Two Door Cinema Club: "We were our own worst enemy"
With their third album ‘Gameshow’ out this month, bassist Kevin Baird talks through the struggles and rise of one of the most liberating pop records of the year.
Published: 9:42 am, October 14, 2016
I think we’ve learnt our lesson the hard way on how not to do things,” explains Two Door Cinema Club’s Kevin Baird. “Even when things were at their worst in the past we’ve always found things that we’ve really loved and enjoyed, but I think this time around we’re much better at being in the moment and enjoying what we’re doing.”
The past has an uncanny ability to haunt anyone who is troubled by it. Whether it’s that decision to go left instead of right, about giving up on a dream or simply not attempting at all, the past continues to linger and it always will. For Two Door Cinema Club, that history has never been more important - it’s made them one of the most celebrated bands of the past decade, memories of sun-kissed festival fields and sweaty bars continue to live whenever their records come on - it’s everything they would have dreamed of when they started it all together in frontman Alex Trimble’s parents’ garage all those years ago.
Kevin Baird, bassist and an integral head in the Two Door mix, is on his way to the airport. In 2016, the trio are back with their third studio album ‘Gameshow’, their first in over four years, and the international travelling is already in full swing. Two days ago, the band played their first headline show in London since they headlined the O2 Arena in 2013. Yesterday, they were in Amsterdam for a string of promotional appearances. Today they’ve done the same, but this time in Paris. It’s the sort of fairytale story that musicians daydream about all the time, but this reality was also the very thing that brought Two Door Cinema Club, and in particular the band members themselves, to an incredibly dark crossroads.
18th July 2014 was set to be a seismic moment for Two Door Cinema Club. After becoming feverishly adored around the world, delivering two albums of high-octane indie-pop bangers and one of the most in-demand live shows of their time - it was set to be the crowning moment where they headlined their very first UK festival and rounded out the ‘Beacon’ era with a bang.
But it wasn’t to be.
Almost six years of touring, recording, living and breathing on top of each other had finally taken its toll. Illness, tension and the inability to deal with everything that was happening to them meant that their headline slot never happened, and their future became unclear.
“I think the majority of the pressure at the time was from ourselves,” details Kevin. “I think you get addicted to that momentum and we were that band who were always in those ‘Hardest Working Bands List’ every year, and I think we liked that idea that we were the ones who worked harder than anyone else - it almost gave us a little chip on our shoulders.
“At the same time it was our first experience at seeing loads of countries around the world, I guess we had the great curse of people liking our band all over the place which meant we had to go everywhere. That lead to some amazing opportunities and experiences. We’d be sitting there and think, ‘Right, we really need to write and record this new record’, or take some time off, and then we’d get an offer to play a string of shows in like South Africa - of course we want to then go and do it!
“We were our own worst enemy at the time, and we were definitely addicted to it.”
Since their debut ‘Tourist History’ landed in 2010, Two Door have barely had a moment to breathe. Seismic tours around the UK, Europe, Asia, the US and South America meant they were the most in-demand live act on the planet. As 19/20-year-olds, it was an extraordinary turn of events, one that well and truly swept them up - refusing to let them down until that day almost four years later.
Reflecting on that time, Kevin barely remembers a moment which wasn’t focused on the next step, and one ultimately gripped by the fear of losing it all.
“There wasn’t much opportunity to sit back and take stock of what we’d done. What we’d achieved and what we still wanted to do, what expectations we had for the band and what we wanted to do musically. We were almost scared to take a break because we thought that was going to mean the end of our careers, the band finishing and nobody caring anymore.”
' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen>
Backed into a corner, Two Door knew they had to take some time away from each other, and more-so, the life of ‘being’ in a rock band. Retreating from the spotlight, it was a pretty bold and life-altering step. No longer living life in the diary of the band, the three of them (Kevin, Alex and guitarist Sam Halliday) replaced the deafening cheers and transatlantic flights for the solitude of ordinary life, which posed its own conflicts for three young men who’d dedicated their entire lives to their craft.
