2014 Artist Survey: Teleman Interview | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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2014 Artist Survey: Teleman

Tom Sanders on Science, Life Before Cell Phones, Talkative Audiences, and the First Album He Bought

Feb 02, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent Bookmark and Share

For Under the Radar’s 12th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2014. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2014 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2014 print and digital issues for answers from alt-J, Camera Obscura, Chromeo, The Dears, Death From Above 1979, Deerhoof, The Drums, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Sondre Lerche, of Montreal, Ought, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, Strand of Oaks, Sharon Van Etten, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Woman’s Hour, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, and others.

Here are some answers from Tom Sanders of Teleman.

[A shorter version of this interview ran in Issue 52, the Best of 2014 and January/February 2015 Issue, which is still on newsstands. This is the full version of the interview.]

Top 10 Albums of 2014

1. Future Islands: Singles

2. FKA twigs: LP1

3. Simian Mobile Disco: Whorl-This is very good.

4. Woman’s Hour: Conversations

5. Polar Bear: In Each And Every One

6. The 2 Bears: The Night Is Young

7. Wild Beasts: Present Tense

8. Avi Buffalo: At Best Cuckold

9. Mogwai: Rave Tapes

10. Aphex Twin: Syro

What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band?

Our U.K. tour in October was really special for us. We’d just come back from the U.S. and then Europe, where no one really knew our music. Our album had been out a while in the U.K. and we returned to a sold-out tour of people singing back all the lyrics to us. It was just what we needed! Made us feel really good about the future and it was good to meet so many of the people who’d bought our record and come to see us.

What was the low point of 2014 for you?

Being stuck in L.A. without a car! It was our first time there. I loved and hated it in equal amounts. Coming from London, it’s something of a culture shock; you can’t walk anywhere and public transport isn’t very good. We had a great time, but the scale of the place is overwhelming and it’s the least green city you could conceive of.

What are your hopes and plans for 2015?

We want to do a headline tour of Europe, and in the U.K. we want to visit cities that we still haven’t been to. Obviously we also want to get our second album out, which we are currently working on. That’s the most exciting thing for us really-because Breakfast explored different directions and sounds, it kind of leaves us in a nice place in the sense that we haven’t cornered ourselves into a specific “Teleman sound.” I feel a sense of intrigue in where this album will take us.

U2’s new album was downloaded for free into millions of users’ iTunes accounts without their permission. Was it a wonderful gift to music fans or an invasive action that devalues music? Also, which artist, other than you, deserves to have their album automatically downloaded to half a billion people more than U2?

I think that was a fairly stupid move, which showed a lack of foresight and a loss of connection with fans and customers. Of course it devalues music; it stinks of money and greed and shameless self-promotion in the basest way! But when you look at the top of the charts that is what you tend to see, so I don’t think anyone should be particularly surprised.

Did you take part in the ice bucket challenge? If not, why not? Grimes declined due to animal testing issues, was the grief she got for that deserved?

I didn’t take part, although I was challenged. It’s a waste of water. I’d rather give money to a charity that I know and understand and which affects more people. Like Water Aid! Or Amnesty International. That’s not to suggest that one charity is more deserving or important than another, but just to think about the reason why you chose to give money to that particular charity. Because someone challenged you? You should challenge yourself and find causes that you believe in, or that affect you personally.

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri opened up a new national dialogue on police shootings and racism in America. Do you think anything will actually change because of it?

I imagine not. I don’t know very much about the American social problems, but throughout history there has always been a fear and resentment of the “other,” whether that’s class, financial status, race, gender, or sexual orientation. There’s also a total lack of connection and understanding between huge sections of society, starting at the top with the politicians and filtering down into places like law enforcement and media. It sounds bleak to say that these prejudices will never change but it seems that when things are looking up in one place, some terrible step backwards happens somewhere else in the world!

What’s your craziest theory for what happened to the missing Malaysian Air flight?

I don’t know, but lots of people died and their families probably don’t want to hear crazy theories. I’m sure that someone knows exactly what happened and hopefully we will all know.

Mark Kozelek was criticized in 2014 for insulting his audience (calling them “hillbillies” for talking during his set) and for making fun of The War on Drugs when their sound bled over to the stage he was playing. What responsibility do performers have to be respectful of their audiences and fellow bands?

