Thought Forms (Charlie Romijn (guitar / vocals), Deej Dhariwal (guitars / vocals), Guy Metcalfe (drums) are to celebrate the ten year anniversary of their classic self-titled debut album this May with a reissued version plus a handful of gigs. “We were anxious and excited” they tell Louder Than War. Simon Tucker writes.
Thought Forms hold a special place for us here at Louder Than War. We have been covering the band since their early days with their acclaimed second album “Ghost Mountain” being this writers first ever album review for the site. Over the years the band have developed and evolved their sound with each release throwing up interesting swerves and exciting new avenues of adventurous exploration. The band are also a fierce live unit with the members, which includes newest recruit in the shape of famed bassist Jim Barr (Portishead / Get The Blessing), seemingly free of any restraints always brave enough to hold the silences as long as they feel the moment requires whilst also delivering righteous slabs of noise when the mood takes them.
This coming May sees this most progressive and forward-looking of bands take a rare moment to breathe and reflect on their early days and in particular their classic debut album. For a young band to be entering such a famed studio it must have been quite daunting. Not so much say the band:
Guy: I was 14 when I recorded the album and it was my first experience in a recording studio, so I remember feeling quite anxious and excited. Just stepping into the control room in the studio put a really big grin on my face. It felt really liberating and legitimate that we were finally going to record our stuff and that someone wanted to release our music!
Charlie: It was really great. We were very excited to be working with Invada and recording somewhere that so many people whose work we really respected had made music. We were very lucky and it was a big adventure.
Deej: I remember it being exciting and nervous at the same time. The studio was SOA (State of Art) and a lot of great albums have been made there so it was cool to be recording that place.
Listening back to ‘Thought Forms’ now its is apparent that there is no sign of the bands young years. It is a record brimming with enthusiasm, desire and a courage in their convictions. It is grand in desire and scope so I wondered how the record came into being. Was it mostly written beforehand or was there a lot experimentation in the studio?
Deej: We were well rehearsed with the songs and we also recorded a demo of a couple tracks so it was great to get a proper go at recording it the way we wanted. We also wanted to use our time to experiment and that’s how we came up with Sonny, Maggie, and Don’t Stab the Bag.
Charlie: We’d been gigging those songs for a few years before we got into the studio! we met at school, we were very young… and lucky in that no one was rushing us… I think these days there’s so much pressure put on new bands to be doing everything super fast whereas we were just having fun and playing for the love of it, for ourselves. That allowed us to develop before we ever got to the studio, ever got anything out into the world.
We recorded a demo of some of the songs that appear on the album with our first drummer and then when Guy joined when he was thirteen we had a new beginning and refined the tracks with him.
Guy: Most of the material had already been written and developed beforehand. We did have time to experiment in the studio as well. I got quite excited about using forks (on cymbals) in the recording and was really happy we used it in the end.
When it comes to debut albums, most bands are either rushed by the label to get in, get it recorded, and then get out as a way of striking while the irons hot or are pressurised into just recreating their live set verbatim. This wasn’t the case for Thought Forms.
Charlie: The album was done in long phases… we’d record for a week and then it would be months before we could get back in the studio to mix, and again before we could master it… I think we started it in 2007 and it came out in 2009! we don’t like to rush things. it gave us time to gig a lot that’s for sure…
Guy: Some of the songs had already been established before I joined the band, so overall I think it was gradually written over 3 years! We wrote a lot of songs through playing live improv and slowly developed their sound which felt really natural for us.
Deej: The process took longer than I thought but the studio was very busy and always booked up. It was nice though to have the freedom to listen and focus on what we could improve in that time.
Upon its release ‘Thought Forms’ was hailed by many in the music press. I wondered what the band remembered about the reaction to the record and how that felt.
Guy: We had some great reviews in NME, Kerrang and Rocksound which I was over the moon with, as I read a lot of those magazines growing up.
Deej: I felt the reaction was pretty positive. We had some lovely reviews from magazines that I loved when I was younger and our friends kept saying nice things when it came it out. I still have a load of cut outs in my folder that I keep as a souvenir.
Charlie: I think the reaction was great – from the audiences right from the start as well as from the press when it came to the release, it was really exciting to have such brilliant reviews in magazines that I’d loved reading when I was very young. It certainly laid the foundation for everything we’ve built since and led us into some amazing opportunities. It had a very positive energy.
