Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs: one guy, a whole host of costumes and magnificently matched tones, beats and timbres. It’s this recipe that has placed Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, aka TEED, aka Orlando Higginbottom so prominently at the forefront of music loving minds over the past 18 months, and why the anticipation for his debut album Trouble to drop has been so… troubling. His outstanding live performances featuring dancers, extravagant headdresses and outfits, and carefully plotted setlists designed to lift listeners to the point of rapture have made him one of Europe’s most coveted live acts and now, he’s finally released his debut full length album. We catch up with Orlando Higginbottom at home, a few days after wrapping up a much praised headline show at London’s Koko to hear more about how Trouble came to life.
“I had Rob Da Bank and Zinc supporting, which was kind of… amazing!” Higginbottom comments coyly of his recent Koko show. “And I was lucky, the weather was incredible so everyone was in this great mood.”
The live show is where a huge amount of TEED’s following first came across the artist. With Higginbottom being an incessant tourer boasting an acclaimed live show, our conversation naturally begins by discussing whether he was always a comfortable performer, or whether nerves have ever played a part in his musical life. “I get a lot of adrenaline before a show,” he comments. “I’ve had a few shows where I’ve been nervous, but on the whole, it’s fine. Even early on, I wasn’t really nervous, it was just the odd one where there was a lot of pressure that I’d think ‘Ah. Fuck.’ It’s the ones where I know that it’s going to be shit where I get nervous!”
Such extensive touring has given the Oxford native occasion to not only create a dazzling live show, but also to air the tracks prepared for his long awaited debut album, Trouble. “I’m very excited [about the release]” Higginbottom states. “Of course, i’m a bit nervous. There’s a lot of work that I’ve put into it and it’s a very personal thing that i’m putting out there. So i’m nervous about how people are going to take it, but on the other hand, I don’t really care how people take it. I made it, that’s what I wanted to make so there’s nothing else I can do really. I am excited and I have no idea what’s going to happen with it. I don’t know if it’s going to sell any copies at all, or a thousand copies, so it’ll be a surprise.”
Trouble is certainly not TEED’s first release, having already put out five EPs, a plethora of remixes and enjoyed viral online success with the track ‘Garden’. So when it came to writing an album rather than an EP length burst of sound, did the writing approach need to be modified? Was there a need to plan more intricately what was going to take place?
“There was definitely no theme that I was working with, musically I didn’t really know,” he responds. “All I knew was that I wanted to keep writing an album until I felt like there was an album, until it took shape. What I can say is that at first, I didn’t think I’d be singing on it that much. I thought i’d just be singing on three or four songs, but I think there’s only one instrumental song on there which now, doesn’t seem surprising to me at all but if i’d said that to myself a year and a half ago, it would’ve been like, ‘oh wow, so you’re a singer then, are you?’. So that was something that took me by surprise. My plan with it was really just to explore the idea of a dance music album and why that doesn’t really work a lot of the time, so I was thinking about that and trying to work out what the problem is.”
The subject of the life span and validity of dance albums is a poignant topic on the day of our chat, as an interview had just been published where Higginbottom feels that his views on this matter had been misconstrued, leading to a series of clarifying messages appearing on his Twitter account.
“I did a magazine interview and I was talking about [this], and I wrote that I was thinking about why so many dance music albums don’t stand the test of time,” he explains. “But what that was understood as was that I was saying I’d written a dance music album to stand the test of time, but of course I wouldn’t say that and I wouldn’t think that. But the point was that I was thinking about that very thing, about how few dance music albums there are in everybody’s record collections, considering how popular dance music is and has been.”
“When I was a teenager, which I guess was my biggest album listening time, I used to listen to UNKLE, Psyence Fiction - I know that’s not dance, it’s electronic – but that album is incredible and still sounds incredible. Roni Size, New Forms. I was also listening to a lot of R’n’B and Hip Hop, a lot of Erykah Bahdu, Common and Dilla stuff. But I was missing those dance albums.”