By Andy

Their shit-the-bed brilliant sophomore record ‘The Wages of Fear’ is almost out and it’s been a hell of a long time since we’ve heard much from the collective mouth of TELLISON. Cue an interview with one of the UK’s nicest bunch of music-making gentlemen:

Hi guys. First of all. It’s been FOUR YEARS since ‘Contact! Contact! came out. What the hell have Tellison been doing since then?

Peter Phillips (guitar/vocals): It’s a long time to think back! After the show at King’s College in 2009, we were pretty sure we were going to go and record the album and then no one came forth to put it out. We thought, “OK maybe we can’t necessarily do that right now, but we’ll make a start”.

Stephen Davidson (guitar/vocals): No one appeared on a white charger to help us. We got new management and agent and stuff and then about a month later some of those people realised they couldn’t commit in the same way and the whole thing sort of crumbled. We were sitting there ready to go and the machinery behind the scenes – the other people you need to help you be a band – fell apart.

If you want a job done you’ve got to do it yourself, eh?

SD: Totally, and that was the ethic we took.

PP: We went and got jobs – well, more jobs – and saved up some money.

SD: We went and demoed with various producers and ended up with Pete Miles. We did a couple of songs with him and thought “this is our guy”. Having done all that ourselves, a lot of other people decided they could help us! It moved on from there. We had a massive two year stumbling block in the middle really and that coincided with people leaving university and having to pay rent and get jobs and being able to afford to practise and so on…

So have you been sitting on the record since then?

SD: No, we’ve written the record a few times with totally different songs that got cast aside. We’ve been playing shows this whole time and done a few tours and the odd festival slot. We were still meeting up and practising new songs but these songs started to come together in the last two years, 18 months. We went into the studio last June to begin and had a fairly protractile recording experience like the first time.

When we last spoke to you guys back in 2009, I remember you saying that you were all ‘quietly proud’ of the fact that Tellison had always been a part-time band. Is that still very much the case?

SD: We are sort of full-speed-ahead now, but we can’t exist full time as a band – there’s no money in it! We all have to work. I’ll be in the cinema cleaning the screen and checking my phone and sending off emails and stuff. It’s all about multitasking! It’s satisfying when it pays off but it’s frustrating sometimes to not be able to concentrate on the thing you want to do and have to pay the bills as well.

What are the Tellison day jobs then? What funds the Tellison machine?

SD: Pete and I work in a cinema, Pete’s my boss!

PP: Yep!

SD: He rides me hard. Andy’s doing sound at a venue on and off and he works in the Apple Store behind the scenes. Hank just plays the drums for other bands.

So what are ‘The Wages Of Fear’?

SD: It’s the name of a French film – it’s an awesome movie, well worth a watch. I saw it at quite a climactic point in my life trying to work out how to be in a band and do other stuff and so on. I think I just wrote the name down on a piece of paper and found it when we were thinking about titles and just thought it was quite nice. You can also hang off a lot of the ideas about what’s been going on in our band. It can mean lots of things. For me, personally it comes back to that idea of doing a job where you feel like you’re wasting your time earning money to do something else. That money you earn is a negative profit because it’s just a reminded that you’re trapped doing stuff you don’t really care about. When I was writing a lot of the album I was selling mobile phones to people. It was really bad, I just hated it. Loads of people our age do that, I suppose it’s natural to be in that situation.

Do you worry that after all this time people might have forgotten about Tellison?

SD: Completely! I’ve been shitting myself.

PP: For me the title pretty much sums that up. You put a lot of time and effort and I guess a lot of yourself into making an album. There’s always the possibility that no one will dig it at all. We’re quite lucky that we have a handful of people that have followed us for a really long time. To an extent, if we put out a bad record, they may well still come to the show.

SD: You’re in denial! While we were making it I was quite scared. There’s something quite empowering about having a label tell you you’re good enough to make something, whereas we were doing it off our own initiative. You just don’t know. I still feel like I don’t know if it’s OK or not!

Now ‘Contact! Contact!’ was famously recorded in characteristically fractured fashion – in locations 400 miles apart, with two different producers, over a period of six months. Did you take a much more straightforward approach this time around?

PP: That was the plan…

SD: We tried to…

Henry Danowski (drums): We really tried to …

SD: It ended up being the same, really. We started in my parents’ house in the Scottish Borders where we went and made some noise, which they weren’t that happy about! We did 2 or 3 weeks there and then we had to go back to our jobs. We met up in Henry’s basement later on the weekends, Pete would drive up from Devon, we would come down from Cambridge and everyone would meet up in this basement in Hammersmith and record vocals and percussion-y bits. I dig that though. You get a Longview on it, which you don’t get when you’re just in a studio for 3 weeks. You have no sense of what’s right when you do it that way.

PP: I don’t know if we could do it any other way. I found it really useful to have the month in between the initial recording bit where we could just go away and listen to everything. You’re not trapped in by a deadline either, because there wasn’t one!

Now you put it up for streaming a week or so back in response to someone leaking the record online. Tell me your mindset as that series of events unfolded. How quick were you to put the plan into action?

SD: I remember I was in the cinema at work and we got the first review. I was emotionally freaking out – Pete had to sit down to read it! After that – we have no idea where it came from still – but I just saw it on Twitter suddenly. There were quite a few people and websites saying “download this record!”

PP: It’s weird because it took ‘Contact! Contact!’ 2 years to get onto torrents.

SD: We felt like we’d achieved something!

HD: The annoying thing was that it wasn’t the final mix. Inevitably you know it’s going to get leaked, but it’s just frustrating when it’s not the actual finished product.

SD: It’s irritating to have that control taken away from you. You can only put a record out once and to do that with this weird alternate version that’s always going to exist now. After spending two years gearing up to it, it’s frustrating.

HD: Next time I think we’ve just got to get it done a lot quicker. Those things happen so fast now, you just can’t keep anything under wraps.

SD: Or we’ll do a Radiohead around and just surprise everyone!

You can stream ‘The Wages Of Fear’ over on Tellison‘s Facebook Page. The record sees its proper release on June 13th through Naim Edge Records.

Read our review of the record right here:

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