"We don’t want to be a nostalgia act..." - Doves talk new album The Universal Want and coming back after a long hiatus
From the beginning of 2000, right up until their decision to take a hiatus in 2010, Mancunian indie trio Doves were an inescapable presence.
At a time where most indie rock bands were either experimenting with synthesizers or choppy post-punk guitars, Doves were proudly anthemic, propelling their tracks with widescreen production and soaring melodies.
Tracks like 'There Goes The Fear', 'Pounding' and 'Black and White Town' were not only huge hits, but natural fits for television placement and football montages. It kept the band constantly busy and their record sold handsomely.
But, by 2010, they were burnt out and disappeared on hiatus. Whether it was planned to be a short break or not, it has turned into a long one.
In the time in between, frontman Jimi Goodwin has released a solo album, while brothers Jez and Andy Williams have been working as Black Rivers.
Now reunited, the band have spent the last two years gigging in anticipation of new album, The Universal Want, which arrives in stores this week.
Recorded in their home studio in Cheshire along with sessions in Stockport, Macclesfield and Alcester with Mallory Knox/We Are The Ocean producer Dan Austin, the album finds the band in vintage form.
We spoke to drummer Andy Williams about coming back together and their desire to keep pushing their music on...
When did the impetus to make a new record come about? Lots of bands make, or made, a very handsome living touring their old songs?
“We’ve had a new album in our back pocket for a while now. Going back out for us, certainly, after a while, it wouldn’t have felt right without a new album. We don’t want to be a nostalgia act. I won’t knock bands who do that. It is what it is. And we do have songs that we know people are nostalgic about. That’s a good thing. But, for us, we need to be doing things and we need to be pushing things along. Last year, when we went back out touring, we knew we had an album ready. We’re supposed to be touring it now.”
Have you been collecting songs that might have Doves songs throughout your time off?
“We regrouped in 2017 and we were in a very good position. Me and Jez (Williams, guitars/vocals) had been writing new material for Black Rivers for a second album. Jimi (Goodwin, bass/vocals) was writing for a second solo album and a lot of material for both those projects made it onto this album. As well as that, we’ve gone back to a lot of old Doves songs, which we couldn’t crack at the time. We knew those songs were good then, but we couldn’t get them right. It was great, we’ve never gone into the studio with so much material.”
How was it getting back in the groove of being Doves again? Was it like the proverbial riding a bike? Or did it take a while?
“It was very easy. We just slipped back into it. We felt quite lucky really. We’ve got a particular chemistry, the three of us, we’ve played together since we were kids. It was very comfortable and a good laugh. We enjoyed each other’s company, which was great after such a long break. It felt like a comfy pair of slippers, but we were all conscious that we couldn’t let that feed into the new material. We had to push it on. It made the new album a joy, especially compared to Kingdom of Rust, the last album we made.”
Was that a tough record to make?
“It was very hard. And it’s why there was such a long gap afterwards. It was a combination of some bad personal issues and just pure fatigue. We’d been on the tour, album, tour, album treadmill and we needed a break. We didn’t have enough. But we learned that we needed to be easier on each other and easier on ourselves. It had to be enjoyable, which it was.”
You made the record in a few different studios, was that a deliberate tactic or schedules?
“It was a deliberate tactic. We’ve always done it. We get stale quite quickly and know we get the best results if we keep changing our environment. Changes of scenery get creative juices flowing for us. We get stuck if we stick around anywhere too long and we’re lucky enough that we can move around. For us, hunkering down somewhere remote just doesn’t work. We mostly recorded in and around Manchester and that meant we could go home at night, avoiding getting cabin fever.”
Having been away for so long, you must have been wary of being cooped up together too quickly…
“It could easily go horribly wrong. We were lucky in that we didn’t split up. It was very much a hiatus. No big beefs. No bad blood. We didn’t have anything to overcome and we were still mates. We have tried to hole up in a studio for two months before and we’ve just gone nuts and ended up leaving with nothing.”
You did the record with Dan Austin, what did he bring to the process?
“He first worked with us back on the Some Cities record. He’s really enthusiastic and a total whizz on the ProTools. An absolute sound junkie, who gets weirdly excited about treating sounds. He’s got such drive and he’s such a grafter. He was the first person we thought of when we decided to do the record.”
It’s interesting what older bands lean on producers for, the discipline aspect of having someone say ‘Do it again’, tends to go away with time…
“We produced it together, we’ve got a clear vision of how we want things to sound. We could do it ourselves. Jez is a great engineer himself, but we’d be missing it a trick. Dan makes things more fun and he helps us to make sure we don’t get lost. You need clarity on a record and someone to gee you up when you need it.”
When did you decide that The Universal Want was the right fit for the album title?
“We kicked a few around. It was going to be Cathedrals of the Mind for a while, but The Universal Want really explains where we’re coming from. Trying to reach a state of happiness, being satisfied with your lot and not always grasping for the next thing, whether that’s with consumerism or with your own life. It really resonated and tied the songs together.”
Ideally, you’d be touring the album right now, how is 2021 looking for you?
“We’ve got a UK and Irish tour in March and a few in-stores in February. I’m desperate to play live again. It’s been a year since we last had a gig. I’m like every musician, I’m just praying we can do it next Spring. I feel like live music will be the last thing out of the gate, but the day can’t come soon enough.”
How have you spent lockdown? Have you kept writing?
“We got the mastering done in London just as lockdown hit, which was lucky. I’ve got a family, so I’ve been spending time with them and running and trying not to put too much pressure on myself to write songs. We’ve just delivered an album after all…”