TELEMAN + guests, Sunday 6th November 2016, The Workman’s Club, Dublin. Doors 8pm. Tickets: €16 inclusive of booking fee. Over 18s ID required.
The art of songwriting has been the driving force behind Teleman’s second album Brilliant Sanity: the process of crafting of the immaculate pop song, the dogged pursuit of the perfect hook. The result is an album that appears fastidiously and impeccably made, but also charged with joy.
The band’s first record, 2014’s Breakfast, was a quite different affair. Put together largely in the studio, with drummer Hiro Amamiya only joining the band a couple of songs into the session, Sanders recalls how “We recorded the songs before we knew how to play them, in a very bitty way, building them track by track, rather than just getting in a room and playing them.”
Since then, both the band and their songs have solidified. Now a four-piece made up of Sanders, his brother Jonny on synths, Amamiya on drums, and Pete Cattermoul on bass, the process of touring has honed them into a spectacular a live act, fleshing out those studio-forged tracks, so that by the end of the touring cycle, Sanders says, “We’d made up our minds that we wanted to record our next record in a very different way. Just us, in a room, playing together, to each other, in a very live and spontaneous way.”
There was a good six months spent in their rehearsal space in Homerton, just the four of them, with their white board and their pens. By the time they resurfaced they found they had 50 new songs, but also a greater understanding of who they were as songwriters.
“Music is just pure joy,” Sanders says. “Sitting around making music is my job, but it’s also what I do for fun. Lyrics feel like something I have to focus more attention on. A lot of the lyrics were written on tour; when you’re sitting down for eight hours on a tour bus just looking out the window.” And yet even more than Breakfast, Brilliant Sanity shows Sanders as an accomplished and distinctive lyricist, with a passion for the music of words themselves and an eye for the singular image. “It’s strange because the words just come from nowhere, without me even thinking,” Sanders says. “It’s in quite an abstract thing. Sometimes I don’t know what they’re about but other people tell me what they’re about. Or until I look back retrospectively and realise. It’s always been that way with my lyric writing. I feel a bit self-conscious about trying to explain them when I’m not quite sure what they mean myself.”
The band whittled their haul of 50 songs down to a more manageable figure and recorded them in Dan Carey’s studio in Streatham, South London. Carey was chosen, Sanders says, because “his studio is a treasure trove of strange instruments and gadgets, just a musician’s dream…” and Carey himself “a really fantastic producer — he works really quickly, he seems able to filter out the good ideas.”
Sanders talks of their time in the studio, of their collective obsession with the Vietnamese restaurant across the street, of how they would set the mood for recording each song using a series of coloured lights, and of how, in breaks from recording the band would go out on the roof and gaze at the moon through Carey’s telescope, “It had,” he says, “a very calming and settling influence.”
“Sometimes,” he says, “a record can take itself a bit too seriously. So it’s good to have a bit of a lighthearted side. It’s good just to enjoy making it, for your own sake — because if you’re enjoying making the songs then other people are going to enjoy listening to them.”