I had a chance to briefly converse with Andy Williams, drummer of the Manchester pop trio Doves. At the onset of the interview Andy was still a little groggy from the gig they played the previous night at the La Zona Rosa, part of the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas. Andy was pleased with the band’s performance (as were the fans), despite lead vocalist/bassist Jimi Goodwin having had a really bad flu.
The Doves are currently touring behind their newest release, Some Cities, in Europe. They will return to North America to tour throughout the month of May. I asked Andy about his thoughts on American versus UK fans. He was impressed with the loyalty shown by the American fans, and enjoys the diversity of the people that come out to see their shows. I asked whether Doves had aspirations to break into the States to achieve the same level of success as their fellow British compatriots Coldplay. Indeed, many fans and critics are puzzled as to why Doves have not received the same degree of attention here. Back home, the British press has been creaming their pants over Some Cities, which debuted at number one on the UK charts. Despite this attention, commercial success does not seem to be the driving force of Doves. “The band’s ambitions have not changed much since we started off almost 15 years ago ... we don’t want to be famous; we want our music to be famous. We won’t compromise just to fit into the mainstream.” In fact, when their first full-length album, Lost Souls, was released in 2000, it was at time when there was still a lingering backlash against the “Manchester Sound” in Britain. “We should be allowed to evolve and follow out own path. Today as always our goal is to make a great record, which we first did in 2000.” They are more interested in longevity, hoping that 20 years from now people will be still listening to their records.
Their new album, Some Cities, has a greater shift in style that is much more direct than their previous two albums, Lost Souls and The Last Broadcast. I asked how Some Cities came to be and whether this change in style was premeditated. “The intent was to go in the studio and do something different. We knew what we didn’t want to sound like, but we weren’t sure what we wanted to sound like. We just knew that we didn’t want to make the same record again—we didn’t want to sound stale.” To stir things up, the band wrote the new album primarily in rented holiday cottages around the UK and recorded with a new producer, Ben Hillier (producer of Blur’s Think Tank and Elbow’s Cast of Thousands), in various studios throughout northern England and Scotland, including the majestic Loch Ness region. It seems that the change in locations had a noticeable influence on the album’s sound. “It reflects more of a Northern Soul sound.” Jez Williams, Andy’s twin brother and Doves’ guitarist, reflects upon the influences on the album: “A lot of cities in the North West have gone through radical changes ... I guess some of the songs are about that change, the way that some of the most important, historical buildings have had their hearts ripped out, replaced by temporary pacemakers.”
Also the process in which the songs were written on Some Cities changed: “In the past each member typically wrote songs separately and then we would come together with the songs mostly finished. This time around that band worked more collaboratively, sharing a riff here and there, and the other band members would expand on it.” However, this new method was much more challenging: “Making records is a difficult process for us. All of them have been, like, difficult, but this one may have been even more.” I asked whether the Doves were recoding new material while out on the road: “Unfortunately we don’t write much on the road. We really should, but we haven’t got there, but on the other end after the tour we can go into the studio with a clean slate and start all over again.”
In my final question, I asked Andy where he thought Doves would be 10 years from now. “I’m not sure where we’ll be. To be honest, I’ve never really thought about it. I hope we continue to evolve and keep challenging ourselves ... for the moment anyways we aren’t concerned about paying the bills.”