I was super bummed to have missed Talos (Eoin French) by exactly a week when I was in Dublin in February, but he played Brooklyn Steel last night in support of Aurora, and I (like everyone else in the room) was positively blown away by his performance. I’ve been hip to homeboy for a bit now, but while I waited for him and his band to take the stage, I overheard several N00BS around me asking, “Wait, who is this guy?” As soon as the first song began, though, the tone changed to, “WAIT, WHO IS THIS GUY?!” People were even shouting for him to remind them of the song names after they’d been performed, they were THAT GOOD. So the Irishman (from Cork) had no trouble winning over hearts in NYC, which is why I’m going to super urge all you DC buddies to grab tickets to Sunday’s show at Lincoln Theatre.
In the meantime, you can get to know Talos right here, right now; I was fortunate enough to grab twenty minutes with him before doors (shout-out Aurora for lending us your tour bus, and shout-out Talos for being just the loveliest), during which we had a chat about his tunes, the cathartic art of doodling, death, solitude and more. Internet eavesdrop on our full conversation below, and regardless of whether or not you’re able to make it out come showtime, be sure to snag a copy of his newest record, Far Out Dust, which I can attest is a total stunner.
HERE WE GO!
BYT: So how’s touring been this go-round?
EF: The gigs have been amazing! And the Aurora crew has been epic.
BYT: Cool! And you write when you’re on the road, yeah?
EF: Yeah, I do, but funnily enough, for the last two weeks I just kind of put it to bed since I needed to get a few ideas about what I wanted to do next. But I was in the studio today. I spent a lot of January writing new stuff. We finished the record in November, and I was scoring a film for a friend over Christmas, so that was hectic; I was looking to a break, but I didn’t get it. In January I went to Iceland and got some ideas together, and now with the last two weeks of tour, I just kind of realized, “I need a minute.” [Laughs] But usually I do write on the road; I find it okay, you know? I don’t ever finish stuff on the road, but I pick up little bits and fragments here and there.
BYT: Right. And I know you studied architecture, and you’ve said you tend to think very visually. Have you ever had a song come out of a drawing, as opposed to a more lyrical or melodic beginning?
EF: Yeah, funnily enough it happens all the time. I can’t remember a specific example, but any idea I have…it’s kind of a weird thing; I suppose it begins as a tiny loop or something, and then I draw the rest of it out randomly, whatever that means, and from there I suppose I kind of…I don’t know, it doesn’t stay as a central thing, but I think it helps to be able to see how something might develop. That sounds mental. [Laughs]
BYT: It’s so difficult to verbalize your thought process, though! It’s such an automatic thing that it’s weird to articulate I guess.
EF: Yeah. I’m actually selling my sleeves from the sketchbook that I kept while I was making the album. You can probably see the process better there, because I’m kind of habitually always doodling. It’s kind of cathartic, because you don’t really think about it. It’s like free-writing without all the bullshit. [Laughs]
BYT: Absolutely! Alright, and now that we’re in visual territory, let’s talk about the music videos, which are all super beautiful. Do people tend to pitch you those ideas, or are they your visions come to life? (Or a mixture of the two?)
EF: I kind of tend to work with people whose style I like, as opposed to going off what people send me. I’ve gotten loads of pitches, and I think I’m a nightmare with regards to that. But if I can see someone’s style…I tend to reach out to people who I really admire, you know? I worked with a guy Máni M. Sigfússon from Iceland who did a video for “Odyssey Pt II”, and it’s a weird, 3D, mad, kind of under-the-skin type vibe. Then there’s also a guy Niall O’Brien who just did a video for “2AM” which I’m unbelievably excited about. He’s made some of my favorite videos ever, so that’s a huge thing.
BYT: I love the one for “Kansas”, it’s so absurd! What was the conversation like for that one?
EF: Yeah, that was Brendan Canty! That was a really hard one, to be honest. We started with a very loose concept about these vignettes, and Brendan sent through a first draft, and it just didn’t work. So we reached out to a guy called Kevin McGloughlin who did another video for us, and he’s an incredible animator, so he and Brendan kind of collaborated on it. It made a lot more sense that way. It moved very erratically and sat really well with what was going on I think.
BYT: The horses jumping over the fire reminded me of that one scene in Into the West!
EF: [Laughs] I think that’s actually a festival in Spain as well that happens every year. They run horses down the streets and light massive fires, and I think it’s to do with breaking the horses or something? It’s really interesting. The Guardian did a massive piece on it last year, and it’s beautiful. It’s something I’d actually love to see, and Brendan went over and got footage of it.
BYT: Amazing! Now, let’s shift gears to your sound, which I feel like can be labeled as sort of “pensive indie pop”. There’s definitely a distinctive sound that I think listeners associate with your music, so what is something they might be surprised to find out you personally enjoy that is kind of opposite to that?
EF: I think with the last record, the first thing I wrote down was that it was going to be a pop record. You know, Mark Hollis just died like two weeks ago, which was devastating, but he’s been an idol of mine, even the way Talk Talk grew from overtly pop beginnings into something that’s, at least with regards to the last two or three records, some of the most highly acclaimed pieces of music ever, or pop albums ever, if you want to call them that. So I think it began there, but I think with regards to something different, I really love aggressive, angry, disgustingly distorted electronic music. And it’s something that I’ve kind of begun to explore with regards to film scoring, and I think I even did it with the last EP. But it’s something I love, you know? And I think maybe going to places like Iceland and going to places like Greenhouse and being surrounded by people like Valgeir, and Ben Frost records there and stuff, that probably rubs off as well. And on the flip side, I love overtly pop music. You know, some of Ariana Grande’s stuff is so infectious, and some of Beyonce’s songs were quite a big reference for the last record. So it varies from really mad, spacey, heavy electronic music to super, super poppy stuff.
