I caught up with Stephen Davidson, vocalist and guitarist of Tellison, to discuss the all important topics of illegal album leaks, the difficulties of press exposure and favourite cakes…
Sarah So let’s start with the most important question. I know how Tellison feel about cake, so what’s your favourite?
Stephen (laughs) That’s tricky, chocolate brownies are good, so is rocky road. I think carrot cake is my favourite though, with cream cheese frosting. We all enjoy cooking, there is a Tellison cookbook in the making to add to our merch.
Sarah A lot of your lyrics make literary references, have you always enjoyed literature or is this because of your recently completed studies at uni?
Stephen I have had an interest from quite a young age, I was never very sporty at school, so when I got out of doing PE, they wouldn’t let me just wander around the school, I had to go to the library. Also my Dad was really into literature, so it was drip fed down to me.
Sarah I have heard that you guys like to create cocktails, have you made any lately? And what’s your favourite?
Stephen I do enjoy a White Russian, or a Tequila Sunrise. We recently made one called the Rusty Pirate.
Sarah What’s in that?
Stephen I have never been able to drink it and then been in a fit state to remember what goes in it! It tastes a bit like a Lambada. But its origins are shrouded in mystery!
Sarah You always seem to get the occasional mention in the mainstream press – magazines like Rocksound and Kerrang give you a rave review once in a while and then it all goes quiet. Are you hoping for more exposure in the future now that you all have a bit more time to concentrate on the band?
Stephen The mainstream press is so complicated; there is a definite company agenda and a lot of politics going on. The influence of money and advertising means certain bands can get huge amounts of exposure based on that alone. Magazines and radio are still the big players in the music industry.
Sarah Your new album, The Wages of Fear (check out the review here) was illegally leaked before it was due to released. Do you know who did it, and would you kick their butt?!
Stephen We don’t know who leaked it, but I wouldn’t kick their butt, violence is never the answer! Though I would try and explain to them why it was a bad thing to do. The most frustrating thing was that it was leaked too early and it wasn’t the final version. It was only sent to a few people in the industry – mainly magazines who have to write their reviews under deadline. Now for every ten people who hear it at least one is going to be listening to the wrong record. It’s very frustrating. It was almost a compliment though that people cared enough about hearing it that they wanted it out there.
Sarah Contact! Contact! (Tellison’s debut album) was released as a remix album as well. Do you have plans to do the same for the new album?
Stephen We’re hoping so. We have a remix competition running on our website at the moment for our new single, Edith. We have put all the different parts of the song on there for people to download so they can mix it up how they like. The competition winner will get to have their version as the b-side on the single. I love hearing the remixed versions, it makes it someone else’s song. Sometimes it can be difficult listening to your own songs, you can be very critical about them, but the mixed version is someone else’s song, it’s a hugely positive thing.
Sarah Only 200 copies were made of Contact! Contact! Remixed, but there seems to be a demand to get more made, have you got any plans for that?
Stephen We would like to, if enough demand is there. We’re also hoping to re-release the first album, with two songs that we play live a lot, but that have never been recorded or released.
Sarah ‘Freud Links the Teeth and the Heart’ is one of my favourite songs on the new album, is it based on a true story?
Stephen Well we were on tour when my wisdom teeth were coming through. I had been complaining about it throughout the whole tour. Ben Wood (ex-Tellison, of Encyclopaedia and Darwin Deez fame) told me I had to go to the dentist and sort it out as soon as I got back home. My childhood dentist had left, so I went to see a new one and she was a beautiful woman. The appointment went in a bit of a blur – until they gave me the bill! I was listening to Emmy the Great around that time, who has some very personal but fun lyrics. Also my girlfriend at the time was French, so I drew on all these things. It was never intended to be a Tellison song, I would play it absent mindedly during practice when other things were going on and then the other guys started joining in and it ended up being on the album. It seems to be one of those songs that people either love or hate.
Sarah I love the suppressed giggle you do during that song on the album, was that intentional?
Stephen It happened accidentally during recording and I wanted to do another take, but our record producer wouldn’t let me. He just said ‘no, we’re using that one’.
Sarah All the members of Tellison seem to have very mixed musical tastes, but your songs don’t sound much like the artists that you listen to. Is that intended?
Stephen We do all listen to different things, and when we come together the influences seem to meld into one. I’ll write something and take it to Peter (Phillips, guitar, vocals), who will say, ‘yeah it’s ok, but how about we do this bit like this’. Then we’ll take it to Henry (Danowski, drums) and Andrew (Tickell, bass), and they will do something else to it. It’s so good that we can give each other feedback. It’s exciting to create something that is so much more than yourself, exciting and shocking. We all have good filters and can give each other good feedback, so sometimes songs can end up completely different to how they started. It’s either that, or there has been a time lapse and we are writing music that is influenced by the artists we were listening to about five years ago!
Sarah It’s getting pretty late, what time are you meant to be on stage?
Stephen Oh, in about five, ten minutes.
Sarah Hmm, suppose you better get back then! Thank you so much for that.
Stephen No problem, thank you.
Interview by Sarah Lovegrove.