THE five-piece Alternative-Rock band TALMA…
are gearing up for a big 2018! Their new song, Lifeline, is about getting to grips with a city like London and all the rush and isolation. I speak with the guys about their favourite music and how they all got together; whether there is going to be more material next year; the artists who influence them – and how they produce such an energetic and raw sound on stage.
I discover whether the band feels more comfortable on stage or in the studio; why artists like Morrissey are influential to them; a few albums that touch their hearts; some new artists we need to take a gander at – what they all have planned for this Christmas.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
All good, thanks. Very busy with the release - but it’s been exciting stuff! (I am actually writing the answer to these questions from the rehearsal studio). It’s been a bit of a mad balancing act for all of us with jobs, girlfriends; essentials - like eating to fulfil - and that’s all before we have picked up an instrument!
But, in short = all good!
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
We are a five-piece Alternative-Rock band formed in Exeter - now hailing from London. On making the move up to the Big smoke in the summer of 2016, we have spent the time since writing and focusing on trying to hone our sound. Our influences cover a broad remit but most prominently our work is influenced by artists such as Radiohead, The Smiths and The National to name but a few...
Lifeline is your latest track. What is the song all about?
In essence; the track explores the loneliness and the sense of displacement that can come with moving to a metropolis like London. Lifeline explores the juxtaposition of being surrounded by millions of people - but still feeling a sense of loneliness and isolation. The overwhelming nature of a city like London has, for us, sometimes evoked a sense of helplessness and a need to call for help - the 'lifeline' is the thing that we are looking to clutch onto, as the weight of trying to establish yourself in such a big place, takes hold.
There is an aspect of the modern city and feeling isolated. Do you have a sense of loneliness being in a city like London?
Don’t get me wrong; London is an incredible place and we count ourselves very lucky to live here, however, moving here has coincided with that awkward phase of our lives where neither of us has any idea what we are actually doing. The overwhelming visceral nature of this place sometimes beats you up a bit and, with unfamiliar surroundings, you often don’t know where to turn for help.
Moreover, I think it is quite an ‘individual’ time in our lives where people are thinking about what is best for them and how to go about achieving what they want to achieve. Sadly, though, this can often contribute to the loneliness - as you can be unsure who to turn to for help when it all gets a bit much.
PHOTO CREDIT: @Elliottrattphotography
Lifeline is a song that shows there is life in guitar music still. Do you think there is a danger Rock/Alternative artists are less relevant than past years?
Very kind of you to say! It’s a tough one. I personally think guitar-led music is making a bit of a comeback. Bands like The War on Drugs, The National; Royal Blood and many others are starting to level the playing field a little bit. Moreover, there is definitely life in the Alternative genre: acts like Angel Olsen, for example (in the States) and legends like Nick Cave have released fantastic work in the last twelve months. However, with tech getting ever better, a palette where synth and effects are becoming ever more sophisticated; it is easy to see how a guitar player just plugging into an amp is perhaps slightly losing its glamour. Artists are always looking for the next new thing and, with guitar dominating our popular music history; it is understandable that musicians are looking elsewhere to drive a tune.
However, I would say that ‘Alternative’ music, by its very definition, is music fans looking for a release from the mainstream and a rawer, more emotive, connection with the music that they listen to. The guitar has always been a great communicator of that desire and, as long as that feeling is in play, I think the guitar will always be relevant - due to its versatility and the emotions that you can get across.
The lyrics have a touch of Morrissey – and his worldview/wit. Is he someone who inspired the band? What other artists do you count as influences?
I think, loosely, The Smiths’ sound, in general, is something that we have drawn a lot of inspiration from in the past. Morrissey obviously plays a huge part in this but, in my eyes, Jonny Marr’s guitar is just as essential to that influence. In a Rock scene where baritone vocals have gone a little out of fashion, comparisons are naturally made – but, gladly our worldviews are very different! There is a similarity in that often Morrissey’s lyrics show his lack of assimilation with the world around him whilst, in Lifeline, the lyrics explore that premise and our lack of understanding of the world that we have moved into.
As a band (and as individuals) we are all influenced by a huge array of different artists from Nick Cave, Elvis Costello; Nile Rodgers and many more. All of these individual influences contribute to the sound in some way.
How did TALMA come together? What brought you guys into a band?
