Palma Violets, Swim Deep, Peace, Drenge, Splashh: just some of the names from the multifaceted UK-based guitar crop who dropped debut albums in 2013. They may have gone in very different directions more recently, but what they have in common is that they all returned with follow-ups to those debuts pretty swiftly. All except Splashh, that is, who have been out of the game since then, save for 2015’s ‘Pure Blue’ single. They didn’t want to be a part of any scene, apparently. And now, over three years on from the arrival of ‘Comfort’, they’re finally raring to go again.
“We just wanted to do our own thing,” says guitarist and founding member Toto Vivian, back in London with ‘Waiting A Lifetime’ finally out. “When we were in the UK, there was a lot of pressure to fit in.” Vocalist and fellow founder Sasha Carlson, all the way out in New Zealand, agrees. “It was nice to get away from it all,” he admits frankly.
Don’t worry, there’s been no rift in camp Splashh – they’ll all be back together and based in Europe soon enough – but spreading themselves apart over such great distances is nothing unusual for them. Writing for ‘Waiting A Lifetime’ began when Sasha fled London to call New York home for a while.
“We really didn’t tour the [first] album that much, looking back on it,” Sasha reflects. “We could have probably done a bit more, but I just felt fed up with London and wanted a change. So I went to New York for a few months on my own.”
But Sasha wouldn’t be alone for long. Unbeknown to him, he wasn’t the only musical Aussie nomad out in the Big Apple. Jaie Gonzales – a friend from back in Sydney, and now the group’s keyboardist – just so happened to have had similar ideas. Sasha just “ran into him”. Does the world get much smaller than that?
The two got down to work writing together, with Toto and bassist Tom Beal joining up with them some time later. Toto had “started the next phase” where writing for the new record was concerned, while Sasha admits he and Jaie were “writing for fun” more than anything. Besides, the group had endured a bit of a torrid time on the label front.
“When we did the first album, it all happened very quickly.”
“The last few years have been hard,” Sasha explains, “because we haven’t had a label – and then we had a label and they didn’t want to do an album deal.” They eventually signed to NYC indie Cinematic but regardless, they were never in any rush to put a new album out. As Sasha emphasises, it was really a case of “trying to get the right songs, the right producer, and just taking time.” They may well have kept fans waiting a lifetime, but it’s not been without good reason.
“When we did the first album,” Toto continues, “it all happened very quickly, so we’d never really had time to develop as a band [or] as songwriters – so we were just in at the deep end straight away, and those songs that we wrote at home just became the album. We never in a million years thought that would ever happen.”
Splashh didn’t have to think twice about where they’d go with ‘Waiting A Lifetime’. A rehash of ‘Comfort’ - well received though it surely would have been - was never on the cards; this one had to be different. “I guess that’s why it’s taken so long,” ponders Toto, “because sometimes it’s hard to create something that you’re super proud of and that you believe is different.”
‘Waiting A Lifetime’ certainly represents a sonic shift, even if not a complete reinvention. ‘Rings’ kicks off proceedings in not too dissimilar fashion to ‘Comfort’ opener ‘Headspins’, only with an extra helping of drum-loop-driven oomph. The gloriously anthemic title track is their biggest and boldest effort yet, while ‘Closer’ shimmers in a nostalgic nod to some of the more affecting synthpop sounds of the late 80s and early 90s. Toto offers up a basic but perfectly rational explanation for the new direction. “We were 22 when we wrote those first songs [for ‘Comfort’],” he points out, “so we were into different music – just trashy stuff. We were kind of fed up of playing that kind of music, and then we stopped listening to it all and moved away.”
“I personally love when you listen to albums and they get better and better over time.”
Splashh’s pride and pleasure in what they’ve achieved with ‘Waiting A Lifetime’ is clear. Any nerves there might be about releasing their latest creation into the world are drowned out by a sense of real excitement – and they’re hoping it’s going to be a gift that keeps on giving. “I personally love when you listen to albums and they get better and better over time,” says Toto. Sasha agrees. “I think that’s really important,” he adds. “When I go back to my favourite albums, there’s always stuff that I’m just discovering, so hopefully people can draw that from our new record.”
As steps from first to second album go, Splashh’s hasn’t exactly been a doddle. Even once they’d negotiated the obstacle of finding a new label and regrouped in one place, they still had a significant task ahead of them. As Sasha admits, finally going into the studio was a “daunting” experience, but their determination to return as their best possible selves ultimately spurred them on. “There was a part of me that was obviously very worried,” admits Sasha, with Toto expressing much the same. “I was really nervous, to be honest,” says the latter. “Throughout the last few years, I’ve been freaking out, but I just had confidence in our songwriting and stuff.”
“So yeah,” concludes Sasha calmly but confidently, satisfied that the next chapter in Splashh’s career is ready to begin, “I think we’re good.” On the evidence of ‘Waiting A Lifetime’, they’ll be that and more.
Splashh’s new album ‘Waiting A Lifetime’ is out now.