Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #134. Subscribe to our print edition here!
Two Door Cinema Club swear to shake it up if you swear to listen. Sarah Comey peers into the backstory behind the Irish indie-rockers’ fiery fourth album.
The old adage swears that it’s the third time that is, in fact, a charm. But for Irish indie‑pop powerhouse Two Door Cinema Club, it’s with LP4 – the vibrant and punchy False Alarm – that they’ve truly cracked the code. Meddling sharp and sprightly guitar parts with jangly, polychromatic synths and titanic vocal hooks, the trio have crafted what may be – as paradoxical as the concept seems at face value – the definitive Two Door Cinema Club album.
Across a neat ten slithers of spellbinding buoyancy, False Alarm clusters and concentrates everything we’ve come to know and love from the trio, then pumps in some well-accentuated new flavours, a couple of mammoth collaborations, and a whole lot of good vibes.
“I think it’s probably our most diverse album in terms of influences and sounds,” agrees lead guitarist Sam Halliday. “It’s a good reflection of what we’re all about – we’ve always been interested in all different types of genres, and I think that really comes across in this album. I don’t necessarily know why; I guess we just had a bit more time to work on this album than we’ve had in a really long time.
“The whole writing process took place over a year or so. It started as soon as we stopped touring the last album [2016’s Gameshow]. Usually we like to have a few months where we’re not doing very much of anything, and then we’ll get together and it’ll be time to get stuck into a new album. Whereas with this one, it all came about a bit more organically – we’d write for a few weeks, have a few weeks off, get into the studio for a few weeks, have another few weeks off…”
Another charm-affirming moment that anchored False Alarm came in the way that Two Door Cinema Club brought it to life. In contrast to their last two records in particular, the LP was notably smooth sailing for the band; in the case of Gameshow and 2012’s Beacon, the recording process was fraught with tension and infighting between the three notably stubborn creative minds – amplified tenfold by the stresses of touring and a sudden inrush of success.
“I think there’s always a bit of tension when you’re writing music with other people,” Halliday says, “But it was a lot healthier this time – we were all a lot more comfortable in the studio, that’s for sure. With [Gameshow], we’d had a bit of a falling out and we hadn’t really done much for a couple of years after that – we’d buried the hatchet and we decided we wanted to continue doing the band, but when we went into the studio to make that album, we didn’t really know each other that well anymore. And when you’re trying to be creative and vulnerable in that scenario, it can be pretty rough.
“But this time around we were on a much better wavelength with each other, so it was a lot more natural. We weren’t trying to control each other or force anything, creatively – we were just trying to keep it fun and interesting for ourselves.”
In order to keep themselves on their creative toes, Halliday and co. reinstated longtime producer Jackknife Lee, who refused to let the band stagnate in their sonic trajectory.
“He doesn’t really let you get too comfortable with your music,” Halliday chuckles. “Which is great – that’s really what you want from somebody like that. He’s always working on playlists and trying to introduce us to new stuff; he keeps us from getting too relaxed whenever it comes to just doing the same thing over and over again. And I suppose a lot of it comes from having time – when Alex and Jackknife were working on the demos, they would spend days at a time just mashing around on different instruments and synthesisers. I think that really comes across on this album – there are so many crazy synth sounds going on with this thing!”
As madcap and mottled as the album sounds through a good pair of headphones, one has to wonder: how the hell is False Alarm going to work onstage? In the past, Two Door Cinema Club have gotten by with songs that have relatively straightforward soundscapes – synth parts could be easily translated to guitars, for example, and those that couldn’t weren’t distracting in backing tracks. But at its core, a record like False Alarm simply wasn’t built for the live show; rather, the band focussed entirely on crafting the best experience they could for first-time listeners.
“I think we’re definitely more of a studio band now,” Halliday affirms, “Which is great, because we’ve never felt limited in the sense where we’ve had to go, ‘Oh no, how are we going to do this live? We’ve only got two guitars, a bass and a drum kit – there’s no way we can have all these synths!’ That kind of freedom has kept us away from just being a straightforward indie band – we’ve always had these electronic textures and elements in our music, so we’re always trying to learn how do it all live after the fact.”
For the moment, Halliday says the band are still figuring out how best to recreate False Alarm for the stage – a mission that’s surprising them more than it may surprise their fans when they see some of the cuts translated for themselves. “Sometimes you have those songs where you think, ‘Oh, this is going to be a really good one for the live show,’ and then you work on it and it doesn’t really gel – and then you have those songs where you think, ‘Hm, I never really thought of this one as being a big live song,’ and then it absolutely goes off.”
Towards the year’s end, Australian fans will have a chance to see False Alarm come to life when Two Door Cinema Club roll through the country to headline the annual Grapevine Gathering (as well as a healthy handful of their own headlining sideshows). And when they do, they’ll see the band in their most organic, live-centric form yet.
“We’ve got a new member [Jacob Berry] who plays keyboard and extra guitars and stuff,” Halliday says, “So we’ve ended up chopping quite a lot out of the backing track. It’s very natural for us to find new ways to play a song live, coming from the backgrounds that we do. I mean, there are elements [of backing tracks] in there, for sure – it’s just that we can play a lot more of the integral parts of the songs live now.”
Two Door Cinema Club
Thursday November 21st - Forum Theatre, Melbourne VIC
Friday November 22nd - Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide SA
Saturday November 23rd - Grapevine Gathering, Victoria Valley VIC
Thursday November 28th - Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW
Friday November 29th - Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane QLD
Saturday November 30th - Grapevine Gathering, Hunter Valley NSW
Sunday December 1st - Grapevine Gathering, Perth WA