Doves are due to release their new album, The Universal Want, on 11th September 2020. In the run up to the release of the album, we spoke to Andy Williams, drummer with Doves, about the new album, the past, the present, the future, remixes and the beauty of vinyl and art.
Congratulations on the album. How does it feel to have a new album ready to release to the world, eleven years after Kingdom Of Rust?
Really good. Very, very nice to be getting new music out. We’ve spent a lot of time writing which we try and do day in-day out but to actually get something out is really satisfying. It’s been a great process getting there. We’ve been talking about how it was a fast record to make and it was mostly pleasurable as an experience. We had a really good laugh making it and we had the benefit of having a lot of material at the start of it which we hadn’t before because all three of us have been writing away from the band.
We also had a couple of songs from the vaults, so to speak, which we managed to nail this time which was so gratifying. It’s so frustrating when you can’t get a song right; when you have a good idea but you get so far and hit a brick wall and you have to put it down. There are a couple of songs on this album where the genesis of the songs began during Kingdom Of Rust. We’d heard them again a few years ago and one of us threw an idea out there to try and finish it.
Long answer to a short question! It feels really good to be getting a new album out. Cant wait for people to hear it!
Which two songs were the ones that you resurrected?
Broken Eyes and For Tomorrow.
Broken Eyes is one of the true standout tracks on the album; I guess it taking so long to get it right must feel so good after all these years?
Do you feel like there was a renewed focus and clarity in the studio after so long not recording together?
I think so yeah; and an appreciation of what all three of us brought to the band originally. We enjoy each other’s company. We missed writing together and we also gave each other more room. If someone wasn’t feeling great one day we’d reconvene at a later date whereas during Kingdom Of Rust we were working solidly day-to-day; clocking in. It was quite militant. We’ve always had a strong work ethic but this time it was different because of the way we gave each other space if they weren’t feeling it. It was a lot easier as a process.
It’s vital to have that enjoyment and fun.
It is. The songs can feel laboured otherwise. We’ve played these songs live in the studio a lot and we’ve not been over pressured. We’re taking care of the material that it’s of good enough quality but in terms of how we play it; we’ve really enjoyed them. They haven’t been over laboured.
That shows in the album. It’s a concise piece. It feels like a Doves album; like an old friend visiting again with exciting news.
Thank you very much.
It’s really something to carve your own sound that is so distinctive e.g. the electric guitar lines on I Will Not Hide and the instrumental passage on For Tomorrow…it’s a signature sound. Is this something that you consciously think of as your write/record or is it just that; the Doves sound that comes when the three of your get together?
It’s very much just what comes out. We don’t really talk about what we’re gonna write or what we’re trying to do; we just write until we get that feeling that something feels right. We love music. We listen to music a lot ourselves. It’s just naturally what we gravitate too. We’re lucky that we have great chemistry together which is something that we have come to appreciate more. Longer instrumental passages are great and we put a lot of effort into the lyrics. We’ve written a lot for this album but it has felt like it has been one of the easiest to make.
There’s a real range of musical styles on the album. Cathedral’s of the Mind has a great dub feel to it and Prisoners has a real Northern Soul vibe; it helps pace the album superbly and ensures the album is an intriguing listen throughout.
How do you go about choosing the order of the songs on the album?
We take a lot of care in this. I will burn ten different CD’s with different orders and the other guys will do the same. When I’ve got an order I’m happy with I’ll take it back to the band and they’ll do the same. At that point it generally becomes clear as to which one is working the best. Once you have your first track, middle track/start of side two and your closer, it becomes a lot easier. You want the first track to welcome you to the record and whilst it’s clichéd, you want to go on a journey.
Those records are the best records though. They’re the ones that are magic.
I love the electronic section at the end of the title track as well; it reminds me of what Super Furry Animals were doing on their Phantom Power tour with The Man Don’t Give A F**k where they went into full techno meltdown at the end of their show…could we see that live from you all? It’s a little reminiscent of the Sub Sub days!
Super Furry Animals are a loss to music in the fact they’re not really putting out albums anymore; they’re great. Gruff is doing great stuff himself but I miss the Super Furry Animals.
Yes, it is a doff of the cap to the Sub Sub era. We still play Space Face off and on. That’s a lot of fun to play live and we just want to make sure we enjoy ourselves. We don’t play it all the time as we don’t want to be too predictable.
There’s an appetite for retrospectives these days; but as a going concern, how vital is it that your new material is put over to fans?
We don’t ever want to be a nostalgia act. We were quite adamant when we talked about working together again that we didn’t want to come back and be a nostalgic act. We felt like we still had something to say. We haven’t got a problem playing those old songs because, luckily for us, they mean a lot to people. But for our own artistic career, it’s so important for us to be moving forward and push ourselves, surprise ourselves and push ourselves and some kind of relevance.
Could you give a little background on the album title and where it came from? You personally selected the artwork?
We saw some of Maria Lax’s work in The Guardian last year. I sent it to the others with no thought of the album; just to share how great it was. Fast forward to Jez & I’s birthday in February this year and Jimi (Goodwin) bought us both her book; Some Kind Of Heavenly Fire. When we got to speaking about the album and her name came up again. We were looking at it and thought that this is where we feel the music is at. There is something in this dark and lonely imagery; some other-worldliness. It’s got a David Lynch/Edward Hopper feel to it.
Did you see David Lynch’s exhibition at HOME for Manchester International Festival?
