trying to rip off the brilliance of that record. It's always remained with me in some form though, so I thought I would revive it and write a lyric about moving on: closure in the form of a song and an idea that needed some closure itself. Songs are living things to me, you have to nurture and cultivate them. A lot of my 'offspring' perish unfortunately, but the ones you keep on life support are the ones you develop a special bond with. This is one of those tracks. Again, Graham Sutton really helped bring this one to life and nail the aesthetic. I think it's probably the 'hidden gem' of the album. It seems to be a few people's personal favorite."

"Manner of Words"

"I'm not sure I ever intended this song to be this long, but I spent a great deal of time and thought constructing the end drone/noise section to be of a specific length. The song before the end noise section kept chopping and changing but that outro remained the same for quite some time. Obvious touchstones for it are My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and Tim Hecker's Ravedeath, 1972. The rest of the song had a slightly more folk-y drum feel to it for a long time and it just wasn't tying up. When I decided to go for something a bit more sparse and half time-which I never do-the whole thing seemed to open up before me quite well. Hannah Peel layered her violin on top of my myriad synth strings in the last chorus to really give the production more depth. I feel like this really is a good, albeit intense end to the main part of the album. An ellipses on 'what comes next for East India Youth?'"

"Montage Resolution"

"'Montage Resolution' was the second song I made for this album, so I knew what my bookends were the entire time I was working on it. This really helped frame a lot of the disparate ideas and give a sense of cohesion to the often madcap mixture of things I have been working on. I feel like this is a very refreshing resolution to the barrage of noise that precedes it in 'Manner of Words.' An adequate cadence to quite a dense record."

www.eastindiayouth.co.uk

 

 



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