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INTERVIEW: I Like Trains talk about their new documentary and working with charity Youth Music

Laura  Barnes
INTERVIEW: I Like Trains talk about their new documentary and working with charity Youth Music

MI Pro editor Laura Barnes sits down with I Like Trains frontman David Martin and guitarist Ian Jarrold to talk about the band’s documentary A Divorce Before Marriage, coming out of hibernation, and more…

You’ve recently announced a soundtrack album to A Divorce Before Marriage. Tell us about the making of the film and the soundtrack.

Ian Jarrold: I guess the film looks at a period of time in the band's history and tells a particular story from that time. It's not your average rock documentary that describes how I Like Trains creates music or tours it, but has more of a focus on us as individuals and on the outside elements that affect us.

Matt and Ben who made the film asked us to create some soundtrack work quite late on in the process of filming and we had a pretty tight deadline to get the music written and recorded, which was a little intimidating at first, but in the end the time pressure really helped us focus. We had a fairly clear brief and knew what Matt and Ben wanted for the film, so we worked to that and took a bit of a leap in terms of working quickly, trusting our instincts and not over-thinking the music.
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We tend to agonise over our material and spend a long time forming and reforming it which leads to interesting places but can be gruelling at times. When writing and recording the soundtrack we didn't have time to do that - necessity was the mother of invention and I think it helped us realise that it's ok to trust your instincts and that your first idea can sometimes be your best. The whole process was really enjoyable.

You guys we ‘in hibernation’ for a couple of years. What were you working on in that time?

IJ: A few of us have spent quite a bit of time over the last few years working on creating the next generation aka "ILT Juniors", but musically, we wrote and recorded all the tracks that appear on the film soundtrack, plus we've started writing a new batch of songs that will become our next release. For me, writing and recording the soundtrack helped me to realise that trusting our instincts and working quickly can actually produce really great results, while also being an exciting and enjoyable way to work, and I think some elements of that are informing the way we're working on our new material.

David Martin: Building empires, building websites, helping to release other people’s music, helping people to breath more easily and trying to raise the next generation not to make the same mistakes we’ve made! You will have a better idea of what we’ve been doing when you watch the film. It’s been a busy time and I wish there was more time for making music.

Take a look at the trailer for A Divorce Before Marriage in the video below:

Earlier this year you did a charity gig for Youth Music. How was the gig and why did you pick this charity?

DM: The gig was great. We’d been away from London for a while, and we have new songs to road test. After being away for such a long time it feels like we can properly appreciate and enjoy playing again. When you’re touring constantly you can become blind to it. Youth Music approached us to do the show, and when we looked into their work we were very impressed. It feels like we’re at a point where the music industry is saturated with artists from a very privileged background.

The state is doing nothing to nurture talented creative people with more challenging backgrounds. Access to musical equipment and tuition should be for everyone. In addition to the personal and social outcomes Youth Music’s work has for those young people involved, I hope it will go some way to redressing the balance within popular music.

Is charity work important to the band?

DM: There is certainly a social conscience running through most of what we do. We try to engage people in important issues. We’ve played a number of charity gig over the years. It seems pretty clear that more people will be reliant on charity than ever before, which is a sorry state of affairs. We try to give back where we can.

Tell us about the gear you’re currently using?

DM: Much like most creative guitar bands do when they’ve been around for a while, we’ve been getting drawn to synthesisers and drums machines. Guy has recently invested in a Prophet 6 and Moog Sub 37 which are incredible bits of kit. Ominous pads and dirty arpeggiators are well covered there. 

We’re hooking them up to a Roland TR-8 drum machine for old school 808/909 minimal things. We also have an old Roland string synth (RS-101) we call the disco machine, which gets a good look in for those Blade Runner soundtrack drone vibes. Guitar wise, I’ve recently acquired a Japanese Jazzmaster for big bendy noises. Things are getting more dirty on my guitar parts, and a Basic Audio Scarab Deluxe fuzz has been added to the pedal arsenal, and a Maxon CS-550 chorus for more wonkiness. The old Deluxe Memory Man is still the most important element though. King of pedals.

IJ: For me there's a theme of constant evolution with my gear, to some level of chagrin amongst the other guys! When it comes to sounds, I'm restless and never satisfied so I'm constantly looking for ways to enhance my guitar tone. I've been playing a Fender Custom Telecaster 63 reissue for a good few years - it's got a Bigsby which I love and I replaced the stock bridge with a Mastery and the stick pickups with a Harmonic Designs in the bridge and a Kinman in the neck. More recently I've been revisiting my '64 Jazzmaster and I'm really loving it. Amp-wise, I played a Fender Twin 65 reissue for years until Dave suggested I try a Pro Reverb and I managed to get an old Silverface a few years back, which ended up having some pretty major problems with the circuit board. Our man Dan Skevington completely rebuilt it to the original specs and it sounds beautiful now, especially with new Celestion A Type and V type speakers I put in recently - it growls more than my Twin. 

My OCD mainly centres around my pedal board and I've been down the rabbit hole of overdrive pedals for some time and, apart from enjoying running two Paul Cochrane Timmy pedals, I'm not sure I'm seeing much light at the end of the tunnel yet... Without going into the full detail of everything on my board, I'd say core sounds rely on the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man, which would have to be my desert island pedal. I've really been enjoying the Empress Effects Reverb recently, along with a Durham Electronics Crazy Horse which does a pretty great job of recreating the ragged glory of Neil Young's Deluxe Reverbs. I'm still looking for the perfect overdrive though...

What do you think about the current state of the music industry?

IJ: This is a difficult question - so much has changed since we started out... It's now possible to make decent sounding demos fairly cheaply and there are so many channels through which to distribute music and get it heard which has got to be a good thing, but the flipside is that it there's more competition and a lot more 'noise' to cut through. So there are new advantages and disadvantages. Whether the net effect is that it's harder to stand out than previously is difficult to say for sure.

Is it getting harder for bands to stand out?

DM: I still maintain that getting out there and playing a lot of shows, learning stage craft and honing your vision are key parts to being in a successful band. People seem to see the internet as a shortcut to fame and fortune, but there is so much music out there it is difficult to differentiate yourself, or encourage people to part with their hard earned money. Getting out in front of people is about receiving instant feedback. You can learn a lot very quickly. To this end North American bands have always had the edge. They can get in a van and tour for months on end without ever playing the same place twice. It fosters a work ethic that seems to be lacking in their British peers. When we started out we bought a crap van and hit the road.

When the road ran out in the UK, we got on a boat and drove around Europe. I think that approach still has a lot to say for it. With a smart use of social media, you can build up a dedicated fanbase, willing to back you by buying tickets, records and T-shirts so that you can continue to put fuel in the van and build things up.

What bands and artist are you really excited about at the moment?

DM: Many things from all kinds of backgrounds. I went to see Suuns last night, which was incredible. The way they blend synths and noisy guitars in such a visceral live performance was really inspiring. Other relatively new things that excite me: Ought, Preoccupations, Pye Corner Audio, Marie Davidson, Kuedo and Exploded View.

What’s next for the band?

IJ: Working on new material, recording it, releasing it and playing it live.

Check out the music video for I Like Trains’ single Mnemosyne below:

I Like Trains supported Youth Music’s recent Give a Gig concert, supported by StubHub. For more information please visit www.stubhub.co.uk.

Check out the latest gig dates and info about the band at www.iliketrains.co.uk

Tags: youth music , charity , Interviews , I Like Trains , A Divorce Before Marriage , documentary

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