Music Interviews

Interview: 2:54

2:54 have been doing this interview promo stuff all day. You’d imagine that this would make them slightly cranky. You’d imagine that this would bring out their inner curmudgeon. You’d be wrong.

“This is our first one of these (press days),” smiles Colette Thurlow, the lead singer. So you’re not bored of being asked the same question over and over again? “No, no!”, she insists.

Give it time. Although, for Colette and her sister Hannah, at least no one is enquiring how they first met. We presume.

To listen to their debut album makes the lack of crankiness even more surprising. It is an elegant, aloof, icy thing. It suggests that its creators might be a bit standoffish. But in person 2:54 are enthusiastic and open. Mostly.

The only time any reticence rises is when attempting to prise into the thing which is, obviously, at the core of the band. And at the core of every disastrous Christmas Day since Auntie Christ shouted at Mary for failing to equip the barn with enough sherry: family.

When we met the band they’ve just been out on their first British headline tour. Colette enthuses, “It’s been amazing. Having longer sets so you could just breathe a bit and relax and start to build the atmosphere.” Hannah agrees. “To bring the songs to life, the four of us on stage letting people hear the full range, playing live is definitely a good thing!”

Some context. How did 2:54 begin? Colette explains. “We made Creeping this time three years ago, so that was the origins.” Hannah picks up the tale. “Yeah, it stemmed from that. Creeping came out and it just felt like there was… more.”

More – the band they were in before 2:54 happened. A “little punk band” that provided the sisters’ first formative musical experience, albeit sonically one that was very different to where they are now.

Was there a point where the songwriting changed, from punk songs to something more grandiose? “Yeah,” concludes Hannah. “I started writing pieces of music with a different kind of vibe coming out and then we just worked on them together and we just kind of pursued it.” Colette adds, “It just felt natural”.

“I think this would be like trying to unpick our sisterhood, in trying to talk about it because we don’t try to analyse it in those ways, and just let it be. ” – 2:54 on their album

They’ll refer to the naturalness of the process on several occasions, and it is a word which accurately describes the eponymous debut. It’s an album that grows around the listener, blossoming into something epic and shimmering and beautiful, yet gothic and eerie and drenched in shadows. “We were really interested in each of the songs having their own identity but working together as a family. I feel they are definitely a family of songs, but they have distinctive atmospheres and moods,” Colette offers.

Did anything in particular inform it? There’s a pause. “Each song sort of dictated the shape of where we were going, so yeah… Umm. Err. Sorry.” Colette stops, as if she’s wary of going into it in any more detail.

We offer our take, that it feels like a darkly romantic record. Colette continues. “Yeah. I mean, errr… I guess we don’t, and again, I think this would be like trying to unpick our sisterhood, in trying to talk about it because we don’t try to analyse it in those ways, and just let it be. Lyrically I’m just inspired by the music and it’s definitely more instinctive than a case of thematics.”

Is there a favourite song? “I guess because they are, in our heads anyway, a family, the idea of isolating one seems unfair.” Colette laughs.

Undoubtedly, the family connection between Colette and Hannah has a huge bearing on 2:54. And in conversation the connection is apparent. Trailing sentences from one are finished off by the other, and there’s never anything other than nodding concurrence throughout. Do they ever disagree – musically at least?

Colette smiles. “We don’t really speak that much. It’s a sister thing I guess, there’s just that maturity. We just both know when it sounds right, and that’s it really, that’s our guideline”.

For the debut 2:54 have enlisted Rob Ellis on production and Alan Moulder on the mixing side. How did it come about? Simply, it turns out. “Just through discussions really.” Colette responds. “He (Ellis) came to some shows and we’d worked with him on three tracks of the EP. It felt kind of fitting. With Rob and Alan it again felt like a very natural process.”

He got what they were trying to achieve? Colette nods. “Yeah. We’ve had very little professional recording experience, but we’re used to recording songs at home, and so they’re complete. It was nice that Rob knew that. When we were bringing stuff to him it was a finished product.”

“I guess we’ve been really fortunate to work with people we get on with, which is just fundamental to it all.” – 2:54

It’s quite an impressive level of confidence from a band recording their debut, but Hannah and Colette don’t really seem to want much guidance. It isn’t arrogance, but you get the impression that they know exactly what they want.

Is that desire for control something which extends through their videos? Does the visual aspect interest? “I think it would be really hard for us to hand over any aspect of this band to someone else,” Colette replies, laughing. “But we were lucky enough to meet Jeppe (Kolstrup) and he had this amazing Danish aesthetic which appealed massively to us.”

She continues. “Everything just chimed. For Scarlet we wanted something natural world and then You’re Early, for us, has this charging warrior feel and we wanted this cultish idea of the flags and slightly pagan imagery.” Hannah picks up the thread. “And the movement, the drumbeat. I guess we’ve just been really fortunate to work with people we get on with, which is just fundamental to it all.”

They seem in a good place at the moment, their momentum building. Are they at all worried about being caught in a cycle that seems more concerned with turning bands over rather than allowing them to grow? Colette deadpans a reply: “We’ve just got a go with the flow attitude at the moment. It’s been an incredible ride so far, so we’re just going to see what happens.”

It’s a fair response. And if there’s any justice in the world, it shouldn’t be something that particularly concerns them. Because with an album that seems likely to be one of the best debuts of the year and a burgeoning live reputation, 2012 should be seeing a lot more of 2:54.

2:54’s debut album is out on 28 May 2012 through Fiction. They play London’s Scala on the 7 June.

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Interview: 2:54