Here’s a question: is it too soon for 2010s nostalgia? It may seem a ridiculous idea, but as we edge closer to the end of the decade, it’s interesting to see how things have changed – what’s come and gone, and who’s still around to tell the tale.
A band like Two Door Cinema Club, who rose to prominence in their early 20s as the indie-pop pride of Northern Ireland, know this all too well.
“We did a tour through England recently, and we were meeting some fans by the stage door after this gig,” begins Sam Halliday, the lead guitarist of the band. “There was a kid there that was probably around 20 years old – I assumed he probably only got into us recently. When we get around to him, though, he’s holding a copy of [debut album, 2010’s] Tourist History for us to sign. He says to us that he got that album when he was 13, and it was one of the first albums he ever bought with his own money! We were blown away. This album that doesn’t feel like it came out all that long ago was a part of this kid’s life through his entire teenage years. It made us feel so old!”
As someone who got into music heavily during his own teens, Halliday is acutely aware of the role it can play in one’s life at such a pertinent time. “You change so much when you’re at that age. It’s so cool to see that our music was there for kids like that – and the fact that a lot of teenagers still come to see our shows now means a lot, as well.”
It was while Halliday – along with vocalist/guitarist Alex Trimble and bassist Kevin Baird – was still in high school that Two Door Cinema Club first came into existence. Originally taking the name Life Without Rory, the band eventually morphed its current sound and formation around 2007, as the band moved on from their school days and into university – or, at least, that was the plan. By the time their debut EP Four Words to Stand On was released in 2008, it was abundantly clear that none of the band would be making time for higher education, for the time being.
“We’ve been playing together since we were maybe 14 years old,” says Halliday. “By the time Two Door was a thing, we only had one year of school left. At that point, we knew that this was something that we wanted to pursue – it’s all we ever chatted about. We made the call to put off uni for a year and release an EP. We only wanted to sell copies of that EP so we could buy a van and tour in the UK – that was as lofty as our ambitions were.”
I’d just be standing there in the booth, clutching my guitar, telling myself over and over again not to fuck up the part.
The rest, as they say, is history – Tourist History, even – and although many bands have come and gone, Two Door have shown the skill it takes to adapt and evolve. It’s worth mentioning that Halliday, Trimble and Baird have seen each other through almost 15 years worth of music, across practically half their lifetime. When queried on what has kept their bond so strong as they’ve grown up and changed as people, Halliday thinks out loud on the matter.
“We still love doing it. We’ve definitely all changed – musically, we can all be on very different pages from time to time. I guess it’s the fact that we’ve seen each other through so much. We know each other so well. I don’t know… it’s a bit like a marriage at this point, really. Sometimes, it’s really lovely and fun. Other times, it’s shit. Throughout all of it, though, is our commitment. I guess we’re kind of old-school in that sense. We have a real mutual respect for one another and for the band. There’s no one thing specifically. We just trust each other.”
That trust was crucial in the lead-up to the band releasing album number three, entitled Gameshow, this past October. A further exploration of their glam, disco and pop influences, Gameshow was concocted through experimentation, trial and error and – perhaps most importantly – a degree of patience and understanding.
Previously, we would have thought something like a guitar solo was too over-the-top; too silly. We allowed for things like that to happen
“When we got back into the studio to make this album, the first week was really difficult,” Halliday admits. “As fun as making music is for us, we were still really nervous about what we were doing. We were also working with Jacknife Lee, who’s a really big producer and someone that we had never worked with before. I think a lot of the pressure was internal – I’d just be standing there in the booth, clutching my guitar, telling myself over and over again not to fuck up the part. ‘This guy has worked with everyone,’ I was thinking. ‘Do you want to be the worst guitar player he’s recorded?’ I think it also took us a little while to be comfortable with sharing ideas with one another again – especially considering it had been so long since we’d done it.”
As the creative process for Gameshow went on, Halliday and co. were in a constant state of questioning – who was this music for, what was it, and what did it say about them? They’ve come out the other end of it all the more confident in the band as a collective unit, as well as a band that’s prepared to properly test their mettle when needed.
“When you’ve been around for a while, there’s always that underlying fear that you’ve been forgotten,” says Halliday. “There’s such a massive turnover these days – bands replace other bands so fast, and there’s a sense that if you take any sort of break you’ll be left behind. It’s not something we ever talked about, but it was something that was always in the back of our minds. I think taking that break from the band ended up being a blessing – by the time we came back and made this album, we’d kind of forgotten what we were supposed to do. When you’re in that cycle, you’re so set in a mindset of what your band is and what it sounds like. You’re so aware – I mean, you do it every night.”
It’s a bit like a marriage at this point, really. Sometimes, it’s really lovely and fun. Other times, it’s shit.
Two Door Cinema Club is still Sam, Alex and Kevin. It probably always will be. The music of Two Door Cinema Club, however? It’s never going to stop changing. “Our goal with this record was to make something that was fun – something that we enjoyed,” says Halliday. “With this album, we were able to do things that we never would have done before. This album’s a little more tongue-in-cheek. It indulges more.
“Previously, we would have thought something like a guitar solo was too over-the-top; too silly. We allowed for things like that to happen – it was just like, ‘Let’s go for it.’ The other option was that we would just go in and make a bad version of our first record – and I can guarantee that no-one would have cared about that at all.”
Gameshow is out now through Parlophone. Two Door Cinema Club join The xx, LCD Soundsystem, Queens Of The Stone Age and many more for Splendour In The Grass 2017 at North Byron Parklands from Friday July 21 – Sunday July 23; they’re also playing the Hordern Pavilion on Friday July 21.