It all started at Exeter University. Jonny (drummer) and I were playing together in a Jazz band. We both had a mutual love of various artists and were really keen to set up a band of our own. We knew of Jack (Guitar), who played lead guitar for a Soul choir band, who brought along Pete (Bass) and then James (Guitar) later on. We were all involved in projects before the band started - but the main motivator for us was to write our own stuff and see what we could come up with.
Is there going to be new material coming next year? What are you working on?
Yes! We’ve got more yet to come, so we’ll be sure to keep you posted on that! Then, providing nobody expresses pure hatred of the new releases, we will be back in the studio doing the rounds again.
IN THIS PHOTO: Matt Maltese/PHOTO CREDIT: Holly Whitaker Photography
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
There is a lot of fantastic stuff out there at the moment. I am a huge fan of the singer-songwriter Matt Maltese - who is starting to make a bit of noise. Our guitar player, Jack, recommends Phoebe Bridgers (who is supporting Pinegrove in the near future). A couple of other bands that we have enjoyed recently - who have released new music - are Prom Queen, Foxygen and P.F. Philip & The Night Riders.
IN THIS PHOTO: Prom Queen
If you each had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?
Jack: Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
It’s just great. No matter how you are feeling; it will accentuate the emotional state that you are in at that time.
Jonny: Songs of Love and Hate by Leonard Cohen
He sets the benchmark for lyric-writing and, as its winter, it’s an album to listen to in a coat.
Henry: Diamond Dogs - David Bowie
I am a huge Bowie fan - and this album sums up so much of what I love about his stuff. The narrative storytelling throughout the album; blended in with some brilliant singles – it’s just a great listen.
James: Nebraska - Bruce Springsteen
An album I have been a huge fan of for a while; often an artist who is thought of for his big live shows and anthemic tunes. Nebraska is a testament to his range and the quality of his songwriting.
Pete: Meat Is Murder - The Smiths
It’s just a brilliant album. (Bass player man of few words).
Can we see you perform anywhere soon? What gigs do you have lined-up?
We are back on stage for our last show of 2017 this Wednesday (6th December) at The New Cross Inn: one of our favourite venues in East London.
Then; we’ll be in writing-mode until making a return at The Camden Assembly on 24th February - which will be our first time playing there…so excited about that one!
It seems like your music comes to life on stage. Do you prefer the stage or studio? Where does the band feel most comfortable and alive?
It probably varies from band member to band member; however, I would say an honest answer is that we get a lot out of both. As a group of musicians, we take an overriding joy from creating our own stuff and going on that ‘journey’ with it - from the initial jam right through to gigging it live - and then putting it under the microscope in the studio. I think we would struggle to do music without one or the other; we love playing live in front of an audience whilst we also love getting in the studio to create our own music.
A short answer to the question: we are alive and in love with both settings…
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
It sounds a bit superficial - but I think you just have to be ‘you’. The music industry is so overflowing with (just) ‘stuff’; whether it’s promoters, other artists; genres, all sorts - and it is very easy to get lost in the maze. It’s a case of sticking to your guns and reminding yourself of the reason why you are doing this in the first place. By all means, take as much advice from external influences as you can: hearing other opinions is healthy but be weary of the so-called ‘industry experts’ who may cloud your thoughts on what you are trying to achieve.
If you get the sound right, the rest will take care of itself. So, just be you and love what you are doing.
Christmas is not too far away. Do you all have plans already - or will you be busy working?
I think, predominantly, just having a bit of a rest! It’s been a heavy year for all of us; so I think a bit of a recharge and gearing up for another really busy one is a necessity.
Looking back at this year; has there been a moment that stands as a highlight for all of you?
I think, to come back to the studio/stage dynamic, there are two distinct memories for us...
Firstly, in terms of performing live; we took to the stage with Queen’s Spike Edney and his All-Star Band; we played some great venues and got some exposure to some amazing musicians.
However, I would say the real highlight was going into the studio with Jason Wilson (You Me at Six, Reuben) at Stake Out Studios. We have always been a bit D.I.Y. when it has come to recordings - which has been fine and really beneficial in some respects. But, to get a pro like Jason involved was brilliant. His insight and his ability to reign us in - when we were getting carried away - was so invaluable and he played a massive part in the end product.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Henry: I Need You – Prom Queen
James: I’ll Still Destroy You – The National
Jack: Kaput – Destroyer
Pete: Calypso – The Physics House Band
Jonny: Plans – Halcion