It’s been a somewhat fogged past few years for Neils Children… but now the psychedelic pair are back! With a new album entitled Dimly Lit.
Around the time of their formation in 1999, Neils Children soon became heavily involved with London’s ‘Southend Scene’ which sparked an influence for bands such as The Horrors and These New Puritans. A swift hiatus has acted as an opportunity for the band to asses their strengths and weaknesses… and put out what they believe is their best material yet.
Here’s what happened when we caught up with John and Brandon to find out what’s been happening in the world of Neils Children.
Hi there guys, so Neils Children are bloody back! Has this been on the cards for a while or was it more of a spontaneous thing?
JOHN: It’s funny, cos I’ve been asked this before and in all honesty it was a bit of both. During our break for over three years, I don’t think there was a desire for us to to record again, but after playing the ‘Change/Return/Success’ shows at the start of 2012 with James, I guess it did spark things up a little. The catalyst really was the offer to record a new album… that opened up all sorts of possibilities really.
BRANDON: The idea for us to do something again was always a possibility since we didn’t ever finish NC on bad terms, and myself and John have continued to work together on other projects during our break. I had mentioned it to John a few times in the past, and it was always my intention to get John writing again at some point, because he’s very good at it.
Would you say now is a great time to get stuck into the scene again with bands such as Toy and Temples surfacing?
JOHN: Yeah, I guess so. We’ve always had those psychedelic elements to our sound, dating back to when we formed in 1999. It is, and always has been, a huge influence on our sound so it’s nice to see younger bands channelling the spirit in their own music.
BRANDON: I’m not too aware of the scene in London since moving away my family last year. I’m aware that Toy & Charlie Boyer amongst others are doing really well with this particular style and genre, but as John says, we’ve been playing around with these kinds of sounds since 1999, so it’s not really about timing or what bands are out for us, we still would have made this record and it still would have sounded the way it does. I think John has been listening to a lot more relevant music to the sound, which has given him a direction to aim for.
So many people are excited for the release of the album! What was the recording process like?
JOHN: Well, once we’d agreed to make a new record I demo’d a whole bunch of new songs in the space of a month, which was a strange feeling as they were all pretty good! The demos were sent between me and Brandon and I think we both felt really good about the direction they were heading in.
We then went to Toulouse to record the album, as that’s where our new label are based. Brandon and myself decided to record the music between us, sharing all the instrumental duties. We’ve never really done that before, so it did open up a big feeling of freedom. We had a great time there, and worked with a couple of great engineers, Jean-Mi and Ayumu. The whole sound sounds so vibrant, and really natural, which goes against the grain of a lot of very processed ‘studio’ sounding albums that are coming out at the moment. A big shout out goes to James Aparicio, who took the album and pushed it from being a good record to being an amazing one!
JOHN: I think so… the time out from writing from Neils Children seems to have given us the opportunity to re-evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. The quality of the musicianship on this album is really high, I think in the past sometimes we’ve stayed static and not worked towards our strength. Also, an extra 3-4 years of influences have found their way onto the record. We’re older now, we have different lives, we have different interests. Neither of us wanted to make another shouty, angular, noisy record. That was a big point when we decided to make a record. We didn’t want it to sound anything like that.
BRANDON: Having a fourth member also really changes the dynamic of Neils Children, which we could never have done as a 3-piece.
You’ve just announced four album launch shows… you must be itching to get out and play the new material live?
JOHN: Indeed… the whole project is very exciting. We have a new line-up with a couple of great musicians, who are also great friends. I’m a little nervous about the shows, which isn’t like me, but playing the album live pushes my abilities to the limit, which in istelf is an amazing thing. We’re hoping to play more towards the summer, but we’re not rushing a big tour. We need some time to settle in first.
BRANDON: It’s very exciting, from my point of view, it’s a different style of drumming, the songs are far more advanced and require a lot more concentration other than thrashing out for 25 minutes. And the final presentation of the album live is going to be quite a big thing.
Speaking of new material, the views for the TRUST YOU video are fast piling up! Were you expecting such a big response?
