Neils Children – Interview

NEiLS CHiLDREN - Dimly Lit

Ihr habt es ja letzte Woche bereits mitbekommen, Neils Children sind vier Jahre nach ihrem Album „X.Enc“ wieder zurück und veröffentlichen in Kürze ihr neues Album „Dimly Lit“. Das freut uns natürlich, insbesondere da wir die Band seit den Anfängen begleiten, auch wenn sie in der Zwischenzeit eine Entwicklung im Sound durchmachte, die uns nicht mehr so fesselte. Mit „Dimly Lit“ haben sie nun aber wieder einen ganz neuen Weg eingeschlagen. Für uns Grund genug, die Kernmitglieder John und Brandon zum Interview zu bitten und ihnen ein paar Fragen zu Vergangenheit und Zukunft von Neils Children zu stellen.

Neils Children are back. The last thing people heard from you was when your bassist Keith Seymour left the band after the release of „X.Enc“ in 2009 and you announced the band’s hiatus. Did you ever think about calling it a day during that time instead of going on hiatus?

JOHN: Well, I guess we assumed that we had, but things are never as simple as that. Me and Brandon continued playing together after we called time on NC so it wasn’t that surprising that it came back together. Saying that, I don’t think it was partciularly planned at all.

BRANDON: I think the power that you have of being a band, is that ultimately, you have the last say on what you decide to do. We had planned to give it a rest for a while as we felt that perhaps the path we were on at the time had come to a natural end, and we didn’t want to continue being the same band musically and mentally. Sometimes you have to completely remove yourself from something in order to know this, and to know what you can do to change it.

What were you up to between then and bringing Neils Children back together?

JOHN: Brandon and myself formed the excellent but short running Blue Eyed soul group The Drop Five. We formed it with my brother Paul and Bonnie from Electricity In Our Homes and our friend Eli. It was a great little group, but wasn’t to last. I was also drumming for Brandon’s solo project, Goodnight and I Wish. So you see, we really haven’t stopped playing together!

You released you first full length album „Something Perpetual“, which rather was a rarities compilation, in Japan in 2006. Why did it never get a release outside of Japan?

JOHN: It was only really compiled to get us over to Japan. NC has a HUGE backlog of songs, as the recent Visit-Revisited compilation proves. So it made sense to, in between making a proper studio album, to use up some of the songs that didn’t make it on to the record we were making at the time.

Between the release of „Something Perpetual“ and „X.Enc“ 3 years went by. While „X.Enc“ was officially announced as your debut album your fans were confronted with a somewhat different sound compared to „Something Perpetual“ and, at least in Germany, the album wasn’t quite the breakthrough everyone expected it to be. Was this maybe one reason for giving the band a break for a little while?

JOHN: As a band we have NEVER given fans what they want particularly. That presumes that the fans have an input into the music we make, which just isn’t true. We make music to please ourselves, which may sound indulgent, but that’s the most honest and natural way to create music. I can understand that X.ENC would have been quite intense for some fans to get there heads around, but for every noisy song there’s a poppy song such as I’m Ill, so for us it was an album that had both sides of our sound at the time. I guess some people didn’t see it that way. But no, it wasn’t the reason we had a break. We’re not egotistical enough to stop because we didn’t sell enough records. The break seemed natural as after 10 years of playing you need to take stock of what you want to play and write. We took three years off, and now here we are. Making the music that pleases us once again.

BRANDON: I agree with what John says really. Record sales and individual opinions on your work as a band aren’t really what you think about, that’s normally the record label’s job and the PR’s job. The moment any musician decides to tailor their art to individual opinion, or to what they think people will want, is when you lose that spark of creativness and individuality that you once had.

You toured with bands like The Horrors, Bloc Party and Klaxons, with whom you also toured in Germany in 2007. What’s the best/worst tour memory you have?

JOHN: Touring for us was a piece of cake, as we were very well rehearsed and had a huge catalogue of songs to choose from. In some cases I’d say we’ve out-played a lot of bands we’ve supported. My best memories are the earliest tours we did. As a bunch of kids from the suburbs it was the most exciting experince ever.

BRANDON: I’ve never had a bad touring experience. Touring with Klaxons was great for me as we didn’t need to worry about bringing in the crowds, but the flip side to it was that we were sometimes travelling for over 12 hours in a small car across Europe, leaving one show and driving non stop to the next soundcheck……that was pretty tough!

