Interview: Tellison

In a secluded area of Shoreditch, during a busy press day for the band, Tellison give Gary Green the low-down on where they’re at right now: the new album, touring, and what not to do in foreign countries.

Tellison So, you’ve started streaming upcoming album The Wages of Fear ahead of its release date. Why was that?

Steven: Well, it leaked. And our label was freaking out. So we decided to stream it; the album’s release coincides with the first date of the tour, so it’s quite lucky that fans will get to know the songs beforehand now.

‘Say Silence’ is your newest single. How was recording the video for that?

Steven: (Laughs)
Pete: Before we started, I think we were all apprehensive.
Henry: It was a different song, originally.
Steven: Yeah, he [the director] really wanted to do a different song. But we were like, ‘but this is the one the label have picked… you know, this is the single. So stop talking about that song.’ And we were just talking about films we liked, and we brought up Dungeness - which was the location we ended up shooting.
Henry: We were doing it on a bit of a budget, so we wanted somewhere that looked impressive, somewhere that looked…
Steven: Like you spent loads of money.

It looks like you had a lot of fun doing it, that’s for sure.

Henry: Peaks and troughs. That’s how Tellison videos sort of work.

What were the troughs?

Steven: Getting in the sea in a pair of speedos.
Pete: Initially they were supposed to be vintage wetsuits for that shot, and they were like, ‘sorry, there’s no money. So we bought you this black vest and a pair of speedos instead.’
Steven: Have you seen ‘The Life Aquatic’? There’s a scene in that called ‘Rescue on Ping Island’ – which is his [Henry’s] ringtone – and in that, they come out of the sea to rescue Jeff Goldblum. It’s very stylised, but kind of hilarious, because they’re very serious. You know, they’re being shot at and stuff, but it’s really camp. And I thought we dug that, that sort of weird mixture of action and, uh, high camp.

With the new tour, obviously we’re guessing you guys are excited? Or are there parts you’re not looking forward to so much?

Henry: … It’s like going back to school after the summer holidays. There’s this nervous apprehension; you don’t want to do it. You have a few days when you suck, but then it starts being fun, then it gets to the end and you just want to finish. I find that the further you get away from home, the more…

More like an adventure it becomes?

Steven: Yeah, there’re tours we’ve done where you’re basically satelliting out from London and coming back every night, and that’s quite a slog I suppose. It’s quite fun to go to new cities and meet new people, and have surreal experiences.

Surreal experiences?

Steven: Yep.

Go on.

Steven: Umm, just stuff happens sometimes.

Such as?

Steven: Well, we were in Paris recently, and our bass player nearly got –
Henry: He got slapped by a Parisian taxi driver.
Steven: He got into a taxi…
Pete: There were four of us, and we were like, ‘Okay, there are five seats in a regular car, so that’ll be fine.’ So, I think Andy (bassist) tried to get in the front, and apparently that’s a real no-no. And when he got out, he slammed the door, and that was way too much for this guy.
Steven: And then the taxi driver got out of his taxi.
Henry: He had me by the neck.
Steven: And all the taxis of Paris just sort of descended, all shouting at us in French, and we were going, ‘Pardon et moi!?’ And Andy was trying to talk him down.
Henry: Something was lost in translation.
Steven: It was a really bad time. But sort of fun.

Would you write a song about it at all?

Steven: Maybe it’d be too visceral. I wouldn’t want to re-experience that every night.

Do you draw on experiences that have happened to you, or do you conjure up your own?

Steven: I think I generally draw on stuff that’s happened to me,
Pete: I think it’s easier to be persuasive and mean it, if it’s something that’s happened to you. It can be a very strange thing: if you go watch a band, you don’t believe what they’re talking about.

Any examples?

Steven: (Laughs) You are terrible.
Pete: Well I’ve seen bands, and they’re all, you know, all about going out and drinking Cristal. And it’s like, ‘I’ve met you, and I know that this is not true.’ But people are really digging it, so I don’t know.

So you think they put on a fake image?

Pete: I don’t care what other bands do necessarily, I just think for us personally if you mean it, then…for me, that’s what I’d like to watch. Anyone who is believable should be applauded.

[To Henry] As a drummer, where do you come in with the songwriting?

Pete: He’s an excellent shit meter.
Steven: He’s not afraid to speak his mind.
Henry: Yeah, if something’s not working, then I’ll say ‘This isn’t good, guys.’ I do a lot of the keyboard parts and programming. Originally Steve would have a song, we’d work them out together, and I’d sequence the demos.
Steven: Henry’s got a lot of electronic know-how, I suppose. He was in the electronic music society in Berkley college of music.
Henry: With this record, there wasn’t really anyone around, so instead of recording the songs we just made MIDI versions.

Do you think that’ll come back in your third album? Or any other influences that may find its way onto the next record?

Pete: Cristal.
Steven: Now that you’ve mentioned it, I – having done a lot of press for this record – have felt quite guilty for what I’ve put the rest of the band through. So I’ve written this new song, which is kind of like an apology to them. For having ruined their lives. For making them be in a band with me for ten years. But musically, we take bits and pieces from everywhere – and any new music out that I’m digging.

What are you guys listening to at the moment that’s floating your boat?

Steven: Well Pete and I drove down this morning and we listened to Dave Bazan’s new album Strange Negotiations, which is very good.
Henry: I went record shopping yesterday – first time I’ve been in a long time – and I got the new Metronomy record. That’s a really great record – really simple, but really great.
Pete: It’s really catchy.
Steven: They were playing Warpaint where I work yesterday for about six hours, and at first I thought, ‘I’m not really into this.’ But by the end, I was really into it. I don’t know if that’s because it’s a grower, or if I’ve just been brainwashed.