Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh are eight hours into one of those intense, -get it out of the way’ media days that artists must dread. Their mannerisms, unsurprisingly, are a touch worn, with Hannon occasionally pausing to eye his coffee cup or mentally navigate the pattern on the nearby couch. If we didn’t know better, we’d say the duo are a touch bored. It’s not an impression that lasts: like their quirky band, the poetic twosome seems incapable of taking life too seriously. As State soon discovers, a single question can lead the pair on a journey of pure tangent-strewn ridiculousness, such as a five-minute conversation incorporating the possibilities of using London’s -gherkin’ building as giant Kerplunk board, or how the Foo Fighters production techniques relate to our dodgy laptop-based dictaphone.
The chemistry between Hannon and Walsh fizzles. ‘Not a lot of our ideas come to us when we’re drunk. Just the ones based on cricket,’ is Hannon’s explanation for the background of the band, admitting that ‘most people would agree it’s both a funny and a stupid idea to make an album about cricket, but most people wouldn’t actually do it’. Walsh is not far behind: ‘I woke up the next day with a funny taste in my mouth. We definitely sort of talked about it before that night. It’s impossible to put a finger on who said it first. We did do a track called ‘Candy Floss’, which became a track called Pedalo’ (the secret track on the Duckworth Lewis Method album), ‘We were trying to give it to Kylie, because obvious Neil gets asked’¦’
‘I often hear that such and such is looking for songs from the publishers’ Neil explains, brushing off the unlikely background to the album’s bonus track. ‘I mean it’s not like they’re literally knocking on your door, you just write it and hope for the best’. The track turned out to be the pair’s first true collaboration, with Walsh adding ‘some silly space dust lyrics’. Kylie didn’t take the song, so Walsh ‘threw some cricket lyrics in for a joke’. The rest, as they say, is history. Not that Hannon remembers it’¦ ‘I don’t recall that at all, but I’m not surprised. We weren’t planning on making an album together anyway’, he explains, ‘We were just planning on making heaps of cash selling pop songs. But it didn’t work’.
The cricket theme, though, clearly did work. From a single song, the duo developed an EP. A few days later, there were too many songs for that, too, so they readjusted their aims to ‘A few funny songs to put on the Internet’. But then the songs really started working. ‘It was a great moment,’ Walsh recalls, ‘We have different styles. Neil gets up early and acts like a real musician. I get in at four in the morning drunk. There was always a window of like four hours when we could work together’. One four-hour session pushed their -just for fun’ project over the edge: ‘It was the drunken recording I turned up with on my mobile,’ Walsh jokes.
Hannon’s work ethic comes across as bordering on obsessive. Having just released a new album under his -Divine Comedy’ guise, is already back on Duckworth Lewis Method duty. His studio contains a board, on which you’ll find ideas relating to his musical Swallows and Amazons, tracks from Bang Goes the Knighthood (The Divine Comedy’s latest), The Duckworth Lewis Method and The German Cancer Opera (which Hannon describes as ‘a weird theatre piece I was asked to do by a German’¦ he’s still waiting’). Both Hannon and Walsh love the creative side of the board – ‘it stops you from getting bored, working on a lot of things at once’ – though Hannon’s creative agenda shines through, too: he also loves wiping things off when he finishes them.