MTTM: You spent much of your first album, Elegies to Lessons Learnt examining long-lost figures from history, but with your new album you seem to be looking much more to the future for inspiration. For those who have not yet heard your new album, how does it differ in approach from your previous work?
I Like Trains: We had taken inspiration from past events for most of our life as a band up until He Who Saw the Deep. It was clear to us that we needed to make a change for the new record and the obvious step was to write a record about the future. I read up on the science of climate change and the projections don’t paint a very positive picture for the human race. We also took a different approach to the music. It felt like we went at writing in a more open manner, trying a lot of things wouldn’t have tried in the past for fear of it not sounding like an I LIKE TRAINS record. We realised that no matter what we try we will still sound like ILT, and that has given us confidence for the future of our band.
MTTM: The accompanying artwork for the new album is very slick and simple. Beautiful, but sparse. Does the artwork represent a more uncluttered approach to your music?
I Like Trains: Absolutely. I like to describe this record as more streamlined than our previous records. We have stripped back the reverbs and delays we used to fill our music with, and left some more open spaces. Good album artwork will always represent the album, and this is what we were going for in the design.
MTTM: Is there a new wardrobe for the new album? You all sported a lot of black armbands before…
I Like Trains: We’ve gone for a nautical theme to compliment the album’s maritime subject matter.
MTTM: The new album was released on your own label iLR. Have you broken all ties with your old label (Beggars Banquet)? Do you prefer working for yourselves, as it were?
I Like Trains: When Beggars Banquet ceased to exist we were left without a label. We explored all our options and talked to some other labels, and in the end decided it was best for us to go it alone. It’s a lot of hard work, but is extremely satisfying to see our record out and in the shops. We’re still in touch with a number of the people we worked with at Beggars, they come to our shows and are enjoying the new record, and we’re grateful for everything they did for us.
MTTM: You used Pledge Music to raise funds for the new album and its promotion. How did you find the fan-funding process, and do you think it has a genuinely productive place in the future of the music industry?
I Like Trains: That’s a difficult one to answer really. All I can say is that for us, and in the release of this record it has been a great experience. The fans really seemed to take to it, and it was overwhelming to have had over 800 people believe in this record enough to spend their hard earned money to make sure it was released into the big bad world. We are fortunate to have such a fan base to make that happen. I realise that not all bands starting out will have that momentum, but the Pledge system seems to work on a smaller scale too. Only time will tell whether it will really be a sustainable model to release records, but for me it’s a great concept. If the people want a record to be released then it will be.
MTTM: You’re currently in the midst of a European tour – how is that going? What country do you think is the most receptive to your music?
I Like Trains: It’s actually been better than we could ever have hoped for. We’ve been doing tours to the European mainland for 5 or so years now, and while it’s always been a great experience, we really seem to be gaining some momentum now. We’ve had a great reception everywhere we have been, but the highlight for me was Brussels where we had a sold out show at the Botanique, one of our favourite venues in the world.
MTTM: For me, the most noteworthy aspect of your music is the rich, velvety, controlled vocals. Do you have any other vocalists that influence your style and your sound, or that you perhaps aspire to be like?
I Like Trains: I guess the big influence in how I sing was Nick Cave. It was the way he would take on characters to tell a story. I get the same thing from the delivery of Matt Beringer of the National, but I only really became a fan after the release of Elegies to Lessons Learnt.
MTTM: Your sound in general seems to be set in the mould of euphoric pessimism that is very prevalent in contemporary alt-indie music. What do you think it is about current attitudes that encourage the creation and consumption of such soaring and captivating yet desperately morose music?
I Like Trains: I guess there has always been an appetite for that sort of music. I can’t really explain it, but it’s reassuring to know that you aren’t the only person to feel dissatisfied or alienated. People can find solace in that.