Interview: Jody Prewett of Trophy Wife

By on Wednesday, 19th September 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Trophy Wife is gearing up to release some information on their debut album that’s finally coming out…soon, we think. In the intervening time though, I asked singer / bassist Jody Prewett to field my questions about what they’ve been doing since their last release in autumn 2011. He was a true gent, considering all my queries – even the nosy ones – thoughtfully. Read the interview below.

So where do we find you three today?
The three of us are frozen in a permanent state of high alert and readiness.

Your last major release was the ‘Bruxism’ EP, in October 2011. That EP was really unique, in that each of the five tracks were produced by a different producer or co-produced with you. How did that project come about, and how did you secure all these different people to be involved with it?
After we did the two singles with Moshi Moshi we really wanted to explore the extremities of our sound and push ourselves into places we hadn’t been before. We were aware that a lot of people may have had us pigeon-holed as a quintessential indie-dance band after those first releases. The EP was a learning curve and I think we managed to find a certain cohesion despite the disjointed nature of the recording process. We emailed a bunch of producers to see if they were up for getting involved and luckily they were. It enabled us to channel more intense emotions into our music, I think.

Sleeping disorders were the focus of ‘Bruxism’. Even though you didn’t spell out who had what, I felt it was very personal to put forward that these disorders were a part of your lives, to put that into song. What spurred you on to do this, to use it as a plot device for the EP?
It was strange because we didn’t sit down and plot that we wanted there to be this recurring theme through all the songs. When we looked over the words and meanings after completion there seemed to be this common thread concerning sleep and nocturnal states. These things happen subconsciously; it was a time of change for us in various ways and we did have certain anxieties hovering over us which perhaps fed into the music directly.

The ‘Bruxism’ EP felt to me a very natural, yet a rapid evolution from your earlier singles ‘Microlite’ and ‘The Quiet Earth’ / ‘White Horses’. How do you compare those early singles to the EP, and to the new album?
To us it felt like a logical next step although sonically there was a vast difference both in the sounds we used and in our approach to writing. Whereas Microlite and The Quiet Earth happened very quickly, we started taking multiple different routes to the final version of a song this time. There’s definitely more of a polish to those tracks. We’ve tried to take a lot of what we learnt from it and run with it for the album.

Will the new album have such an eclectic mix of producers? Or did you produce it yourselves, or stick with only one producer (such as Ewan Pearson, who produced ‘Sleepwalks’)?
We’ve worked with our live member Andrew Halford who produced (the ‘Bruxism’ track) ‘Seven Waves’ with us. He’s an incredibly attentive man, we spent a lot of time in the early hours of the morning coming up with textures and sounds. The album feels like a singular body, which I think we achieved by going away to write so we could live and breathe it every day.

After the EP, you seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Were you writing songs for the new album all that time? You guys are really mysterious people.
We wanted to disappear somewhere and completely immerse ourselves in the creation of the debut record and we had the opportunity to do it after ‘Bruxism’. The majority of the album was written in the winter of that year. We stayed in a riverside cabin on the banks of the severn; it was pretty cold and damp and the walk back from the studio in the pitch dark was terrifying. It was a bit like one of cabins in Friday 13th. It enabled us to focus entirely on this one thing and let the album happen organically.

The big news last month was that you are finished (putting the finishing touches?) to your debut album. So where are you in the process, really? Can you reveal to us the album title yet? Or what can you reveal about the upcoming release?
We can’t confirm anything yet, we hope to release it in the new year. The album is tantalisingly close to being done and dusted. In the meantime, we’ll be announcing an exciting new release very shortly.

You’ve been releasing video teasers of the new album on your official Tumblr one a week in a collage format. It’s been great to get these teasers but they also make me more anxious about the album and I really want to hear it now! Did you consider the kind of mental torture the collage would have on your fans?
We’re aware that we’ve been off the radar for a bit which is something that happens when you spend any amount of time on writing an album. We weren’t limited by time constraints or deadlines. We figured it was a task worth spending a lot of time on, making sure we’re proud of every moment on the album. It certainly hasn’t been our intention to inflict mental torture.

