“We’ve spent such a long time gathering all the songs together and pouring everything into it. It’s quite an honest impression of us as people.”
Tom Dougall’s kohl-lined blue eyes radiate sincerity as he talks about TOY’s eagerly anticipated debut album. We meet two members of TOY, front man Tom Dougall and bassist Maxim Barron (aka Panda), in the deserted dining room of a North London pub. Tom – pale, handsome and softly spoken – could be a long lost member of The Yardbirds, while Panda – with his flowing locks, handlebar moustache and red ski jumper – looks like he’s stepped straight out of a 1974 Krautrock album sleeve.
Their eponymous debut album, which is due for release on 11 September, is a heady cocktail of melancholy and euphoria in equal measures, nodding to the motorik thrust of Neu! and the heartwrenching synths of My Bloody Valentine.
It’s not the first time that the pair have been on the cusp of releasing an album, along with guitarist Dominik O’Dair, they were once in a band called Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong. Although the band was hyped by the NME, the album was pulled just before release. What did they take from that experience?
“We’ve realised that you’ve really got to be careful what you get yourself into. You have to really concentrate hard. You never know when someone is going to mess you around.”
Following the demise of Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, the three friends from Brighton decided that they had to take charge of their creative destiny. They formed form their own band, enlisting drummer Charlie Salvidge and Keyboardist Alejandra Diez. Their ethos?
“Never compromise,” says Tom. “People will always try to change things for their own benefit. They can do it in quite subtle ways. You have to be really careful that you’re not being manipulated into doing something that means nothing to you. We’re learning all the time but we definitely learned a lot of things from our last band.”
Their confident debut testifies to the fact that they have learned from their past experiences. Their cohesive sound is result of their solid friendship and their unified vision. Tom and Panda have a tendency to finish each other’s sentences and seem to instinctively know what the other person is about to say.
“I think with us knowing each other such a long time if there is any small disagreement, which rarely happens, you can move on from that really easily. The way we made the album wasn’t a compromise in any way. It was just all of us and our friend the producer, having a good time. We all have very similar musical taste because we’ve grown up together and listened to the same records. It’s obvious to us when something works and when it doesn’t. We always just go with the best thing. We always just seem to agree on it and that’s really cool. You don’t usually get that with many people.”
They recorded the album in just eight days with producer Dan Carey. Having experienced the hype machine once before, there must have been a sense of pressure to ‘deliver the goods’ with this record.
“I think it’s inevitable. We tried to ignore it or channel it in a positive way. Maybe we channeled it in a positive way. Especially because we had such a short amount of time to record it. We knew there was a lot riding on it. I think we had an idea of how we wanted it to be but it actually turned out, in a lot of ways, better than what we thought. You never really know how it’s going to sound until it actually gets sent back to you fully mastered and you put it on. During the recording process the pressure was actually good. It was really fun.”
Their debut single ‘Left Myself Behind’ tells a tale of unfulfilled ambition and regret. It’s conspicuously absent from the album. However, ’Motoring’ the expansive pedal-to-the-metal follow-up single did make the final cut. Does ‘Motoring’ more accurately describe their trajectory now? Do they feel that they are starting to fulfil their destiny? “We’ve achieved something.” says Panda confidently. “We knew as soon as we heard the album played back that it was our kind of music.”
The band is called TOY, as is the album. What was the reason for keeping it so simple? “I think it’s a really honest representation of what we’ve become since we started,” explains Tom. “We felt like it was direct. It just says ‘this is us’, ‘you can judge us on this’. When we came up with the name we thought it represented the way that we sounded, the way that we made music together. We have a lot of fun while we do it. It’s playful.”
“..but we’re already thinking of the name for the second album,” interjects Panda. “We want to do an EP at the end of year and approach it completely differently.”
“We just want to make something really noisy, basically” explains Tom. “Like a right racket. We’re already writing songs for the second album but we’d like to go in without much premeditation. Something more improvised as an EP.” Have they been listening to the Can’s recently released Lost Tapes? “Yes they’re brilliant!” they both enthuse. “The songs on our album are all quite tightly structured which we like but we’d like to experiment with looser structures. I think it would be fun to develop repetitive build and noise and do something like the Lost Tapes.”
“…but probably not as good.” adds Tom hastily.
It’s clear that TOY have come an extremely long way in a short space of time, so the pair are asked to reveal their secret. “I think it’s partly to do with the fact that we’re all together. It’s easy to be brave when you have a little unit. If you try hard enough and if you’re being genuine, I think people will respond to it. People can tell whether something is bullshit or not.”
TOY will be released on 11 September via Heavenly Recordings.