When settling down to chat to Will Doyle, AKA East India Youth, you’d think the fact that the producer having had two major successes in two years with two records would encourage a little blowing of one’s proverbial trumpet, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The man behind Total Strife Forever and Culture of Volume, two well-received and, let’s face it, essential pieces of listening from the past couple of years is surprisingly modest – especially considering that his first full-length was swiftly nominated for the Mercury Prize, an enviable position to be in.
“Well, not really, I didn’t really look at it like that,” he ensures us. “I don’t think many do, or at least I’d hope they wouldn’t. The nomination was obviously an honour, but I didn’t set out to make a record for anyone other than myself. At the time, I didn’t have any idea if anyone was going to hear it at all, but I don’t think that album could have gone any better for me and I’m still very happy with how it went.”
So how does one move on to the ‘dreaded’ second album from a record that established such a strong presence for both Doyle and his sound? In transitioning from a relatively small set of ideas into Culture of Volume’s broader sonic palette, Doyle reminisces that he “didn’t really know if anyone was going to hear it, the first album. I think, you kind of make the first one for yourself – it’s more of an internal dialogue, and then as you gain a little bit of notoriety and publicity or popularity you don’t necessarily know if the next one is going to be successful or not, but you know that people are still going to hear it because you’ve established yourself.”
In gaining that larger audience, East India Youth, as a project, inevitably had a lot more people to answer to – to impress, even. The huge shift in exposure saw Will quickly become a household name within the left-field. What then, becomes of the creative process when faced with such heavy expectations?
“That completely changes the way you create something because you find yourself adopting a different mindset toward it,” he muses. “But, I was conscious of that fact, and I think that there wasn’t much of that previous internal dialogue – I felt like all of the tracks on Culture of Volume had an audience in mind or they were addressing a group of people. They’re not songs to anyone as such, but they are very aware, as I was, that someone is listening in on them.”
But that self-aware, voyeuristic inevitability of creating music for public consumption took some sense of intense emotional input on Doyle’s part, although within that inner mechanism, he doesn’t like to distinguish between the albums, pointing out that “I wouldn’t say that one or the other has stronger emotions than the other,” and explaining that each album had to contain “different types of emotion. While Culture of Volume deals with more conventional emotional subject matter, TSF resonated in a much deeper, more abstract emotional place for me.”
“Culture of Volume is more a product of the time in which I was making it,” he says, “and I was a bit more, in a strange or skewed way, in touch with reality more than I was than when I was making the first record – which was very isolated in the way it was made and nobody was really involved in it.”
Second-time around though, East India Youth, having gained that audience and attention, needed contributions outside of Will’s own to distinguish Culture of Volume as the bolder of the two releases. “I knew quite early on that I wanted someone to come and help. I mean, I think I’m a good ‘Ideas Guy’ and I’ll do things in a round-about kind of way to achieve an idea, but I’m not a big tech guy, I’m not big into gear,” Doyle ruminates. “I don’t really know much about good microphones or stuff like that; I mean, I know enough about software tools because I’ve spent so long using them but I’m not really like a ‘gear geek’ or anything so I don’t know how to make things sound as good as others do.”
“I knew that I’d be able to get all the ideas down and do as much of the production that I’m happy with and then get someone in to help things sound a bit wider and deeper. I asked Graham Sutton who’s a great record producer to mix the album with me and I kind of gave him everything so that he could have free reign over everything for a week or two and then when I rejoined him at the end of the process – we came to a middle ground between us. That let me feel like the production aspect wasn’t always the most important thing. Just trying to get down the melodies and rhythms and stuff like that in as much detail as I could when I was recording it was more important than, you know, worrying about effects or that kind of thing.”
Considering too that Culture of Volume is a far more ambitious, if not heavier spectrum of sounds than Will’s previous efforts, the record was shaped as much by outside influences as it was by his partnership with Sutton. “I was going clubbing a lot in London at the point of writing the album and I guess the social circle I started to revolve introduced me to industrial techno like Truss and Perc and Powell. We were going to a lot of those kind of nights, as well as Plex nights for like three years running and so my interest in that sort of stuff began to really develop. I toured with Factory Floor for a bit, I toured with These New Puritans and I guess that style of music was just feeding the album for me at the time.”
This explains why the East India Youth remix of The Staves sounds like it does, but does Will try and turn his attention to the work of others as much as he can, injecting that deeper, darker focus into new music beyond his own? “Yeah, I mean you get asked to remix a lot and they can be a good source of financial income haha, but the whole culture around them is a bit off,” he laments. “People can be more into getting your name on their release to help it out, so I don’t think they’re necessarily the best method or mode of collaboration to make a good piece of art. I’ve been really careful with who I’ve worked with in the past because I get really obsessive over them and try to work and work on them. I actually just did a remix for my friend’s band Jupiter-C who toured with me for the first album and that’s probably the most insane thing Ive ever put down. They’ve got their EP coming out this year and it’s going to be on that. I think the thing with remixes now is I try and make them as madcap as possible.”
Although this isn’t the original material fans have been hoping for, Doyle does intend to thaw out some former unfinished ideas and start building again, confirming that he’s “looking for people to work with because I’m taking time off the road. I’ll try and figure out what my role is in a collaboration. I’m not a very traditional producer, I can make some noise – maybe I’m more of a songwriter, I’m not quite sure what my capacity would be in that situation yet. Maybe I’ll have an engineer working with me to get a particular sound and I’ll be doing some production for some other people – I like the idea of doing that.
Surprisingly though, new East India Youth material has been in the pipeline for a long time now and Doyle has been “planning the new album since before Culture of Volume.” He tells me, “I thought it would be the second album but I needed more time to work on the idea behind it. I’ve got quite a large idea now that I’m going to spend quite a lot of time working on that’s to do with a sense of place and architecture. It deals less with the individual and more with the environment and atmosphere I think.”
Time, as well as being of the essence, is in short supply and given that his current tour really only dips into a few European spots before heading to Australia for a couple of weeks, the East India Youth machine is going to take a “well-deserved break to focus on some projects and ideas for at least a few months.” We’re going to be patient.
East India Youth plays the Black Box, Belfast, as part of the CQAF’s Out To Lunch Festival, on Friday, January 22nd, and then Dublin’s The Button Factory on Saturday, January 23rd. Tickets, as well as more information on the lineup for the former can be found here, and tickets for the latter here.