BYT: An excellent spectrum. Now, since you just brought up Iceland, and you’ve mentioned in other interviews that you tend to be influenced by your surroundings, how do you find Ireland has, if at all, informed your sound?
EF: I think it’s everything. I make Irish music. It’s completely embedded in everything I do, and it’s completely shaped how I engage with music and lyrics and literature and everything. I suppose we’re just steeped in that history of literature, you know? Written word has been such a massive part of our culture, and I was very lucky to be brought up in a family that were completely open to that as well. But yeah, I think it’s shaped everything I’ve done, even the landscape; from a very young age I’ve been in the sea, have surfed and lived on the coast and spent a lot of my youth there, and I think that kind of absence or barrenness is completely embedded in what I do. Space and distance and unfathomable stretches of sea…it’s all there, you know? And maybe it manifests in kind of a fear, like a curiosity or something. I think Irish people are obsessed with death as well, in a way. But in a very positive way, in that it’s kind of a questioning. Beckett and Oscar Wilde and all these people were just…their poetry and everything was completely obsessed with that, this question of what’s next, I guess. So I dunno, I suppose it’s just how you grow up in a place.
BYT: Yeah, I feel like (and this is kind of a sweeping generalization, so take it with a grain of salt) in America, for the most part, people are kind of terrified of talking about death.
EF: It’s funny, I had a conversation with someone a few months ago in Germany, actually, and they asked…we have wakes at home, so when someone dies, they body sits in the living room for three days, and you’re kind of sitting and having tea with them or whatever, you know? So from a young age you’re confronted with that. It’s a very normal thing. And I think that’s super healthy. I think it really helps with regards to how we make stuff.
BYT: What do you think is coming next? [Laughs] I could go on for about three hundred years about theories, but obviously I won’t do that now!
EF: Oh, jeez. I dunno, like. [Laughs] That’s a heavy question! I suppose what’s funny is even when you asked that, my generation (which is weird to say, “my generation”, because I sound like a pensioner)…we were the last group of Irish people that were kind of, you know, very steeped in Catholicism. And we were also the last group of Irish people to see how corrupt it was. We were the bridging point, so we saw that whole thing kind of fall apart and unveil itself as a completely rotten, heavy, dark, commercial business. Do you know what I mean? So I never really overtly bring it into what I make, because I always have that thing of, “It’s not my battle to battle.”
BYT: Absolutely. I was raised Catholic, and actually, my mom came for a few days when I was in Dublin, and she was like, “I’ve gotta go to Mass,” and I was like, “Great, but I’m not going with you!” And so she went on Sunday, not even very early, a pretty normal mid-morning time, and she got back and said, “It was only very old people in there!” And I was like, “Well, yeah! What did you think it was going to be like?”
EF: Oh yeah, it’s gone. That whole culture is gone. I think that’s something I’m very proud of – as a group of people, there’s no folly there. You look at it and say, “That was a very wrong thing.”
BYT: Completely. And it is interesting to be on the other side of it as well, because I think we have the understanding of both sides, in a way. So understanding the mentality of people who are still invested in it, but also being like, “What? How are you still…?”
EF: And there’s an acceptance. There’s that thing of like, you know, I think that’s growing up in a familial setting as well – there’s just a complete openness, you know? And I think that was something that was instilled in us at a very young age.
BYT: Absolutely. Now, on the flip-side of a family dynamic, I know with the first record you said it was more of a solitary process, whereas with the newest one you collaborated quite a bit. What do you find is your natural state? Do you consider yourself to be an introvert? Or maybe an ambivert?
EF: I dunno, it’s weird. I think I get a lot from both. What I love about collaborating with people is that I get to learn a lot. So I get something from everybody, and that’s just a mindset. Regardless of who I’m working with, or where, I’m getting something, be it a sample, a drum beat, whatever. And in that process, I’m always learning. But I think there’s a lot more to be got from taking that stuff and piecing it back together and really looking at it on my own. I think it’s a lot harder, it’s a lot more taxing, but in the end, I find something in it that surprises me, you know? And I think that’s the drug in it for me, is when you step away from something and you go, “How the fuck did I do that?” That, for me, is the bottom line. Beyond that, nothing else really fucking matters. You make something and say, “Where did that fucking come from?” And that’s the stuff that puts the hairs on the back of your neck. Everything else can kind of come or go.
BYT: Totally, like, “Who even wrote this?” The best feeling. Alright, and what’ve you got on deck beyond the rest of these dates?
EF: We’re actually going to China on the 11th. We’ve got five dates in China, which is mad.
BYT: Have you ever been?
BYT: Me neither.
EF: It came out of nowhere; someone got onto us and was like, “Your songs are doing well over here!” And I was like, “Bullshit.” And this went on for like six months or whatever, and this booker got onto us and said he could book some shows for us. He said, “They’re pretty big rooms…” and I was like, “…are you sure? See you there!” And then we have our own tour in May, so we’re actually back here on the 4th or 5th of May to play Baby’s. I’m looking forward to that. And then we’re doing a couple of other shows on the East and West Coast, and then we’ve got a full headline tour for three weeks. So it’s going to be fun, but my mindset as of today is just in making mode; I think a lot of the focus is going to be on what’s next.
BYT: Ahh, exciting! Alright, and I know I need to cut you loose soon, but before you go, fill in the blank: “I hope 2019 will be the year of ____.”
EF: Hmm. Maybe the year that we solidify a longevity. Because it’s still kind of just moving, still is just at the very beginning, and what’d be wild is if in 2020 we were coming back to this place to play ourselves. That’d be pretty amazing. I’d take that. [Laughs]