Regrouped from a stint with the buzz-worthy Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong in ’08, Brighton boys Tom Dougall (singer), Dominic O’Dair (guitar) and Maxim Barron (bass) — joined by synth player Alejandra Diezand and drummer/vocalist Charlie Salvidge — are back as the Kraut-infused, Korg Delta-powered TOY. Kicking around in a sandbox of experimental, psych, post-punk and shoegaze influences, this unbridled, sonically-frenetic five-piece (who could be loosely filed alongside good pals The Horrors) are at the top of the heap of the UK’s new-favorite players.

From London, amid the din of early-evening street noise, Dominic O’Dair excitedly chats about his band’s eponymous debut, and their seriously massive, blow-yer-hair-back sound which signals TOY is no perfunctory plaything.

______

To me, ‘toy’ suggests something playful and small (laughs), but your band really couldn’t be described as either. Why that name?
(laughs) Well, a friend of our had this old Victorian toy box and it said the word ‘TOYS’ on it in a really nice style of writing. We took a photo of it and cropped off the ‘S’. We liked how it looked and we liked the meaning of it — both the noun and the verb. And that was it.

It’s funny you were drawn to a name so succinct and simplistic when your music is just the opposite of that.
(laughs) I think you’re right.

So, how did you get from wanting to form a band to where you are now. Tell me the story.
We’ve all met in Brighton about six or 7 years ago. Some of us have known each other even longer because we went to school together. We’ve been best of friends since, and actually, we all moved up to London together just after we met. We’ve all been in different bands but once we left them, we began to talk of starting our own band with the people we all love and agreed on music with. As soon as we sorted that out, we started rehearsing straight away. We signed to Heavenly about six months after that, started recording in April, and here we are now.

It sounds like it’s come together easily.
I’m not sure I would say it’s been ‘easy’ but its definitely all been an incredibly enjoyable process. We’re all really great friends and have the same taste in music and the same desire for what we want to do. Also, our label and our management and all the people around us are really, really great.

You’re obviously not afraid of moving quickly.
Not at all. We all want to be as active as possible. We like playing gigs and writing constantly.

You’re days away from releasing your debut… What are you feeling right about now?
I really hope that people like it. We’re looking forward to playing gigs where everyone’s heard all the songs we’re playing already; that’s going to be really fun for us. Once everyone knows our whole record, plus singles and b-sides, we’ll actually have about 20 songs to pick from. It’s going to be really cool.

I’d be curious to see you perform the new record live. Am I right in guessing it’s a challenge to reproduce?
Our live show sounds a bit different to the record but that’s part of the joy of it, really. You get a different experience from each. We love playing live; it’s so key to us. That’s where we develop our essence. For me, if a show goes just the way we want, that will be the pinnacle, I think.

The buzz right now is around lo-fi and minimal bands, and here you come with this grand, full, epic sound. What exactly is going on in there? What are we hearing?
We started off really young — about 14 years old — listening to things like The Velvets, Television, The Stooges and we still love all that and it’s all still essential listening for us. Velvet Underground is probably my favorite band. There’s a lot of stuff from the 60’s too. like The Kinks, The Stones…

But The Kinks, The Stones, The Stooges…that’s all pretty bare bones, unpolished stuff. You’re not bare bones.
Well, there’s another side of us that really likes that ‘drenched in sound’ stuff like My Bloody Valentine and stuff that’s endless and flowing with ebbs and flows. We love Phil Spector and the wall of sound. Ultimately, I guess we developed our lush sound  ourselves. We weren’t trying to sound like anyone else. We just kept trying to sort out how to make it sound bigger with the right chords and the right frequencies to make things sound as expansive as possible. That’s what we enjoy in music and that’s an aspect we wanted to recreate.

And what made you want to be a guitar player in a band?
My parents got me started playing instruments really young, and I’m eternally grateful for that. They got me playing the piano and had me playing in an orchestra. They also had me playing the clarinet, which I really, really loved. Later I started with classical guitar and Spanish guitar for a while, but as soon as I became a teenager (laughs)  and once I started playing electric guitar in my first band, that’s all I wanted to do after that.

