Scott Colothan speaks with Jack Snape about record no.2...
Scott Colothan

12:17 2nd June 2010

It's been three long years since To My Boy released the gloriously frenetic electro-pop odyssey 'Messages' but now they're back with their more accomplished follow-up 'The Habitable Zone'. A concept record of sorts, the album sees Jack Snape and Sam White embrace melodies and more traditional instruments all within a typically computerised framework. Gigwise Editor Scott Colothan duly grabbed a quick chat with singer Jack to discuss all...

Gigwise: It's been three years since the release of your debut 'Messages' - what the heck have you been up to?
Jack Snape: “We toured for a few months after we released Messages - then after a while decided to go back to uni and finish our degrees. We did that, then over a couple of months during the summer of 2009 we recorded The Habitable Zone. At the moment, Sam is training as a producer at the BBC and I'm working on a PhD in Magnetic Fusion Energy. We're both very busy!”

G: In my humble opinion, 'The Habitable Zone' is a lot more melodic than 'Messages'. How would you say your sound has evolved?
JS: “When we made Messages, there were obvious electro influences but we also listened to a lot of melodic indie (The Smiths, Belle + Sebastian etc). I'm not sure if that came through so much because it was all so frantic. We wanted to go in a more obviously melodic direction, use slightly more organic sounds and try rhythms with more groove. But still very much computer music.  

G: Lyrically it seems you've moved away from science fiction / futuristic themes to more organic, earth based lyrics – pylons, clouds, the elements etc. Was this a conscious decision?

JS: “I don't want to say it's a 'concept album' because that tends to have dodgy connotations, but the lyrics to the songs are all linked. 'The Habitable Zone' is the name given to the (very small) area around a star that can support life. The lyrics are meant to give you a sense of being on a sphere floating in this narrow region of space (Earth). Despite impending doom lying in every direction, civilisation and the natural world are just about managing to cling on together, for now. We thought that was a good thing to sing songs about.”
G: Where was the album recorded and who did you work with?
JS: “Just at home.. some stuff at friends houses. A friend of mine, Rob Madin (who is also the viral video sensation, Brett Domino) mixed it and recorded the vocals with me. It was even more of a DIY affair than Messages. I think thats the way things should go.”
G: The record is positively playful and joyfully upbeat in parts – 'Antarctica' for example.  What drugs are you on and can I have some?

JS: “We're miserable really.. it's all a front.”
G: The piano is featured on a couple of tracks – not an instrument I'd usually associate with To My Boy. Was it refreshing to use a (more) traditional instrument?
JS: “Yeah.. its been really enjoyable. One of my friends played clarinet on 'Us and The Wind' which I think adds a nice unusual dimension. I'm thinking of doing some work with a Brazilian drumming group soon... then adding a load of synths.”

G: In one sentence, why should Gigwise readers rush out and buy 'The Habitable Zone' now?!

JS: “I'm not sure they should, if they start thinking about how precarious it is living in the habitable zone they might have trouble sleeping.”
G: Have you got any festival and live plans for the rest of the year?
JS: “We'll be announcing a few dates in July but not a massive tour.. We're trying to keep the band going as well as our other stuff so time is quite limited. We'll do our best though.”
G: Despite the brilliance of your music, you haven't achieved the level of commercial success you deserve. Does this bother you?
JS: “Not massively. It would be nice to have a bit more recognition but we both have other stuff that we'd like to do, so it doesn't bother us too much. As long as a few people listen to our music, its worth carrying on.”
G: What's your favourite album of 2010 thus far and why?
JS: “I don't think I've heard a knockout album yet... I am quite keen on 'Oddblood' by Yeasayer though.”
G: Are you still based in Liverpool? From a London perspective, there's not the same buzz about the city musically as there was when To My Boy emerged. What's the music scene there like at the moment?
JS: “Sam is based in London and I'm in York.. which is going to make touring difficult. I'm not sure about the music scene in Liverpool at the moment. I really like Wave Machines though, they're the best thing I've heard from Liverpool for a long time.”

G: What are your long-term ambitions? How many albums do you think you've got left in you?
JS: “I think we'll keep going. I really want to test this model of being in a band and working on something else at the same time. I think the music industry has changed and this might be a new way of sustaining it. The internet makes it possible to promote your music without doing huge tours. Hopefully that will help to make it work.”

'The Habitable Zone' is out now.