TV Priest: Virtual Session

TV Priest perform 3 songs from their debut album, 'Uppers,' out now on Sub Pop Records. (MPR)

Maddie of The Current connected with Charlie Drinkwater and Ed Kelland of London's TV Priest to hear about their debut record, 'Uppers,' out now on Sub Pop Records. The three discuss the wedding gigs that preceded the band's inception, their first and only official show to be played before the pandemic, and how the decades deep friendships within the band fosters honesty in their writing. Watch their full performance above, and check out the interview and transcript below.

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTION

Edited for clarity and length.
MADDIE: We are sitting down with two members of the band TV Priest. Do you guys want to go ahead and introduce yourselves?

CHARLIE: Sure. Yeah. Hi, I'm Charlie. I sing.

ED: I'm Ed, I play the drums.

Thank you guys so much for joining--

ED: And those are our jobs.

Those are your jobs. [laughs] I'm Maddie. I'm on the microphone talking. How's everything going for you guys in this world right now?

CHARLIE: Wow. Yeah, I mean, as well as can be expected. I'm happy, I'm healthy. My family's okay. Got somewhere to live so it's all okay. I think peaks and troughs, you know? How about you Ed?

ED: Yeah, same. My family's healthy. I've still got a job so I can't complain.

CHARLIE: Yeah, I think it's that kind of up and down. The roller coaster of emotion that we are riding. Yeah. How about you, are you okay Maddie? Are you fine?

I'm doing great. I have a great job that I love to do, I'm healthy and just thinking about how if you'd asked me that question a year ago, I don't think saying my family is healthy would have been the first thing that came to mind. But that's something that is such a gift right now and something that is so present in all of our minds, so glad to hear that you're both well. I know that there's a song on your upcoming album that comes out the end of next week on February 5, called "Journal of a Plague Year" that was written prior to March 2020. Is that the case? How did that song come to be?

CHARLIE: Teaches us to muck around with history, I think.

Yeah I know, I'm almost wonder if it's your fault.

CHARLIE: It's actually the title of a book by a guy called Defoe from the--I think it's from the 17th century, and it talks about the plague in in London. At the time we wrote the record, November 2019 to February 2020, those things were kind of happening probably in our subconscious. But I think, Alex the guitarist had read the book, and it was like this kind of, like psycho geographical exercise and being like, what would happen if this happens to our city again? At the time, it felt like this kind of like, "Oh, you know, isn't that interesting," this interesting thing from history and then it came true, and it was horrible. I don't know about you Ed, but I think we kind of thought long and hard about whether or not to include it on the record. We felt certainly that it was in danger of maybe being a bit kind of glib? For want of a better word or a bit kind of, you know, we didn't want to make light of the situation because it is so horrendous and so terrifying. But I think when we listened back to what it was kind of talking about, in retrospect, which is kind of about the way that people then--certainly like the powers that be dealt with that situation. It's supposed to be like, oh, what would happen if it happened now? Would they handle it as badly? And they did. I think we kind of felt like it made sense to perhaps include it in terms of like having this kind of like historical equivalency. I don't know, if you if you feel any different Ed, as well.

ED: Same. It was a weird one to sort of process. I think we loved the song before any of this happened anyway. I'm very happy with it came together quite easily. But yeah, sort of working out whether to actually release it to the world or not. With everything that's going on. It was a bit...yeah. But I'm glad it's on the record. I think it fits quite well, I think it's a subject that it was probably best to, not to avoid, rather than, you know.

CHARLIE: I think that's a good point as well. We maybe thought that sometimes you shouldn't necessarily always have a completely easy relationship with the art that you're making. I think sometimes it's good to maybe feel a little bit nervous about it or unsure. You know, I think I'm kind of one of those people that likes to see the mistakes or the rough edges in work. I mean, it teaches us for messing around with history really teaches us for thinking that it's clever to like, take a book and be like, "Let's write a song about that!"

Are there any lyrical moments in that song that you feel like you were really spot on about? For better or worse with how London has reacted to the past year?

CHARLIE: I suppose the "normalize this" kind of charm, because I suppose it kind of speaks of like, you get used to something and then it will changes again, you know? That human condition of having to constantly normalize situations and you do, it's terrifying in a way that you do, that you can sit there and watch the news and see the amount of people that are real or dying and normalize it. It's terrifying. It's human condition. But I suppose it's the brain's way of coping. When you can't--it's just seems incomprehensible and inconceivable. I suppose that for me is probably the area that jumps out. Anything for you, Ed?

