Interview With Tellison - 22nd June 2011
Photo Of Tellison © Copyright Nathan PerkinsFrom the back of a leaky tour van Lauren Mullineaux kicked back with Stephen Davidson of Tellison.

I guess we should start at the beginning with how did you form the band and why?
I started a band on my first day of a new school. I just decided I was going to be in a proper band because I’d been in an Iron Maiden cover band and I kind of thought that’s not for me, so I started a band with this guy called Rory and he bizarrely now plays bass for Sting’s daughter in I Blame Cocoa, but we very quickly realised Henry was the best drummer in our school and we knew we had to get him, but he was basically in the band that became The Kooks and I was like don’t be in that band come and join mine we’re going on tour, but we kind of just messed around for a few years. We did our first tour in 2005 and we took our sweet time making our first record it’s always taken us a long time. So yeah it was a long, convoluted, and youthful start.

It took you four years between your first album and The Wages Of Fear so what have you been doing?
Some dull stuff, some fun stuff. We were still a band the whole time though and we did some supports with people ranging from Biffy Clyro to Hot Club de Paris. Just the dumb stuff really like I was at university throughout the first record and so was Pete and we both just graduated me in English Literature and Pete in History, so that finished and I realised I had to get a job if I wanted to stay in England to pay our rent and do real life stuff. Like I say things have always taken us quite a while and we really wanted to put out a record that was good not just a record, but I guess it was just that dull stuff of getting a job. We all still work, our band can’t afford to not work I’m afraid, but it was just four years of growing up and sorting yourself out. There were a few aborted attempts to get a record out, but the team behind us all changed and the music industry continued to dissolve quietly, but it just took us a long time to get to a place we were confortable with and to find the right people to work with. We just drifted around like a fine wine.

You talk about the music industry disintegrating and I’m sure you must have been offered major label deals, was that anything to do with your decision to stay on an indie?
No actually a few sniffed around and we got courted a little bit, but I mean everything is changing and as a musician you’re totally aware of it. Labels did come and speak to us as I think they do with any band that emerges and gets some favourable press, I think in the end we were seen as a risk. We were seen as a band that wasn’t one thing or another enough. We weren’t poster-boy indie band or rock band we were sort of fairly straight up melodic indie rock and I think people couldn’t work out how to market us and as such the cheque books never came out of the pockets.

A recent review of your new album criticised you by saying the album is too good, what do you think about this?
Again I think that’s the fact that we don’t fall into x camp or y camp, we’re just a band and I think traditionally people find that quite hard to cope with. With the press for our new record we’re not the promising young upstarts anymore so you have to be like well what’s this? I’ve read a few reviews that have been quite divisive. I think the people that have taken the time to listen to the songs have liked it. I don’t envy anyone working on a reviews desk because I’ve seen what they have to put up with, like PR companies attacking them and stuff, but you do kind of feel like some reviews are written maybe after skimming it and when you’ve spent four years producing something it’s frustrating that someone will have clearly not thought about it enough to make any references that are pertinent. I’ve read a few that are like this is very awesome, very good, two out of five. But you know music is all about opinion and ultimately that’s a good thing so it’s okay if some people don’t like it. Thankfully we got all our reviews as we were going out on tour so we got to be crushed by them a little bit and then meet lots of people who actually wanted to come and see us play.

How has the reception been with the fans on the tour so far?
Really good, as an offshoot of the whole record industry changing our record leaked almost six weeks before the release date and our record label was freaking out and the most annoying thing about that was it wasn’t the final cut it was an advanced press copy that print magazines needed eight weeks beforehand so the label streamed it on-line, but as a result a lot of people seem to know the songs. Touring a new record sometimes means nobody is singing, but we played a show the day of release and there were more people singing to the new songs than there were to the old songs which is massively gratifying and in a way does put a very positive spin on the whole internet release thing.

You use Twitter quite a lot do you think social media is necessary now for bands to succeed?
I think so I think in a way that’s always been there, people always want to talk to bands they want to know what they’re doing. In the past that was fanzines and they would just go and talk to people in the queues and that’s died down because it costs so much money to print stuff and people aren’t willing to put the effort in, weirdly print media seems totally worthless, but digital media is totally free and is as easy as pushing a button. It’s something we’ve always employed; the internet helped us get our first tour when we were kids, we would just e-mail people we saw putting on shows in other cities and one in a hundred would say oh alright you can open up for us and as a result we started to make friends. Social media can and does help and its got more streamlined like micro-blogging and twitter and I think that’s fun, I mean there were bands when I was younger that I’d go and hang out before the show and try and see in the tour bus and what equipment they were using and I think Twitter and posting photographs and Facebook and stuff gives you access to bands in a similar way I mean everyone’s got the world in their pocket so why not approach them through that.

You make a lot of reference to culture in your music is it always things that you like and do you do it for specific reasons?
I don’t know it’s not super conscious like I’ll put a reference in the second line of this song, but I like the detective aspect of bands I listen to and you hear something that you don’t know what it is and you can go away and read that book or Wikipedia that name. I think it’s quite fun to know that stuff and there’s still bands that I’ve listened to their album a hundred times and suddenly it’s like oh shit that’s this. Its super gratifying if you get it straight off like I know what that is, like a secret club thing, but I think that’s fun it’s something I like in books as well. You know stuff doesn’t exist in vacuums I think it’s almost normal; it’s weird to me when people make stuff that doesn’t reference anything else. I suppose it shows up in our music because I’m literary, but that’s when I was doing my degree and I was just in a little room surrounded by books and if I was thinking about something I would be like this is like that thing I just read and it would just be an easy metaphor. The detective thing though really appeals to me, I mean you can get all wanky and theoretical with it saying it’s like making order out of chaos, but I just think it’s fun and it’s nice to have a little depth to art if you can call rock music art.

