Doves’ guitarist Jez Williams and drummer, brother Andy, are sat on a couch feeling pretty pleased with themselves. “We’ve just been on Football Focus,” explains Jez, “and we got to sit on the Match of the Day seats! It’s pretty sad, but it’s a nice day out isn’t it?”
The band are well known for their support of Manchester City FC, and their appearance on the programme coincides with the derby against neighbours United. “I think we’ve got as good a chance of they have of winning the game,” says Andy with a non-committal expression, “but it all depends on whether Rooney plays I guess.”
Their day of sitting on sofas is almost done, but the pair have been approving a new video and mulling over Doves’ Best Of. There is some lighthearted bickering over how long the band have been together. “I think it’s 18 years if you include Sub Sub,” says Andy, referring to the band’s first incarnation. So what did they learn from their first musical outing together?
“I think it showed us how not to make mistakes,” says Jez, his face noticeably straighter. “And to write an album before you release a single,” adds Andy. “We learnt from our mistakes as Sub Sub and vowed never to put anything out ever again that we weren’t 100% happy with. I think we’d lost our way quite a bit by the time we had got to the end of Sub Sub, and we didn’t have too much freedom and money, and so when Doves came around it was something of a new beginning to tell you the truth.”
“We learnt from our mistakes as Sub Sub and vowed never to put anything out ever again that we weren’t 100% happy with” – Doves’ Andy Williams on lessons taken from Doves’ previous incarnation as Sub Sub.
Has the band developed as they would have hoped? “It has, very much so,” says Jez. Andy picks up on the point of inner strength being one of the band’s standout qualities. “I suppose with being in a band for 20-odd years, the shit’s bound to hit the fan at some point”, he says candidly. “The challenge is to learn to deal with things like that, and to have an inner belief system, otherwise you’re screwed. This business, you know, a lot of it’s about confidence. Every band that’s stayed together knows that you’re going to have to deal with a bit of shit, and there’s a bit of melancholy there that has maybe come out of it, but there’s also a lot of hope and a sense of survival.”
All are qualities that seem to mark out one of Doves’ best loved songs, There Goes The Fear. “They were good times when we wrote that record actually,” remembers Jez. “I remember us writing it and it came very fast and very quick – and it was a joyous period, where we had got a bit more confidence in the songs we were doing.” Do they tap into the idea the song draws a little from fellow Mancunians the Stone Roses, and runs with it? “I think with previous songs we took a bit more from New Order,” says Jez. “But we didn’t take a massive amount from the Roses – I didn’t really cite that as an influence to be honest.”
His satisfaction is evident. “That song is quite interesting because it’s got four different sections, but for some reason it works – and you’ve got that carnival-party bit at the end, which we really wanted to get through. We were enjoying clubbing at the time, and hopefully that came through the music. We were going to see DJs like Derrick May, we did go to a lot of parties, and at the end that song – although it twists and turns, I quite like it for that. It’s a while since I’d heard that song actually, but when we came to the Best Of, we sat down and put together what we’d done, it was good.”
The band were able to choose the order of their Best Of. “We all did really”, says Jez, “we got to the flow of the record. When you finish an album quite often you get out of the studio and just want to get away from it. I thought that it was interesting listening to this, because normally when we finish an album you wouldn’t hear it again. It was great hearing the B-sides too. We feel we’ve written some pretty strong B-sides, but you get that thing where we’re described as anthemic a lot, which is great, but I think the B-sides reveal a few other sides to us. It shows a lot more than what we’re known for.”
“We need to come back to the band with new energy”
- Doves’ Jez Williams on the process leading towards a possible fifth album for the band
So how do the band approach their songwriting? “There’s no set formula really,” Jez explains. “Jimi and I will come in with ideas maybe, or Andy, and we’ll sit together in a room. We’re quite versatile in that way, we can chop and change, so there’s less pressure. One of us might bring in a demo, which we might stay faithful to – Black & White Town was like that, that was its strength. There’s no set formula really, with the lyrics as well.”
However the likelihood of new songs, for now, is slim. “We’re not writing at the moment,” says Jez, the more extrovert of the two today. “We’re going to do this tour, then a few festivals, and then we’re gonna go off and do whatever we need to do, and then come back and see if we have anything to offer for a new Doves album.” Like a Winter break in football? “Yeah, but without the holiday in the Maldives – more like a break in North Wales I think! We’ll go away and then come back and try some other stuff out.”
“We need to come back to the band with new energy,” he says animatedly. “There’s no point in us just finishing touring and then going into the studio to write album number five. We need to bring that energy back for when we do a new record, you know what I mean?”
Until that break, the touring comes first, and Andy, for one, is up for it. “We’re looking forward to that, we’re going to do some songs we haven’t played for ages, and some of the B-sides, so we’ll be mixing it up a lot. We want to keep it fresh and fun.” Some festivals, too? “Yeah, we’re doing some different ones this year – V, Green Man, Rockness, Isle Of Wight”. I remind them of a time they played at a particularly euphoric T In The Park gig, in 2005. “That was mental,” remembers Jez, “everyone was drunk by 1 but we weren’t on til 6, and I just remember seeing a whole family with a Tesco’s trolley of Tennents stacked high – a father mother and two kids with this huge trolley. That’s what T does to you!”
Doves’ The Places Between: Best Of is out now through Virgin/Heavenly, featuring the single Andalucia. Following the band’s UK tour they play several summer festival dates, details of which can be found on their website.