All Tvvins: “f**k you, younger me, I’ll play pop if I want to”
All Tvvins’ Lar Kaye and Conor Adams have paid their indie dues – now it’s time to go pop
A support slot with Arcade Fire at Marlay Park; a headline performance at Castlepalooza; a main stage gig at the Longitude Festival – it’s not been bad going for All Tvvins since they played their first gig a little over a year ago.
That said, the duo’s collective experience counts for a lot: when you hail from two of Ireland’s most acclaimed indie bands of recent years (Adebisi Shank and The Cast of Cheers), you can expect to have a headstart.
“We got to skip a bunch of gigs that other bands had to do, maybe – but we had to do all that stuff for a long time in the past,” admits Conor Adams, sometime Cast of Cheers frontman. “We’re probably working harder with this band than ever before. We still have a lot to do, a lot of work ahead of us. We’re not in the charts, getting lorded around in limousines, wearing feather boas. Yet.”
With The Cast of Cheers on unofficial hiatus, Adams found himself with time on his hands.
“We’ve known each other since we were teenagers – playing in the usual spots, having mutual friends, that sort of thing,” says Stillorgan native Lar Kaye, hitherto best known for his roles as guitarist in No Spill Blood and the now-defunct Adebisi Shank. “We’d be talking about our favourite music and had the same sort of references. But then we both became really busy touring, so we separated again for a few years. It felt like the right time to come back together again.”
Sowing the seeds
The pair beganjamming together and quickly realised that they were sowing the seeds of a new musical project, initially known as Tvvins until they realised “that we weren’t being so clever, even with the double-v – a lot of bands had thought of that first”. Even so, there was a false start or two before they found their groove.
“We were just making these massive guitar tunes that was basically Adebisi meets Cast of Cheers – it was just boring,” recalls Adams. “We were both thinking, ‘okay we should do something guitar-based and loud’. But once we actually got comfortable, we both thought, ‘why are we writing this sort of music? Should we not try something different?’ There were no gigs lined up, no one telling us that we had to do this or that; there was no pressure or deadlines. I think that’s probably one of the reasons we decided to continue with it.”
The songs that All Tvvins have recorded to date have the same frenetic energy that both musicians are known for, but it’s tempered by a heavy dose of melody and groove, not to mention Adams’s swarthy vocals.
“There are definitely going to be elements that sound similar – but you can’t avoid that,” he says. “My voice, for example. We were trying to disguise that a little bit in the beginning – but now, I’m past that so there’s a bit less vocoder and it’s a lot less robotic. The 20-year-old in me would probably shudder at the idea of playing ‘pop’ music. Back in the day I was all about playing guitar and rocking out. But f**k you, younger me,” he says, gesticulating in mock-defiance, “I’ll play pop music if I want to.”
There is a definite trace of 1980s synthpop to some of their material, particularly the irresistible groove of Two Worlds. They’ve been described as “robotic interstellar synthpop” (“not our description – we prefer ‘astronaut music’ ”, Kaye jokes), and they both claim acts such as The Police, Prince and Michael Jackson as influences, but there was no desire to capture the synth-led zeitgeist or make something uncategorisable.
“It wasn’t like we said ‘Let’s make a 1980s album’,” says Adams. “But I think people are starting to realise that’s not what this band sounds like. I think we’ve evolved from that laptop stuff and synth stuff that had a bit of guitar.”
Both musicians agree that All Tvvins has opened up their musical horizons. “I’ve never been in a band with someone who sings like Conor – so that really shaped how things worked, gave it more structure,” says Kaye, nodding. “I had to adapt a little bit, so my guitar playing wouldn’t overwhelm his voice. It was just really nice hearing someone telling a story through the speakers. I’m really used to hearing robot voices and screaming.”
“The most obvious thing is the guitar,” Adams counters. “Everyone would like to play with a guitarist like Lar. But also, it’s his ear; he thinks of sonic space and where to put things.”
Although things are going well for the duo – they’ve already written 30 songs and have a run of live dates lined up for the coming months – there is no pressure to record or release an album just yet.
There has been a certain level of A&R interest, reveals Kaye, and although they are reluctant to be pressed on details and deftly deflect questions related to inking a deal, the rumour mill suggests that they have signed with a major label. In any case, they insist that the priority is touring and playing live, and they are still “fine tuning” their writing process and songs.
“We’ve had interest from all aspects, yeah,” he admits. “I didn’t expect that we’d be booked for all of those festivals, or getting to support Arcade Fire and that sort of stuff. But essentially, it comes down to me and Conor writing songs; all of that stuff just doesn’t come into it. We’re not thinking about who’s going to like it at all – we’re just still having fun with it.”
All Tvvins play Whelan’s on Nov 13, McHugh’s, Belfast on Nov 14, and Roisin Dubh, Galway on Nov 15