Four years on your new album „Dimly Lit“ will see its release in a few weeks time. What made you call the band back together?

JOHN: We initially reformed to play some shows in early 2012 with our original bass player James Hair. We played a selection from the 2003-2005 period of our catalogue and while they were a lot of fun, I don’t think any of us wanted to re-create an I Hate Models type track at 30 years old. Our label Boudoir Moderne initially suggested doing some new recordings. I wasn’t interested at first, but after some conversation with Brandon we decided to try and work on some new songs. My only premise was that we shouldn’t attempt to recreate our past glories. I find it boring when a band claim a return to form when essentially all they’ve done is tweaked their back catalogue a bit and put it in a different sleeve.

BRANDON: The chance to make a new record, play some new shows and work as a band again are enough reasons for me also.

You recorded the new album in Toulouse in France. The info section of your facebook page states „Dimly Lit“ is the kind of album you always wanted to make. What makes you feel this way?

JOHN: I guess knowing that the album represents our musical tastes deeper than before makes me feel that way. The record is miles above our previous work in terms of songwriting, arrangements and production. But the bottom line for me is that the music that has influenced the album is music i’ve spent over 15 years in love with. I couldn’t really claim that about some of our later releases.

BRANDON: Dimly Lit also just feels like a record that we enjoy playing and listening to. There has been no pressure from anyone else to record certain songs, play a certain way, put in certain crowd pleasers, and have awful remixes for clubs. It feels like forming a band from scratch and releasing a debut album to me, which is a lovely feeling for a band like Neils Children, because we never really got to do that when we first formed. It has that spark and un-certainty about it; it could do reasonably well and get the band back on level terms with a lot of our peers, it could be massive and take us to heights we’d never even thought possible after all this time, or it could bomb! Either way, it’s exciting, challenging, and worth the risk.

Again, the new album confronts your fans with a different sound. While you used to be associated with bands like The Horrors, Hatcham Social, Electricity In Our Homes etc. the sound you now play rather could be described as shoegaze, or, as you call it on your facebook page „lysergic pop“. Lysergic acid diethylamide is commonly known as the drug LSD. Have you made experiences with the drug or is it just a try not to describe your music using the worn out phrase „psychedlic pop“?

JOHN: I think Shoegaze is totally the WRONG term to describe the album. I can’t say I like any bands associated with the movement, and these days it seems like a blanket term to describe a band that use effects and have psychedelic tendencies. Sonically, the album has little to do with the genre, as there’s barely any guitar on the record. That’s all I recall about Shoegaze… big distorted guitars! So I can’t hear that myself. Lysergic Pop is only really a way of describing the sound of the music. Psychedelia is the biggest influence on the album, but the term psychedelia belongs to the 1960’s. So that wouldn’t fit, as the album is too contemporary to be a revival piece. We’re trying to align ourselves more with bands like Broadcast or Death and Vanilla. These are bands that took the influence of psychedelia but thrust it into the modern age.

BRANDON: Definitely not shoegaze, 100% not shoegaze. I would say that it is like late 60’s early 70’s library music for independent films, with lots of jazz and psychedelia influneces. Shoegaze has recently just become a modern term to pigeon hole new indie bands that don’t really have too much to say.

What were your influences on the new album?

JOHN: Aside from the above mentioned Broadcast, for me lots of French pop, loads of Gainsbourg. Silver Apples were an influence when creating the rhythms, I guess there’s a secondary jazz influence too, bits of Buddy Rich’s drumming. Maybe some Modern Jazz Quartet for the vibes. I think Blur still stand as an influence for us, and have done for a long time. Stereolab are a big influence at the moment, they have jazz tendencies sometimes especially in some of the rhthymical structure.

As already mentioned, you visited Germany with Klaxons in 2007. Do you have plans to tour the new album in Germany?

JOHN: We’ve visited Germany a lot and always had a great time. We’re hoping to do some touring towards the end of summer, but we’re not rushing it. We have a new lineup now, and we want to be as tight as possible live. So I guess at this stage it’s about getting the new material to translate as well of record as it does on stage. We’re getting there.

BRANDON: I’d love to play in Germany again, as John says, we’re not in a particular rush right now, we just want the album to do well first, build on our live sound as a new 4-piece, and then hopefully take in on the road later on this year.

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