Two Door Cinema Club’s hit 2010 debut was called Tourist History. The effervescent Northern Ireland trio should have saved that title for the follow-up, Beacon (Glassnote), due September 4. “When we recorded the first album,” says 22-year-old bassist Kevin Baird, “we hadn’t been anywhere. We hadn’t seen anything. We lived at home and made music in our parents’ garage. Then we spent three years traveling the world.”
That shift — from wide-eyed tyros to experienced road dogs — deeply informs Beacon, which finds the band sounding still as rhythmically energetic and melodically bubbly as ever, but, as on first single “Sleep Alone,” on which singer Alex Trimble sighs, “I’ve never been so far from home,” also features the addition of some nicely rueful touches. Baird spoke to us about growing up, and the pressure of following a successful first album, and the band’s being its own worst enemy.
You guys wrote the first album when you were still teenagers. Now your lives are radically different, and that change happened at such a formative time. How did that affect the music that ended up on Beacon?
Being 17, 18 years old, we had a more youthful excitement, a naiveté in some respects about what we were trying to do and why we were in a band. We hadn’t listened to as much as we have now. We hadn’t discovered as many records. So everything was thinking about the future. The new album is more reflective. Or I can put it like this: the first album was a case of us trying to imagine what being in a band would be like. The second album is more, “This is what it’s really like.”
What was some of the new music you discovered that changed the way you guys thought about what you do as a band?
When we started listening to music in a serious way, we were 15 or 17 years old, and that’s the same time that the Internet became so instrumental in discovering new music. Then we ended up on tour in our early 20s. So we were constantly inundated with new music. We weren’t going back and discovering much. We’ve spent a lot of time lately going back and listening to old school Beach Boys and discovering Beatles songs that aren’t “She Loves You.” When we were writing the new album last year, we were getting in the Talking Heads and Kraftwerk. It’s like, we learned that there’s a reason why everyone knows the Who and it’s not CSI.
How did those bands specifically affect Two Door Cinema Club, though?
In terms of songwriting, we watched this Beatles documentary and they were talking about how when they were starting the band, there weren’t chord books and you couldn’t look up guitar tabs online. You had to learn a new chord and show it to your friends. That blew our minds a little bit. It made us try and be a bit more creative about what we were doing. I think we got into a little bit of an easy formula on the first album. There weren’t outrageous chords structures and the structures of the songs were classic pop structures — verse-chorus verse-chorus. On the new album we got a bit more creative.
The first album was successful enough to allow you to tour for a few years. At any point during the making of Beacon, did you feel pressure to have a similarly successful second album?
The only time we felt pressure was before we started properly writing for the new one. I think we all felt a bit worried that we’d get in a room together and plug in our guitars and turn the amps on and then have no idea what to do. It’d be like, “How do you do this again?” But as soon as we started writing songs, things came to us pretty quickly. At least 75 percent of the album was written in October and November of last year and we went in the studio in January. So it was quick.
Given that you toured so long for Tourist History, how hungry are you to get back on the road and play new material?
All of us are really excited to get out there. We’re gonna be in the States at the end of September. We not sick of our old album, we still really love the songs, but this one is more of an impression of where we’re at now. It’s actually really weird: We’ve been doing so many interviews and getting everything ready for the release of the new album, but we’re still the only ones that have heard it. So we’re really, really excited to share it with people.
But since the album is sort of about how it was a struggle to be on the road and be in a band and have your life change so much, is it daunting to be facing another year of touring? Why would it be any less of a struggle this time around?
It’s daunting, yeah. The narrative of the album is about our struggle with the relative amount of success we had, and being away and loving that completely but also having to make sacrifices in our personal lives. Facing that again is a bit scary. But this time around we’re starting off on a much higher platform than before. We’re starting where we left off last time and that was a pretty big place. So it’s exciting at the same time as being scary. But as much as I’m saying to you now that I’m nervous about what’s going to happen, I’m sure I’ll be asking our manager next week why we’re not playing more. We’re our own worst enemies.