London’s TV Priest have released their second album My Other People, following on from debut Uppers both on the Seattle based Sub Pop Records. I was delighted to interview lead singer Charlie Drinkwater to delve a little deeper into the origins of this extraordinary album.
May I start by going back to the beginning of TV Priest, as I do think its particularly relevant for the creation of My Other People. You were four friends who played music together when you were younger, who went their separate ways and then years later your paths crossed again and TV Priest was formed. Is that a pretty accurate brief description of how TV Priest came to be? That’s correct. We’ve made music together since we were about 14/15 and some of us have known each other since pre-school. For the most part, aside from a couple projects when we were at school, this project (or a project involving at least all 4 of us) is the only group we’ve ever played in. During that time we’ve taken a couple of breaks when reaching different stages of our lives, but creating music together and having this as a collective outlet has brought us back together time and time again as something that we just had to do, for ourselves individually, as a group, for our mental health, to create and to bond and to just be friends and have dedicated time together. I can safely say we’d still be working together had we not released any music.
Your debut single ‘House of York’ was released on Hand In Hive Records in April 2020 followed by second single ‘Runner Up’ in May 2020. How did you come to the attention of Sub Pop Records (Seattle based label home of, amongst others, Mudhoney, Rolling Coastal Blackout Fever, Low, Kiwi Jr)? And when did you sign for them? Sub Pop have only two employees in the UK and by pure chance the wife of Tim, the distribution manager in the UK, heard ‘Runner Up‘ on BBCRadio6 Music and told him “you should really hear this band, I think you’d quite like them“. And it snowballed from there. Couldn’t be more understated really! We signed with them in the Summer of 2020 which led to a lot of change very quickly in all of our release plans.
Would I be correct in saying that debut album Uppers was already recorded by the time you signed with Sub Pop? Unfortunately Covid then hit and Uppers had a delayed release. How did that impact you as a band? By June 2020 we’d pretty much completed the first record and had planned to release with our label, now managers, Hand In Hive in November. Everything was sent off, vinyl pressings ordered from the plant, test pressings on their way to us, you know, the whole process almost done and dusted factoring in delays caused by Covid. So when Sub Pop became involved everything had to be brought to a grinding halt before immediately being started up again. Was quite a whirlwind really, and took us by surprise. Four friends, from unspectacular backgrounds, making music in pretty much complete isolation from the rest of the world, being signed to one of the most influential labels in the world. It was honestly a bit surreal, we had signed and were just sat on sofas unable to celebrate with each other in person, drinking beers remotely, cooking, cleaning, worrying about isolated family and friends, fearful of going outside, getting our governmentally mandated exercise hours, unable to play shows or support the album. So for most of us it’s taken quite a while to sink in. Sitting on the record for that long without being able to put it out into the world was a strange experience, you overanalyse and critique it somewhat, but I think all bands have an anxiety and excitement about that particular process. It kept us excited though to create more, and to move on to the next record.
Uppers was finally released in Feb 2021 in the midst of lockdown. This meant you could not tour the album, in fact any promotion had to be online. Do you think technology was an advantage during lockdown? Bands like yourselves could at least create and release music, and music lovers could listen, share and write about it. Technology was obviously a bit of a lifeline for everyone, screentime was probably higher than ever as we were releasing the album, and music was being released very slowly due to the pressing plants being at capacity. I can’t say if we benefitted from that or not, but of course it was a very unique situation to be in, and it was a real talking point for press at the time. Also, we were able to record and film a few online live sessions, which in some regards were an advantage. But it didn’t feel like we had truly proved ourselves until we were able to play in-front of people later that year.
Of course not touring the album, after it’s already delayed release must have been tough. TV Priest had actually only played one gig together pre-Covid. You then performed at Oslo, London in July 2021 but it was two seated gigs. Looking back how did you feel about those gigs? Did it feel good to get onstage or was it uncomfortable because the crowd were seated? The Oslo gigs were a really weird mixture of managed expectations, celebration and an overwhelming release of pressure. We stood on stage at soundcheck feeling a little defeated knowing that we were competing for an audience with an England football team who were inevitably going to be knocked out of the World Cup. But then as the PA kicked in, the amps turned up, we played our first few songs and felt the thump and grind of the speakers all around us, it started to feel real and we were just grateful for the chance to perform to people once again. Despite the seating, it was an incredible release for us, just to prove to ourselves that this was really happening.
The tour for Uppers didn’t take place until October 2021. We lived through extraordinary times which impacted everyone differently. Can you describe how it felt to finally get out on the road after such a delay? I suspect it was filled with a mixture of excitement, nerves and anxiety. We’d spent a lot of time sitting on the songs before we were able to tour them. We knew which ones we wanted to play in the live context and it led to a really energetic intense first tour. It felt like we really needed to get that energy out, a lot of frustration of the previous years, the energy that had gone into the creation of the album. We still wanted to share that with a live audience and getting to play those songs was such a release for us all.
The impact of COVID on society went on much longer than anyone could have anticipated. TV Priest found themselves in the most difficult of situations. Having recorded the debut album and signed with Sub Pop Records everything then came to a shuddering halt. Was My Other People written during those most difficult of times? Was it your way of processing how you were feeling? How did your fellow band members react when they first heard these songs? My Other People was written during the summer of 2021 in an ever so slightly bigger studio space than the one in which we recorded Uppers. It very much was a way for us to process our isolation from each other during lockdowns and I think this led to the more insular feel of the record. Whilst it’s definitely not about COVID, I think the time at which it was written dramatically affected all of us, the way we were thinking, our mental health, how we felt and the shifting perspectives we all experienced. We wrote the majority of it together, combining themes, ideas and demos which we had been collating from our time apart during lockdown.
And so to the future, the second album My Other People was released on 17 June on Sub Pop Records. In contrast to Uppers, you can now head out on the road to play it live, beginning with a number of instore performances. These will be followed by dates in the US, Europe and back in the UK. What does playing live mean to you? It feels great to be getting back into live shows again and we are obviously very excited to start playing abroad. We have also enjoyed working towards the stripped back instore shows and seeing how our songs translate acoustically in a more intimate setting. It’s been incredibly rewarding deconstructing some of what we’ve done in the studio and getting down to the raw songs underneath all the production.
TV Priest’s second album My Other People is out now on Sub Pop Records. For more information on TV Priest including tour details, please check out their website.
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