The world is shit, so let’s dance. Anybody would be forgiven for thinking this is the message behind an album as relentlessly upbeat as Two Door Cinema Club’s debut, Tourist History. Even when guitarist-vocalist Alex Trimble turns his cherubic, Ben Gibbard–like voice to relatively vexing matters in a number like “Eat That Up, It’s Good for You”—a song that beseeches young women to stop acting like dumb, wasted jocks—the three-piece couches everything in hyperactive rhythms, bubbly guitar leads, and a last-minute blaze of overdriven dream pop that’s as euphoric as it is perpendicular to the song’s subject matter.
Being that Two Door Cinema Club is from Bangor in Northern Ireland, it’s tempting to wonder if the band’s super-buoyant nature is some kind of response to being delivered from a small and somewhat troubled country into a wider world that’s on the brink of any number of calamities.
“We were starting to get noticed around the time that the economy across the world was so terrible, especially in America,” bassist Kevin Baird offers, thoughtfully, calling the Straight from Mexico City, “but it’s more that we were sick, in our old band, of people just standing there. Well, I say ”˜people’—there were, like, three people that bothered coming to our shows, just standing there while we’re giving it our all and rocking out like fucking crazy.”
The “old band” was an emo outfit that eventually lost its drummer and morphed into the indie-rock, electropop crossover machine that is Two Door Cinema Club. The Two Door formula—an even split between Phoenix and Bloc Party but with canned beats and an indelible hookiness all its own—is something the three school friends (guitarist-vocalist Sam Halliday rounds out the lineup) finally hit upon in lieu of getting a university education.
Baird remembers their “frustration with people in our own town who would say, ”˜What are you doing? Don’t be such a waster.’ ” He reckons it loaned another strand to the band’s DNA.
“I guess the upbeat-style thing is kind of like a ”˜fuck you’, actually,” he proposes. “We believed in ourselves. That spurred us on even more. And honestly, we couldn’t have done anything else. The three of us, we’re not the smartest people.”
Some would beg to differ. They’re smart enough to write a song as diabolically catchy as “Something Good Can Work”, with Trimble’s rapid-fire chorus massively upping the ante on a nimble and already compulsively listenable Afrobeat foundation. In general, they’ve got the acumen to make music that manages to be both incredibly busy yet uncluttered, something that really hits the listener when the chorus suddenly collapses into negative space in the gorgeously yearning “This Is the Life”.
They were also clever enough to shake hands with the monstrously cool French label Kitsuné. And it definitely takes some wisdom to acknowledge that the band’s apprenticeship as tour mates to Phoenix last year wasn’t really about exposure, “as much as people like to think it is”, Baird states.
“Being a support band is totally about learning new things and learning how to be a band,” he continues, adding that their up-close and personal view of the French indie-rock giant was an eye opener. “They still like each other, and they still hang out, and they’re so down to earth and passionate about what they do. I think that’s the big thing that we took away from it, was being grounded and not letting success change who you are. We still are what we were when we were 15, which is three best mates writing music together. It’s not about the girls, or the drinking, or making money—you have to apply the ethos that you had when you had none of this.”
And now that they have all of this? Judging by the difference between the videos for “Something Good Can Work” (2009) and “What You Know” (2011), their haircuts have improved, for one thing.
“That’s because we can now afford to have somebody cut our hair,” Baird snorts. “I think the moment when people were singing all the words to our songs in a live set—that was pretty strange. And then when we come over here to Mexico, and we play two sold-out nights in Mexico City, and they know our songs half way across the world. And we do that in Australia, we do that in Indonesia, or Japan, or whatever—it really blows your mind.”
Bearing in mind that Baird and his friends were playing to three unimpressed punters in Bangor less than five years ago, it seems reasonable when he says he still doesn’t quite grasp the giddy heights they now occupy.
“It’s hard,” he pleads, “because everything becomes so relative to each other. It’s like a crazy thing happens every day, and when crazy things happen every day it just becomes normal. It’s such a weird thing going out of a venue, going to your hotel after a show, and there’s people there screaming at you, and that becomes normal—it’s just ridiculous.”
That actually happens?
“Yeah,” Baird answers. “Those kind of classic Beatles moments are the ones that really shock you.”
Sounds like just another hard day’s night. “Tell me about it,” he says.