Having spent 10 years as one quarter of influential indie group Bombay Bicycle Club, there’s a lot of ground to cover with Ed Nash. Since the bands’ hiatus almost two years ago, he’s being working on a new solo project Toothless. With a debut album on the way in early 2017, he graciously set some aside some time (while one holidays, mind you) for Rochelle to ask him all about it.
Tell me about your new single ‘The Sirens’ – It features The Staves. How did that collaboration come about?
It was the biggest coincidence and perfect timing for me. There’s a story from The Odyssey about Odysseus going past the sirens. They call him from the rocks and tempt him. I wrote the song based off that including a vocal part of ‘the sirens’. I thought it’d be so, so funny if I got The Staves to do that. Just the concept of having these 3 amazing singers with alluring voices singing the part. About 2 days later, they covered a Bombay Bicycle Club song and they emailed all of us and were like ‘we’d love to know what you think’ and then at the end of the email they were like ‘and if you want us to sing on anything in the future, please let us know.’ I think they did it as a courteous thing, but I immediately emailed back asking them to sing on my song. And they were like, ‘yeah okay, we’ll do it’. Having said that I think they felt kind of obliged. But they are super nice people. So it really was a case of writing the song, then just good luck.
It’s not the first time you’ve collaborated on a track either. You worked with Marika Hackman for your first single ‘Palms Backside’?
That one wasn’t so lucky in such strange circumstances. I wrote that song, it was a boy girl song, which had to be a boy and a girl singing because the parts change around and it’s based exactly on that. I needed to get a girl to do it, and I’ve always loved Marika Hackman’s voice. So I got in touch, and she said yes.
There are quite a few collaborations on the album, but it’s only when it’s something that I can’t do or it’s something that’ll drive the song and make it better. Marika Hackman had to be part of the duet, The Sirens had to be The Staves. I’ve also got a song with the guy from The Wild Beasts, but the guy with the low voice – Tom Fleming. I’ve always loved his voice.
How does the dynamic change when you’re collaborating with others? Being that this is a solo project and you’re working by yourself for most part.
It’s nice to have someone else in the studio. I spend a lot of time by myself, then a little bit of time with Jack (Steadman) putting the songs together. But it’s mostly by myself. It does change the dynamic in the fact that I’m not sitting alone in my underpants making music. In terms of the creative dynamic, it doesn’t change too much – because I’ve kind of written everything before they come in.
So it doesn’t get handed over to your guest to write lyrics or anything like that?
No, I write everything before they come in. And then it’s obviously a discussion as to how we do it and how we record it. But all the parts are already there.
How have you adjusted working as a solo artist, compared to when you were working with Bombay Bicycle Club?
I don’t really know. Creatively, It’s kind of something I wanted to do. It’s very far removed, so I didn’t really have to adjust, I just started doing it. As opposed to facilitating someone else’s creative ideas, I was the driving source behind them. I’m not sure that took any adjustment in itself. The lifestyle is really the thing that takes adjustment to. I’ve spent all my time with 3 other people – now, it’s just one person in a room. It’s quite a strange thing to do with a lot of your time. There’s good and bad things about it. Being in charge, being in control. It’s a fantastic thing not having to give anything over. But, you are by yourself all of the time.
You’ve got an album coming out at the start of next year. You produced all of the tracks, but mastering was done outside. How did it all come together?
This is actually something, strangely enough, that Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) said. Someone asked him about recording music – and he said ‘there’s no difference to me, I write and record at the same time, it’s one process.’ I completely agree with that, it’s the way I’ve made this album. It was largely by myself and then a bit with Jack. But when I was writing, I’d record parts at the same time and that’s it. I guess that’s part of writing and recording on a laptop, it’s just one grey area of songs that grow and change all the time. But there is no structured writing, then recording. It’s all in the same process.
So it was all very much so recorded ‘in the moment’?
Yeah, as it’s going along. Just adding ideas at the time. I found a lot in the past we’d write songs then record them in a proper studio – but there were parts that people would get attached to. Like a small snippet of vocal that you could never recreate. The whole album is just moments like that. Ie, the first time I played a guitar or the first take of me singing a bit.
How do you think you’re going to go about taking the album to the stage?
It’s funny you say that. I was just thinking about that. With a lot of the guitar parts I played, I played them once or twice and then never played them again. So when it come to working out how to play them live, it’s like ‘how the fuck did I play that?’ So I have to sit down and relearn the songs again.
With the live show, I’ve got a band together now. Drums, 2 guitars and bass. We’re trying to work out how to play the songs live faithfully, while still making it interesting. I don’t want to recreate the songs note by note. They have to live and breath by themselves. That’s not something I’ve quote worked out yet, but I will be soon.
It’s just one of those things, putting together a live show. It’s not something that comes over night.You have to play gig after gig, and then you work out what works and what doesn’t work and everyone gets tighter at playing. With Bombay Bicycle Club, that show, which I think was really good in the end – was 10 years in the making. It took us 10 years to get it like that.