Looking back at a bands debut can be a revealing experience. It can fully highlight how a band has either stuck to a formula or allowed themselves to develop and shape-shift. In regards to Thought Forms it is definitely a case of the latter so looking back those early days, do the band still recognise their sound as is there anything from that period that they still hold on to?
Charlie: It’s the connection. when we first met we realised that we had that special connection with one another that a lot of people can spend forever looking for in bandmates… our sound has developed and expanded, but the way we interact musically, intuitively and instinctively, remains very much the same and that’s really where the joy is in playing in Thought Forms lies for me.
Deej: I remember that time we wanted to lose ourselves in the music and it was great just joining each song with improvised soundscapes which we still do now though some audience members from bigger shows thought that was rude of us. (We did say thanks at the end of the set even though it was drowned out by noise) We also still play “We Would Be So Happy…” occasionally as it’s a really fun song that always fits well in any set we plan.
Guy: Because I joined the band at a young age, I was going through a lot of changes musically and I think you can hear the adolescence in my playing. There are things I play on the album which I cringe over a little bit, but that’s because I’ve matured musically, so I play quite differently from how I used to.
For a band so forward looking it must be an odd sensation for Thought Forms to look backwards especially as to support the reissue the band are also performing a few gigs where the band will be performing the debut album in its entirety followed by a separate set spanning their other two LPs (dates below). Revisiting old material can throw up a few surprises for a band so how has the allowance for nostalgia and the preparation for the gigs felt for the trio?
Deej: I normally don’t look back, when an album is done I tend to think its time to plan what the next step is going to be… Though it has be fun listening back recently. When I hear tracks they remind where, when, and why they were created. We have been racking our brains on how to play some certain songs as it has been ages since we played them. The mind is an amazing organ and I’ve surprised myself when we had a jam of how much I can eventually drag back out from the depth of all these years. It definitely has been fun to bring the songs life.
Guy: It reminds me of a really nice time in my life when I first started gigging and meeting lots amazing people. It’s definitely reignited my love for this album and I can’t wait to play it live again! Listening back to the album has made me rethink my playing in the songs. I’ve simplified my drum parts and I’m trying make it sound more powerful and dynamic. Also, now we have bass guitar in the band, that’s going to open a lot more doors sonically, so I’m looking forward to how Jim will work his magic into the old songs.
Charlie: It’s been interesting to look back on that whole time and relive some of the emotions and kind of realise how everything that happened then has informed our lives now…
I’m surprised at the fact that I can remember how to play certain songs that we haven’t played live in many years. I’m excited about playing them now, after everything that’s come since, and seeing where that takes us… we were a three piece for years and now we have Jim Barr on bass and I’m really looking forward to working out how we’re going to incorporate our new lineup into those early songs and the new life it will give to them that I didn’t expect.
It has been a busy couple of years for the members of Thought Forms since their 2016 album ‘Songs About Drowning’ so what have they been up to and what comes after the ten year celebrations?
Charlie: We’re always working on new material, separately or together, though as I mentioned earlier we aren’t ones to rush a release! Songs About Drowning was such an important album for me, I have needed this pause before launching into the next TF album. Palate cleansing. I adore working in the studio and coming up with ideas that piece together the whole… and as our sound has changed and I’ve been singing more and more, its the part of the process where I feel most free to experiment now as I’m not stuck to the microphone! So yes, we’re working on new things… They will emerge when they are ready but now that we are, it won’t be long!
Guy: We’ve been slowly writing over last year and we’ve been doing a lot of solo stuff for ourselves so it’ll be interesting how those projects bleed into the new TF material.
Deej: We have spent the time after “Songs about Drowning” exploring new areas and researching ideas with other projects. I feel its important to explore as an artist and be ready to make something when things feel right rather than just throwing out the same thing over again in quick succession. I’ll be disappointed with myself if we didn’t have some new either made or in the works this year as I feel hunger for more TF exploration…
Thought Forms will be performing three special shows to celebrate the ten year anniversary of their debut album. These are:
May 3rd: Sebright Arms, London (tickets)
May 4th: The Crofter’s Rights, Bristol (tickets)
June 8th: Woolf Music Festival, Wiltshire (tickets)
‘Thought Forms’ will be released via Invada Records this May.