Music

East India Youth's William Doyle Discusses His New Solo Album and Music

Photo: Matt Colquhoun / Courtesy of Practice Music

William Doyle speaks to PopMatters about the end of East India Youth, his experience of living in the suburbs, and how his new album, Your Wilderness Revisited, came into being.

Your Wilderness Revisited
William Doyle

1 November 2019

In 2014. British musician and producer, East India Youth, released, for many people, one of the albums of the decade. Total Strife Forever was a striking, idiosyncratic electronic album that fused everything from techno to orchestral pop and brought with it a Mercury Music Prize nomination and widespread critical praise. Quickly following it up with the more eclectic pop of Culture of Volume, the man behind the music, William Doyle, took another bold step in what promised to be a fascinating and varied career. And then nothing.

For those that fell in love with those albums, the apparent disappearance of the man behind the music was something of a mystery. The truth is, sadly, all too common for an artist who achieves sudden and unexpected success. For Doyle, success became an exhausting slog of touring and press. With little guidance as to how to navigate a career in music, his fears and anxieties were amplified until the internal clamor became too much. Wisely, Doyle extricated himself from the East India Youth project and retreated from public view.

Taking solace in a pair of excellent ambient releases, (The Dream Derealised and Lightnesses I and II), he has spent time recovering and focusing on what's important. Now, he is back with his first release under his name, the dazzling Your Wilderness Revisited.

Inspired by his teenage years, living in the relatively quiet town of Chandlers Ford just outside Southampton, the album is a triumphant celebration of suburban living. Naturally, it's a very personal album with Doyle freshly examining the effect suburbia had on his formative years while also attempting to rehabilitate the people's perception of it. Musically, the album blends articulate layers of instrumentation to produce a richly satisfying blend of baroque pop, avant-garde jazz, and electronic indie. Doyle spoke to PopMatters to tell us more about the end of East India Youth, his experience of living in the suburbs, and how the album came into being.

What was the first album you fell head over heels in love with?

My honest answer is Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park.

When did you know you wanted to pursue making music as a career?

I thought being in a band would be a cool idea after I started getting into them. It wasn't until I was 16 or so, after doing it for a while, that I thought maybe this is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.

Was it easy for you to let people hear your first compositions?

Absolutely not. It took me until I was about 22 to be comfortable showing people works in progress. An unfortunate perfectionist streak runs through me. I'd put stuff up on MySpace when I was a teenager, but not until after it had been labored over for some time.

Smoke by werner22brigitte (Pixabay License / Pixabay)

How quickly did those ideas start to become that identifiable East India Youth sound?

Well, those pieces were things I was working on alongside another band I was in. I'd been writing and recording music for about eight years by that point. Over the space of a year or two, towards the end of that band, I'd started to amass a lot of electronic music that I'd made, and it struck me that it was actually quite good and maybe worth pursuing.

Are you far away enough away from your work as East India Youth to appreciate all you achieved?

It's a good question. I don't think so, no. I'm immensely proud of that first album, and I'm happy that people seemed to really resonate with it. But I think it will take me a while before I can look back at that time with the fondness it deserves.

What do you think you learned from your more ambient albums (The Dream Derealised and Lightnesses I and II)?

That making ambient music is a wonderful discipline that can make you listen closer and for longer.

Why is now the right time to release music under your own name?

It always was the right time. But this record feels inextricable from myself.

Who is William Doyle and how does he differ from East India Youth?

He doesn't wear a suit, day-in, day-out. I'd become so absorbed by that character as an extension of myself, that I couldn't even go down to the shops to get some milk without putting a tie on. I'd also not really bought many other clothes for a few years.

I think I'd started to become someone I wasn't so happy with. Self-obsessed, there, but never really present. Being comfortable putting things out under my own name required me to know myself again, not just the self that sells records. It also required me to be more compassionate, loving, and inclusive with the people around me. I'm still working on those things, but I feel a lot better in myself now.

The album is very much a celebration of suburban living, how did your experience of living in the suburbs shape you?

I moved there when I was 13 after my dad had died. So at first, it was a strange experience that didn't seem to make sense. I suppose because there wasn't much to do as a teenager in the area, you had to use what was given to you. If that wasn't getting drunk or high in parks and woods, then it was getting drunk and high on listening to music in parks and woods, and walking and cycling around thinking about the world and your place in it, creating your own fiction and mythologies. It was an amazing place for the imagination.

Do you think there is a generally negative idea of what suburban living is?

There is. It's not hard to see why. In Britain, at least, they can be very monocultural places. They don't really value the arts in the same way that the bigger metropolitan centers in the country do. Everyone becomes very comfortable and protective of their own domain. I think I had a good experience because we were on the outskirts, never far away from a field or woodland. My view is rose-tinted, of course, as I was a teenager without the same responsibility I have now. But I also think that if we invested more time and love into these spaces, they would bloom.

How has your view of the suburbs changed after living in places like York and London?

Sometimes I want to go back, but I know that I'd miss the excitement and temptation of cities. York felt like almost like a halfway home, but it was just a bit too far away from everyone I knew.

Photo: Matt Colquhoun / Courtesy of Practice Music

Some of these songs you've had for years, which were the oldest and what changes have there been to them over the years?

The whole thing took about four years to make, and all of the songs apart from one had their genesis around the same time, in mid-2015. So they've all changed drastically during that time.

Can you describe the typical journey of a song from the idea in your head to the finished product?

My process is usually very slow refinement and editing over a long period of time. With this album, each song started with one sound that then suggested another sound, or a vocal melody, or suggested a feeling or atmosphere, and it was my job to follow those suggestions and see where they took me.

Can you always find the sound that's in your head? How easy is that?

Not always, but it's the mistakes you make trying to get there that produce the really great results.

Did you ever find yourself going too far down the rabbit hole in terms of trying to find the right sound or getting down exactly what you wanted?

Oh my god. So many rabbit holes. So many rabbit holes with absolutely fucking nothing in them. That's the joy!

Where there any tracks that were total pains in the ass?

"Blue Remembered" and "Continuum" did not want to work. "Blue Remembered" is one of the only tracks on the album that I did completely, entirely, by myself, which is probably why it was difficult. "Continuum" was rescued with help from my dear friend George Hider. Heaven is other people.

Musically, what were the touchstones for you when making the album?

Yikes. I tried not to have any, really. I think the artists who are in my DNA probably came out there somewhere. Perhaps more thematically or atmospherically than wholly musically, these were some kind of touchstones: These New Puritans - Field of Reeds; Perc - Wicker & Steel; Julia Holter - Loud City Song; Darren Hayman - Pram Town; Owen Pallett - In Conflict.

What are the main ways in which you think have progressed on this record? Writing, understanding, composition, structure.

I think I worked really hard to make every song a mini-epic in itself, which is something I've not done before. I think every song has a very identifiable atmosphere or mood.

What do you think you learned about yourself in the course of making this album?

That I probably need to give therapy a try.

Do you think you have fully realised your vision of what this collection of songs should be?

I love it dearly, but no. I don't think any artist ever does, and that's what compels them to keep making.

Collaborating with people like Brian Eno and Laura Misch on this record, who would your dream collaborator be?

I would like to make a record at Tiny Telephone with John Vanderslice one day.

What would be your three desert island records?

Brian Eno - Discreet Music

Julianna Barwick - Will

Hiroshi Yoshimura - Music for Nine Postcards


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.