- 26 Jul 19
With False Alarm, Two Door Cinema Club have produced their most overtly joyous record yet. But as Kevin Baird explains, a return from the Bangor trio wasn’t always a sure thing. He talks touring, working with Jacknife Lee, and revisiting the band’s early days, with Peter McGoran.
Kevin Baird is having a well-deserved day off. He’s in the midst of a busy summertime festival schedule, which has seen himself, Alex Trimble and Sam Halliday perform everywhere from Glastonbury to Vienna.
It’s been nearly 10 years since the release of the Bangor band’s debut, Tourist History. A clean-cut gem of an album, it secured their spot at the top of a massive pile of electro-indie-rock artists, which spawned in the late ‘00s, It also paved the way for global stardom.
In the years which followed, Two Door Cinema Club have continued to impress with each album release. But they’ve sometimes found themselves as victims of their own success. Early success, coupled with a sometimes rigorous touring schedule and a litany of critics who wanted to compare everything they released to the success of their first album, has meant that Two Door Cinema Club have had their own share of difficulties.
Despite this, Kevin Baird is happy to be back on the road again.
“It’s been good,” he nods, chilling in his London home. “It’s gruelling obviously. I feel like when we were younger we thought, ‘We’ll get a bit more successful and we’ll start playing later at festivals and that’ll just mean that we’ll have less work to do’. But I don’t know… With every year and every album, it feels like more people want a piece of you.”
Not that that’s a bad thing, Kevin says.
“It’s a good problem to have – and the gigs have been great. We’ve got a lot of exciting stuff this summer.”
Having been in this game for over a decade now, are they better at saying ‘enough’s enough’ when it comes to touring, or do they still like to gig as much as possible?
“I think we’re slightly more cautious than we were in the past,” Kevin says. “But in the past, the workload was only part of the problem for us. It was more a case of us getting into a mental space that pushed us over the edge and led to us needing to take some time off.
“So even when we’re away from home and on the road, we’re much better at looking after each other and checking in with ourselves and being as happy as can be. Because ultimately, none of us want to go back to playing shows or being in a band and not enjoying. What’s the point in that?”
What they were doing wrong in the past that led to those mental problems?
“A lot of them were just common things for young men. I mean, we were teenagers when we started out, and we had to have that transition into adulthood while being in a band that was doing well. Those first formative adult years, between 18 to 23, were the most intense in our lives. That played a part in the struggle to figure out who each of us was. And that manifests itself when you have to spend a lot of time together making music. We weren’t very good at communicating with each other, and we weren’t always able to stand up and say, ‘Look I don’t like this’. It was a pressure cooker sometimes, and we had to let it explode before we got the pot back on the simmer.”
Is that all behind them now?
“Yeah, definitely,” he nods. “Even when it was at its worst, there were still parts of it that we enjoyed. And even now, despite the times where you’re tired or you’re in a bad mood , we’ll forget all that as soon as we step out on stage. That’s the most enjoyable part of our day. If we weren’t able to get up on stage and do what we do after a five hour layover or something, we wouldn’t be doing it at all.”
Two Door Cinema Club were one of the acts who joined Snow Patrol for their seminal Ward Park gig in May. Given that they’re another band from Bangor, was it an important gig for them?
“Yeah, it was really great,” he says, before laughing. “You know we keep getting asked about it and I keep having to stress the point that all credit must be due to Snow Patrol. We were very much along for the ride. They kindly asked us to come along to play. We had to move heaven and earth to make it possible, but honestly we wouldn’t miss it. It was not only an embracing of great Irish music – it was bigger than that, I think.”
“Just the sort of culture climate around it. Gary in particular did a great job of making that show be about all the right things. Not just celebrating local music or platforming it. You look at the reverence with which he approached things like the murder of Lyra McKee, or the care with which he curated small events in Bangor even before the gig. That’s so important. So it was amazing to play, but I think the bigger enjoyment was watching everything around it.”
Would the band keep an ear to the ground for new Irish music?
“Yeah, for sure,” Kevin says. “It’s hard sometimes because we’re not there as much, but there’s some amazing poetic-punk happening with Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital. There’s some exciting stuff coming out of Belfast as well. I’ve been listening to Kneecap. They’re the first act I’ve ever heard rapping in Irish, and it sounds incredible. There’s so much variety.”
Two Door Cinema Club’s fourth album, False Alarm, was released back in June. Dabbling in everything from funk to Afropop to rap featurettes, it’s a record that very nearly wasn’t made.
“At the beginning, when we were writing and recording Gameshow, we didn’t know whether it was going to be successful or whether the three of us would even be able to get through an album cycle and a touring cycle and not kill each other,” Ken explains. “We didn’t know at the end of it whether we’d say, ‘OK, that was that, now we’re done.’ That was the thought going into it. It felt very much 50/50. We didn’t know whether we were going to be a band at the end of it. Then we stood back at the end of that tour and said, ‘You know what? That was fun’. We enjoyed the gigs. We enjoyed the album. We enjoyed spending time together. Our relationship changed in a way. We found a new comfort with each other, even outside of writing music. So it wasn’t so much a plan, but more of an appetite.”
The band teamed up with producer Jacknife Lee again (U2, The Killers). He’s been behind every album they’ve released since 2012’s Beacon. What was it like going back into the studio with him?
“It was awesome,” Kevin beams. “It goes without saying that he’s one of the most talented producers in the world. But on top of that, we consider him a really good friend. He’s almost the fourth member of our band now. We’ve been mates with him for about eight years, so the relationship has really grown. And it’s not just hard work – it’s also really fun working with him. It’s a chilled but driven process.”
Two Door Cinema Club’s new album False Album is out now. They play the Big Top in Galway on July 26.