New Build Talk


When organising an interview with any artist, the last time slot you’ll expect to find them eager to talk in is on a Monday morning. However, the upbeat attitude of Felix Martin and Al Doyle of New Build shows that they are more than happy to work any hours as they’re doing what they love. As I enter the band’s studio on a desolate, dreary morning I’m shocked to find a magnificent wealth of technology hidden away behind large sections of almost entirely unused warehouse spaces.

The pair are already in wait and Al swiftly escorts Jake (fully-equipped with camera) around the building, giving him the grand tour. For a band that have received significant amounts of play on 6Music, as well as being the station’s album of the day earlier this week, they are surprisingly at ease and it seems as though the life of a musician is one that suits them both perfectly. Felix and I instantly begin chatting and, whilst struggling to fight the urge to ask if I may stroke his exquisite moustache, we begin to discuss the band’s recent low-key performance at The Betsey Trotwood.

During the performance, Al had recalled a previous outing at the venue when Hot Chip had taken to the same stage. Though the pair may not have been involved particularly heavily at the early stages of Hot Chip, they are both keen to stress that the were enjoying listening to the music of close friends and, as Al points out, they “happened to be playing a bit of it”. After making music together on and off for a long time, Felix recalls that New Build finally came about when their “friend Tom who was basically living in this studio for a 5 year period also became part of what we were doing because he was just here all the time! He would have started different pieces of electronic music on the computer that Al would come in and add things to, it was a slightly different chemistry of composing music. That felt like the birth of a slightly different project that we gave a different name to.”

New Build is decribed by Felix as a much more “personal” affair than Hot Chip and, though they are keen to acknowledge certain similarities, Al admits that he sees their other project as “very much more Joe and Alexis’s baby”. The songwriting input for Hot Chip does indeed seem to come predominantly from the other half yet there is potential brewing for a track from Felix and Al to end up on the next album – potentially on the way in 2015. Whilst there may still be plenty of goings on with their other outfit, as New Build the pair seem buoyant and see what they’re doing now as a “nice experience”. Despite difficulties settling on a name, Al believes that this moniker fits well as he enjoys the vague architectural association. Felix, on the other hand, appreciates how “English” the name is as it doesn’t seem too American – Al seamlessly slips in a joke about how they’re “slavering nationalists! Patriotic scum”. The comparison, in name only terms as Felix is keen to stress, with Kraftwerk leads to laughter on all parts and the pair make it clear that they know their musical heritage.

There’s a genuine positive vibe bouncing off the duo as we discuss how the first album had been a self-made project, Felix’s brother and father lending a hand for the artwork, and how they’re pleased to have Sunday Best on board with Pour It On as it helps alleviate some of the pressure, allowing them to focus on the musical aspects of the release. Though Al may have some socialist tendencies, Felix believes that “The aim of the music isn’t political, it’s quite a personal thing for me and Al. We just want to have our own audience really. My personal aim wasn’t to go much beyond that. Just to get a real thing that related to a real audience of people who listen to our music and come to our shows.” Such a true, honest approach to music-making helps convey that they are undeniably in the music business due to love, rather than money. 

Whilst all of us are keen to keep the focus on New Build, there are lingering thoughts about Hot Chip and Al states he believes that “if we didn’t have that association I think people would think about this project in a totally different way but it entirely colours everything that you do. It’s a tremendous effort to break away from that and try and be seen”. They’re both clearly proud of what they do with Hot Chip yet Al remains certain that the pair would happily be making music together whatever the situation – Felix adds how that the only novelty surrounding the situation is that both bands are currently active, as opposed to the legions of other artists who keep themselves limited to one project at a time. Once agin, the pair both state how happy they are making music and there’s not even the slightest hint of either being disingenuous. Al acknowledges how New Build may not have been possible if it weren't for past ventures, citing that they'd probably both have "proper jobs" (whatever one of those is…) and wouldn't have the money for all the fabulous equipment. Yet there's a real drive behind the duo and they feel that whatever the situation, music would prevail.

With Pour It On already wrapped up and on the streets, there's some talk of another album already in the offing. The music aspect of New Build seems to come easily to both of them, it's more a case of going through the rigourous release process that's slowing them down. When asked about how they got into this particular style of music, Felix tells me of the eclectic tastes of the duo – taking in everything from parental and sibling influences to the latest electronic music, citing a transition between Bob Dylan and Aphex Twin that didn't strike him as a particularly odd combination. In all fairness, nor should it bother anyone. Music is what's at the heart of New Build, exactly as it should be. Al disagrees with me briefly when I brashly claim that there can't be many kids out there wanting to be the drum programmer – though when I clarify that I believe more young people see themselves as a front man he concedes that "those guys are arseholes". The irony is not lost on anyone.

There's plenty of hope for the future if young people are out there exploring presets and devices as much as these two, Al believes that the only reason kids aren't into this sort of thing is if they haven't experienced it. All of us hope for one of the cool teachers that bring us Kraftwerk and Moogs. It's genuinely nice to hear Al say how "it's not about the equipment" as there are legions of people out there that believe that having the best gear makes the best music, "just because you have the same keyboard and amplifier as someone doesn't mean you're going to make the same music" he adds. Inanimate objects don't make the music. They admit that new toys make them feel like children in some kind of a confectionary shop but that music is all about the people. Drummer Sarah Jones is mentioned on multiple occasions as someone that they've been delighted to work with, as well as live drummer Joy Joseph – who was indeed fantastic at the previous gig. We enter the topic of steel pans, Al regaling us with stories of how he's collected them and picked up how to play one through mere coincidences. He's definitely right when he says that "people get excited when they see one on stage, before anyone even plays it". 

Whilst the infamous 'Tom' who helped bring everything together has become less involved due to a move to Leeds, Felix spins yarns about how interesting the music being made by their compadre and how there's potential for further collaborations – Al picks up that Tom was the writer of the track 'Luminous Freedom' on the new album, an upbeat disco beauty. They both seem glad for his input yet it seems as though long distance has once again played a part in keeping him from being involved further. 

There are dates in the UK and Europe on the horizon, a potential tour of the US is also likely and could see them unite with Al's LCD compatriot Pat Mahoney and his Museum Of Love outfit. Whilst they would generally expect to be doing more, it seems as though splitting time between New Build and Hot Chip means that they might not quite have the luxury of time on their side – both appear more than happy to keep the projects running side by side, it's simply a case of knuckling down and working hard. Before I leave there's just enough time to ask them about their least favourite cartoon characters (the full catalogue of answers is being put together for my end of year offering) and they immediately turn their concerns towards stereotypically racist Tintin characters, fighting the good fight once more. The ducks, both Daffy and Donald, get their quacks (sorry) and the latter is branded "rubbish" by Al. 

What lovely gentlemen.

'Pour It On' is out now. You can see New Build on 28th October in London at Basing House. There's a free download of 'Look In Vain' available here.