‘That idea of coldness with electronic music is starting to wither away’
So says East India Youth, who is behind one of the year’s best electronic albums
William Doyle, aka East India Youth: ‘It’s about making people see that you’ve got this emotion, but not forcing it on to people’
Even when you’re a musician with a successful album under your belt, you never stop being a fanboy. Not if you’re William Doyle.
The man behind the East India Youth moniker can barely suppress a grin as he talks about one of his heroes, Brian Eno, attending one of his shows. “He’s one of my biggest influences, in many ways,” he says, ensconced in his compact dressing room at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin.
“I didn’t know he was there at the time, which was good. My manager wouldn’t let me see the guest list until after the gig, and when he showed it to me, his name was crossed out. I don’t think I’ve ever been more over the moon.”
Doyle, who has Irish grandparents, is an unassuming sort: tall, gangly, with a mop-top haircut and dressed neatly in a shirt and blazer, a tie slung loosely around his neck. In short, he looks more like he is en route to a Doctor Who theme party than the talent behind one of the year’s most impressive electronic albums.
Still, the circumstances leading to the creation of Total Strife Forever – its title is a tongue-in-cheek pun on Foals’ Total Life Forever (no, he hasn’t bumped into them yet) – are similarly anomalous.
Like Eno, the 23-year-old began his musical career in a more conventional manner, first with violin, then electric guitar.
“I was just getting a bit bored of the format of being in a guitar group, really. I wasn’t enjoying writing songs and then bringing them to the rehearsal room, rehearsing them for a few months, then going into the studio, and then mixing it,” he says, shrugging.
“Getting from A to B took such a long time, and that frustrated me because I like working fast. On the computer, I can have my initial idea down to where I think it should be in an afternoon, if it’s a good day. That freedom excited me, and the band format wasn’t, after a certain point.”
Doyle had been dabbling in electronic sketches since early in his teenage years, inspired by the work of artists such as Beck and Sufjan Stevens. He says approaching electronic music from an outsider’s perspective gives East India Youth a fresher sound.
“I’d just discovered Odelay by Beck, a few years after it came out,” he says. “I loved the collage nature of it, the weird mixture of styles and influences. None of it really seemed to fit, and I quite liked that cut-and-paste idea – so I thought, oh, I could probably do that on the computer if I use this.
“I started to learn some software at school – Cubase – and I just sort of plunged into it. It’s weird, because electronic stuff wasn’t really what I was listening to, but on the computer there were inbuilt synthesisers, so it was a case of, oh, I’ll click on that and see what happens. That’s how I came to doing electronic music – it was by accident, really. Only now am I really discovering the history of dance music and everything like that.”
Total Strife Forever continues that thread of eclecticism, with subtle variations in tempo, mood and style. Some tracks, such as Hinterland, are thumping Detroit techno creations; others, such as Glitter Recession, tip the ambient end of the scale. Many are instrumental, others softly driven by Doyle’s understated vocals.