One can feel the call of the void on the third day of Electric Picnic – a day where one’s human fragility can be all too apparent. The bookers know this, and a case of smart organisation put Talos on the Sunday afternoon slot last year. The Cork outfit’s set in the LittleBigTent briefly stayed the abyss, bowed guitar and cello filling the space both in the tent and in the sore heads of those gathered, providing expansive atmospherics in a delicate fashion.
An architect by training – he lectures in the subject in UCC – space and void are important to Talos’ Eoin French, he tells me on a Friday afternoon in a Dublin hotel. “Both literally and metaphorically,” he says. “You can say a lot with void in music, which is similar with architecture. You can say everything with very little,” French says.
The physical space around French colours how he writes, he goes on. “Where you are when you write becomes very important… I think these songs wouldn’t have existed unless I wrote them where I did.” These songs he refers to are those of Talos’ debut album, Wild Alee, written over the last couple of years while French lived a “nomadic” existence. “I wrote ‘Odyssey’ in Dublin… ‘Wetlands’ in Reykjavik – for me it feels like they belong to these places.”
‘Wetlands’ was recorded in Reykjavik too, where French worked with Valgeir Sigurðsson – engineer to Sigur Rós and Bjork.
The architect in French shows again as he praises Sigurðsson’s influence. “He’s got a very unique texture palette… it’s something that you can’t really see anywhere else, it’s very much him. It colours it in a certain way which is something I really admire, amazing to work with.” Wild Alee showcases this influence liberally, with a sonic palette familiar to any fans of Sigur Rós’ Valtari married to French’s pop structures.
The Icelandic connection continued last year as Talos joined artists Indridi and JFDR – Jófríður Ákadóttir on the Reykjavik – Ireland takeover tour, which he described as very special. “We played some amazing places and shows and it was fun to play with Indridi and Jófríður,” he said. “We’ve got to know them well over the last few years – they’re friends as well. Brilliant fun.”
The single biggest influence on Wild Alee though, was producer Ross Dowling – one of the most underrated people in music in Ireland, French says.
“His depth of knowledge and ear for sound is beyond anything else and as well he’s probably the most chilled out guy you’ll ever meet. It doesn’t matter if something is sounding shit… he’ll see something in it and he’ll pull that out as well.”
Wild Alee was finished over seven weeks in West Cork, then mixed over Christmas. “The massive buzz of finishing it is kind of gone so it’s kind of that point now – what’s next?” French says. “The process of actually getting everything finished from like masters to artwork to pressings and vinyl, all of that takes up a lot of time. It’s hard to find the time to make music again.”
The Wild Alee tour kicked off in West Cork too, with a show in Connolly’s of Leap – the venue owned by drummer Sam McNicholl. Though French writes all the songs himself, live, Talos is a six-piece, which means it can be “difficult” to get the arrangements right, he admits.
“Luckily the guys are super invested in it. The live show is theirs. I don’t see it as me, front and centre of the stage,” he explains. “The songs that you think are gonna be easy are always the hardest ones… with six people there and three main elements in the song it’s kinda like… what the hell will we do here.”
They’ve only been playing together for six months – their first gig was Body & Soul last year – but French says it’s “been the most enjoyable I’ve ever found playing music.”
“The way Talos started off playing live was probably just wrong. It needed to be played as opposed to being pads,” he says.
Talos can fill any space, French believes, having played the likes of Mitchelstown Caves and the stone warehouse of the D-Light studios. “I like the ideas that we’ve played in these odd places that you might think music shouldn’t even work. It’s always a challenge and it working was a brilliant thing.”
A return to the festival scene beckons this summer – there’s always more voids fill, more space to conquer, and with Wild Alee, Talos are well placed to do so.