Talking with I Like Trains

Υou have been around since 2004, releasing good music, with lyrics that tell stories. What’s the story behind your new releases, “The Shallows” and “Beacons?”
“The Shallows” is about our growing relationship and reliance on modern technology.  It covers a number of issues relating to it and asks how digital technology we use on a daily basis affects us psychologically and the way we relate to each other. The “Beacons EP” follows on with a similar theme.  It concentrates on civilisations that have become victims of progress and speculates what fate may be in store for the very first globalised civilisation.

Your Facebook bio reads: “I LIKE TRAINS are a hidden treasure. Haunting instrumentation and broken, world weary vocals portray a tender depiction of tragedy, past, present and future. Whilst articulating the morose truths of life, the band provide a ray of light.” We live in a cruel world. And it’s getting even worse. What shocks you the most? Do you believe that the light in your music will reach our troubled hearts and minds?
I’m not entirely sure where the light in our music is to be honest!  From the research I carry out in writing our records, I try to describe what I see in our future and as you say things don’t seem to be improving.  I hope that people can appreciate our music for what it is.  It seems to me that in these dark times, a lot of popular music seems to be about escapism.  I can see the attraction in that, but I also think that someone needs to be writing decent music with a social conscience.

You seem to have become more extrovert and looking to the future rather than the past. What prompted this change of perspective?
I think I’ve actually become more introspective.  While looking at global issues, I’ve started to speak with my own voice rather than use characters to portray a message.  In looking to the future these are issues that will directly affect me and my family.  Why the change of perspective?  We need to change to keep things interesting for ourselves.  You need to challenge yourself creatively or you will keep making the same album over and over again.

You say “We were trying to get across the concept that history repeats itself and the human race doesn’t learn from its mistakes.” Do you still believe that, especially when you tell us to look to the future?
Absolutely.  Even when I am writing about the future I keep looking to the past for inspiration, and when I was writing about the past I was doing so with one eye on the future.  Even with all of the collective wisdom of the human race, we’re essentially just selfish animals and end up making short sighted decisions to serve our own short term means.

You have released your second album entirely on your own, through PledgeMusic. Has it been hard to do everything yourself? What are the hardest things about this approach and what are the most rewarding? (e.g. the new social media are a unique way to connect with your fans and audience, such as Twitter or even Instagram, where you are very active).
It has been difficult and it has been rewarding.  It is as you would expect really.  Trying to compete with large label marketing budgets is the most difficult thing.  Magazines are more likely to write about you if your label is spending lots of money on advertising in that magazine.  Trying to get our voice heard in all of that can be very difficult indeed.  As you say social media offers a different more direct way of working, but press and radio are still very important in reaching a lot of people very quickly.  Having said that, any success we do have is down to the quality of our records and our own hard work, and has nothing to do with the amount of money someone has thrown at it.  That is the rewarding side of it.

Few bands, like you, believe in an album as a true art form. You have used unusual and clever ideas such as a book of essays with your debut album or a single’s B-side being the same story from a contrasting viewpoint. How and why did you think of such a different way of creating music and have you any new ideas for upcoming releases?
We think a great deal about all aspects of being in a band.  We have tried to create our own world where our fans can get as involved as they want to be.  Being independent means these things are more important than they have ever been.  They can get you noticed in amongst a crowded market place!

What’s the starting point when writing a song? Is there a difference in the writing process between your previous albums and your new material?
There is never a set way to create a song.  It is important to approach things differently to keep things fresh.  We’ve been working very quickly on our newer material, trying to keep an element of spontaneity.  The ‘Beacons EP’ was mostly built up in the computer which was a really different and exciting process for us.  Using different tools that don’t come so naturally to us to create.  I guess the one thing that continues to run through our old and new material is the amount of research I undertake in writing the lyrics.

Is there an album that you are most proud of? And what would you say has been the defining moment in your career so far?
Always the newest album!  If I didn’t think the newest album was the best one, why would I continue!  I don’t think there can be one defining moment in an 8 year career.  Lots of things.  Playing our first gig, releasing our first single, signing record deals, losing record deals, the Pledge campaign, setting up our own label, tours tours tours, arena shows supporting Editors etc etc

Which are your influences and what motivates you at the moment? What have you been listening to lately?
We collect more influences all the time!  We borrow ideas off enough people and it ends up sounding like I Like Trains anyway.  Lately I’ve been listening to lots of dark electronic music.  Pantha du Prince, The Knife/Fever Ray, Luke Abbott etc.

How is your tour going and what is a day on tour like for the members of I Like Trains? Have there been any particularly memorable shows?
We’re back off tour now.  It was great but I’d forgotten how difficult it is to get back into real life when you get home!  Typical day on tour is to sit in the van and come up with games and complicated in jokes to amuse ourselves.  Play a show and then do some drinking.  Its always a bonus if there is a pool table or table football at the venue!  Memorable shows.  For me Leeds, London, Paris, Cologne and Dresden were highlights.

What about the Greek ones? You are back again - and for this we are extremely happy - for two concerts. How do you feel about that, especially now, in those grim times we are living in?
Can’t wait.  We’ve genuinely always had a great time in Greece and have always been made to feel very welcome.  I’m  particularly excited to be visiting Thessaloniki for the first time also. Since we’ve been coming we have noticed some changes.  As I’ve said before, I think our music will resonate with the tough times the Greek people are going through.

What’s the plan for I Like Trains in 2013? A soundtrack maybe, since you have had your music featured already on Hollywood film trailers, adverts and television?
Not entirely sure.  We’re booking some shows for 2013 and starting to think about writing some new music.  I wouldn’t expect an album just yet.  Soundtrack work is something we would very much like to get involved in.  Filmmakers should definitely give us a call… or an email!

For Greek click here

Live Shows: 14|12 Thessaloniki, Eightball Club
15|12 Athens, Kyttaro Live Club

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