JOHN: Personally, the reactions to the song and the video have been way beyond what I could have imagined. I knew the album was great, but the reactions have confirmed that I’m not being biased!
BRANDON: Never, I thought that we would just gently ease ourselves back into it without too many people noticing, I’m not sure whether to be excited by the reaction, or nervous.
JOHN: I think so, yes. I mean, we had an aesthetic for the record, even if just for the sound. We knew we wanted an open, natural sound. We also wanted to use ‘older’ sounding reverbs such as spring reverb over digital emulations. We also made sure that any thing digital, such as the synths, was re-amped through valve amps and reverb to give them some characteristic. These techniques give the album its feel I think.
I’d say the songs on the album are quite varied, there are quite a lot of slower paced songs which are generally my faves on the album. We didn’t over egg the arrangements, so although there are synths, guitars, drums, bass, percussion etc, they’re almost never all blaring out at the same time. There’s a lot of space in the songs, and I think it has quite a live feel.
BRANDON: I really enjoyed the production side of the record, me and John were very focused in the studio, and worked really hard to make sure it sounded the way we wanted it to. I think the good thing about the record is that it’s not too over the top with it’s vintage style. We didn’t want to make a retro album, and also James Aparicio has done a great job translating that into the final mix, making the album sound contemporary, but still cool
Are you consciously trying to move away from the idea of attaching yourselves to a certain genre or scene?
JOHN: No, not at all. But as musicians and people we have evolved. As I mentioned before, our tastes have developed, and as people we have been through experiences that have altered our lives. I have fond memories of our past career, but at 30 years old I don’t think I could perform that music with a straight face. The past is the past, but the music is there forever. I just don’t want to recreate the past for anyone.
BRANDON: It’s hard for me to say that we are aiming towards a certain genre or scene because we have been together for so long. We’ve seen a lot of bands come and go in that time, who tend to change their style over night to suit what’s popular at the time. For me personally, that isn’t what being a musician is about, and the real decent bands that become a success in their own right, often work from their own ideas to start with.
In the early days of Neils Children you became heavily attached with The Horrors and These New Puritans, what are your thoughts on their latest work?
JOHN: I think the Horrors have developed so much since they started, which seems like so long ago now! Being good friends with them, I always hear bits of work in progress and it’s really interesting how they get to the final product. They have very much a diplomatic writing process, which is unlike ours, and hearing them get their influences into an essentially very contemporary sound is pretty impressive. Above that they’re lovely guys and every album they make gets better and better.
As for The Puritans, I don’t know if I’ve heard Hidden all the way through, but I loved their first album, and they seem like a group who will always release interesting music. They seem to have crossed over into a more arts appreciated crowd, and I think their shows at places like the Barbican was a brave move and a really interesting choice. I can imagine their music making sense in those surroundings.
BRANDON: With The Horrors, I can tell that they have been developing as a band throughout their career, and they always seem to be striving to achieve something new, which is great and what musicians should be doing. They’ve come a long way since Strange House, and I admire their ambition and forward thinking to leave that very early material behind so that they can progress as a band. I’m very glad that These New Puritans also have made a success of their music, I remember the early days, watching them in London play empty venues, before they got signed and got bigger. Thumbs up to both.
I know you’ve briefly touched on it already but what does the summer hold for you guys, are we likely to catch you on the festival circuit?
JOHN: I don’t think we’re going to rush to play festivals this summer, the band needs to develop to a very tight live act before that happens, so there is still a bit more work to be done to achieve that. But I like the idea of playing one-nighters throughout the summer, then maybe doing a string of dates in Europe towards the end of summer. But we shall see.
BRANDON: I would hope that by next summer we should be able to get some good festival slots but for now, we still have a lot of work to do to get to that point. It’s almost too soon for us to be over exposing ourselves. I’d hope for some good support shows, get out to Europe again and keep working on the UK for now.
Thanks for your time guys! Best of luck with the album release.
You can find more updates from the band on their facebook page via the link below…