If you’ve been reading my work on /amodelofcontrol.com over the past decade or so, you will have seen me talk about Teeth of the Sea an awful lot. They’ve long been one of the most progressive bands in London, not to mention one of the best (and loudest!) live bands in the city too, and WRAITH last year seemed to take them to another level.
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Their high-profile slot this weekend at the 10 Years of Chaos all-dayer in Tufnell Park should get them yet more attention, too, and I took the opportunity to speak via e-mail to Jimmy from the band to catch-up about WRAITH, their live shows, this weekend and more. Thanks as ever to the promo people who arranged this e-mail interview and provided the promo pics, and to Jimmy for taking the time to answer my questions.
A note about the interviews on amodelofcontrol.com. This is now a long-running, occasional series, occasional because of the fact that I only interview artists when I have something to ask, and when artists have something to say. I don’t use question templates, so each is unique, too. Finally, I only edit for grammar and adding in links, so what you’re reading is the response of the artist directly.
It’s almost exactly a year since WRAITH was released. With a bit of distance from it now, how do you feel about it?
/Jimmy/Teeth of the Sea: I’m really chuffed with it – we were in a bit of an impasse creatively prior to working on it, so it’s really been a big boost in confidence for us as a band. We really just decided to go all out with this one; no idea was off-limits and we wanted the whole thing to be as full-on and as fuck-you as we could. I think we basically achieved that, and it’s the purest reflection of our character as a band in all its weirdest manifestations yet. It might be my favourite we’ve done. Although that changes all the time, to be honest, it’s like choosing between your kids as the cliché states.
I loved the album (and made it my #2 album of 2019), and it felt like it had some kind of feral power to it. I heard there were some strange goings-on while you made it?
/Jimmy/Teeth of the Sea: Without wanting to appear to grandstand, we were so intensely focused that it drove us to the point where we’d recorded stuff we couldn’t remember doing – there are bits on Her Wraith, Burn Of The Shieling and Fortean Steed, in particular, that is just the result of pure serendipity, and the way they coalesce does seem to just come from some other metaphysical force. I don’t think this is a first, to be honest, I remember there being a similarly haunted quality to Your Mercury when we made it. Without wanting to sound too cod-spiritual, I think when you find yourself getting a leg-up from these supernatural energies it’s a sign you’re on the right track.
The track where you worked with Erol Alkan, I’d Rather, Jack, feels like your take on thumping techno. How was it to work with him?
/Jimmy/Teeth of the Sea: I’d always been a fan of Erol; I’d known him for years and always found him a very sound and inspirational fella – we’ve always been complete control freaks with our production in the past, and it was an experiment to hand the reins to someone else, but I feel very privileged to have him as the first person we’ve done so with – he was extremely energising to record with and I love the prism he threw the track through in the mix. It’s very heartening to hear your music through someone else’s ears, especially when they’re from a head whose work you respect so much.
You’re one of the genuinely uncategorisable bands these days – particularly as you’ve progressed such that your albums all have a distinct sound – but you can always tell its Teeth of the Sea. It feels to me like a relentless push forward by you as a band – does it feel that way to you?
/Jimmy/Teeth of the Sea: Yeah absolutely, and that’s flattering to hear, to be honest. We get very easily bored and we never want to stay in the same place for too long. One thing we were determined to do on WRAITH was not to go over old ground, even whilst we were trying to make it more ‘us’ than ever before. I think in a broader sense it’s a big failing if a band seems to deliver what’s expected of them. You see it all the time in bands who’re pursuing this as a career, and you can always spot it a mile off. We’ve always had more respect for bands like say Circle, Liars or Wire who’ve never lost that experimental edge to how they work, and are always challenging themselves. As far as the classification thing – yeah, we’ve never been able to fit into a bracket, and we’ve never cared. Again I think the strongest bands are often those that fall between the cracks of genre divides.
You’ve talked about your influences before in other interviews, but what’s the music you’re listening to now, in early 2020?
/Jimmy/Teeth of the Sea: Oh blimey, well it goes all over – Mike’s been listening to Christoph De Babalon‘s If You’re Into It I’m Out Of It and S.Y.P.H.‘s 4LP – Sam’s been digging The Cut 2016-2019 comp by These New Puritans and the ‘absolute 2007 party vibes’ of Somewhere Else by Sink Ya Teeth. I really like that Midnight album Rebirth By Blasphemy as well as revisiting the Gareth Williams and Mary Currie album Flaming Tunes. Mike got me into the last Julia Reidy record (In Real Life).
You’re playing the 10 Years of Chaos all-dayer on Saturday, and it’s a hell of a diverse line-up. Are you planning anything specific? (Your last London show in Hackney was one of the loudest I’ve been to in ages, so more of that would be fine…)
/Jimmy/Teeth of the Sea: Apparently at a recent show in Aberdeen we were playing so loud the rafters were literally shaking so hard that detritus was falling from them onto both stage and audience. If we can go one step beyond that it’d be great. I’ll not really be happy until it’s basically like the Pour Some Sugar On Me video by Def Leppard in which the whole building is crumbling around us.
After 10 Years of Chaos, where next for Teeth of the Sea?
/Jimmy/Teeth of the Sea: We’ve also got loads of killer shows booked, some of which we can’t bang on about yet but there’s Sonic Whip in the Netherlands in May along with a show curated by Mark Lanegan in Brussels, then there’s ArcTanGent later this year. We’ll not be getting any less weird or difficult into the bargain. WRAITH has put a fair amount of wind in our sails, as has working on that Apollo’s Moon Shot project at the Science Museum last year (in which we soundtracked two hours worth of documentary footage on the moon landings of 1969) so we’ll be working on new material even more out-of-order and unconstrained by compromise hopefully.