What’s your song writing process like and has it changed since Pete started singing more?
Well Pete always wrote lots of songs but he’s super shy about it, I basically bullied him into sending a piece of demo for our first album which was just him with a guitar and in his absence Henry and I decided to make it a Tellison song and it became ‘Gallery’ the first single of our first record and it’s nothing like the demo, but I remember Pete coming into practice going “what! I recognise that what have you done?” This time round we’ve been more conscious that Pete has songs, in sound check he’ll always be playing a little riff and if you stop him and go what’s that the first four times he’ll ignore you and then fifth time he’ll go “it’s just a little something” and we basically locked him in a room and went play us a song. I’m not sure what Pete’s song writing process is like, but we never really write together at the minute. I just write with an electric guitar in my room.

You mention Henry in a few songs where does he go?
Well yeah Henry is like a man of mystery he lives quite a cool lifestyle. His grandfather was the sculptor Henry Moore and so Henry basically works for the Henry Moore Foundation and a lot of the time he has to go and talk about art so he gets to go to Venice and Russia. Quite often when he goes away weird stuff will go down. During the first record I was living with him so when he left I was on my own in this massive house in Hammersmith and usually I would have a good time or a terrible time. ‘Horses’ on this record I think is the first song we wrote and it has the line ‘Henry goes back to Boston’ where he was at uni and I was on my own in Scotland and Henry had left the country and Pete had gone and got a job in a bookshop and couldn’t do any more band things till he got some money and Andy was just hanging out and I thought are we even going to be a band again, I was freaking out about it. He’s just a pretty amazing guy to have in your band; his girlfriend and his sister think I’m in love with him, but I don’t do it on purpose it just lands in a song.

You might have a solo album coming out is that still happening?
Yeah. Well this is another thing that happened during the four years of not making a record. I wrote a bunch of songs and a guy called Luke Leighfield was like “oh we should record some of these” and I did some shows on my own, but then we did nothing with it so I had like 15 solo songs sitting around and then the guy that recorded it said we should finish it and offered to do it for free which is amazing. Hopefully that might happen in the next couple of weeks, but knowing our band something might arise and that might not happen. Some of my favourite singer songwriters are people that just play on their own, it lets the words really be at the forefront of what you’re doing, I’m always interested when I play on my own to try and work out how to make people shut up and listen to what you’re doing. I’m always intrigued when I see someone who manages to get the crowd to be quiet and listen to what they’re doing because there is something insanely amazing about someone just talking or singing a little song and everyone actually listening to it.

Does anybody else in the band have any side projects going on?
I think everyone except Pete has been in bands on and off, I mean we stole Pete from his own band, I nicked him and ruined their band. Henry has been drumming for all sorts of people, I think he was asked to be Ellie Goulding’s drummer at one point and he was like “no, no, I’m in Tellison,” but he was drumming for an electro band called Alpines who are very good. Andy has played bass for a lot of people, in Kingston-Upon- Thames the scene is a little bit incestuous everyone is in everyone else’s band and when somebody needs a bass player he does that. He does solo shows too, I asked him to join based on an E.P he sent me, he’s a little bit like Dave House, and I thought it was really good. Everyone dabbles a bit, but I’m the most active.

You had some songs featured on The Inbetweeners what was that like?
Weird. At first I was really ashamed actually, we were on the first episode and I watched it and went “aww no” I just wasn’t sure if I was in to it. We had been on a few other E4 things that had just basically nose-dived so the first season of The Inbetweeners kind of came and went and nobody really cared and I think when they repeated the first season people took notice. It’s kind of cool that we were on a soundtrack with Justin Timberlake and Belle and Sebastian and The Cure and it’s such a famous thing as well if you wanted to show off you could go “my bands on The Inbetweeners by the way.” People have definitely found the band through it. I’m fairly comfortable with it and I’m glad that we got the opportunity to do it.

What do you see happening for Tellison next?
Hopefully we’re going to get the record out in Europe and the plan is to try and get the first album out there as well and then if we’re lucky further afield in America. Creatively I’ve written a few news songs already, I suppose we did the bulk of recording for this album a year ago now, so I’ve got a few different ideas brewing and I know Pete does too. After this tour finishes we’re planning to get some time to go and just write and try and make sure it’s not another four years before the next album. We also have some culinary things planned for the future, we want a food and cocktails cookbook, but we’re trying to figure out how to best market that because we’re not sure our fan base would be interested.

Interview by Lauren Mullineaux
 Band Members

Henry S Danowski
Stephen H Davidson
Peter J Phillips
Andrew J Tickell
 Latest Releases
Tellison - The Wages Of Fear
Release Date - 13th June 2011

1. Get On
2. Say Silence (Heaven & Earth)
3. Know Thy Foe
4. Collarbone
5. Freud Links the Teeth and the Heart
6. Horses
7. Rapture
8. Tell It to Thebes
9. Letters from Pre-Med
10. Vermont
11. Edith
12. My Wife's Grave Is In Paris
 Band Related Links
Tellison Myspace