UK indie rockers Two Door Cinema Club rose to prominence off the back of their catchy pop melodies and singable lyrics. Early tracks like Undercover Martyn and I Can Talk were key breakthroughs for the band after their first record Tourist History – and the follow up in 2012, Beacon, cemented their place as one of the premier indie rock acts of past five years or so.
Then, they fell rapidly back to earth after they toured themselves into the ground in 2012 and ’13, with singer Alex Trimble hospitalised and the band finding themselves growing apart. An unsustainable touring schedule had created a divide within the group, and following Trimble’s sickness they took a necessary hiatus to get their lives back on track.
Now they’ve returned with their third studio album Gameshow, a record that sees them step outside the set pop-rock formula which made Two Door Cinema Club so popular across their first two records. A more intrepid band emerged out the other side of what could have been the end of their collective careers, and following the release of their boldest record yet we caught up with Trimble to find out what’s changed, where it all went wrong, and how they came back from the brink.
Music Feeds: You’ve obviously just come back from a prolonged break, something you’ve said happened as a result of burnout from touring. What was the point where you thought ‘alright, we need some time away from all of this.’
Alex Trimble: It ended pretty disastrously, you might say. We were all set up to do a run of festival shows back in 2014. I was flying in from the States into London for a set of rehearsals and collapsed several times on the way over and ended up in hospital in London for two weeks. Just from a combination of stress and exhaustion, and worry over where the band was heading and it just reached that point – so I think a decision was made around my hospital bed.
MF: Did you see the health scare coming at all, or was it a bit of a surprise when everything blew up like that?
AT: I think part of me did see it coming, I think part of all of us saw it coming. I was the only one up until that point who had expressed concerns. We had, at one point or another talked about it briefly but there’s this crazy thing that happens. I’ve seen it happen to so many bands where you get caught up in momentum and success that you don’t want to see that fade away or even just disappear completely. So anything we had discussed or anything that had been broached that had been worrying or concerning was pushed under the carpet until it reached that climax.
MF: Do you think that you’ve learnt enough from that experience that now you’ll be able to tour a bit more sustainably?
AT: I’m pretty confident that we’ve learned from our mistakes but of course that’s always going to be sitting in the back of my mind – that something could happen. But learning from going through this shit, it puts you in a much better position because you know the hallmarks, and the signposts are there before you get there. So we’ve put some things in place, we won’t spend as much time on the road this time around. We’re communicating better as well, that was one of the worst things that led to the ultimate destruction was the fact that we’d all drawn ourselves away from the band and from one another on the road. So we weren’t very social creatures by the end of it, we were all dealing with things in our own way – in the classic clichéd rock n’ roll format. Ultimately we very sadly stopped being friends for a while, that was the first thing we put back on track before we even started talking about the band. We’d spent months apart and the first thing we did was get together over a beer and kind of get to know one another again. So we make time for that, you’ve got to make time for friends as well as business and music and all the other stuff that comes from being in a band.
MF: Was there any point where you guys thought you might never make music together again?
AT: Yeah, that point came a few months into our break apart from one another. We all reached that conclusion at separate stages, everyone just had to go through their own process – and part of getting our shit together again was going through a phase of deciding that the band wasn’t the way forward. The band had a strange kind of magic and a strange kind of magnetism to it. It’s been in our lives for so long and it was far too difficult ultimately to let go of. So all of us, somewhere inside of us, knew that it was better to try and make it work at least one more time than to just give up on it and go and do something else. When we started getting back together we decided ‘okay we’re giving it one more chance, if it doesn’t work out then we know.’ I think in that respect it was kind of surprising how well it did come together.
MF: There seems to be a pretty deliberate change in style for you guys on Gameshow, though obviously a lot of the aspects that made your past records popular are still there. What do you think took you in that new-ish direction musically?
AT: The fact that there was four years between records makes a hell of a difference between what you were doing then and what you’re doing now. After the band dissolved for a while, all of us were thrown out there into the world. We hadn’t really lived in the real world since we left school; there was just this crazy alternate reality we were living in for Cinema Club. So when you’re thrown into that situation you’re kind of plunged into the darkness and you have to try and find your way out.
That causes you to just think about a lot of shit, about yourselves and about the world, you’ve got to reckon with a lot of difficult things. Coming out the other side of that there seemed to be less boundaries and less fear in terms of what we were going to do musically. It was less consuming and less hinged on what the band did, which lead to more fearlessness, more experimentation and a little bit more willingness to go to places we’d never gone before. So that led to the change in direction musically.
MF: Are you apprehensive at all about how this new record is going to be received, given your fan base has probably come to expect a certain sound from you guys?
AT: Whatever happens, happens. So far it seems to be going down fairly well which is obviously the best that we can hope for. I had no concern about what anyone was going to think about this record when we were in the studio. The most important thing that happened when we were in that room together was everyone just having a good time. We’d been through the stuff that we had to go through, and finally, we’d just reached our place. Everyone was just grooving every day, smiles on our faces. We were making music that we were genuinely into and proud of. That’s ultimately what really matters. That’s what you do as a musician and as an artist; other people will get on board with what you’ve got going on.
MF: ‘Are We Ready’ seems to be a bit more heavily hinged towards social commentary, as do a number of other tracks on ‘Gameshow’. Was it a specific concern for you guys to be writing a bit more broadly and socially than with your past lyrics which more often seemed to concern things like love and loss?
AT: It wasn’t intentional, but certainly there’s a broader spectrum, topically, in terms of the lyrics. I don’t know if it was because I was younger or because I was in an alternate reality – but being back in the real world kind of led me to reckon with what was going on and I realised how much had changed since we had started the band since we were kids. Even since the now-ubiquitous nature of the internet and media, that kind of stuff really affected me personally. So it is a social commentary as well as something that I am dealing with personally. I felt like I had more to write about this time, whereas when I was younger I felt like a lot of the lyrics were place-holders in a way. Something to fit a melody over a song, whereas this time around there’s a little bit more substance in there.
MF: During the time that Alex was suffering burnout and illness you guys were forced to cancel your Splendour In The Grass show a few years ago. Are there any plans on the horizon to go back to Splendour or do other Australian shows in general?
AT: 100% we’re working on it. That’s been one of the most difficult things to put together because we’ve been away for so long is we want to get back to everywhere. We’ve got to line everything up and get everything in order. We will be back for sure, I’m hoping some point next year.
‘Gameshow’ is out now. Grab a copy here.