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iliketrains promo2020 byBenBentleyInterview with

I Like Trains

I LIKE TRAINS are finally back and have their new single ‘The Truth’ in their luggage, the first song of their upcoming, ruthless and razor-sharp album ‘KOMPROMAT’, which will be released on August 21, 2020 via Atlantic Curve in the worldwide distribution of The Orchard. The first studio album by the Leeds quintet in eight years treats mainly “information”, in all of its concatenations and links, as a general topic. How we consume information and how we can still make sense and value for ourselves in the age of daily news bombing. The first single, ‘The Truth’, hits the heart of the matter. Check out some detailed information about the album in the following Q&A.

Question: If you discount the soundtrack for ‘A Divorce Before Marriage’ it’s been 8 (!) years since the last full I LIKE TRAINS record. So, an obvious question here - where’ve you been!?
Answer: A good question! Time flies when you’re getting old. I guess the day jobs became more time consuming. Building empires and websites and helping to release other people’s music. Most of us have been trying to raise well adjusted, happy children too. We’ve never consciously taken a load of time out. We’ve been getting together every couple of months to bash out ideas or play an odd gig here and there to keep our eye in.

Question: What was the catalyst / at what point and why did it make sense at that time to come together again and make this record?
Answer: I’m not sure there was one. We slowly chipped away at it until we got to the point where we had a new album. I guess a TRAINS record doesn’t really start to take shape until there’s a theme. That point came following Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks in 2013. So, the idea that this album was about personal information / data was born. I thought it would be about low-key, insidious intrusions on our privacy. I didn’t realise this stuff would become so visible in everyday life. How the perception of what is true and what isn’t true could be challenged on a daily basis. How that confusion could be used to manipulate populations into voting certain ways. It became Brexit and Trump. It became populist politics across the world. I didn’t set out to for the record to be so blunt. So political. But the path we set out on kind of dictated that. In picking a contemporary theme, the album mutated over time. On previous albums I could pick a few stories that might create a narrative arc to illustrate a theme. These songs are snaps shots of the last 7 or 8 years. It’s difficult to know what the important events are as they’re happening. There’s too much information on daily basis to digest. I don’t think we’ll know the true significance of what is happening now for a very long time. I think that might go some way to explaining why it took so long to finish the album. The story isn’t finished.

iliketrains kompromat

Question: Talk me through the production process, the where things took place, the who was involved and a little about how the record came together both lyrically and instrumental. In terms of deciding where and how to make the record was it a case of going back to environments and processes you’d tried and felt worked previously or was there a completely new way of doing things?
Answer: We certainly don’t spend as much time together as a band as we used to, so when we are all in a room together we need to work quickly. We were relying on our instincts rather than trying things out in ten different ways before settling on the best one. We recorded the soundtrack to our ‘A Divorce Before Marriage’ documentary at Greenmount Studios in Leeds. Jamie and Lee who run the studio are both incredible. They like to work quickly. They know their studio inside-out and just seem to be able to get the best out of us. We were very keen to go back and do our album sessions with them. They were on the same page in terms of production and references immediately. We were leaving a lot of parts unwritten until we got in to record. It was a very creative and inspiring process, and relatively stress-free for a change.

Question: How did you come to the decision to call the record Kompromat and how does it relate to the themes and narratives of the album?
Answer: The album remained unnamed for months! I have a very long list of titles that for one reason or another didn’t quite fit. I have tended to shy away from anything too direct in the past, preferring to lay bread crumbs for people with enough time and energy to follow. I’m not sure anyone has that time and energy anymore. Or the attention span. Or maybe we don’t have the time and energy to lay them anymore. I’d say the title is pretty blunt. The album is about personal data. Information we have lying around on the internet, that is having a huge impact on our lives. Whether that’s personal intrusions or wide scale manipulations of how populations think or vote. It’s all compromising material in the wrong hands.

Question: It feels like influences have been added to or have changed certainly. The first three tracks to me in particular in their more direct anger and arguably more post-punk recalling feel really seem like they're setting out a stall as to who ILT are now. Was that intentional and what would ascribe this shift to?
Answer: Interestingly I’d say we revisited a lot of records that were influential to us in the early days of ILT: JOY DIVISION, THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, GANG OF FOUR, TELEVISION and THE VELVET UNDERGROUND spring to mind. Those albums all kids need to hear before forming a band. Certainly, a lot of that was from a post-punk background, and we’ve probably lost the overt post-rock influences now. That post-punk thing for me is synonymous with the last time politics was as divisive as it is now. Many acts from that era made great albums which made a statement. Great art from bleak times. Again, I think this is generally a more direct album. There’s lots to be angry about, and I’m singing about contemporary things for a change. It’s real-time anger.

