My First Tooth - "We'd like to think 'Love Makes Monsters' is more of a rock record'

My First Tooth – “We’d like to think ‘Love Makes Monsters’ is more of a rock record’

MFTBoxes_FINAL(hi-res)-1-1A five out of five review from Big Cheese Magazine, Artrocker describing their musics beauty, mentions by popular Radio DJs like Zoe Ball. These all followed My First Tooth after the release of their debut album Territories but that was two years ago, and two years in music is a long time. I caught up with bass player Jo Collis to discuss ‘that difficult second album’, what it feels like to be on a label like Alcopop Records and most importantly whether given the drastic change in the economy it might be easier to hang up the guitar strings all together…

So how does it feel to be releasing a second album?
Jo: It feels tremendously exciting and a bit nerve wracking! It’s been a long time coming but it’s great that finally people will be able to hear it.

A lot of bands aren’t afforded the opportunity to get to make more than one record these days. How do you feel that as a band you’ve managed to achieve that where others haven’t?
Jo: Very, very lucky. We have great support from our label Alcopop records and our manager, and we were really lucky to work with some excellent producers on the album.

We started writing ‘Love Makes Monsters’ about 2 years ago (I think!) and the whole process has taken a lot of work, not least from us managing to write the record, but from everyone who has helped us out along the way.

There’s a term, second album syndrome, where a band struggles to convincingly follow up their debut album. At any point during the recording of Love Makes Monsters did you feel this, or worry about this?
Jo: From the minute we released the first one I think!! Luckily for us, we never felt any pressure from anyone other than ourselves to make a record we were happy with, and the time and effort involved in making it is testament to that. Saying that, I can’t pinpoint a moment where I didn’t feel confident we would be happy with the record. It’s quite different to Territories in many ways, but I’m equally as proud of both of them.

How do you feel that it’s different to Territories? Did the writing and recording process differ between the two albums?
Jo: When we started work on Territories, many of those songs already existed before Gareth (our drummer) and I joined the band, so whilst we were writing our own parts, some of the songs themselves existed pretty much as they ended up,on the record.

With Love Makes Monsters, we had established our line up and we had much more of a ‘blank canvas’ to work from. The writing process was similar in that Ross brings ideas into the practice room and we take it from there really, but i think it’s fair to say we were all involved from an earlier point than previously.

Do you feel that has made it a more rounded, eclectic effort than Territories? How do you feel the new album compares with your debut in terms of sound?
Jo: We like to think it’s more of a rock record. I’m still so proud of Territories, but Love Makes Monsters is a more raucous affair I’d say. Thematically, I suppose you could say it’s more rounded.

Working with James Kenosha was a great experience, and I think he definitely brought out some of the rockier elements. But by the same token, there are some incredibly delicate moments on there too. I’d hesitate to say it’s more eclectic than Territories, but I think dynamically it’s more diverse.

Would you say that the record wouldn’t have been the same, had you not recorded with James? What did he add to the recording experience?
Jo: Absolutely it wouldn’t have been the same. But we also worked with Paul Pilot and Peter Abbot, who all contributed to the overall sound of the record. The majority was recorded with James, and it felt really easy – it all happened pretty quickly once we got going and James was a pleasure to spend time in a studio with! It was generally a very relaxing and enjoyable experience. Most importantly though, we enjoyed making this record with all 3 producers from start to finish, and I really hope that comes across.

Musically, the band seem to have a big folk influence, but while modern folk seems to be becoming more minimal, Love Makes Monsters seems to be a very textured album with string and brass sections. Was this a conscious decision?
Jo: Even in the early stages of writing, we get quite excited thinking about the other parts we can add! One of the nicest things about recording in a studio for a length of time and having access to other musicians is being able to try out other instrumentation and parts. Joel Harries, who played trumpet on the record, also wrote some beautiful guitar parts for some songs and its so lovely to be able to add those into the mix. Whilst we do have a folk influence to a certain extent, we also have a pretty diverse range of influences and I think that also comes across on Love Makes Monsters.

When it comes to playing this album live, are there any worries with such a full album, that you won’t be able to do it justice live?
Jo: Well, it’s funny you should say that… we have just recently welcomed a fifth member who will be joining us for live shows where physically possible! It’s a real treat for us to be able to make everything sound bigger and add some of the parts we simply don’t have enough arms to play. Going back to dynamics, it gives us a bit more to play with live.

Fantastic, look at that, breaking news! Aside from the fifth member, are there any other plans for the tour in support of Love Makes Monsters?
Jo: Just to play everywhere that will have us! I love touring and playing live and I’m really really excited for the future at the moment, we have some great gigs lined up, and will hopefully be adding to that throughout the rest of the year, and I can’t wait to get out there and play the songs for everyone!

You’ve been able to play some great festivals so far. Will you be playing any this year?
Jo: We have a few confirmed – I am particularly excited about Y Not Festival, as we haven’t been there before! We’ll also be back at The Great Escape this year. Obviously we’ll be keeping everyone updated as and when we can confirm any other festivals…

How important do you think gigs are to an independent band like My First Tooth?
Jo: Very.

Getting out there and being able to connect with an audience is vital for us. It’s also very handy to play shows with your peers – for example, we had a brilliant gig with The Social Club in Watford last week.

Given the stage of the economy, rising petrol prices, low show turnouts, is there ever a thought of doing something else?
Jo: We seem to be managing ok for ourselves!

From my point of view, My First Tooth will continue to exist for as long as people still want to come and see and hear us.

I imagine being on a label like Alcopop Records helps that? They seem to be the type of label where people will buy a record without hearing it, just because it’s on that label. How have Alcopop Records helped you, and would there ever be the temptation if offered to move to a major label?
Jo: Alcopop has helped us hugely. I honestly can’t imagine where we would be without the label. It’s a joy to work with someone like Jack, who has made the label feel like a family. Obviously there would be a temptation if someone offered us a major label deal but I think if that happened for any band on the label it would only be positive for the perception of the label. It’s rare to find a label that cultivates, supports and promotes its band in such a way as Alcopop does, and if a major were to sign anyone from the roster, I think it would be a testament to that.

Final question. Beyond the new album and touring in support of it, what are the bands plans?
Jo: Well, as many festivals as will have us in the summer, and more tour dates throughout the year. We’d really like to try and get over to Europe at some point as well. Who knows, we might even start writing a new record…

You can buy the latest My First Tooth album, Love Makes Monsters, via their record label, Alcopop Records!

Or you can listen to the band via their Facebook page.

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