East India Youth - "I've learnt how to do stuff in the bedroom without any formal training." Interview | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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East India Youth

"I've learnt how to do stuff in the bedroom without any formal training."

Dec 04, 2013 Web Exclusive
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Few artists can have made left turns quite so dramatically as William Doyle. Two years ago I saw him live as the frontman of Doyle & The Fourfathers, a kind of ‘90s revivalist pop outfit; earlier this year, though, under the moniker of East India Youth, he released the Hostel EP, a record of dizzyingly vast electronic soundscapes that owed more to Krautrock than Britpop. Under the Radar caught up with Doyle in his native London and discussed the change in sound, being the first artist with a release on The Quietus Phonographic Corporation label, and going solo in the bedroom. East India Youth‘s debut album, Total Strife Forever, is due out in the U.S. on January 14th via Stolen Recordings/[PIAS] America.

Dan Lucas (Under the Radar): Can we start with the name East India Youth? Where did this come from and why did you choose that rather than simply William Doyle?

William Doyle: I was living in the London Docklands and the nearest station on the DLR [Docklands Light Railway, a train line linking the Docklands with the old City] was called East India. We used to call our flat The East India Youth Hostel because there seemed to be this revolving door, with people moving in and out of the place every weekend. I’d recorded and written a lot of the music there, so when the time came to give the project a name it seemed like the obvious thing. I guess I didn’t think that my own name was very mysterious or interesting! I’d recorded some stuff under my own name alreadynot that anyone had heard itand I just wanted to distance myself, really.”

Was that Doyle & The Fourfathers?

It was. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t I meet you at a Doyle & The Fourfathers gig?

You did, yes! It was up in Manchester with my girlfriend, who had blogged about you previously.

That’s it! I’d actually done some stuff under my own name even before that band as well, so this was a bit of a change. But then there was also the reference to my own name in The Fourfathers, so I just wanted to make sure this was a very new thing.

What made you decide to go solo after previously working in a band? Is there anything you miss about being in a band?

It got to the point where I think I was maybe making a lot of compromises and I wasn’t really happy with the direction we were going in. I thought we’d started to go down a bit of a ridiculous path, writing really cheap political stuff. I thought at the time that was the right thing to do, but it very quickly got old.

I realized then that my heart wasn’t really in it and what I was doing at homewhich turned into East India Youthwas what I wanted to do. It was much more expressive, with big, long ambient soundscapes and stuff like that. That’s what’s making me most creatively fulfilled at the moment.

So things weren’t going well with the band, and I decided to knock it on the head; when I’d finished a big load of East India Youth tracks I turned around and said, ‘This is it. I don’t want to do this anymore.’ Everyone’s personal lives too were in an odd spot at the time, and cutting the band out of the equation enabled me to free up a lot of things in the rest of my life as well.

I mean, I miss the guys, we’re all still good friends and I see them a fair amount. But I’m definitely a lot happier doing things by myself at the moment. I think logistically it’s easier and I can take the music wherever I want to; I’m quite happy with that as it stands.

I guess you find that you can avoid making compromises now?

Compromise and collaboration can be healthy and really good, but it’s different when you’ve started a band with your friends at a relatively early age. It’s less about artistic collaboration and more a feeling that you owe your friends some say in the direction of things; at least that’s how I felt. I was writing the songs and doing demos with them, and then starting to add overdubs and stuff to the demos, and I felt, ‘I have to stop myself now, because I’ve got three or four other people in this thing who might want to contribute!’

I thought I was taking my initial thoughts and ideas in directions I wasn’t happy with. It was a bit of a lesson in trying to compromise, but really I think I’ve always worked better by myself.

How has this affected the process of actually making music? Are there things you find easier or more difficult now?

Because I record and mix and write all at the same time, the biggest difficulty is making everything sound good within the restrictions of my room. Everything gets done in the bedroom; usually I’ll finish things in the bedroom, but then take it to a bigger sound system and everything sounds a bit weak, which I suppose is the most difficult thing.

But everything I’ve put out so far has just sort of come out. It’s actually been a really simple process, so I think I must have found the right space creatively for me! I find I can translate my ideas really easily, which is liberating and it’s exciting.

It’s interesting that you talk about it being a bedroom project, because there seems to be a lot of cynicism about those in the media. Does this mean that when you create something like Hostel, which has had such a great reception, that that gives you an even greater sense of satisfaction?

Definitely, because that’s quite a magical thing: to think that music can be made in bedrooms that’s very, well, a bit transcendental, and doesn’t sound lo-fi. There was never any emphasis on getting that lo-fi sound just because it was recorded in a bedroom. I like that kind of music, the stuff that’s made in people’s bedrooms that doesn’t sound at all like it was made in people’s bedrooms!

It’s interesting, but that wasn’t really the intention. I’ve been recording in my bedroom since I was 11 or 12, then for the last 10 or 12 years I’ve learned a lot about how to do stuff in the bedroom without any sort of formal training [stifled giggling]. You tend to fall back onto, er, conventions you make for yourself, and that’s making things sound as massive as possible! [laughs]

[Also laughing] “I’ve learnt how to do stuff in the bedroom without any formal training” is definitely going to the headline now!


