Tim Rice-Oxley – Piano/ Bass/ Backing Vocals
Richard Hughes – Drums
We grew up and went to school together in and around a small town called ‘Battle’ in the south of England. There is not much to do in Battle, but in the late 1980s, during school holidays spent playing football, we discovered music, like most kids do, and pretty soon were swapping our favourite new albums and artists.
Tim had a few piano lessons at school, but quickly bored of the endless scales and classical music, so gave up trying, only to discover that he could play Buddy Holly tunes with what he had picked up. That was it, the start of years playing the songs he enjoyed listening to on a Casio keyboard, programming a pocket-sized sequencer, and trying to write his own songs to play to his friends.
As soon as Rich started out on the drums we started playing together, recruiting a guitarist; Dominic Scott, and soon after, a singer; Tom.
Music was the only thing we all wanted to do. We had nobody to teach us aside from the tapes in our walkmans, and our Beatles’ songbooks, so it took a while to get the hang of playing and writing. By 1999, we moved to London to seek a record deal and conquer the world.
Two years on, without a record deal, and with one less member, the three of us fled back to the countryside, broke and downhearted, suffering the ill-effects of two years spent in dead-end jobs by day, and dank rehearsal rooms by night.
Salvation arrived, as ever, in the form of music; an opportunity to go to a dilapidated farmhouse in France and record some new demos. The guitar lines were forgotten, and a new sound gradually emerged. Pianos and keyboards took over and Tom’s voice found the space it needed. We headed back home, eager to play our new songs to people.
By January 2003 we’d been given the chance to release a record on legendary indie label, Fierce Panda, whose head honcho had seen us play at the 12 Bar Club in London. We went back to Battle and recorded ‘Everybody’s Changing’. The song was made ‘Single of the Week’ by Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq, and gradually picked up by others. All 500 copies sold, and we could barely believe it. We toured the UK for the first time, playing to packed houses and empty rooms. We paid for the fuel and food with what we had earned the night before, the money safely stored in a plastic food container.
The lure of a real band that was getting played on the radio and touring the UK was too much to resist, and pretty much all of the big labels had got their chequebooks out. We signed a deal that offered us total creative control over our music, and went to a small local studio called Helioscentric to record and co-produce (with Andy Green) our debut album ‘Hopes and Fears’ in late 2003, and headed back out on the road.
We released ‘Hopes and Fears’ in May 2004.
The continuing tour we embarked upon led us around the world for another eighteen months. In 2004 we played four UK tours, and by October 2005 had played 5 American tours which included playing alongside U2 at Madison Square Gardens, visited Mexico, Japan, Australia, toured Europe, played festivals all over the world, and played at the London ‘Live 8’ show.
‘Hopes and Fears’ sold over 5 million copies worldwide. We won two Brit Awards in 2005 (British Breakthrough Act and Best Album); Q Magazine’s Best Album award; and were nominated in the Best New Act category at The Grammys, but the touring was taking its toll - we needed to get back into the studio, and back to our homes. During every break we could find since 2004, we had been recording bits and pieces, and in October 2005 we headed straight back into the studio for the new sessions with Andy Green, finishing off in December.
The new album, ‘Under The Iron Sea’ was recorded at The Magic Shop in Soho, New York, and back at Helioscentric Studios, near Battle.
In making this record we tried to confront all our worst fears, to ruthlessly scrutinise ourselves, our relationship with each other, with other people, and with the world at large, and to make a journey into the darkest places we could find.
It made for an incredibly intense atmosphere during the writing and recording of the album, and the resultant songs and sounds very much reflect that. In the songs we created a kind of sinister fairytale-world-gone-wrong, a feeling of confusion and numbness represented by a dark place under an impenetrable iron sea. To express all this we created entirely new sounds by putting an old electric piano and various analogue synths through many different combinations of vintage guitar effects pedals, creating soundscapes that range from the percussive to vast oppressive walls of distortion.
We were writing, singing and performing with a drive, intensity and fury that is almost unrecognisable from our previous music.
It was important that this album had a strong visual presence too, and the start of that was the collaboration with Irvine Welsh on ‘Atlantic’ offered somebody who both inspired us, and found his own inspiration in our music. His resulting film echoes the importance of that visual identity we strove for.
We wrote Under The Iron Sea because we needed a record that was going to make us feel alive again.
UNDER THE IRON SEA will be released on Interscope Records on June 20th.