Turin Brakes on surviving almost two decades in the music business

Turin Brakes play Leeds and York.
Turin Brakes play Leeds and York.
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They’ve seen a few changes in the music industry since they started 17 years ago, but Turin Brakes are still keeping it fresh. Duncan Seaman reports.

Seventeen years and seven albums into their career, Turin Brakes – playing in Leeds and York next month – are very much doing what comes naturally on their latest record, Lost Property.

Musical fashions might have changed since the group, formed by Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian, two south London musicians who have been friends from childhood, were in the vanguard of the ‘quiet is the new loud’ acoustic movement at the turn of the Millennium but their focus on tuneful, carefully crafted songs has remained a constant since their chart debut with the album The Optimist LP.

“We’ve definitely done a lot of things we thought we might do on albums and I think this album we kind of let happen,” explains Paridjanian. “We weren’t necessarily trying to make a pop record, we were trying to keep things simple. I guess previously if something was sounding a bit too straightforward we would have done all we could to deviate from that whereas this time we’ve accepted that’s the way that music goes sometimes and that’s what we’re just going to produce.”

The music industry has seen seismic changes in the 17 years since, with the advent of downloading and tailing off of sales of physical albums, but the band remain phlegmatic.

“We just take every day as it comes,” Paridjanian says. “We haven’t got any conclusions, which is what makes it a really exciting business to be in because there is no right or wrong and anything could happen at any point.”

What has perhaps helped is that Paridjanian and Knights seem to have always had an eye towards longevity. “A lot of the stuff that we had grown up with or were being influenced by wasn’t empty calorie pop music,” Paridjanian says. “It wasn’t particularly fashionable, it was music that we felt had a lot of wholesomeness to it, stuff that had been around for years and stood the test of time. We’ve tried a lot of things we thought we’d try with music and kind of survived and come out the other end.”

Knights and Paridjanian’s songwriting talents were also sought-after by others. Take That recorded their song Here on their multi-million selling album The Circus; they’ve also worked with Dido. “Quite often we will write songs with people but they won’t get used,” says Paridjanian. “The Take That track was used, the Dido track wasn’t, but we kind of get something out of it even if nothing is actually cut; we always get some kind of experience or we learn something about songwriting or the technology or whatever.”

Writing for others also gives them a sense of freedom. “It’s opened up stuff that we would just say no to before, as in style or taste or even musical directions or simplicity, like I was mentioning about this new record. We would normally not make things quite so simple and think when you write with the idea of someone else it buys this kind of freedom for you, you are not necessarily being the guy from Turin Brakes, which almost allows you to go anywhere which can yield some really interesting results.”

Turin Brakes, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, March 5 and The Duchess, York, March 6. www.turinbrakes.com