Having flitted around the indieverse for a number of years following the demise of the label he ran, Exercise1, West Countryman Luke Stidson decided to put his composer hat on and get behind the mic himself. Recording under the moniker Twin Falls, his lush, bittersweet “lo fi romantic” musings have been championed recently by both Steve Lamacq and John Parish, also known as PJ Harvey’s right hand man. DIY had a chinwag with Luke as he prepares to release his debut.
You’re midway through your first tour – how’s it going so far?
Good, although it’s not much of a ‘tour’ per se, more a string of sporadic dates around the country. A few of the live band have day jobs, children and the like, so it works best this way. We haven’t played live loads, I guess for the same reasons, so at the moment we’re just really pleased that it’s all come together so well. The shows now are definitely sounding the best they ever have.
You recorded most of ‘Slow Numb’ yourself. Was it weird trying to find people to tour with, and getting them to play how you wanted?
Not really because a lot of them are old friends and one is actually my brother. With the record, I made an effort to play everything I possibly could myself and I knew that I wanted to do the production and mixing all in isolation. It felt right to do it that way, but I didn’t want to work entirely alone – that’s much less fun and naturally there were instruments I wanted that I couldn’t actually play. I’ve worked on recordings in complete isolation and others with more of a traditional band approach. Both are good and produce entirely different results.
Having been in and around music for a number of years, what prompted you to take the plunge and record an album now?
Well, Twin Falls has been going for around 3 years and we self released 2 EPs during the first year. It’s been an ever-changing thing, especially in those first couple of years, with contributors coming and going. It meant I didn’t really have any agenda or know exactly what it was supposed to sound like. All I knew was that I definitely wanted to spend at least a year making the record. Anything less felt a bit half-arsed to me. As soon as I sat down and wrote new stuff and re-worked some of the older songs I felt like I had a bit of a path and after, I guess maybe a month, I realised I’d finally figured what it was I wanted Twin Falls to sound like. So I guess that spurred me on and prompted me to get the record done. Those first few months were pretty harsh but after that it got really exciting as it started to take shape. In the end it took exactly 1 year from start to finish.
The track names seem quite dark and melancholic, yet the music is actually quite romantic. Is that by accident or design?
Probably accident. It’s strange how some people see certain songs darker and others happier or more romantic. Different people hear different things.
Whist most musicians gravitate to London, you’re open about your love for, and writing about, Somerset. How does it inspire you?
I have this odd relationship with it, probably no different to any other twenty-something that grew up in the country and moved to the city. I wouldn’t say it inspires me though. I live in London by circumstance, more because of my day job, so I guess I just don’t have much of an attachment to it. But then I don’t think I could ever live in Somerset again. There are things I love about London but it’s the watered down people in abundance that get me down. Especially those that think living in London makes them a better person. I made the mistake of living around the corner from Clapham for a bit - places like that are full of them. You don’t get that in Somerset. People are pretty genuine, and everyone just drinks lots because there’s nothing better to do. On the flip side, I’ve lived in London for 9 years off and on, so I guess I probably sound like an idiot for criticising. Why musicians gravitate to London to try and make it is beyond me though. The reality is that ‘the industry’ isn’t attending every open mic night. It’s much better to be a great band from a little place and let that be your selling point.
You used to run your own label – Exercise1 – do you think it’s much harder for new bands to get noticed now as opposed to when you were behind the scenes?
There does seem to be less good bands around full stop, but then maybe I’m just not looking as much these days. There always seemed to be so much good stuff out there that we wanted to work on but we didn’t have the resources to do it all. It’s hard in London because even if you are doing something interesting, there are a thousand other bands doing something similar and they probably have more friends than you. The word ‘promoter’ doesn’t seem to mean anything either these days. They like to rely on bands bringing people and some will pay you according to how many people you brought, which makes their job solely to set up a Facebook event and tell you at the end how much you aren’t getting paid. We genuinely thought about the things we pushed and always tried to get people to buy into the label or the club night as an entity itself and I don’t understand where that attitude has gone. Not only are you expected to get to the gig and play for no money but you are now expected to provide the audience entirely by yourself as well. As a small new band ourselves, it makes playing in the capital a lot less enjoyable, although there are notable exceptions like The Windmill in Brixton and The Lexington.
You’ve got something interesting lined up involving “interactive content” for people who buy the album. Care to elaborate?
It’s simply a QR code printed inside the CD package. If you scan it with your smartphone using a free app it’ll take you to a secret site that has a lot of exclusive content. There’s extra audio tracks, bits of video and lyrics etc. It’s a continuation of the kind of extras we used to love doing with Exercise1 releases, where you’d get stuff on an enhanced CD, but that content could obviously never be updated after the release. With this all being stored on the web, we can update it over time and add new things. We quite liked the idea of the record still providing you with new content long after you first bought it.
What do the next six months hold for Twin Falls?
I know that the immediate future will involve finding a new drummer, as ours is moving to Scotland after this next run of gigs. We’re enjoying playing these songs live at the moment so I’m sure we’ll do some more of that, and there are new songs coming together too. Other than that I’ll probably drink a lot of ale and eat a lot of cheese, which is how I tend to spend my time.