TOY / … on tour: sitting in a van – playing video games / interview with Alejandra

TOY on

The UK indie rock sensation TOY brought out their album no. 2 “Join The Dots” in December 2013. It was acclaimed by music magazines both in UK and on the continent – mentioning their unique style of combining postpunk, shoegaze, krautrock experiments and the urge to play pop melodies. Live on stage you’ll find a high energy 5 piece band, delivering a huge wall of sound, without any interruptions or gassy announcements. Charismatic singer/guitarist Tom Dougall clearly is the center of it all, while Dominic on guitar and Alejandra on keyboards filling the melodies and keep the power high with their instruments, Charlie on drums hammering the metronomic beat like he never heard other bands than NEU!, and Panda plays a dynamic sometimes distorted bass, looking like a member of THE SWEET from the 70ies with his Brian Conolly hairdo. This band is going out to play – it’s a wham bam thank you ma’am thing and off they go with no encore. An intense, loud and compressed rock show – but when they set off to create some of their few minute long instrumental journeys they blow like a Hawkwind. So it was in Cologne, where they played the Studio 672, a small basement club which was packed with people enjoying the TOY show. Right before the show, spoke to charming Alejandra Diez, spanish keyboard player and the only woman around…

Interview by Martin Hannig, pics by Toy / Heavenly Recordings Alejandra, you’re from Spain. Why did you move to England?

Alejandra: I live there since 7 years. I just wanted to move from Spain to see other things, to work there. I moved to Brighton originally, that’s where I met Tom and Panda. And then we all moved to London together. Is this the first european tour for TOY?

Alejandra: No we did one last year and two years ago. And we toured with Placebo at the end of last year as a support. Now this is definitely our longest tour, since 8 weeks now…. I read about the countries you’ve been on this tour: Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slowenia, and others, now Germany, and Luxembourg to come: so that’s quite a lot of traveling!

Alejandra: Yes it is. We are traveling a lot. Last week we went from Rome to Barcelona to Madrid to Lisboa. Our basic life is sitting in a van and playing video games (laughs). That’s rock’n’roll! What are your impressions from the tour, from the audiences…

Alejandra: As you said we played a few countries we never played before. Like we never played in Warszaw, never played Bratislava, or Ljubljana. We never knew what to expect, it was our first time there. And the audiences there have been really really good to us! It was really cool. There’s one show to come in London, at the Shepherds Bush Empire. This must be a famous place in England, right?

Alejandra: Yeah it’s very famous. It’s our biggest show so far in London. We really looking forward, it’s very exciting. It’s a little bit of pressure about, all the people will come and see us. A big show… I was reading about a relationship between THE HORRORS and TOY. Can you tell me about this and how did it came?

Alejandra: Even before we formed TOY we were really good friends with them. We went out to the same clubs and hang out with them. Then we formed TOY and they had THE HORRORS already. They were really supportive for our band and we played a few shows with them. That was really important for us, because we played big shows with them. I guess they helped us in their way. So that relationship was personal before it went professional you know. So now it’s just professional ….

Alejandra: (laughs) No no no it’s even more personal now. Let’s talk about Join The Dots. A lot of musicians tell me about the hustle to get the 2nd album together. For the first you got such a long time, maybe years. And the second has to be out quite fast…

Alejandra: TOY was together just a year and a half before we released the first album. And then after one year the second. So it was all quite quick. One of our favourite things is to write new music. When we wrote the first album we didn’t even know that it was gonna be released. We didn’t have a label, we didn’t have anything. That was the main difference, and for the new album we knew it was gonna be released and we kept on writing new songs. Didn’t you feel a kind of pressure for Join The Dots, because people knew you already?

Alejandra: Well, in a way it’s more pressure when you don’t know if it’s gonna be released and if you are gonna make it. We knew that people are gonna listen to it, you know. We wanted to do it like really good. It came out really quick, and that’s what we wanted, because we were actually very happy with the songs that we had. The first and the last song from that album are kind of embracing the other songs, like braces, that’s my impression. The other songs are more song-orientated, the two mentioned are longer and more unconventional…

Alejandra: You know each song comes from a different place. We weren’t thinking of a concept for the album. It happened by chance. We wrote “Conductor” and we really wanted to release it. Yes, it was completely separate from the other songs. But for me everything makes sense together.

„We really like Krautrock,

we absolutely love it!“ In Germany you often read TOY is influenced by Krautrock…? I always wonder if people in the UK really know all this crazy shit from the 70ies.

Alejandra: Yes they do! We really like Krautrock, we absolutely love it. Like Can, La Düsseldorf… No! You know La Düsseldorf?? Holy shit, that’s one of my most favourite bands ever and even in Germany only a few people know about it….

Alejandra: Yes we love that definitely (laughs). Your albums were produced by Dan Carey. He’s quite famous as a producer.

Alejandra: Yes he did work with big bands actually. Like Kylie Minogue….

Alejandra: Yes. And he’s a great guy. We didn’t choose him because of the bands he produced before. We knew that he’s a great producer. But he’s really good friend with us, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to choose him as a producer. He’s got great ideas. The working environment and the atmosphere is really constructive, and for us it’s fun, it’s interesting and exciting. He knows how to create the right atmosphere. Listening to that album, the overall atmosphere is kind of very special, like dark, solemn, hard to describe it….

Alejandra: He always has this great ideas you know. We recorded both albums live. We played in a circle, looking at each other. He turned all the lights off, and put on some lasers and strobes, like on stage. He created a little bit of the live feeling in the studio – he’s really important for us. Do you have some ideas for new songs or maybe putting another album together?

Alejandra: Yes we constantly thinking about new ideas and things, at home or here on tour. We don’t have any songs, but we always have ideas and than it goes “click” and we want to work on it. And there’s a few things we want to work on – but you

 „We constantly thinking

about new ideas“

know we’ve been 2 months on the road now and we hadn’t time to do it. But there’s no rush! We’re not in a rush to do the third album, as we weren’t to do the second. We’ll never release anything for the sake of it, unless we’re really happy with it. What are your plans for the year 2014?

Alejandra: We’ve got 2 weeks at home now when we are finished, and then we go for a north american tour. We’ll be doing the Austin Psych Festival as well. After that we will have all the festivals in the summer. We gonna play that big german festival… how is it called… Hurricane! A few European festivals and a few English festivals. And we’re going to Spain as well (laughs). So we’re gonna be busy in summer. Most festivals are on weekends and hopefully we’re gonna be like go and come back home, go and come back home, so we’ll have time to work at home as well. Did you have time to walk around Cologne today?

Alejandra: Oh we’ve been here several times before. We have good friends here from Cologne, and we’ll have a after show party in a bar – but I can’t remember which one (laughs). So we’ll have a beer with our friends tonight. Hope a lot of people will come up for the show….

Alejandra: Yes I think so. Should be good. It’s a cool venue here, good to play. We definitely like that small, intimate gigs…