Toy - Q&A
The psych-rock genre (and all its affiliated sub-sets) has grown exponentially since Toy’s first album release in 2012. Psych festivals are now (seemingly) covering the earth; giving platforms to artists exploring everything from Troggs-inspired garage rock n’ roll, abstract electronic and noise soundscapes to oscillating krautrock rhythms and repetitions.
However, there is always the sense that those stretching for the boundaries of creative endeavour are never destined to reach the mainstream. Toy defy this reasoning and have thrived on subverting its logic. They have managed to combine being progressive and uncompromising with commercial and mainstream success. Their music is experimental, challenging and accessible in equal measure. Their evocative and well-drawn melodies entice you in and make a grab for your soul – leaving you shoe gazing and conscience of something that wasn’t quite there before.
Clear Shot is their recently released and critically acclaimed third studio album and we caught up with Toy’s bassist Maxin “Panda” Barron to discuss the evolution in their sound, being re-mixed by Tim Gane, the Sexwitch project and their favourite Mars figurines.
Q. Your third studio album Clear Shot comes out this month. Can you tell us a bit about the ambitions and inspirations behind this work and what you feel the evolution is from your previous two albums?
We feel it's quite a natural evolution from the last two records. We spent a lot of time writing songs together and comparing ideas, as well as sharing influences. It's mostly inspired by our own lives.
Q. You recorded the album with David Wrench and you ended up creating a cohesive ten-track album. Can you tell us about the recordings, working with David and what was behind the decision to keep it to ten tracks?
We recorded the album in 12 days, similarly to the first album. We had a great time working with David, there was a real urgency to the sessions and we find it easy to work quickly with him. We were keen to keep its length to fit onto one piece of vinyl this time, just to try out a different approach really. There's also an EP called Spellbound which is being announced soon.
Q. Your recent release ‘I’m Still Believing’ was remixed by recent Coney’s interviewee, Tim Gane (lovely fella) from COA-M. Can you tell us how this link-up came about and what are your thoughts on the re-mixed track?
Yes we've all been massive Stereolab fans since we were teenagers, so we were excited to hear his response to one of our songs. We really like what he did with it, he opens the song up and takes it to some lovely places.
Q. Your album release will be launched at Rough Trade East – in their 40th year, what are your thoughts on the impact of Rough Trade and which of their artists have you most admired and why?
Rough trade has put out so many great records. The first group that springs to mind for me is The Smiths, I love their records.
Q. You are about to tour the album in the UK and Europe. You will be playing a lot of independent venues – with these types of venues under increasing financial pressure what are your thoughts on this and the importance of them for artists and fans alike?
I think it's a real shame, we know how much these small independent venues mean to bands and audiences alike. There's often a great sense of community and shared experience which will be lost if they continue to get closed down.
Q. In the interim period between Join the Dots and your upcoming release you collaborated with Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes and producer Dan Carey for the innovative project Sexwitch in which you learned and recorded songs in one day. Can you tell us how this collaboration came about, what drew you to the project and what the experience was like?
Dan Carey told us about his idea and so we went round his studio, listened to the original versions, picked up our instruments and got to work. It was useful because we learnt to play in some completely different styles to what we're used to.
Q. With Tom, Dominic and Maxim – you were once members of Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong and were on the cusp of success with that project. You are now on your third album with Toy – in retrospect what lessons did you learn and what advice would you give to young musicians looking to break through?
I think it was useful learning about the music industry and also to encourage us to then go and do our own thing. I think it's always important to please yourselves first and foremost, if that's any advice.
Q. You’re now based in London – a city awash with music venues. Do you feel it is still the ‘place to be’ for musicians trying to break through or has the internet put paid to that? Also, London is one of the most diverse and vibrant cities in the world – what influence do you feel this has had on your music – if at all?
I don't think it's the place to be particularly. For us, it's where our label Heavenly reside and where our management are based so I suppose it feels that way for us, but there are so many great music scenes and cultures elsewhere. London is where we've lived for the last 10 years and of course it's had a big influence on our music. Most of the songs are about experiences we've had whilst living here.
Q. Finally, 80s (and especially) 90s nostalgia seems to be de rigueur. In reference to your band name, let’s try and create a ’ oy’ based nostalgia craze – what was your favourite toy growing up?
I had the three Biker Mice from Mars figurines, they were good!