I have two guesses on what will happen once all the teasers are online: one, the whole thing will “come alive” in a full album trailer, or two, the collage revealed will be the actual album cover. Am I even in the right ballpark? Or please put me out of my misery and tell us!
We’ve got some ideas, but it would spoil the fun if we told you now!

By the way, who came up with the video collage idea? Do you feel this collage format fits with the general feel of the album? And if yes, how?
Ben (Rimmer, their keyboardist) came up with the idea after we talked about gradually leaking bits and pieces from the album. We’ve been off the radar for a while and we wanted to re-integrate ourselves into cyberspace. The images and sounds are all segments of the album, we wanted it to be like a puzzle or treasure hunt that leads you in.

After the thrilling promo video for ‘Microlite’, I am also really eager to see some videos for songs off the new album. Do you have some ideas for videos already in the works?
It’s something we’re actively doing all the time; Kit (Monteith, their drummer) works really hard on the visual side, making short films and taking photographs. Earlier in the year we shot a video in London which took us out of our comfort zone; it turned out to be mentally quite challenging. We’re very excited about showing that to people.

There were some really great acoustic videos filmed by Cock and Bull TV you guys did at Camden Crawl Dublin (‘Canopy Shade’, ‘Microlite’). Did it feel very natural performing those in such a stripped down way, considering how ‘built up’ in complexity all your songs are?
We’ve always enjoyed stripping the songs back into skeletal forms. We did a lot of acoustic sessions during our first headline tour and when we’re sitting around together we often seize the opportunity and film me playing a song in the garden along with the sound of birds and airplanes overhead.

Have you decided when the album will hit record shops? Will it be released through Moshi Moshi, or will this be a Blessing Force release?
We’re still working on the details for the release and hopefully we’ll be able to announce it soon. To say we’re desperate for people to hear it would be the understatement of the century.

Speaking of Blessing Force….we’ve heard it’s a collective that you belong to, along with Foals and other Oxford bands. What can you tell us about being part of it? What are its goals? What have been its early successes? (I’m guessing it has only been around as long as you guys have been around as a band.)
There’s always been this community in Oxford and the scene is very self-contained. It happened very naturally, a group of us had all been in bands and toured a lot so it made sense to pool all of our knowledge and what we’d learnt together. It’s better to work together than alone.

I read in a piece by the Guardian that you used to be part of the band Jonquil, who I saw at a Burning Ear showcase at SXSW this year. What happened when you broke up? The sound of your two bands seems very different.
Indeed. We had some of the best times of our lives when we were a part of Jonquil. We were a six-piece band at the time and the 3 of us decided it was time to try something new which has ultimately worked out better for all of us.

I’ve struggled to find a way to explain your music to other people. What seems very clear to me is that there are so many things going on in a Trophy Wife song: the instruments, the samplers, and vocals seem individually so disparate. But when they are all put together, they come together in a rhythmically complex, compelling way. How do you view the Trophy Wife songwriting process?
At the start we worked within a very narrow space, partly on purpose. It was more about being restrained and minimalist whereas I think it’s become a lot more expansive now without becoming in any way overblown. I think the three of us have very defined roles in the band. I still don’t think we’re ever going to suddenly veer off on a scenic psychedelic freak jazz detour.

It seems like you guys have been together for a while now (at least 2 years?), but we’ve only had snatches of releases. Is there a mother lode of Trophy Wife songs in a lock box somewhere?
Quite recently, we looked at the hard drive and found lots of loose sketches and unfinished ideas. We’re probably more selective nowadays, there’s some ideas that we’ll possibly revisit later on. Either that, or they’ll forever remain hidden.

And when will we get to hear some new songs live?
Some of the songs from the album have been performed already this year and they’ve already become a big part of the live show. I think we feel a lot more comfortable and at ease within ourselves when it comes to playing live, whereas before, there was a lot of adrenalin and nervous tension floating around.

Any last words you’d like to say to your fans?
Never trust a man with shit on his brow.

And with that, we leave you with the latest bit of new Trophy Wife, a visual for ‘High Windows’. A beautiful acoustic version of the song is available for free download from the second page of the band’s Tumblr. We wish Jody, Ben and Kit all the best and hope we get some release dates and even more good stuff from them soon. A massive thanks to Jody for answering my burning questions!

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