Eoin French, better known as Talos, has a chat with Luke Sharkey about his upcoming album, havens under siege and the quest to make something beyond oneself.
THERE’S a closure in interviewing Eoin French, also known by his alias Talos, for the final issue of this year’s OTwo. Talos was, after all, one of the first bands I ever saw on editor-duty for the paper back in October, for Hard Working Class Heroes. The band was, hands down, the best act of the weekend.
Now that Talos’s debut album, Wild Alee, is due for release on April 21st, I jumped at the chance to sit down and have a conversation with French, writer, singer and musician behind all the project’s recorded material. We began our conversation with how he was feeling so close to the release.
“I’m looking forward to it, to be honest,” he admits, “looking forward to getting back to playing. We’re playing the Button Factory on the 21st and that’s kind of the ‘launch-launch’, and then we’re launching it in Cork [St Luke’s Cathedral] on the 28th.”
Having already listened to the album and looking through the track-listing I noticed a few songs that have featured on previous EPs and some that have been on set-lists since last October. Creating the album must have been a lengthy process? “It’s taken awhile alright; a very long time… These are tracks that I’ve had, I suppose, for at least 18 months. Actually, longer, I suppose, probably 3 years.”
“I just really loved it as a word. It spoke to the idea of opposites, to the idea of a haven that’s being threatened.”
I was interested to hear French’s thoughts on the album title, Wild Alee. “Well, Alee is this word; it’s the side of a ship that’s sheltered from the wind,” he explains. “I just really loved it as a word. It spoke to the idea of opposites, to the idea of a haven that’s being threatened. The idea of a wild Alee, I suppose, is the idea of actually being within a haven or a space that’s kind of sacred but that’s also being tested or tumultuous or damaged at times. It speaks directly into the process.”
“Usually it’s a lot of work toward a moment, the build up to allow myself to be very free and expressive”
It turns out that this idea of a contested space resonates with the music as a whole, including the excruciating writing process. “I think I probably have a lot of pressure on myself,” he admits. “The majority of things aren’t easy. It’s kind of a struggle, it’s tough. Things are constantly being questioned and it’s very hard to get to that point where I feel something is right. Usually it’s a lot of work toward a moment, the build up to allow myself to be very free and expressive.”
There are stark contrasts throughout the album, between French’s intimate vocal deliveries and the reverberated guitar and piano accompaniments. The songs are at once dreamy and then suddenly tumultuous, peaking and then ebbing away to the finality of silence. I had assumed this to be an orchestrated effect, with the end goal constantly in mind during the writing process.
“Not really,” he replies, unexpectedly, “I more prefer when things surprise me. I prefer when something comes out that doesn’t sound like I made it. That’s what it’s about for me. The excitement of making something that kind of feels beyond you.
“For most of this album I worked with a guy called Ross Dolan, who produced it with me. I played the majority of the stuff. 95% of the drums are all programmed, so it’s not a live album per say. It’s very much built in the box. But I think that was the challenge as well, to make it sound organic. Because I do like the idea of a mess, when it falls on top of each other. When it’s kind of rambly a bit.”
“It’s actually a joy in a way. It’s a very different thing. A solitary process which ends in a communal expression.”
The fullness of Talos’s sound is realised in live performance. Performing with a large ensemble allows each part of the studio work to be performed and added to. Is it a strange sensation to go from being the sole writer and musician in the studio to performing with a group live? “It’s actually a joy in a way,” French laughs. “It’s a very different thing. A solitary process which ends in a communal expression. The live stuff is as much the guys’ as it is mine. I don’t like to claim ownership over it. They know and feel that. I suppose the work they put into it reflects that. It’s very much theirs as well. I kind of enjoy being amongst that kind of thing, as opposed to standing in the middle in a spotlight.”
Having had the chance to catch the band live a couple of times, French’s description captures the onstage vibe of the group perfectly. The band seems to play off one another and, not knowing anything about the band beforehand, it would be hard to pinpoint any one frontman or leader. This makes the difference between Talos’s recorded music — the product almost solely of French’s work — to the live band setting all the more astounding.
French’s attention seemed filled with the album’s release when asked about his plans for the future: “we’ll be looking to play a few festivals this summer. I think it’s all there on the table. But we need to release the thing first and go from there. That’s kind of the only thing that’s on the cards, you know?” A fair enough mentality for a musician who’s laboured over an album as long as he has.
Wild Alee is released on April 21st — catch the group launch the album at the Button Factory on the same day.