Alter The Press!


Interview: Tellison

After leaving us album-less for 4 years, Tellison more than made up for their absence by releasing their top-drawer sophomore effort ‘The Wages Of Fear’. The album takes is a step away from their earlier, more eclectic, style towards a more confident and poppier sound. Yet the band have lost none of their touch in the process and ‘The Wages Of Fear’ earned itself a strong four and a half stars on Alter The Press! earlier this month.

We recently spoke to drummer Henry S Danowski, who gave us insight into the process of writing, recording and producing ‘The Wages Of Fear’ over the past few years. Danowski discussed how the album came together, the story behind its title and artwork and their future plans.

Alter The Press: Your previous full-length ‘Contact! Contact!’ was released in 2007. What reason is there behind the long period of time between both albums?
Tellison: We never intended for there to be such a long gap between the two records but unfortunately things just turned out that way. There were quite a few factors involved that slowed us down. We started work on the new record back in 2009 but at that time Stephen our singer was in his final year at University and the rest of us were having to work full time in order to pay rent and live. This made it hard to find the time and money for all of us to be together in order to actually write it and make it happen. At the same time we changed the team we had working with us, which took a lot longer than we hoped. As well as all that it proved very difficult for us to find anyone who wanted to back us and put the record out. So it wasn't until 2010 that we just decided to stop fucking around and finance the record ourselves. We finished off writing it this time last year and then recorded it last June/July. But it wasn't until early this year that we found a label (Naim Edge) to put it out. We are sorry for the delay but hopefully it was worth it.

ATP: On ‘Wages of Fear’ you seem to have taken a step towards more straight-forward songwriting, especially considering some of the more eclectic offerings on your 2007 debut. Was this a conscious decision or a natural evolution?
Tellison: I think it was quite a natural progression mainly due to the ridiculous amount of time that it took for us to get the record made. We probably wrote the record two or three times. When we first started writing I remember us trying to over complicate things, as we believed that it would make the band and the songs stand out more from the older material. But after a while we all realised that the best work we did was when we kept things simple. There was conscious effort to make things sound more accessible "poppy", but the straight forward style of songwriting I think comes from us all growing up a bit and having more confidence it what we are doing as a band and as individuals.

ATP: How was the experience of working with Peter Miles who seems to be playing around with all the good new british bands?
Tellison: We tried working with a few different producers for the record but when we did some demos with Peter we immediately new he was the guy for the job. We had all been fans of work he had done in the past, like the tracks he did with Twofold. So working with him seemed like the right thing to do. Peter is a very easy guy to work with and lets you get on with what you want to do, but he also very good at making you reassess your songs and the way you play them. He would always be very honest when he thought there was a part of the song that didn't need to be there or if we were being lazily when playing our parts. His real talent is realizing the sound that you want to create and making it work on record which is probably why he is working with so many good bands at the moment. He is also a committed vegan and has a great recipe for vegan banana pancakes!

ATP: Any explanation for the child torero on the artwork?
Tellison: My original idea was for me to be dressed as a Toreo. But then I realised that it didn't fit with the sentiment of the record and that it would be a bit ridiculous. The idea for the boy came partly from the name of the record and from how I wanted the image and artwork to look stylistically. I wanted the artwork for this record to be very different from the styles and things we had done in the past. I thought a child toreo would fit well with the title of the record. 'The Wages of Fea'r is partly about fear, that being fear of failure, fear of acceptance, fear of change and also about the things that one has to do in order to pursue one's true passion. A child matador is someone who has very little fear, as they are fighting bulls and to want to do that at that age shows serious passion and little doubt. So in some ways the torero image is a symbol or a reminder to us not to be fearful in life.

Stylistically I wanted the image to be a cross between a painting by one of the old masters such as Goya, Velazquez, Murillo or Hans Holbein and a photographic portrait similar to a William Eggleston portrait but with more of a fashion editorial edge. A cross between classic composition and form but with colours and a subject that just pop out! When i was looking at paintings by those artists, often the subjects would be young boys and girls who would have these amazing expressions of hubris and purpose. An album cover similar to that I thought would be incredibly striking and memorable.

ATP: On your album, I can hear some Get Up Kids, some dark Jimmy Eat World at times and a splash of Motion City Soundtrack. Were you listening to a lot of American punk/rock while you were writing your material, or was there any intent in achieving a similar style?
Tellison: Personally I don't listen to much of that style of music. But I think the rest of the guys do or at least used to. The thing about our band is that we all have different music tastes. I listen to more electronic and hip hop music while Stephen is more into bands like Pedro the Lion and Frightened Rabbit. But there are certain things we all have an affinity for that must in some ways come out in our music either consciously or subconsciously.

ATP: ‘Freud Links The Teeth & The Heart’ is a confusing name, where did you look for inspiration for your lyrical material?
Tellison: A lot of the the lyrical inspiration comes from literature, both fiction and non-fiction. I believe whilst Stephen wrote ‘Freud Links The Teeth & The Heart’ he was reading Freud as part of his University course. Another example is the chorus from Say Silence which is a quote from Hamlet. I think what one reads in books can be linked either thematically or emotionally to what's going on in one's life. But equally a lot of the lyrics come from personal experience. On this record i think some of the songs are much more personal lyrically than on Contact Contact which comes from more confidence in our song writing ability.

ATP: You wrote some of the tracks for 'Contact! Contact!' when you were quite young, how did the writing experience compare to your first musical ventures?
Tellison: he song writing progress was in some ways more of a team effort than on 'Contact Contact.' A lot of it was done when we weren't all together. Most us live in different places so demos were made and passed around to each other and we would each work on the song in our own way. When we came together to practice often a song would have taken on a whole new life as one or all of us might interpreted it in a different way. Also on this record we included more songs from Peter which we made him sing. Which adds a lot to the timbre and feel of the record.

ATP: Why did you choose the title ‘Wages Of Fear’?
Tellison: The title comes from a French film from 1953 directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot in which a group of desperate men trapped in a dead-end South American town are hired by manipulative and dishonest oil company to complete a near suicidal task. The film it self hasn't got much to do with the album but as a title it does manage to catch many of the lyrical themes on the record as well as stand on it's own conceptually. Most literally it can be read as describing the album as the result or profit of fear: fear of failure, fear of the future, fear of change, fear of loss.

The record itself becomes the "wages' earned for several years of dissatisfaction, worry, failure and waste. The record acts almost as a warning sign to others. On a second level the title describes the dissatisfaction and negative "profit" of working a job that gives you no joy and that you don't want to do. A reminder of more of your time slipping away without you being brave enough to do something you feel is of value.

ATP: You’re touring throughout the UK in June to promote the album and Alter The Press are always eager to hear about new bands. What upcoming bands would you suggest, or possibly have supporting you?
Tellison: At the moment I don't actually know who is supporting us on the coming up tour, but I expect they will be pretty bad ass whoever it is. As far as bands that I would like to join us, our good friends My First Tooth are incredible and always great fun on the road. A great new band are Dud but they are probably a bit to heavy to support us. I know Dre Dre and Snoop both have new records, so they are always more than welcome to join us as well.

ATP: So what can we expect from Tellison in the future?
Tellison: After the June tour we will be playing a few small festivals around the country. Plus there will be the release of the second single from the album. There is a remix competition at the moment to remix the single. Then this autumn there will be more touring hopefully around Europe and the US of A.

'The Wages Of Fear' by Tellison is released on June 13th through Naim Edge Records.

Official Website
Tellison Twitter, Facebook, and Bandcamp.

Words by James Berclaz-Lewis

Alter The Press!