Yes. The paintings are crazy and artistically challenging but it takes you somewhere totally different. Maria Lax is the same. I hold her work up as highly as David Lynch. We were dead chuffed when she agreed to collaborate with us.
This pushed us towards the album title as well; The Universal Want is about human nature and wanting what you haven’t got. I’m as guilty as anyone else in thinking that if I buy this it’s going to make me happy, or get me to that place where I will be happier but that’s not the case. It’s the eternal search for contentment; wanting the grass to be greener but that isn’t always the case.
You’re releasing the album as a deluxe boxset. How important is it to have that physical product for people to immerse themselves in? How much control do you have over the content and such?
Luckily, we have total control. Our label, Virgin/EMI and Heavenly have been amazing. It’s important to take good care of the presentation. Lots of people want vinyl and good products and we have a lineage of good covers. The art prints in the box set also come from Maria Lax. It’s great. There’s something about putting a record on. The romance to it.
What made you decide on Carousels as the first release from The Universal Want?
We felt like it showed a different side to us. It’s weird how you perceive your music and how others perceive your music. We thought it was something new for us. It felt like a new start. We sampled Tony Allen which was new and I was playing a breakbeat! Like I said earlier, we always want to push forward and try new things. It’s a good opening card. We’re back and we have something to say. We’re not resting on our laurels.
You’ve had plenty of takers remixing Doves songs in the past; the sadly departed Andrew Weatherall, Sasha, Four Tet, Lindstrom, Playgroup…who’s idea was it to have The Comet Is Coming remix Carousels?
It was a group decision. We heard them last year on BBC6Music on Gilles Peterson. Discovered them that way; the old school way…on the radio! Luckily they were up for doing it for us.
Are there any more remixes in the pipeline or people you’d love to get their hands on a remix for you?
On Kingdom Of Rust, I personally felt that we did too many remixes. Andy Wetherall’s Compulsion mix was brilliant but there were a few I wasn’t mad keen on. This time, we’re not going to think about it too much but if there is someone that we really like and feel that they would do something good, we’d be interested. The next single, Broken Eyes, doesn’t really lend itself to remixing so we’ll have to see. Carousels lends itself to remixes. I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head but we’re always listening.
I feel that For Tomorrow is one of many introspective songs on The Universal Want. Does there have to be a personal /emotional slant to the songs you create so that you can connect heavily with them?
Definitely. I think you can write about other scenarios or people but you end up writing about yourself and what you’ve been through. It’s really important to give a song an emotional connection and to talk about things. Life is not straightforward and people have their struggles. It can be very cathartic writing about things like that; not in a moaning way, but in a way that can be helpful rather than dragging people down.
How excited are you to play the songs live? Prisoners will be huge in the live environment; I can imagine the vibe in the room.
We have the tour booked for March and April and I definitely can’t wait. I’m hoping that we will be able to do that. It’s a massive part of what we do. We’re really excited and we’re already working out how we can play the new material live. There are only four of us on stage. Some come quickly but some are a bit more challenging.
I can’t wait to get out there, connect with people and see the whites of people’s eyes. It sometimes doesn’t feel real until you start performing the songs live. It’s the first time that we’ve put an album out without the usual shows.
Fans miss it too I’m sure. I remember seeing Doves in 2002 in Manchester and the optimism, excitement and anticipation that you get at a big show is something special. When the lights go out and a band strides on stage; it makes your stomach does somersaults.
We all want that don’t we?! Those feelings are the same for the band. It’s a brilliant feeling.
Some people might be coming to your music and shows for the first time…how does that feel?
It’s really exciting! Our manager sent us something from Spotify recently. You can identify which age groups are listening to you and we have a large bracket of 16-20 year olds listening to us. They weren’t even born when we released the first record! Wow! We’re also blessed with a loyal fan base. We’re very lucky.
You played the Teenage Cancer Trust Gig at Royal Albert Hall in 2019. How did it feel stepping on stage again as Doves?
It was scary! We did a warm up the night before in Warrington which helped but it was intimidating in such a grand venue. It was brilliant. It’s what I’ve done most of my life and it’s what I want to do best. I won’t forget that night. It was a real moment for us; really humbling with the reception we got. (Read a report on the gig from The Royal Albert Hall show here).
Are there any songs from previous Doves albums that you’re really looking forward to playing again?
I think we might dig out some songs that we haven’t done in years. I’ll certainly be pushing for that. There is lots of chat in forums about songs we never play so it would be nice to spring a surprise with songs that haven’t been in the set before. We can’t get away with not playing The Cedar Room though! People have such a strong connection with it that we don’t want to let people down. We’re there to connect with people and songs like that make that connection.
Are there any bands that have caught your eye who are on the rise recently? / What have you been listening to in lockdown?
When we’re recording I don’t tend to listen to specific things but during lockdown I’ve listened to a lot of music. When Ennio Morricone passed I binged on his stuff; I’m use a lot of varied playlists for different things…stuff like Ty Segall, Villagers, to dub stuff like King Tubby and classic soul.
Variety is the spice of life!
Do you feel like there will be more material from Doves in the future?
I certainly hope so. I think we’ve got a lot of music left in us and we really enjoyed making this album. I don’t know when though!
We sincerely hope that the tour goes ahead and we’ll be there, At The Barrier.
Thank you so much.
We would like to thank Andy Williams and Doves for their time in talking to us. Check out Prisoners below for just one of the many flavours you can sample on The Universal Want, which is released on 11th September 2020. Our review of the album will be published in due course.
You can check our Doves tour dates below.