It was quite the honor to chat with Jez Williams, one-third of British powerhouse Doves. Having been around for almost two decades, it’s hard to believe they’re only on their fourth album, but when the boys like to record, they go to town. Another town, or village, (a converted farmhouse in Cheshire, England, to be exact) hiding away crafting a sound that has claimed and enchanted fans worldwide. With the debut of their latest Kingdom of Rust, much excited momentum has been building up in the UK and trickling over to the US with their single release of the same name, and Doves fans in NYC can sigh a breath of relief knowing they’ll be back this June, mesmerizing us at Terminal 5.
How does it feel to be back on the road again?
Jez: We did a week’s warm-up tour, six dates, and it felt really good after 2.5-3 years being in the studio. If feels really cathartic to get out there and play songs for the people, it just feels really good to be back; like it’s become a reality instead of an abstract kind of idea, especially when you’re holed up in a studio.
How is the album being received?
In the UK it’s incredible. We knew that with the fourth album we had to go down avenues we haven’t gone down before, kind of push it a bit. When recording you become so abstract you never know how it’s going to be perceived. It’s not even out yet, but it’s been incredible. Our album is very much anticipated, and the reception has been heartwarming.
I feel that in England, especially Manchester, Doves have become quite a civic institution along with fellow big names [Badly Drawn Boy, Stone Roses, The Smiths].
People say that, but we don’t feel that because when you’re in the band you don’t see that. People tell me that; especially since we’ve put in enough years. It gets my heart, Manchester, but we don’t really fly the flag for it. But geographically we’re from there! Everytime we finish the album, we go away, hibernate. But people still seem to stick with us, our fanbase.
After four albums you have your sound, and it’s great to hear Kingdom of Rust and say, “this is Doves.” It’s refreshing because it’s a continuation of the sound; it has your trademark. Do you think you have a trademark sound?
It’s a bit strange, I’d actually say we’re one of those bands that swap styles. Of course we’ve got our personalities and the personality of Doves is in the DNA, if you like. We feel like we’re one of those very few bands that can swap and change styles. We made a conscious effort to go down different avenues that Doves haven’t gone down. We’ve got tracks like “Jetstream,” and “Compulsion,” and with that, we feel like we’re treading on new ground. But of course, there’s always going to be a DNA in all those songs. I really think we’ve done something we haven’t done before with this album.
I like your usage of the term DNA to describe it all, interesting choice! As for your live shows, will you have the usual display of imagery and videos in the background? How will that play out?
That seems to work for us, we like that. With the early warm-up shows we scaled the production down. With America we’re not sure what the budget will allow us [laughs]. We’ll see about that! We really enjoy the audio and visual aspect of the gig, the visual aids the audio and vice versa.
One of my favorite gig memories was seeing you in Hammersmith four years ago, and you did “Here It Comes,” accompanied by vintage Northern Soul club night video clips in the background, and it was just so amazing and suited everything so perfectly.
That was Wigan, where it all started! When I say where it all started, in England, but you guys brought it all to us!
It’s interesting looking at Northern Soul in England because it’s thought of so differently here! It’s such an interesting genre and I love that you touch upon that. When you think about America, specifically New York, you have a big fanbase in the city. How do you feel about coming back?
It feels great; who doesn’t love New York?! We can’t wait to play Terminal 5. It’s been such a long time since the band played the States. It’s like a holiday, and you’re stepping out of your normal life, your country. It’s a different experience.
After that, for the summer, do you have any festivals lined up yet?
We just confirmed Glastonbury. They offered us the Second Stage in the late evening, but they also offered us the John Peel tent, which is really cool. So we decided to go for the John Peel even though people said we were mad!
What made you choose that?
People said, “oh, you’re crazy to do that, not enough people will get in, it’s not fair.” We wanted to create a real excitement and word-of–mouth, and to scale it down, play in a tent and get some atmosphere going. Sometimes you have to do what feels right in your gut. You can play for ‘X’ more people but we went the other way and we thought it was right to keep it smaller with word-of-mouth.
Judging from that choice, do you prefer smaller gigs or the big venue/arena atmosphere?
I’m not crazy about arenas. We’ve done a lot of support for big bands, and they’re cool, but there’s nothing like playing a 3,000-4,000 seat gig, or something smaller. It’s quite hard to connect when it’s a stadium.
One more question: any current up-and-coming acts you recommend?
I like Twisted Wheel and The Soft Pack, they’re pretty good. I tell you who I really love, from New York: Vampire Weekend, and Animal Collective.
–Andrea D’Alessandro, Photos by Deirdre 0 Callaghan