IDLES have returned with new single ‘Dancer’ featuring James Murphy and Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem, as well as revealing details of fifth album ‘TANGK’. Check it out below, along with our interview with frontman Joe Talbot.
The news comes after the band played a raucous secret show at London’s Village Underground last night (Tuesday October 17), where they performed under the name ‘TANGK’ to a mosh-ready sold out crowd and previewed new songs ‘Gratitude’ and ‘Dancer’ in a career-spanning set.
Due for release on February 16 via Partisan Records, the 11-track ‘TANGK’ was produced by Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, The Smile, Beck), Kenny Beats (Denzel Curry, Vince Staples, Benee) and IDLES guitarist Mark Bowen. It also comes previewed by the scuzzy and physical lead single ‘Dancer’ – featuring backing vocals from LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy and multi-instrumentalist Nancy Whang, following the two bands playing a number of dates together in the US earlier this year.
Speaking to NME, Talbot explained how he approached Murphy and Whang to provide the vocals after an earlier version of the song featuring Bowen guitarist Lee Kiernan “couldn’t really cut it”.
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” said Talbot. “By that point we’d been touring with them for a few weeks and knew they were lovely human beings. They took time out of their day off and took us to their studio. They were really accommodating and lovely, so hard-working, patient and awesome. They’re sick.”
Speaking of IDLES’ connection with LCD, Talbot said: “With all the members, I grew to get to know quite a few of them. Their history as individual musicians and what they’re about is just beautiful. They’re just all about what I want – which is to make people feel connected to the universe and make them feel like they’re of something much bigger than themselves.
“Their humility was very humbling. They’ve achieved a lot, they’re very wise, but they’re there to learn. Their lack of ego comes through with a willingness to learn from everyone around them – including their crew who love them dearly. It was just a very lovely experience, and I learned a lot from James, Nancy, Pat [Mahoney, drums] and everyone in the band; about being a musician and a person. I couldn’t speak more highly of them.”
With ‘Dancer’s self-explanatory lyrics about movement and connection to the band’s fans, Talbot said that it was representative of the spirit of the eclectic and expansive ‘TANGK’.
“When I started this album, I said to Bowen: ‘I want to make people dance, I want people to feel the love that I need in my life, I want to make people move, I want our music to be infectious again – and I want it to be infectious in a way that makes people feel, not think. I want to feel part of something electric again’,” Talbot told NME.
“I wanted to elaborate and transgress from 2021’s ‘CRAWLER’, which was the start of something new for us. When something feels as electric as ‘CRAWLER’ did, I just wanted to continue it and to evoke a sense of purpose with what we are as musicians.”
NME caught up with Talbot to discuss positivity, pushing things forward
Hello Joe. Speaking to NME around the time of ‘CRAWLER’, you explained how the band were looking to reclaim the “essence” of IDLES and shed some of the anger and negativity of ‘Ultra Mono‘. Where are you at on ‘TANGK’?
Talbot: “Our experience as musicians, and mine and Bowen’s as fathers, meant that our writing took a very natural course – which was to suck up all of the gratitude that we got through being carried through that pandemic. It was a very beautiful time for me. I got to spend a lot of time with my daughter, I got to spend a lot of time with my learning, and I learned to be a better songwriter. I challenged myself. I had the breadth, the space and grace to do it, so I’m very grateful for that.
“As a pragmatist, Bowen not so much (but he is a hard worker), I wanted to manifest my attitude into something. What that meant was to look at our journey from ‘Ultra Mono’ through to ‘CRAWLER’, which was a learning experience. We were given the space to shed our skin again. Not through fault or because we fucked up, but because we purposefully wanted to end that chapter brilliantly – and we did – and then to start a new chapter with a patient and open audience. The result of that is our new record, which is the best we’ve done because it’s the best we are.”
In what way?
“It’s our most vivid and our most accomplished songwriting. We’ve finished songs. A couple of songs on ‘CRAWLER’ were very much unfinished. That wasn’t through some sort of fear, but through a sense of poise. We were like, ‘This is going somewhere, but let’s not force it’. It was unfinished in the sense that it didn’t have a narrative arc and the musical lingo that we want, but what we did have were songs and parts that we fucking loved. Now we have that under our belt and we’re able to create that arc and finish songs off. We feel like we can move on, full stop.”
There’s a song on the new album called ‘POP POP POP’, which is almost trip-hop. Do you feel like you can do anything now?
“Yes and no. I felt like I could do anything when I did [2016 single] ‘Well Done’. I was working as a KP in a kitchen, listening to a bunch of Risky Roadz stuff and loads of grime. I thought it was so electric and wanted to make my own version of it. I’m not gonna fucking pretend to be a roadman, but I was infatuated by that movement and made ‘Well Done’ from it. Just from the cadence of lyrics, nothing else; musically it doesn’t sound like grime.