This is a good question! We’ve played to audiences who don’t know us, and we’ve often been challenged by a room full of people talking loudly (especially as a support band, and especially if you’re playing a quiet song). Yeah, this spoils it for the people who do want to hear it, but personally I find it a bit awkward when the performer tells the audience to be quiet. It can make you seem like a dick. I think if people want to listen they’ll shut up, and if they don’t shut up, someone else in the audience can tell them to shut up. I’ve been told to shut up at gigs before by the person next to me. Depends on the concert and type of music, too. About being respectful to fellow bands: there are loads of bands trying to make it and doing it earnestly and excelling in their own style of music. Bands should respect each other and if you really, really hate what someone is doing, tell your mate but don’t write it in a magazine. It’s bitchy and it doesn’t make you look good. Having said that, I do reserve a special disdain for the scum which floats on the surface of the charts: those obsessed with fame and money who can’t/don’t write their music and who feature Beats Headphones in their music videos. It’s very depressing.

“Weird Al” Yankovic was back in a big way this year. If he were to lampoon any one of your songs, which one would you want it to be? What would the “Weird Al” version’s lyrics be about?

Apparently there’s no such thing as bad publicity. He can go for whatever he wants-it’s all fair game! I’m not familiar with him or what he does (I live under a rock) but I think he’s the fella with the perm?

Which common criticism of your music do you most agree with?

“It’s indie music!”

What’s the most uplifting or heartwarming fan interaction you’ve ever had?

A girl once made us cupcakes. They were immaculately decorated and presented. That was quite touching! I often meet people who have traveled alarming distances to see our shows; that always leaves me feeling a bit taken aback and very humbled. It also makes you appreciate how important each show is and to always make it count.

What’s the topic no one asks you about in interviews that you wish they would? Conversely, if you could get journalists to stop asking you one question, which would it be?

Some people love talking about themselves. I prefer to talk about anything else. I don’t really enjoy deconstructing songs and explaining them until there’s nothing left to the imagination. It’s good just to put the music out there and let people enjoy it for whatever they find in it and whatever it means to them. This interview is very refreshing because you’ve asked me a great variety of questions. When I read interviews with musicians I always like to learn something about them that is non-music related!

Who from your youth (such as a former bully, an unrequited love) do you most hope pays attention to the fact that you’re now a successful musician?

From my youth (but also happily in my current life), I would say my parents. They never once questioned the fact that I didn’t want to get a “normal job” and they always loved the fact that I was doing something that I loved. I think they’re really happy to see the success that we’ve had.

What was the first album you bought and do you still enjoy listening to it now?

Queen, Greatest Hits I. Although it’s a greatest hits album, it’s always just felt like a regular studio album; the songs sound like they were written to belong in that collection. I have no idea what prompted me to buy it, but I was very young. It was on cassette. I stopped liking Queen a long time ago-too grandiose and over-baked. But there are definitely some lessons in songwriting there!

Which subject do you wish you paid more attention to in school?

You can’t really pay attention to a subject when you don’t understand it, and I just couldn’t understand science. (I think I had really poor teachers and other classmates who basically made teaching anyone impossible!) Science is now something that blows my mind. It’s everything: it’s us, it’s the planet we live on, it’s how music works, it’s how love works. I also wish they’d have taught philosophy at school.

More and more big artists are putting out surprise albums (Thom Yorke, Beyoncé, U2) with little to no advance warning. Does this make it harder for more medium-sized artists to compete, ones who abide by more traditional announcement, promotion, and release patterns?

No! I think that years ago everyone realized that you can now just make your own rules and change how the game is played. Do whatever works for you. Radiohead shocked everyone in the past when they gave their album away for free, but the average price people actually chose to pay was £4.

What quirky piece of band merchandise would you most like to produce for sale to your fans?

We’re working on a Teleman fragrance. It’s going to be massive.

Do you ever long for the days before the Internet and cell phones? If so, what do you think has been the worst side effect of those technologies?

Nearly every day. I often think of my parents growing up-waiting hopefully somewhere for someone to turn up, looking for a payphone to call their house or university common room, planning a journey with a map-life was full of surprises and invention! People looked around them more, spoke to each other more and were simply more conscious. Technology seems to make everything predictable: you know exactly how far away your bus is, you can see where your friends are, an app will tell you which restaurant to go to. It’s all good, but it’s all bad.



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