From wagging school and travelling to Scotland to see The Mars Volta, to surviving a hiatus brought on by succumbing to "the rock'n'roll cliches", Two Door Cinema Club do life together, Alex Trimble tells Bryget Chrisfield.
How good is Two Door Cinema Club's current aesthetic!? Skivvies, matching duds and that Lego man hair! Who came up with this new look for the band? "That was my idea," lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Alex Trimble enthuses. "I'm a huge fan of Kraftwerk and I loved how they always presented themselves not as themselves; they were these robot versions of themselves. And I wanted to do a similar thing, with this record, where we presented ourselves as these clean-cut [laughs], more perfected versions of ourselves; I wanted the perfect hair and the make-up and the [clothes] with not a crease or not a wrinkle. But Kraftwerk was, like, the original inspiration for the hair, for sure."
When Devo is put forward as another example of a band who absolutely nail the uniform look, Trimble acknowledges, "Yeah, Devo's another big influence on this record... The closest we've ever gotten to Devo was they did a remix [Bad Decisions] on our last album [Gameshow], which was so exciting; we were just thrilled to have someone from Devo put their touch on our music – that was amazing. But I'm still yet to see them live."
Growing up in Northern Ireland, Trimble remembers having to travel far and wide to see his favourite bands live. "I went to Scotland a few times to see shows. I remember skipping school – actually, it was the three of us in the band, we were maybe 15 or 16 and we'd convinced our parents to write fake sick notes for the school, and we took a plane to Glasgow and we watched The Mars Volta... We were huge fans. One of the bands that we bonded over when we first started hanging out with each other was At The Drive-In. The record that really brought us together was Relationship Of Command and that was the soundtrack to a lot of our first tours as well."
Trimble and his bandmates – Sam Halliday (lead guitar, backing vocals), and Kevin Baird (bass, synths, backing vocals) – have been playing music together since they were about 14, but it wasn't until they formed Two Door Cinema Club in 2007 that things started to happen for the trio. "We had to move to London, because that's where the action was," Trimble recalls. "We lived in a tiny flat together for a year, and it was horrible, but we were never there and after that year we gave up our flat and didn't live anywhere for another two years; we put all of our belongings in storage and we just lived on the road. And when we came home — well, I said 'home', but when we came back, or if we had a few days off, we'd just be staying with friends. Or if we were lucky enough and we could afford the plane ticket we could always visit our parents or see family or something like that. But there was no concept of home for a very long time."
Living in each other's pockets eventually took its toll on the band. "Especially doing that from such a young age," Trimble stresses. "When you're at school, everybody's kind of in the same boat and you bond over the same interests, but then you leave that and you go out into the world and you develop as a person, you evolve; you find out what you're really interested in. And we were never given that opportunity to do that, because we were always doing the same thing and it was like we had to always be the same; because we were in a band together, we were always together and nothing new happens. You never have exciting conversations and eventually you stop talking. And it's dangerous – no matter how much you can love somebody, you need time apart to appreciate it."
"Things were going so bad that there was a chance that some of us could've ended up dead if we had kept going"
It wasn't until Trimble collapsed at Seattle Airport in 2014, just before boarding a flight, and wound up in hospital that the band realised they urgently needed to take some time out. "We were very lucky, in fact, that we kind of caught it before it was too late," Trimble reveals. "I mean, things were going so bad that there was a chance that some of us could've ended up dead if we had kept going, because it's all the rock'n'roll cliches, you know: you get involved with the booze and the drugs and it turns into addiction and you're kind of numb to everything that's going on around you, because everything's moving so fast and you're having success. And you're afraid to say no to all of these offers that are coming in next for you, because you don't wanna lose people's attention, right?
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"But I think it was in 2013 and we did this horrible, horrible tour of North America – we were hating every second of it and everybody was fucked up in some way or another, and nobody was talking to each other. We'd finished the tour and we all went home and I sent an email to the guys and I just said: 'I can't do this for a while,' like, we needed to talk. And we didn't! We didn't talk for probably close to a year and it took maybe even two [years for us] to start making music again, but we needed that. We had to put the brakes on and step back, and we're a lot better for it now; we kind of know what's up and to pay attention and we look after ourselves, we look after our relationships. And I would like to hope we'd see the signs if anything like that was happening again, but it's such an easy trap to fall into."
Is it hard to identify when one of your bandmates is struggling, because if they're quiet you just presume they're knackered? "Yeah, do you know I had the exact same conversation with the other two guys? I'd been depressed for a few years – like, after we were on the road – and I didn't even know what it was at first and then, you know, I started finding that out. And I spoke to the guys and I said, 'This is what I'm dealing with,' and they said the exact same thing, they just said, 'Oh, I thought you were just tired all the time,' or, 'I thought you were just in a bad mood,' or whatever. And it's so easy [to do], because you don't wanna accept that it's happening to you.
"'Cause that's the other thing, you're always told what a privileged position you're in and you have no right to complain – or to not enjoy what you're doing – and for years there's always been that perception of being a rockstar, whatever it is: you're living the life and everything's great so how could you possibly be sad? But the truth is that a lot of it is hard work, a lot of it is lazing 'round just doing nothing, a lot of it is having to do things that you don't really wanna do and it takes its toll, it really does."
Once Two Door Cinema Club regrouped and released Gameshow, Trimble says they "unashamedly talked about everything that [they] had been through". "One of the most important things that you can discover if you are going through something like that is the simple fact that you're not alone in it and that so many people are there with you. And that could be the first step: talking about it and eventually getting out of it, you know?
"Like, when we were kids and we started doing this we got warned from other people in bands, or other people who were in our crew, who had experienced all of this stuff and they just said, 'Watch out, because it's gonna happen.' But when we were 20 years old, we said, 'Nah, it's never gonna happen to us; we're too smart for that, we're above that,' and then, BAM! There you are!"