Having sold out a four-week residency at the Shacklewell Arms on the back of a limited edition single and a Horrors support tour, Heavenly signings Toy are gearing up for a headline tour of their own, along with a full single release and a summer of festivals.
It seemed as good a time as any to fire some Qs in the band’s direction. Panda, Toy’s bassist, obliged with the As.
musicOMH: How did Toy come about and how long have you been playing together as a band?
Panda: We had all wanted to form our own band together for ages, but had all been busy doing other things, other musical projects and the like. Eventually we started rehearsing and developing a sound, which we all were really pleased with. We’ve been playing together as Toy for nearly two years now.
OMH: Tom, Dominic and Panda were previously members of Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong. How has the experience of being in that group informed Toy? There is obviously a huge difference in sound between the two bands, is Toy a deliberate move away from that trad guitar sound?
Panda: The old band didn’t have much to do with the music we liked or the music we wanted to make – we formed Toy so that we could all have creative freedom, enjoy ourselves and make something we really felt proud of.
OMH: How would you describe Toys writing and recording process?
Panda: It’s very collaborative – the band is made up of people that have quite similar tastes so it’s a flowing, enjoyable process. Songs can start from anywhere – a synth hook, chord progression, guitar riff, bass line or drum beat – then we all build on it from there. Sometimes me or someone else will write a whole structure for a song with various different sections, but by the time the whole band have added their parts and developed it together then it becomes a very equal creation. We usually make a demo recording of a song at my house, which enables us to experiment with the structure and arrangement of the song, then we develop it by playing it in rehearsals and live on stage. When we record the songs properly, we always like to experiment as much as possible with each sound that gets put down, and are always very involed in the mixing process. We like certain things to poke out and be unnecessarily loud, instead of a overly smooth, ‘easy on the ear’ type of mix.
OMH: What are your main influences and musical inspirations?
Panda: We certainly take our influences from a broad range of genres. We all grew up listening to The Velvet Underground, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Kinks, then lots of punk and other New York music, like The Stooges, Patti Smith, Television, the Ramones and New York Dolls, and later on, Sonic Youth and Glen Branca. Then when about five or six years ago we got really into psychedelia, things like S F Sorrow by the Pretty Things or the July album. Krautrock and Kosmiche is another big influence on our sound, with bands like Neu!, Can, Kraftwerk, Faust and Amon Duul. My Bloody Valentine and Wire are important too. We listen to a lot of strange early electronic music from the ’50s and ’60s, film soundtracks like Forbidden Planet by Louis and Bebe Barron. We really love Phillip Glass, Stockhausen, John Cage, Tom Dissevelt, Edgar Varese.
OMH: Left Myself Behind is a very bold statement as a debut single; was that track always destined to be a single and do you feel it is important for the group to define their style and approach from the outset?
We hadn’t thought about singles until the time came to choose one – we went for Left Myself Behind as we felt it represented us well and it was a song we were all pleased with. We weren’t bothered about radio or anything obviously, we just wanted to.
OMH: Toys sound is very immersive and propulsive, how does that sound come about? One thing that is particularly striking is the interesting synthesiser sounds.
Panda: We are all very influenced by early electronic music as I mentioned earlier, as well as bands such as Suicide and Silver Apples, so Alejandra takes a lot of influence from those types of synth sounds. I love the idea of writing a song that has a structure and chord progressions but then having different types of bizarre and unpredictible electronic feedback sounds going through the whole thing. We want to be able to conjure up a wall of sound when needed, so we experiment with different types of chords, drones, arrangements and effects to try and create that between the five of us. Charlie’s relentless drumming style really helps to give us the propulsion we desire.
OMH: How important has signing to Heavenly been and how have they supported the band?
Panda: Having been in a band signed to a major label, we were quite wary of going with anyone that might try to change us or make us more commercial. Heavenly understand what we’re trying to do, they’re really great people who have a genuine passion for music and they love our band, so they were the perfect choice. It’s a joy to work with them.
OMH: You have spent a lot of time touring with The Horrors, how was that experience and do you think that The Horrors’ success has made it easier for bands making expansive, progressive and intelligent guitar music to succeed?
Panda: We’ve had a great time with The Horrors, I really enjoy watching their set and seeing a great band who have honed their craft over a few years. I think they’ve shown that good bands can actually still do well and in that sense hopefully they’ve paved the way for plenty more great music to follow.
OMH: Is it fair to say that you share a similar aesthetic with The Horrors and would you like to collaborate with them in the future?
Panda: Having toured with them, it’s no surprise that people have drawn comparisons, but I think it’s obvious that we both have our own sound. I’m sure collaborating with them would be great fun, maybe we will at some point. We might be remixing a Horrors track from Skying in the near future.
OMH: How is the debut album coming along? What can you tell us about it at this point?
Panda: We are still writing all the time in preparation for the album – we want to have as many songs as possible to choose from. We will be recording it in March and April, with a release date scheduled for 10th of September. We are extremely excited about it. We have a pretty clear idea about how we want it to sound, and want to avoid the smooth, polished sound of typical modern guitar bands.
OMH: Your next single Motoring is released in April, what can you tell us about that track and why did you choose it as your next single?
Panda: It’s a song that we open the set with and it’s got plenty of drive and energy. We all played a big part It shows a different side to our sound and it’s a little snappier than our first, clocking in at 4.35 as opposed to 7.47.
OMH: You recently completed a four week residency at the Shacklewell Arms in London, how was that and how has it prepared you for your forthcoming first headline tour?
Panda: The residency was very fun, there was an amazing turn out for every one and the audiences were brilliant, dancing around while we played and having a great time. It was also really great to put on loads of excellent bands and DJs that we love. Playing every week at the same place helps you to develop without a doubt, so I’m sure it has put us in good stead for the tour.
OMH: What are your immediate plans for the year ahead? Are you planning to play festivals this summer?
Panda: We’ve been asked to a lot of festivals so we really looking forward to an action packed summer. Festivals will give us a different crowd and a different type of gig scenario which we’re all excited about. We’re doing a lot in the UK and hopefully will be playing a few abroad too.
Toy’s second single Motoring is out on 9 April 2012 through Heavenly. They tour the UK in April, calling at London’s XOYO on 11 April. The debut album follows in September. More at toy-band.com.