“After that point I thought, ‘Yeah, you can play with stuff and if you’re honest and love something enough and you put it on record, then people will see that love. Whether they like it or not is not your fucking problem. I went away from that realising that if I want to make a glam rock song then I’m going to make a glam rock song. If I want to make a hip-hop record or a noise track then I’m going to do it. The gatekeepers are going to be the ones losing sleep – I’m already in the gates. We built the Trojan Horse 12 years ago.”
What did Nigel Godrich and Kenny Beats bring to the album this time around?
“Brilliance. They brought brilliance and allowed us to be brilliant. A good producer, in my small experience and humble opinion, is someone who makes the artist shine and allows them to flourish in their own language. To give them the tools and the skills of the tools to expand and transgress into the next chapter of their lives.
“You can never be bigger or better. You can only be something that you are at that point. If you question yourself or are distracted by a technique or the process, or fear of judgment from your audience, then you need someone like Kenny Beats or Nigel Godrich to bring you back down to help you see where you are at that point.”
Do they just ‘get’ where you’re at like others don’t?
“There’s a palette there from the start. We try to explain it to people, to producers and engineers, to make that palette and purpose happen, but you need someone who can orchestrate all those egos, visions, experiences and traumas into something tangible. Between Kenny, Nigel and Bowen, that happened beautifully. I was in a very bad place when we were making this album and it almost didn’t happen. We got in the room and suddenly the purpose was there. We set everything up, and everything crystallised. The album became like a fucking freight train. I wouldn’t have been able to sing what I did without them.”
Are there any songs in particular on the record that capture that transformative and transgressive spirit?
“Idea 01’ and ‘POP POP POP’ – because of restraint. I’ve been doing some of these things for 12 years, but not with poise or composure. It’s that fable I’ve mentioned before; that idea of the sun and the wind. I’ve been the wind. I thought I was the sun all the time, but I was the wind.
“I’ve been really trying to embody all the things that I love – but you can’t be Sam Cooke unless you have composure. He went through way more strife than I ever have, and he carried that trauma, that love and whatever it is in soul music that’s so beautiful, with composure. I’ve always known that I could sing to some degree. I just needed someone to help me come at it with some restraint and some inner peace. Most of the songs on this album are transgressive, songwriting-wise. I’ve learned way more from each song on this album than I have since ‘Brutalism’ or ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’.”
How do you feel about your connection to IDLES’ cult of fans at this stage of your career?
“They’re the thing that makes us. That cliché doesn’t old. We’re here because of them, but we knew that from the start. We built our career with our audience, and that is a fact. When you start from a place of playing to five people and you practise gratitude with the extra five people to make 10, then you soon get in a cycle of gratitude.
“Audiences are the reason that music and live music is so magic – it’s the exchange that we have. That’s something I’ve always said from day one. I started the band to feel like something bigger than myself and to be carried by like-minded, open-hearted people that would get me out of the awful fucking trauma that I was in, around and making at that time.
“I wasn’t just a victim – I was a prick. The people around me really carried me and help me come out of that, and I’m really grateful for that. The audience were the same; they were a patient and vivid part of our career. It’s just grown. It’s bigger, more powerful and the reason we’re chatting now.”
How are you feeling now?
“Grateful. I feel very lucky to be here. As we speak, I’m an hour away from picking my daughter up from school, and I want nothing more from life than what I have right now. Maybe a sense of peace and such, but that comes with time and practice.”
Anything to add?
“Fuck the king. ”
IDLES release ‘TANGK’ on February 16. Pre-order it here and check out the tracklist below.
1. ‘IDEA 01’
2. ‘Gift Horse’
3. ‘POP POP POP’
5. ‘A Gospel’
8. ‘Hall & Oates’
The band’s upcoming tour dates are below. Visit here for tickets.
27 – Istanbul, Zorlu PSM
1 – Hong Kong,Clockenflap
2 – Bangkok, Maho Rasop Festival
29 – Porto, Super Bock Arena
1 – Madrid, Wizinik
2 – Barcelona, Sant Jordi Club
5 – Milan, Alcatraz
7 – Paris, Zenith
8 – Amsterdam, NL @ AFAS
9 – Antwerp, Lotto Arena
11 – Prague, SaSaZu
12 – Luxembourg, Rockhal
14 – Zurich, Halle 622
15 – Berlin – Max-Schmeling-Halle
16 – Hamburg, Sporthalle
18 – Stockholm, Munchen Brewery
19 – Copenhagen, KB Hallen
21 – Cologne, Palladium
22 – Munich, Zenith
23 – Frankfurt, Jahrhunderthalle
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