“It’s like being at work and thinking, ‘I can’t wait for this to be done’. You start thinking of all the things that you’re going to do at the weekend or in your week off, and then you get there and just don’t know what to do with yourself,” contemplates Kevin. “You’re so used to having a purpose, and it took a while to adjust to the simple things - going to the shop, buying food, cooking it and then having that ingredient still there in the fridge a week later that you could use - that was something we’d never experienced before. We were always away and would have no time for anything.”
While the simple things may have thrown Kevin, there was a more personal and challenging issue in itself to confront. After being an integral part of a band that had fans in countries around the world, that sense of worth and value played heavy on his mind, now that exact reality was no longer present.
“For me at least, it was very hard to adjust,” recalls Kevin. “I found it very difficult to feel like I had a value because I wasn’t doing anything. If I sat in my pyjamas and watched The Sopranos all day, then that didn’t matter. Even though there was things I probably should be getting on with, there wasn’t a deadline for it so that was quite hard to deal with at first - then it became really kind of liberating.”
Kevin spent his time reconnecting with songwriting on his own terms, writing for the enjoyment of it all and primarily for himself. The results were vital in the future of Two Door Cinema Club, even if he didn’t know it at that stage.
“We always had felt a bit restricted, that anything that we did musically or wrote had to be shared with two other people and it had to be band property, should it be good enough to turn into a song. In the years where we didn’t do very much it was nice to spend time writing music just for myself or just for fun - and that was definitely important in the journey we went through in getting back together and writing songs as a band again.”
With each band member overcoming their own personal conflicts, the actual entity of Two Door Cinema Club was still very much in the air. Would going back into that world throw each one of them off course again? Was it worth the physical and mental strains that forced them away from each other? Did the band still exist?
For Kevin Baird, the break the guys took was momentous in more ways than one. “We’ve never been apart like that, I would say, since we’ve known each other.
“We’re three best friends who went to school together. When we were at school our other friends would go out bowling or to the pub, and we would be writing songs or practicing - then meet our mates at the pub later, of course.
“That’s just what we always did, we were always together. Then when we left school, we were on tour. Around each other, playing together, hanging out together and living together - so we’ve never had that experience of being apart.
“Our whole adult lives up until two years ago, was spent together.”
That bond, that drive that made them start playing together all those years ago and what took them around the world - brought them back together again. From the outset, it was key that they simply could have each other back in their lives again, and what became clear was that all of them wanted to jump back into the Two Door Cinema Club world. All three of them wanted to write another chapter in the Two Door Cinema Club story.
“It kinda happened quite quickly,” remembers Kevin. “We were meeting up and trying all these different techniques that we could think of to try and get back in a good place together, and that revolved around talking about stuff that we were too scared about to talk through before.
“Talking about our lives and the things that were going on with each of us, and then once we felt comfortable around each other we started to talk about whether we would make another album. We all said ‘Yeah’.”
Still enjoying their own lives outside of the Two Door bubble, the trio decided to start writing new music over email - with early demos laid out at a much more relaxed and approachable pace that gave all of them a sense of space and individuality in their own lives - a refreshing new way for the trio of best mates to work together and craft their ambitious comeback.
With the groundwork laid, Two Door were ready for the studio - the first time that they’d been in that sort of environment in years and the first time that the band had played together since early 2014. Understandably, things were a bit rusty to begin with.
“The first day, we were all pretty nervous,” Kevin recalls. “We were thinking, ‘Oh shit, which end do we plug this lead in for this guitar?’
“Very quickly it connected - I think we’ve always had it, that connection. The three of us have been writing music together since we were 14 years old, and that connection just exists. We can feel it when it feels wrong, but when it feels right it’s good - and that came back quite quickly.”
The result is ‘Gameshow’, an album completely free of the shackles and preconceptions of what a Two Door Cinema Club album should sound like, and full of daring experimentation into electric disco, synth-laden pop and soaring choruses that would make Kylie and Jason blush with shame. It’s a record full of life, energy and freedom - and finds Two Door sounding better than ever.
' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen>