Latest addition to the Motley Crew, Dylan Murphy, chats with Ed Nash about his daring new venture, Toothless.
Failing to check my email and being stuck for time, my first phone interview for Motley admittedly ended up taking place in somewhat unconventional working conditions: the storeroom of Vikki’s Cafe in Sundays Well. While I hovered over my laptop microphone which was perched on a Darina Allen Cookbook, I was put through to ‘Toothless’ AKA Ed Nash, former bass player of now-defunct indie rock darlings Bombay Bicycle Club. Any previously held nerves were promptly quashed as, despite the 10 second call delay time, Nash was a natural conversationalist, coming across charmingly enthusiastic about his solo endeavours and his change of role in the musical process. “Just to be in control of something yourself, especially coming from a band where there’s four people and I wasn’t the main songwriter by any means. It’s certainly a challenge and I’ve worked on my song writing and I’ve worked on my guitar playing and singing over the last two years.”
‘Toothless’ is a project that has been two years in the making but Nash says it’s probably the most rewarding thing he’s ever done. “It’s incredibly liberating. You know in the back of your mind when you always wanted to do something and you never get round to. I loved every second of [Bombay Bicycle Club] but I couldn’t throw myself into doing anything else.”
Inspired by the likes of Surfjan Stevens, Kurt Vile and Elliot Smith, Toothless’ music has been repeatedly described as having a distinct air of ‘dream folk’. “I’m terrible at putting labels on genres of music but I don’t think [that’s] such a bad way of putting it. At the heart of it, there’s a lot of finger-picked guitar and folky melodies… and I guess regarding the ‘dreamy’ part, there’s a lot of synth, a lot of reverb and more of an electronic element.”
Assembling a band of musicians, including Suren de Saram (drummer of B.B.C.), Toothless had his first headline show in May in London, which he described as an extremely intimidating experience “It was to about 200 people and with Bombay Bicycle Club, we’ve played to about 20,000 people but I was way, way more scared with this.
It was like showing friends and family and the world what I’ve been working on over the last two years, just putting everything out there and laying yourself bare, I found that incredibly nerve-wracking. It was incredibly well-received — unless everyone was lying!”
It became clear that Toothless had been involved in every part of the process including the formulation of the striking videos for ‘Terra’ and ‘The Sirens’ (ft. The Staves). “I’ve been doing all the videos with a good friend of mine, Kit [Monteith]. Me and him have worked on all the single artwork, the logo, the album cover and all the videos. Every couple of months we’ll get together and I’ll tell him about the ideas behind the songs and what I want and we’ll work out what to do.”
Though having released a handful of singles and scheduling a tour of full-band shows, Nash still seems a bit flabbergasted when speaking about the upcoming January release of his first full-length album, which was mixed in California by producer Chris Coady (Beach House, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). “I can’t quite believe it. You know when you start a project, you have loads of ideas and there’s loads of ups and downs and then at the end it’s done and having something physical really makes it feel like it’s a finite thing.”
However, Toothless also mentions that in the midst of the stressful recording process he found salvation in a non-musical audio formats “I listen to a lot of podcasts, a huge amount actually. I found it quite nice while making this record to just tune out and listen to something completely different. There’s one I got really into called Song Exploder which goes into the song writing process, it’s absolutely amazing.”
That said, he still seemed keen to nerd-out about his favourite musical releases of the year. “With music recently, I’ve been listening to that Bon Iver album [22, A Million]. I love it, especially the production. The song writing, I think, was better for the other albums, but this record… there’s nothing that sounds like it, it’s like a journey. The new Nick Cave record [Skeleton Tree]: I’ve been listening to a lot, it’s heart-breaking. The film that went with it [Once More With Feeling] was probably the best film I saw all year. It’s filmed in black and white but it’s 3D.”
Embracing the intimidating challenge of going solo, Toothless has clearly got a busy 2017 ahead of him. “I’ve got a show booked on the 28th of this month in London and I’m going to play the album through, and then I’m going to go on tour and release the album in January and start treating it as my full-time job.”