WRBB’s Benjamin Silvers caught up with Talos before his show. Read what he had to say!
Eoin French, aka Talos, is making a name for himself on an international scale. He and his band traveled to China, back home to Ireland, and here to the States all within a week, ending up at Great Scott in Allston. His latest album, Far Out Dust, marks an external shift in his sound and branches out to employ one-of-a-kind songwriting and production. I got a chance to sit in on Talos’s sound check and have a conversation afterward.
Benjamin: I have a hard time describing your band to people. I’ll say “There’s this Irish band called Talos, and they sound like… I don’t know.” Could you help me out with that? How do you describe your band?
Eoin French: That’s a very flattering thing. Obviously we all draw inspiration from different places; we all have heroes. There are so many people that I admire, and the essence of what they’re doing, I try to emulate or imagine at times. But the fact that there is a struggle to describe the sound is very important to me because I’ve worked very hard to try and make it my own way of saying stuff. Making my own way of making music. So that’s a very humbling thing and a very positive thing, I think. I don’t know how to describe it really. I always tend to say that it’s quite visual music. I don’t like the word “cinematic” because it’s very heavily used, but I definitely make music around imagery. I’d like to think that it evokes imagery.
I’ve read that you write about landscapes – what’s that process like; how do you derive inspiration from your surroundings?
Everywhere. I mean, it’s quite difficult at times because we’re overloaded with so much information, so much stuff that it’s very hard to sift through the shit sometimes and find something that hits you. So it comes from a multitude of places. It could be a film, a painting, a conversation, you know, a lot of it is inspired by where I’m from. I find that a very exciting place because it is so simple, I think, and it’s so mundane at times. So to try and harbor something amazing from simplicity is important, you know?
Being on the road, do you find that your songs have evolved from when they were recorded?
There’s always this thing. It always gets annoying that there are points when people compare experiencing the music in a live setting with the record, and I’ve made a very hard line between those two. They’re two completely different things. I think when you’re listening to an album, it’s a very personal thing, and it’s you being whispered at or being spoken to. And a gig is a very communal thing. There’s air being moved around, and you’re next to somebody, and you’re in it together, and it’s supposed to feel more haphazard and more momentary. Whereas the album is something you revisit and find something different every time. So I draw a really hard line between the two.
So you write incredibly hard vocal lines for yourself, using all the different parts of your voice, and you’re singing them night after night. How do you do that and not completely lose your voice?
I don’t drink. I live quite a toxin-free existence, and this is all I do, really. Especially when we’re on tour, we don’t really go out that much. There’s maybe one night at the end of it that we can really let our hair down a bit. But I think you do have to be very disciplined. My voice is actually quite delicate, so it does get hoarse. And I’ve only recently started getting lessons. I’ve been working with a vocal coach, but it’s more technique. And my biggest question was “how do you sing the same thing every night and still feel it”? And the vocal coach is a theatre coach as well, so we kind of borrowed from that. It’s about telling the same story in a different way every night. But yeah, it’s really hard with the vocals. You just live a really really boring existence.
So do you find yourself making spontaneous artistic choices on stage each night?
It’s more about connecting with the guys on stage and connecting with the people in the audience. Because for some people, it’s the first time they’ve seen us. It is a really exciting thing when people see the band for the first time, and they’re really moved with us. It is important to make that connection.
What’s that connection on stage like?
It’s a really special thing. We’ve been playing together for the last ten years, so it’s familial, I think. You’re kind of bobbling along in this sea of “moment to moment,” and it’s just about collectively moving in one direction. It’s a very sacred thing; it’s very important to me; it’s hard to describe, I think. It’s very grounding. I don’t know how to describe it.
Kind of like your music?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. We’re just going to end up with nothing at the end of this. What conclusions did you make? Just tell ‘em “fuck off.”
Bringing it out of the music industry a little bit… in school, we’re just fed all these statistics and facts about how our music industry is plummeting. Do you feel that at all? Is it hard?
No. The reality is that there’s such a mass of music. In a way, you can look at it in a very different way, that it’s a music revolution, and the freedom to make and put out music is at, right now, at a very different scale to what it ever was. Has it ever been more liberal than this? I don’t know. Like when you talk about the music industry, is that that it’s more difficult to make a gap for yourself? Maybe. But the reality is that the onus is on the artist to find something they want to say and to learn independently about their craft. So now the onus is on the artist to become as independent as possible. What I mean by that is to produce their own music. To create their own songs. To not rely on going into a studio. That’s the way I try to look at it. Is it harder? Yeah. It’s hard to make money.
So how do you tow the line between doing things that are marketable and…
Well, I think you have to ask yourself what you actually want here. What makes your happy? Does it make you happy to be fucking standing in front of however many people and being put through a conveyor belt and being packaged up to be sent to the world to be somebody else’s idea of what music is? Or do you want to make something that you can stand by until you stop doing it and say, “I meant what I said there. I did what I said there. And I didn’t leave any stone unturned.”
So you’re the conveyor belt type.
Yeah, yeah, of course. I’m a packaged, Barbie doll goddess. But really, I hate to keep saying that it’s all about honesty because it’s not about honesty; it’s about working really fucking hard to find a way of saying something that moves you to say something and makes you want to make something.
Do you write while you’re on the road?
Yeah, so during sound check, one of the songs I was testing out is a new song. And then like if I’m in the back of a van, I just mess around with stuff. It’s a different way of writing where you just make beats or little bits or fragments that you can go back to the studio and piece together. You have to know what you’re doing.
Do you think it’s important to understand what you were going through when you wrote songs or what you literally meant?
I mean, if you’ve ever read any poetry, has the poet ever stood there and been like, “this is exactly what this means”? Does anyone watch interviews with books’ authors? There’s not much challenge in spelling things out. I think the best pieces of art are so complex they feel simple. But right now, I’m just ready to start working on the next thing.
What’s the next thing?
Well, I’m going to release something before Christmas, I think. I don’t know what, but I have a lot of new stuff written. I don’t know what that’s going to look like. I’m going to take a bit more time to make something larger scale. We made the timeline for the last album quite tight because we wanted it to feel impulsive and instant. This one is going to be a bit more drifty and a bit more exploratory, and I’ll get to take my time.