The Courier spoke with Charlie Romijn singer/guitarist of THOUGHT FORMS , a 3-piece post-rock band based in Bristol signed to Geoff Barrow of PORTISHEAD’S Invada Records ahead of their show at The Cluny next week. It was once acclaimed that their moody sonics channel Sonic Youth on a shoegaze binge! Having supported the likes of Portishead, ESBEN AND THE WITCH and CHELSEA LIGHT MOVING (THURSTON MOORE) across their career, 2017 sees them embark on a headline tour across the UK for their new album Songs About Drowning.
"...their moody sonics channel Sonic Youth on a shoegaze binge!"
You were touring almost relentlessly towards the end of 2016 with 65DAYSOFSTATIC, 25 shows in mainland Europe, in addition to this a string of UK shows too. How did you find the European shows? Which was your favourite gig of the tour, and why?
We always love playing in Europe, it's such an amazing opportunity to experience new places and you get treated so well in comparison with what is the "general standard" of most U.K. shows. I think our favourite gig may have been Lisbon - the day was a complete fuck up, everything that could go wrong went wrong - but when we finally got to the venue and were able to play (on the smallest stage you've ever seen) the crowd was just amazing - they were so up for it and it was a proper sweaty chaotic gig.
The Autumn 2016 tour with 65DAYSOFSTATIC was funded by a successful Pledge Music campaign which coincided with your brand new release Songs about Drowning, you offered album bundles and concept art to fans. What inspired you to use crowdfunding and what opportunities did this open up for you whilst you were in Europe?
We had to use crowdfunding in order to be able to say yes to the tour - what we were getting paid per gig was far less than what it was costing us each day just to be on the tour, not even taking into account paying our sound engineer or you know, eating - there's absolutely no way we could have done it otherwise.
You decided to give fans the opportunity to own some limited edition concept art and hand written lyrics as well as white label test pressings. Can you tell us a little more about your reasons for doing this?
We wanted to be able to offer as many options as possible to our fans - and for the people who were kind enough to support us, we wanted to give them something that genuinely had a lot of effort, thought and creativity put into it.
Do you as artists and also consumers value the tangibility and different mediums of the artists’ product in the generation of the digital age? Is this something you have enjoyed as consumers?
Definitely. I think it's more important than ever to value and support.
We look forward to your show at the Cluny which is in the Ouseburn Valley area of the town, you played at NUSU in the autumn also, are you visiting anywhere else new on this UK tour?
We're very much looking forward to playing in Newcastle on this tour, it will be our first time playing a headline show there rather than supporting - we have played there with both MARMOZETS and 65DAYSOFSTATIC previously.
This tour has taken us to Colchester and Guildford which are two places we'd never played before, we're also looking forward to our only day off in Whitby!
What has been the highlight so far?
Unsurprisingly, our hometown show in Bristol was a massive highlight of the southern leg, lots of friends and family came out to support us and it was at one of our favourite venues, The Exchange!
And now onto your new album! Most noticeably on the new release Songs About Drowning it is a far more sparse yet melancholic record with a variety of instrumentation. However the vocals are more exposed and the lyrics and the imagery they try to evoke are much more refined. How would you describe the new album, and how does it differ from your previous work?
It's definitely consciously much more spacious than our previous work, and there are many more lyrics (although this wasn't intentional, just necessary.)
Whereas our previous albums were much more borne of improvisation and the songs evolved over long periods of time, this is much more constructed and full of intent and raw emotion.
Jim Barr (Portishead bassist) had already worked with you on Ghost Mountain (2012), you toured that record for several years, however this time around you decided on a different collaborative approach with Jim in his Bristol studio, not only that but he will now be joining you now as a fourth member on tour also?
We're very pleased that Jim is joining us on tour, we've obviously played gigs with him before but it's great to be taking this lineup out on the road. We were lucky to have Mardt from Bristol band VENA CAVA filling in on the tours last autumn.
How do your tastes and ideas differ from one another and how does this influence your writing process?
We all like a variety of different stuff with quite a lot of overlaps... I think it really helps to have different tastes and influences with a common ground, it makes things much more interesting and challenging to bring in different perspectives on what we want to achieve sonically.
THOUGHT FORMS are part of the Invada Records roster which began as a Bristol based label to accommodate psych rock , shoe gaze and post rock releases however it has broadened its focus to now release film scores such as for Drive and also Stranger Things to name a few! How has the role of your label for you changed over time?
We're so lucky to have worked with Invada for all these years. We started working with them ten years ago, which makes us their longest-serving band and we're really proud of that... we've seen the label really evolve over time and they're constantly putting out great stuff. They've always been really supportive of us, they're our family.
THOUGHT FORMS took some time out before pursuing the writing of this new record? Were you able to take a step back or express different creativity through any other projects you are involved with? What were the main things that you learned from your time away from touring?
We didn't really take any time out from thought forms, just from playing live! We found ourselves so busy with gigging that we hadn't had a chance to get into the studio and record anything new so we decided to concentrate on writing and recording and then hacking things away and really refining it to the point where we ended up with Songs About Drowning.
Which artists have left a lasting impression on you as live performers, perhaps collectively or individually?
We toured a lot with PORTISHEAD and seeing them play so many times definitely left a lasting impression... from the early morning set up to the 3am finishes, the attention to detail, energy and dedication poured into giving the show they wanted to deliver was really inspiring.
What feeling do you attempt to leave for the audience in a THOUGHT FORMS show?
All we can hope is that people can in some way tune into what we are feeling when we play together.
In relation to your evolving tastes , since the main inception of the band with Guy joining you in 2006, you had already shared similar interests in avant garde post-rock acts such as GOD SPEED and MOGWAI as well as films and soundtracks, although this is evident mainly from your earliest record (2009). But collectively and personally what were the main goals and values for the band when it began and do they remain the same to this day?
The band started in our drummer’s bedroom in Melksham, Wiltshire and we did it because the feeling of playing together was the best thing we'd ever experienced, and it's still that... we just wanted to create that positive energy through playing together, getting to travel around together sharing that with other people remains our main goal.
Finally what are your plans for the remainder of 2017?
We have some festival dates and foreign gigs in the pipeline for later this year, we're also going to be getting straight back into writing and recording when we return from this tour.