ED: I like the "Dear commuter, save thyself," as a bit of a reference to everyone staying at home and no longer working in an office. That's what stands out for me, I think.

Yeah. I mean, if I can offer advice, like next record, please don't speculate on any historical advances. We could have like a year off. Maybe that'd be really nice.

ED: We'll probably another record and talk about fairies and trolls.

That'd be amazing. Yeah maybe speculate on a perfect utopia next time and that'll come true, that would be awesome. So you guys are a new band, relatively speaking, but you have known each other for a long time. How did you guys go about from being longtime friends to making a band together? Have you made music together before? Was that new?

CHARLIE: Yeah, for a long time. We've kind of been locked in this unhealthy relationship. No, I'm joking. I knew Alex the guitarist, I think I met him when I was like six years old and Nick and Ed I think I met you, when we were about 12, or 13. We've probably been playing in bands since we were about 14 or 15 with each other kind of broadly, this kind of music. Sometimes you'd be like, let's try and sound like King Crimson and then realize that we're not good enough to sound like that. We're 16 and we shouldn't be doing that. We're all a bit older now, we're in our early 30s. Again Ed, correct me if you think I'm wrong, but I suppose we'd always kind of used music to kind of reaffirm our friendship, we'd kind of meet up sporadically maybe once or twice a year and jam and play just as a way of getting together. I think as we got older, it kind of became harder to dedicate time to a friendship, which sounds really stupid, but people are suddenly moved away from each other or working all the time, or have other responsibilities, or have partners and kids. All of that kind of stuff, life just kind of happening to you. So I suppose the record really was kind of a way between all of us carving out a bit of space for each other to be like, let's kind of just, I don't know about you Ed but sometimes it's hard when you're like--when you're friends--it was like a space where we could kind of talk about stuff and be ourselves and just reconnect with each other as friends primarily, and I think saying, "Oh, let's make an album," was like a kind of goal, you know? Rather than being like, let's just start this kind of amorphous musical project that might become a giant amoeba of time wasting, let's let's make a record. That means that we have to actually all get together and have to invest in a project and have to be friends with each other properly.

ED: The four or five years prior to that the only thing we'd really done together was played at people's weddings, like friends' weddings. A couple of other guys who have been in bands with us before as well, we would get asked to play at someone's wedding and then that would be our excuse to get in a studio and play music together.

CHARLIE: Yeah, and we got really good at playing "Let's Dance" by David Bowie.

I have to ask, thinking about your sound--were you guys playing weddings as a post punk band? Were you playing just like the most like grating version of "Let's Dance" of all time?

CHARLIE: Absolutely. Yeah. None of the Grandmas wanted to dance, it was a nightmare. No, we weren't quite as-- well, yeah it was not like that. No, we had a saxophone and a trombone. Come on. It was like-- [laughs]

ED: Yeah it was a bit more, function-y.

CHARLIE: I like to think we bought our own our own twist to proceedings, you know? But yeah, definitely not a kind of intense punk atmosphere. Yeah.

Just imagining a first dance is like a mosh pit of like a hotel floor.

CHARLIE: Just kicking over the buffet, just-- [laughs]

I mean, maybe that's the kind of friends you have? I don't know. That'd be kind of fun.

CHARLIE: I think a few of them probably be down with that. Some of them not so much. Yeah, so that was kind of how the formation of the band happened I suppose. It was pretty pure, in a way, which is nice. It was kind of going and making it really for ourselves and really to just express ourselves. And I think as well, it came at a time in our lives where perhaps, I was going through a bit of a rocky patch. It's been incredibly important for me just on a personal mental health level to have it. Thanks, Ed!

ED: Welcome.

I really like to think about--a lot of your songs have this focus on societal issues and contemporary events so it's really sweet to think about that, like that was your outlet for sort of discussing these things among friends, when it became something that you shared with the rest of us.

CHARLIE: Yeah I think that was the intention. I think we all thought, for me, and I think for Alex as well, who writes the lyrics alongside me--I think we got to this point where, I don't know I was just sick of making art that wasn't direct to an extent or like, you would have these conversations with people at the pub, your friends at the pub, or on the phone or whatever. So why am I not saying that in the work that I'm making? What am I trying to kind of hide? And also kind of getting to grips and feeling comfortable with it kind of being--and me being fallible? The songs aren't supposed to be like proclamations of my flag on top of a mountain being like, "I'm right," like, probably half of them are all completely wrong. I suppose it was just like a kind of human desire to just be honest and communicate, honestly. I suppose it maybe comes from the same kind of place, that kind of feeling of pure expression in the first instance anyway. But thanks for picking up on it. My insane kind of ranting.

