2:54 owes its sound to grey skies and wild places
The weather is usually the topic of mundane small talk and not the stuff of interviews, but Colette Thurlow is happy to address it when the Straight reaches her on the road. Speaking via cellphone from a van en route to Minneapolis, the frontwoman for the fast-rising U.K. indie-rock act 2:54 notes that it’s definitely feeling like summer so far on the band’s first North American tour.
“It’s really hot, which is something we’re not used to, since London has been just, like, a doom cloud for the last six months,” she says. “So, yeah, it’s just been really nice and hot. The only place it rained was Boston, actually. We’ve lucked out.”
This is more than just idle chit-chat. The music of 2:54, which also includes Thurlow’s sister Hannah on guitar, is heavily indebted to its environment. The cover of the group’s self-titled debut LP features a photo of the siblings—two tiny silhouettes against a vast landscape—standing on an outcrop overlooking a rocky coastline.
“I think it’s kind of integral to everything,” Thurlow says. “The album artwork was shot in the place Hannah and I spent all of our summers, in the west coast of Ireland. It’s a really turbulent, wild landscape, and spending most of your formative years looking at something like that has an impact in a certain way, and I think it impacted the music. It’s just something we’ve always been in love with, really—wild places and outdoors and exploring.”
The Thurlows seem to favour deep, dark woods and overcast skies, as befits the tone of their songs. In the video for “You’re Early”, the sisters and their bandmates—bassist Joel Porter and drummer Alex Robins—mime their parts in a fog that alternately consumes and reveals them. The haze seems an apt visual counterpart to the song’s plangent gloom. The clip for “Scarlet” shows the four musicians playing in a forest under grey skies as heavy as the clouds of shoegazing guitar that drift through the track.
Critics have tended to note similarities between 2:54 and bands like Curve and Garbage, but the group’s actual formative influences don’t include those particular ’90s acts. In fact, the Thurlows chose their own outfit’s name in homage to a drum fill that happens two minutes and 54 seconds into the Melvins’ song “A History of Bad Men”.
“We’re obsessed with moments in songs,” the singer says. “We find ourselves always like, ‘Have you heard that bit in that particular song?’ It’s more about the moment in that Melvins song. But we’re fans. We grew up listening to the Melvins.”
The siblings also included plenty of Deftones, Metallica, System of a Down, and Slayer in their diets, and they particularly bonded over Queens of the Stone Age and the Distillers. With all that monster riffage stored in their memory banks, can we expect something a little heavier from 2:54 next time around?
“I think it’s too hard to tell,” Thurlow says. “We never have any set plan of what we’re going to do. We just keep it loose. It’s making music; I wouldn’t want to regiment it in any way. And each new song dictates the trajectory of the sound, really. So who knows? We like to keep writing stuff and just see where it takes us. We could have a death-metal album next, you never know.”
2:54 plays the Biltmore Cabaret on Saturday (June 23).