The music is so markedly different from Doyle & The Fourfathers that it seems insufficient to call it a “change of direction”; D&TF has an almost retro, Britpop kind of sound, whereas East India Youth is very much modern, intelligent pop.

I think the thing to say about that is that when we started the band there were things like that, obviously, but the whole idea of this retro, almost revivalist thing seemed to me at the time like a new idea. The problem was that really quickly all these bands shot up who were all about looking back and being retro, and I quickly got bored of it. But we’d already gone down a path that was hard to escape from, so that was why I wanted to make East India Youth sound as different as possible, really, because I really detest those values now. The stuff that we were doing at the start, and the retro line that we were toeing, I really hate now.

Can you tell me about who your musical influences are now and how they’ve changed? Previously there were hints of Pulp, Suede, and Mansunthe artier side of Britpop, I guess-whereas the new material seems more akin to the likes of Fuck Buttons and Liars. At least that’s my interpretation.

No, those are two very valid ones! Fuck Buttons definitely are one of the most important discoveries I’ve made in the past few years. I still love all the arty Britpop stuff, as you said, but now it’s more like Brian Eno, who’s a massive influence. I should stop talking about Brian Eno, I seem to mention him in every interview! Then there’s the Krautrocky stuff like Neu!, Harmonia, Amon Düül II, and Popol Vuh that all fall into place.

One album I heard the other day that I haven’t mentioned much so far but has been a massive influence is the latest Sufjan Stevens album The Age of Adz. The way he mixes his pop sensibilityalbeit quite a skewed oneinto all these amazing electronic soundscapes but with this seriously neoclassical bent to it, that’s a very inspiring thing. That’s sort of what I’m trying to do, just in slightly different ways.

It’s interesting you mention the Krautrock influence: not long ago I was at a Krautrock-themed night in Manchester where they were playing a bunch of old German records and Krautrock-inspired ones, and they played “Heaven, How Long” from Hostel there shortly before Neu!‘s “Hallogallo.”

Ah cool, I’m really glad those two were played consecutively. I saw Michael Rother doing the songs of Neu! and Harmonia at the ATP festival in December, which was amazing. We’ve got to be careful about the Krautrock thing, I think, because it could really easily fall into that whole idea of ‘Retromania’ again. A lot of bands at the moment are being influenced by Krautrock, which is great because when you listen to it even now it still sounds forward-thinking, but I think rather than try to rip off the sound of it, maybe we should be looking to replicate the spirit of invention of the time and stuff like that?

Can you tell me a bit about the writing and recording process for Hostel?

The first few tracks on Hostel are actually taken from an album that I’d made called Total Strife Forever. I’d given that CD to John from The Quietus music website, and he really liked it. I thought they were going to maybe write a feature on me or something like that, but they proposed putting out this EP instead, which turned into Hostel. We wanted to take two tracks from the album that I’d given them (which was streaming online for a while, but I took it down when we released the EP), but there are two tracks on the EP that are quite old now but they’re on the album, which I’m still hoping to put out this year.

What stage are you at in regard to releasing a full-length LP? I’ve read about Total Strife Forever but couldn’t find a copy of it anywhere!

I like that! When I gave the CD to John from The Quietus I didn’t have any idea what was going to happen with it. I didn’t even have a Facebook or a Twitter page or anything at that point; there was no online presence or record of me! The first time I emerged from that was when they were going to do a sort of ‘alternative’ Mercury Music Prize list and they wanted to put the album in it. I was amazed because I didn’t have any infrastructure at all and the record wasn’t out there, so it was flattering that they’d even consider it.

So they convinced me to stream it online, which was great. It got a few plays, and after three or four weeks was when it was decided that we’d put an EP out together. Then they said, “Take it down now!” So I had it up there and very quickly took it off, and now I keep mentioning it and people like you tell me they’ve heard of it but can’t find it. I’m hoping that might work in my favor.

You’re the first act to put out a release on the new Quietus label. Given editor John Doran’s comment that blogs setting up labels was as prudent as “withdrawing all your money from a cash machine and setting fire to it while simultaneously flushing your own head down a toilet filled with goat’s piss” (which is brilliant), did you have any reservations?

[Laughs] It’s an odd thing. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys, but I didn’t go and intentionally find John at a gig and hand him the CD: I just saw him there, I’d just finished the album and I had a copy of the CD, and he’s quite a distinctive-looking chap! So it was a case of thinking, ‘Ooh, there’s John Doran,’ and running up to him to give him the CD. I guess I was hoping they’d maybe interview me, or that it would be cool to have my music appraised by them.

But they’ve always had the ambition to put a record out. I think they’d been talking to a couple of other people but then things had fallen through. Then they were giving my CD out to this person at that record label, etc., but then thought, ‘You know what? Why don’t we just put it out ourselves?’ At the time I thought that it sounded such a stupid idea that it was worth doing!




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