ED: I think in previous incarnations of our bands with either the four of us or with other people, I think we tended to always overthink it slightly, and worry a bit too much about, you know, this lyrical--what it sounded like, and stuff like that. Whereas this became--came a bit more naturally, and I think that showed through in the recording, and that was our intention.

Do you think that there's a reason why this sort of iteration of your band, this record, came more naturally to you guys?

CHARLIE: I think probably that honesty. Also the fact that we have been playing in bands, since we were like 15 or 16. We made the album in a very kind of intense period, but don't have any of that creative language learning with each other. I think we all knew what each of us can bring to the music and I think it was, I think we're all a bit older, a bit wiser. So it was like, when we did get into a room it we weren't kind of--I think we can bring the things that we've always known that we'd been good at. But we also know each other well enough to be like, that is not a good thing that you do.

Yeah.

CHARLIE: Or just, I suppose just feel like more comfortable expressing yourself in more honest ways 'cause I would say, I think I would struggle to do that with a group of people I hadn't known so long and I don't think it would have come together as quickly. If it was within--I think some bands do do that because it's the creative tension. And it's the fact that lots of people are throwing in new ideas and there's this freshness. But I think, for us, I think the familiarity of each other and knowing each other and being able to get in a room and and just play, I think you can't kind of take that away from us, you know? That we've played with each other for so long that when we do play, you're not presenting anything other than just yourself. That's been a massive kind of plus for us as a band, how our working process is pretty quick.

So prior to the world becoming where it's at right now. It sounds like you guys just had one show, what was the energy like at that show or the circumstances surrounding it?

CHARLIE: It's shocking, isn't it? I don't wear that as a badge of honor. Also, the other reason we formed the band is because we wanted to play lots of gigs and meet lots of people. So that's kind of the sad thing about it. But yeah, the show was--we put it on ourselves, it was for our friends is probably about like, maybe like 80 people there. Played with our friends bands. We did all the sound ourselves and set everything up. It was really, I think, mainly just as an excuse to have a bit of a get together with our mates and also probably prove to like our partners and friends that we weren't just like going down the pub, that this was actually a thing that we were doing. But the energy was--do you know what? I have never been more nervous in my entire life because it was a group--it was like all of our closest friends. All of your closest friends is terrifying. I don't know if you felt that, Ed. I was like shaking before, like what's going on? It's just like, it's my wife. But it's like, why am I so scared?

ED: Because they're inevitably gonna be like, "Oh, yeah, that was great. Well done." You can see in their eyes. That they're like, "What was that?"

CHARLIE: Yeah, the cold dead stare of, "Really enjoyed that man! Anyway, we're gonna go." But it was great. It felt really special in a way just to be doing that and be performing it and be making music in a space and playing and yeah, it was really special. It was kind of a shame that was our one only show. I just can't wait to play live again.

How has it been in the past year of, especially, the kind of breed of music that you make that so visceral and feeds off of live crowds really well--have you rethought the way that you're making music at all, in doing it without that live audience feedback?

CHARLIE: That's a good question. I don't know. I think some of the new stuff that we're writing at the moment is maybe a bit more inward looking, and maybe shows that, the first record was very much, you know, has got a lot of things like anger and frustration and hopefully humor and stuff like that, but it's quite an outward record. It's projecting. Anger is quite a useful instrument to use. But I don't know, maybe maybe this year has kind of forced us to be a bit more insular, a bit more inward looking, maybe explore some of the emotions that kind of brings, melancholy, joy, sadness, rather than stuff that's maybe kind of totally kind of, like you say, more visceral. Which I'm excited by, I think that I, as a songwriter, I'm interested in how you show all of those emotions and how it's also a challenge. Anger in a song can be, you know, and in a live performance space in a crowd space can be quite a--it's quite an easy communication tool in some ways. So I think I'm kind of interested in, in all those other things as well and perhaps how that pushes me as a songwriter. But also, it's been hard like we're all kind of scattered about. A couple of guys live in London, me and Ed don't live in London. So it's been hard to kind of, we're happy to kind of adapt to working a bit more remotely I would say, aren't we Ed?

ED: Yeah, sure. Well, I guess we started doing a few like live performance videos. Obviously, The Current one and we've definitely been thinking about how to film it and how it would come across when you're watching at home. Obviously, we don't want to make it just look like a gig because it's not a gig.

CHARLIE: Without an audience.

ED: You know, just us on the stage with no one in front of us. We've definitely sort of thought about how to film it. Definitely. I don't know if we've changed our music too much to adapt to that.