iliketrains promo2020 byBenBentley

Question: Talk me through The Truth a little as it's the lead single from the album. Is it fair to say it’s the track on the album that’s perhaps the most overall representative of what the LP’s themes / mission statement is about in its assessment of the current swirl of misinformation/misdirection?
Answer: It was one of the last tracks to come together for the album, so yeah I think it does work as an overview of the album’s themes. It’s obviously a hot topic. Who knows where the truth lies anymore? It can be easy to pinpoint the more outlandish crap we’re being fed, but what is that masking? I’d been writing this list on my phone for a couple of months, adding a couple of lines to it after the school run or before I went to sleep. Just as inspiration hit. I had no real idea what I was doing with it, but it became a sort of ritual. I’d read a news article or a tweet and I’d make reference to it. Some are hitting the nail squarely on the head, others are a little more oblique, but it plots the news cycle through time to a certain extent. On one of the last couple of days we had in the studio I decided to dig out this list, and we had a go at constructing the track. It’s made up of a few other bits and pieces we had lying around, and this rant. I think we ended up using the fifth take. It came together very quickly. There wasn’t much editing to do on the list, it’s pretty much the order I wrote it in. It was a pretty cathartic process!

Question: I LIKE TRAINS have always had some great literary references - any particular reading that inspired you this time round?
Answer: It was mostly the news this time around! I read Glenn Greenwald’s ‘Snowden’ book and ‘Fire and Fury’ of course! ‘The Shock Doctrine’ and ‘No Is Not Enough’ by Naomi Klein were pretty influential. I’m not sure any of these count as great literature! As with ‘The Shallows’, Adam Curtis’s documentaries continue to influence our output. I’ve also followed the work of Carole Cadwalladr and Seth Abramson pretty closely.

Question: The last track is a departure from the rest of the record and I was wondering if you could
tell me a little about the vocal / spoken word - what inspired it (initially on an early demo I heard I thought it was perhaps an impression of Margaret Thatcher / a fictional authoritarian political character).
Answer: We were delighted to work with Anika on that track. We’re big fans of her band EXPLODED VIEW. Her delivery is just brilliant, and she was the first person we thought of when we were discussing vocalists for that track. We met her about 11 years ago at a German festival. I think it was before she was releasing music. So, we messaged her out of the blue and we’re pleased she was onboard with the track and the themes of the record and agreed to record the part for us. It’s open to interpretation, but I think she plays the role of technology and algorithms in our lives. How on the surface this stuff is there to entertain us, to keep our minds occupied and to sell us things, but also how that can take a much darker turn. It’s another one that came towards the end of the album writing process so works as an overview too.

Question: Where does this album take you when you listen back to it? What images, emotions etc. does it bring up?
Answer: Overall, I think it feels good to get this stuff off my chest. It’s cathartic to perform this material. I realise I’m shouting into a void. It’s not going to make a difference in the great scheme of things unfortunately.

Question: Could you also revisit ‘A Divorce Before Marriage’ a little and tell me about how that may have informed this record? Did looking back at yourself in some way on that documentary have any effect on how you view the band now?
Answer: That’s a tricky question. I’m not entirely sure I relate to the portrayal in the film. There were hundreds of hours of footage, and I realise an arc needed to be drawn through that. It wasn’t easy to watch six years of our lives edited down to an hour and a half. It does look beautiful though, and I do love Matt and Ben who made it. Absolutely no disrespect to them. I think they probably made something quite compelling, but it it’s difficult for me to watch.

Question: Your first show back is a special one at the Leeds International Festival. What’s your history with Michael Connolly and what does he bring to the live show? Is this going to be a regular thing?
Answer: We worked with Michael on live visuals for the last album. He’s on-board for album artwork and videos for this one. I hope we can take the full live show with us on the road too. To be discussed. We’ve been going for a long time, and we’ve assembled a team of people, many of whom have been with us on parts of our journey previously. There seems to be great deal of good will. People are excited by the new music and want to be involved. That’s a good place to be.

Question: It’s a question that probably gets asked by me every few years but how would you describe where the band currently stands for the five of you? How was the symbiosis changed since we last heard from you and where are you headed?
Answer: No idea where we’re headed. We’re just along for the ride now. I think that used to be               one of most important things. Now I see it as a creative release. Still required. Maybe now more than ever. And we want to do those songs justice. Not release them into the void.

Promo picture by Ben Bentley

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