I talked to an American artist named Matthew E. White recently, who said: “You can only make your first record once. If you look at anyone’s first record there’s a craziness and wildness about them that is hard to reproduce.” Would you agree?
I think in most cases that’s pretty true, but for us, I think our next one will be even wilder. I know what he means, though. You refine your process, become more knowledgeable and fall into formulas, but I’d like to think it won’t happen to us. I think we’ll instead learn how to capture the ‘wildness’ more effectively.

I understand that you’re pretty into experimenting in the studio. That’s liable to keep things fresh.
Exactly — and I think that will contribute to our ongoing ‘wildness’ and our…weirdness (laughs) on the second album. We spend a lot of time at recording stuff at home, experimenting with effects and synthesizers. At the same time, I think we’d like to work on capturing our live sound better for the second record. Right now it seems almost impossible…but we’d like to try.

Speaking of the studio, how was it recording with Dan Carey (Hot Chip, Franz Ferdinand, The Kills)?
It was amazing. We wanted to work with Dan because we’ve known him for quite a long time and recorded a couple things with him in the past and knew what his style was. He was really supportive of our band and really expressed a desire to want to do it.

What was your process like?
We did a small number of takes… and we didn’t have headphones. All our amps and everything was with us in the same little room, and we were facing each other and playing. which is quite an unusual way of recording. Usually everything is in separate room and everyone’s got headphones on…I don’t really like that way because everyone it’s hard to recreate that energy that you feel playing live and feeding off each other. We wanted the main body of sound to be made up of all of us playing together at the same time and Dan was really  aware of that. Plus he filled the place with smoke and lasers and stuff like that to create (laughs)…a pretty mental atmosphere…

Really?! Wow…
(laughs) Yeah, he was letting off smoke and stuff whilst we were playing…The whole thing went perfectly.

And did he duly indulge your experimental sides?
Dan doesn’t see anything wrong with tape delays and effects at all. Sometimes he’d have his mic picking up what we were playing and would be feeding it into his own effects units and playing with that as we played. It was really, really fun stuff like that. But we worked very intensively over a short number of days and that served us well…I think we’ll do something similar for the second album.

If you had to narrow down what makes you the most proud about the album, what would you say?
Hmmm…I’m really proud about how we did it and that fact that we were able to keep up with the intensive recording and achieve so much in such a short time together. I think a lot of records are made along to metronomes and click tracks and if mistakes are made, then they’re corrected after with a computer. I’m proud that we played together and if we messed up, we started over again from the beginning. To me it’s a pretty great thing we did, and I hope it’s apparent on the record

So the album was recorded, there’s a couple videos out already… Sounds like its been one thing after the other.
Yeah, it has…and we like it. We don’t want to waste any time.

And next, you’ll infiltrate North America?
Oh, yeah! None of us can wait to do that. Lots of plans are going back and forth and being finalized at the moment, but it’s looking to be in the cards pretty soon; probably in the first half of next year, so we’re really excited.

______

TOY’s self-titled debut can be streamed in full below. Released next Monday, September 10th in the UK and Tuesday, September 11 in North America, the digital format of the LP can be pre-ordered on iTunes while vinyl and CDs are available here.

The band will tour October through December, throughout the UK and Europe in support of the album. Upcoming headline dates are listed below.

TOY’s UK headline tour
Oct 19 – Sheffied, Plug
Oct 20 – Oct Birmingham, HMV Temple
Oct 23 – Norwich, Waterfront Studio
Oct 24 – London, Heaven
Oct 25 – Southampton, Talking Heads
Oct 27 – Brighton, Green Door Store
Oct 28 – Manchester, Ruby Lounge
Oct 29 – Oct Newcastle, Cluny
Oct 30 – Glasgow, Sleazy’s

Order tickets here.

pixel TOY: If psych be the food of krautrock, play on