One other thing I wanted to touch on that's a little bit separate but, Charlie, I know that you've kind of worked in the graphic sphere doing art for a lot of bands that I know Current listeners probably are familiar with like Fontaine's DC, how is that sort of facet of your life and career impacted what the work you're doing as a band?

CHARLIE: Well, I think the main reason I got into doing artwork for other bands and working with other people is because our band wasn't working and we gave up for a long time and I was always so kind of--I think the visual world and drawing and painting and stuff is probably my first love as a kid. But it was really very much like a way of me making sure that I kind of stayed in a musical community. So it was like, "Well, I'm not in a band anymore. So what the things I can do to keep me kind of around people that are in bands or around music?" So I started designing stuff for people and making stuff people and ended up working at a record label and doing that kind of stuff for five or six years really. Mainly to try and kind of fill the--scratch the itch, I think. It's a really different way of work--it's a really different thing, obviously, when you're working with other people collaborate with other people, like are not another band, you're kind of in service to a kind of higher thing than yourself, you know? You've got to strip away your ego a little bit and kind of let their ideas and their feelings and their music and all of their work kind of kind of--you're like a big coffee percolator.

Yeah, totally.

CHARLIE: In that kind of all their ideas go through you and you talk about presenting things that maybe they haven't thought about, or talking, just talking a lot and stuff like that. It's kind of different to what we do as a band, because this is pure self expression, you know, pure--I don't have to be accountable to anyone other than like Ed and the other guys, you know?

Definitely.

CHARLIE: I suppose it was also quite difficult at the start, like I never, ever told any of these people, or any of the people I worked with that I was in a band ever. It was like a guilty--

It was like a secret.

CHARLIE: It was! It was. I think, I don't know, you don't want to be that guy. That's just like, "Hey, man, listen to this."

Yeah, totally.

CHARLIE: It's not the kind of relationship that I think you have with people when you're working with someone as an artist, artist to artist, but you're a visual artist, and they're a musician. It's really different, you know? You're bringing different things to the table. I would never tell anyone that I was doing this stuff. It was kind of weird, I kind of siphoned off working in a band as this project just for me, you know? Me and my friends and it's really got out of hand.

Like, "Oh no, now we've got an album coming out on Sub Pop. What are we gonna do? Everyone's gonna hear it!"

CHARLIE: That sounds like the worst kind of like, world's smallest violin, do you know what I mean?

Yeah, absolutely.

CHARLIE: It's just nothing that I ever countenanced. It's nothing that I ever thought would happen. I thought, you know, I think our intention was like maybe we could press like 200 vinyls or something and maybe fund it ourselves and have it to give to our friends and stuff. But yeah, I think they feed into each other as well though. I love making all the visual world and getting other people involved as well in that and kind of, I think me and the boys love all of that stuff as well. I feel lucky that I have that, I went away and kind of developed that skill set that we can be really DIY and make all the artwork and do all the posters and all that kind of stuff. You know, that's quite lucky.

Yeah, definitely. This has been TV priest here on The Current they have their debut full length record Uppers coming out on February 5 from Sub Pop. Before we leave, Charlie, what is like one big moment from the record that you are most excited for everyone to get to hear?

CHARLIE: Oh, that's a hard one.

There's probably just one I'm sure.

CHARLIE: Yeah Ed, have you got anything? I think I got I think I've got one. But you--

ED: You might be saying the same thing. "Saintless". The final track on the album. Pretty pleased with that.

CHARLIE: It's quite a kind of, maybe slightly different--it acts as a bit of a coda to the rest of the record. It's probably the most--it's this big sprawling thing that grows, but it's probably the most kind of, it's got a different tone to it. It was written about my wife and my little boy and the time that we went through after my wife gave birth, it was kind of a bit tricky. So it's probably a slightly more hopeful note on the record, and I would say that ends the record, but he's also got an amazing guitar part.

Awesome.

CHARLIE: Which is good. Like Robert Fripp kind of style.

Amazing. Well, I know I speak for myself as well as a lot of us when I say I'm super excited to hear the full record next week. Thank you guys so much for taking the time to come chat today.

CHARLIE: No, thank you so much. It really means a lot and it's great to talk to you from our respective living room and bedrooms.

SONGS PLAYED

00:00 Decoration
04:13 This Island
08:09 Runner Up
All songs appear on TV Priest's debut 2021 record Uppers.

CREDITS

Host - Maddie
Technical Director - Erik Stromstad
Producer - Derrick Stevens
Digital Producer - Jesse Wiza


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