You would be hard-pressed to find more creatively prolific individuals than Al Doyle and Felix Martin. They have been consistently making some of the best contemporary music for what seems like forever now, and every project they collaborate on is nothing short of excellence. If you are unfamiliar with their actual names, you certainly are familiar with their stellar bands Hot Chip and defunct LCD Soundsystem.
The latest pursuit by Al Doyle and Felix Martin is New Build, an electro pop and ambient pop project that capitalizes upon the strengths of these orphean musicians to create a something that is more their own than any other band. I can imagine it is of the utmost necessity to have your own project to keep going all these years contributing to and supporting the gargantuan acts they have been major members of.
Currently, they are touring behind their second album and loving it along the way. The second album takes a more electronic and expansive approach, and resoundingly delivers as New Build hits its stride. I feel it is one of the better sophomoric albums that improves upon the initial foray. Speaking as a fan who actually has been to a New Build show on their initial tour, I am extremely excited for the evolution of this project. It sounds to me like another well deserved success for artists making it on their own, making the music they believe in.
Al Doyle was kind enough to consider some questions I put to him, mostly about New Build and his other things. Author’s Note: Al Doyle is one of the better writers I have had the pleasure of interviewing regarding his musical pursuits, so enjoy his beautiful words. Of course, it should go without saying, but be sure to buy New Build’s latest album ‘Pour It On’!
Second album with what some regard as a side project, quite the accomplishment! How do you feel about it?
Feel pretty good! I mean I feel better about this album than the last one in some ways, but I still have a lot of affection for the first incarnation of the project. It's something I feel we can run with for some time, and I'm not sure we've quite nailed what we want to do with it, but right now it's still making me happy.
Along those lines, would you call it a side project? It seems to me you have so many different things going on past and present, it’s just another great project you are pouring yourself into!
Yeah we are definitely sluts when it comes to making music with whoever will have us. To us, New Build is the project that's closest to our hearts as we have the greatest personal involvement in it, but I have as much commitment to Hot Chip obviously, and I'd like to think I'd have the same commitment to LCD if that were ever to happen again. Which it probably won't.
What do you hope to achieve with New Build?
I don't really think of it that way I guess. I mean, I had an idea that once it made sense for us to tour around in a tour bus that that would feel like an "achievement unlocked" moment, but we're in a tour bus right now and as a consequence we are haemorrhaging money, so that takes the sheen off the whole thing somewhat.
What is the New Build philosophy?
Oh man this could easily get very stoner high-school if I'm not careful… I think it'd be along the lines of "do the more difficult thing", or perhaps an adaptation of one of the Oblique Strategies such as "honour thy error as a hidden intention".
I saw New Build on your first tour, it was great, simple and top notch. Have you changed up the live element? What can we expect to see and hear on this tour?
We have changed it up. We're now a 3 piece, with myself and Felix Martin, and with Joy Joseph who was playing with us on the last tour but whose role has been expanded to include a kind of stand-up drum kit. She's absolutely incredible and is kind of the best thing about the band, furious percussion and drumming and steel-pan playing. Felix will be serving up his trademark pristine and razor sharp electronics, and I'll be playing feedback guitar whilst wearing a dress.
How has the New Build sound and style evolved? Both albums sound distinct, yet still definitive of New Build.
The newer album is a little more electronic and expansive I guess. Slightly fewer straight-up pop-song structures, although there are plenty hooks and verses and choruses. We were going for a slow-burn, intense, monolithic soundscape kind of vibe.
What are your favorite tracks on ‘Pour It On’?
Probably the title track is my favourite - I always knew it would be the album closer as soon as we'd recorded the second half of that song, which is an exercise in ever-increasing pressure. Doesn't sound like that much else either, which I like.
Where will New Build go from here? Back to Hot Chip and then back again for a third New Build album? Or are you just focusing on the touring task at hand?
This tour is nearly done, and with that the album campaign is basically done too. We will indeed be straight into Hot Chip territory, rehearsing for shows next year, and once that juggernaut gets going there's not much stopping it, so New Build will be mothballed for a while. But that's not to say we won't still be writing; we have half of the next album already sketched out, so might be able to come back quite quickly once Hot Chip are finished doing their funky thing.
Is there a discernible/overarching theme on this album? Perhaps a message? Or what is this album all about?
What's it all about mate? It's about a few things, but I guess lyrically there are a few unfashionable references to the mental strain of living in the UK under the present regime. If there is anger there, the anger is directed towards the powerful, and if there is tenderness, it is for the people who resist.
Who should we be listening to? Any personal favorite artists that you are loving lately?
Our tour buddies Museum of Love have a fantastic album which everyone should hear. Also I've been listening to Fatima Yamaha, Surgeon, Recondite, the new Danny Lanois album, and lots of Clive Palmer and Richard and Linda Thompson as ever.
Can you give us any hints on what is happening next with Hot Chip? Or are you all too busy with your individual pursuits? Which all are amazing by the way!
Yeah there is a new album which is done pretty much, and a tour next year. More than that I'll get my balls cubed for saying.
What are some parting words of wisdom for aspiring artists?
Decide whether you do in fact really, really, really want to be a musician. Because it is super tough out there these days, and you can be very happy doing something else. Have you thought about sculpture, or cabinet making, or upholstery? All these things can make you and others very happy. But if you have done the deep search inside yourself, and you still wanna go play songs in front of people, then you need to devote every single waking hour to making that happen. Listen to as much music as possible, of all kinds. Learn about studios, play real instruments, learn from everybody you meet. And be kind to everyone.