Eoin French doesn’t take himself too seriously. As austere, pristine and, well, serious as the palatial art-pop of Talos may be – that doesn’t stop the affable Corkonian punctuating our conversation with repeated disclaimers that he doesn’t mean to sound arsey or, in his parlance, gammy.
With Talos making serious waves off the back of a string of online releases and in advance of a, sure to be huge, debut LP – the plaudits couldn’t be directed towards a nicer bloke. We sat down for a deep dive into how a background in design has colored his fastidious compositions and why, for him, spontaneity is often born of hard graft.
You’re based in Cork, right? How is it as a creative space at the moment? I get the impression that there is a really fertile scene down there but maybe it’s a little underserved in terms of venues.
To be honest, I think you’ve nailed it there, the idea of it being underserved. There’s tonnes of brilliant stuff going on across a lot of mediums, not just music, but we are kind of lacking legitimate space to play. There’s a few good venues – St.Luke’s church has just reopened for gigs and Cypress Avenue is kind of a staple down here. I know there was a couple of performances, mainly theatre, in the National Sculpture Factory over the last year. I think that has the potential to be an amazing venue for one-off, bespoke kind of performances.
Speaking of interesting spaces; You’ve worked in Architecture for sometime…
Well, I actually teach in the university at the moment. I dip in and out of it but for the last two years or so music has been the main thing. I still work with architecture but not directly on the industry side of things. More so bits and bobs…
… Well I was wondering if that background feeds into how you engage with performance spaces?
Oh yeah, a hundred percent. It’s not even about the acoustics or technicalities anything like that, It’s more about what you get from it. We’ve played in some mad places over the last year. We did an amazing show in the Mitchelstown Caves and then about 5 days later went up to Dublin and played in D-light studios. So we went from an actual cave to a 150 year old stone warehouse. As long as a space has something. A spirit or..I know that sounds a bit fuckin’ gammy (laughs)… but it’s that kind of character to a space that brings something special to a performance.
Even the music itself if really inspired by that sort of thing. Though, for me, place as opposed to space has a bigger influence than anything else really. I’m inspired more by expanses than through being hermetic or inward looking. I suppose, in saying that, the process of making music is a very interior thing. That side of it is interesting to me. I’ve been thinking about that a lot because that’s kind of the next question for me…”where do we go from here?” I think that is actually a very interesting conversation – the idea of interiority in pop music.
Your work certainly has a pop quality. Where do you stand on the idea of pop as a dirty word? Or the idea that something can have a mass appeal and still have a genuine artistic heft?
Well, I would consider what I do pop and I don’t see it as a bad word at all. There’s pop and there’s candyfloss. Some of my favorite acts, Kate Bush or Talk Talk, they were essentially pop bands but with, as you said, a heft. For me, I think people buy into honesty and at the end of the day, you can either dip your toe into something or give yourself completely to it. If you’re making something and you’re only dipping your toe into it, it can come across as disingenuous and I think that is very apparent in music. I’m being sincere. What’s in the songs is sincerely how I feel. I try to be completely open and that allows what I make to be kind of impulsive as opposed to premeditated.
That’s interesting because the work comes across as quite considered.
It’s a weird process because it takes such a long time. These songs are slowly hewn and chipped away at, so there is that thing of consideration. But, what ends up getting put out is something that it takes time to arrive at, it takes a while to get to arrive at that point of inspiration that allows me to do something impulsively. I consider all that stuff that doesn’t actually make it to the record to be part of the songs. I like well made things, maybe that’s the design side of me. But, I also like the idea of things be a fucking mess, y’know? That’s what makes something human, things going into it that are a bit…wrong. I think that’s the hardest thing to hold on to. When you find something, an impulse that excites you, the hardest thing is to try and keep the essence of that.
You went to the Cork School of Music quite young, right?
I did. I went for 5 years as a kid.
How did that color your experience of music making? Coming from that sort of background, did it create a big distinction in your mind between playing music and writing it?
Yeah. As a kid I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I do now looking back. I finished quite early and I think that’s more down to how I was being taught piano or even who I was being taught piano by. There was definitely that distinction between playing and writing. As a kid I’d never write music. It was more like “I’ve got to sit down and play the scale of b-minor for half an hour” it was much more of a technical exercise than an expressive one. Whereas now, looking back, you can see that is just a foundation to allow you to be able to express yourself – it’s like learning a language.
I recently went back to piano lessons again for a little while and got kind of obsessed with the structures of melody and, weirdly enough, the mathematics behind them. I know that sounds super dry but stuff like where you start in a scale and the numbers that correspond to that and how these patterns can lead you on to arriving at something impulsive. That kind of rigorous mathematical approach leads me on to making something, again, more impulsive or subconscious. It’s about harmony, not in the sense of music, but in how colors go together or ratios of space go together to make something harmonious. Then the exciting bit is when an element of randomness gets added into that…
I wanted to ask you about the artwork. I saw you characterise it as part of a continuing collaboration with photographer Benjamin Harrdeman. What do you mean by that?
It’s funny, it all happened completely remotely. I still haven’t met the guy in person. We talked online about his work and then how I could kind of edit for my own purposes. That started quite physically, stitching things together and cutting stuff out. It was a totally analog exercise. His photographs are utterly pristine so I wanted to kind of leave a human smudge on them. Corrupt or distort them, add imperfection. Then, the inner sleeve is made up of a collection of my scraps from all the notebooks I kept over the time I was making the album.
The way you talk about unseen, hard work ultimately leading to impulsive inspiration. It’s almost like those notebooks are the embodiment of that…
Yeah, that’s what the inner sleeve holds. It doesn’t have any lyrics that made the album. It’s a collection of songs that will never see the light of day. I think it was important for me to show the process on a personal level. My dad used to always say to me that the real joy in anything was in the process. I suppose, when you make something, the most exciting part is that minute where you figure it out. Before anyone else even knows or hears about it. It’s those moments that keep me making music and as soon as you release it, or even play it for anyone, it’s not really yours anymore. I think that’s why I hold onto the off-cuts, they are the only bits of the process that are still truly mine in a way.
New Talos single “Contra” – out Friday 7th April
Wild Alee is released on April 21st
Words: Danny Wilson