If you’ve ever heard Rough Trade post-punk volume one you’ll love South London based band Talk Show. Incorporating the post-punk sounds of Joy Division mixed with the canorous tones of The Cure; fused with lyrical nods to Eco and the Bunnymen and a touch of '60s surf rock guitar noise for good measure.
Their new record Trouble sees the four-piece band team up with legendary house producer Eli Brown; which on paper may not have been the obvious pairing but in our ears it is. Talk Show frontman Harrison Swann’s brooding Mancunian vengeful vocals over Brown’s forceable beats makes for the ultimate clash in cultures. Giving us major '90s Hacienda vibes that Tony Wilson himself would be dead proud of.
With a UK tour scheduled for October, festival dates and more exciting material on the way, 2021 is set to be an immensely busy year for Talk Show. We sat down with the band to discuss their thrasher of a new single, their experiences collaborating with an artist from a different genre and northern vs southern banter.
Charlotte Rosie-Creighton: Hiya, how are you guys doing today?
Talk Show: Hello, hello, we’re good, thank you.
CRC: Where are you guys all from?
Harrison Swann: I’m from Manchester but we’re based in South London.
Chloë MacGregor: Devon.
George Sullivan: Chichester.
Thomas Holmes: Essex.
CRC: How would you describe TALK SHOW to me in one sentence?
HS: I’d probably describe us as a pretty spirited and direct guitar band.
CRC: You recently did a collab with Eli Brown, how was that?
GS: Yeah it was really cool [laughs], Harrison did some writing with him over the summer and then it went really well; he was very happy with the tracks so he made his version of Trouble. Then we did our version and was lucky enough to get into the studio record. It was a really interesting experience to work with someone from a different genre and sharing the space working on it together.
CM: It was the most fun we’ve ever had in the studio, it was a really fun recording experience.
TH: It helped us to develop our writing a lot, working with someone from a different genre.
CRC: That was my next question!
HS: I was literally just about to say that. What I liked about it was that I was writing with someone different from a different genre. Because of lockdown, I’d spent so much time sat on the floor trying to write tunes and nothing was coming to fruition so it was nice to write with someone totally different but still have a similar end goal. I think that’s why it worked; we were coming from the same place and we respected each other because of it.
CRC: So what do you guys think you have learnt as artists in working and writing with someone from a different genre?
TH: Probably more bass…
HS: I think the way we form songs is different now in terms of our starting point. We’ve been listening to a lot of dance music and '90s electronic stuff so the starting point was different.
GS: I think it’s quite interesting, you’re kinda introspective because all of a sudden you’re thinking what do we do and what do we sound like? How can we make this project sound like us? So it was interesting thinking more like what do we well and how can we stretch ourselves to fit this new mould almost.
CM: It was interesting having a release going out into a different world as well because it’s all been within our scene up until this point, stretching into a different realm of music has been really interesting. And seeing a different reception from people.
HS: It was cool to be paid the same amount of respect by people from a completely different world and genre. It’s cool to be like, yeah we are good at what we do, this is interesting; people do like it. Sometimes you can focus so much on the tiny scene you are involved in, there are millions of other music fans out there who might not get involved with that scene so much. It’s nice to branch out a bit.
CRC: It can be a little snobby can’t it, within your own realm?
HS: [Laughs] Yeah, so it was cool to be paid respect by people from a different genre. Even if that’s fans or Eli or Joe or Al; who are well-revered professionals in what they do.
CRC: Oh wow, Joe Goddard and Al Doyle ... What was that like working with them?
GS: Pretty mad, we were all so excited to do it. Joe and Al made us felt so comfortable the whole time we were there. I think We were nervous getting there but as soon as we walked in we were there to do it.
TH: There was no feeling that they were much more successful, they have a lot of history within the music scene.
CRC: They were just very normal?
TH: Very normal! We were playing on synth and they’d just tell us how it works and all that.
CM: Yeah, it felt like they were excited to work with us as well, which is always a plus.
HS: Yeah, sometimes you walk into studios and they’ve got all this equipment and you’re like, it would be wicked to use all this stuff but you don’t wanna touch it. But they were like crack on, play with it, that’s what we bought it for, you know what I mean? So that was cool.
CRC: Tell me a little bit about your writing process... Where do you start?
HS: In the past, I have started with either some lyrics or a simple guitar rhythm part and then I'll present it to the band. But this time we haven’t done much for that, we’ve been in a rehearsal room.
GS: It’s a lot more focused now I think.
HS: Definitely. We’ve been starting a lot with the rhythm section to create a bassist and a foundation and then build on it from there, which has been really helpful. And I think that’s then influenced the style of writing, the what and how the finished product has been influenced by that. But it’s felt more natural and interesting now, arguably because it’s felt more focused. This has been the most fun I’ve had writing songs.
GS: We’ve spent more time writing together. Last year we were really busy playing shows and stuff so we didn’t have a lot of time to sit down, all of us together but more recently we’ve spent whole days just rehearsing.
TH: Messing around with songs for hours and stuff, in more of a jam kind of way.
CRC: Going forward do you think you’ll do that more? I guess the pandemic has taught you how to cohesively work together?
HS: Having so much time recently we do a much longer rehearsal which means we have time to play with ideas for like 45 minutes and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t go anywhere. Previously we’ve not had the time to do that.
GS: That’s the other thing as well, we’ll spend a day working on a track and get to the end and be like I don’t think it’s working, and that’s fine. Next week we’ll try something else.
CM: We’ve got a lot better at dropping things.
GS: Before we didn’t have the integrity to say ‘oh you know guys this isn’t great. I guess the focus has been much more apparent and it’s given us direction.
CRC: So I guess Covid has been a little bit of a blessing?
CM: Yeah in a way.
CRC: In a way, not for the world but maybe for Talk Show?
GS: Wow. That’s a statement.
HS: [Laughs] I think it’s influenced the direction.
TH: I think we’ve forgotten as well that we were doing quite well beforehand, we were on a lot of end of year lists. And actually, I think we were (at the time) a little miffed that it had all shut down.
HS: We were supposed to go on full headline tours around Europe and loads of festivals we were gutted obviously, I mean loads of bands were.
TH: But in hindsight maybe it was a good thing, it has been good to have a bit of time to look at the direction we’ve been going in.
GS: At the start, we were on Zoom meetings every week like it sucks, we’re not going to be able to do anything we planned but what can we do?
HS: We did write like 30 songs, as we were coming out lockdown and whatever we realised we wanted to go in a different direction. Working with Joe and Eli influenced that.
CRC: You released your debut EP last March, you obviously didn’t think that we’d be in a global pandemic. How was it received during that time?
HS: I think the build-up to that was really exciting, it was our debut. As Tom said earlier we got featured on a load of end of year lists so it was really exciting. We were about to go on our first headline tour and obviously, we went into a lockdown. It was weird having to completely switch our EP campaign. Overnight instantly, everything went online.
GS: we had planned to go on tour, everything that was going to surround it was based on that. All of a sudden we were like what are we gonna do?
CS: Like carpet pulled from under your feet.
CRC: I guess it’s just about thinking on your feet, isn’t it? No one expected to be in that situation, but especially not THAT situation.
TH: We’ve got a lot better at Instagram and content creation.
HS: Big time.
CRC: So Chloe, you are a female drummer, congrats. How have you found being a female in a very male-dominated industry especially within your genre?
CM: I am [laughs]. To begin with, I hadn’t played the drums for a couple of years before I joined Talk Show and I was reintroducing myself to music, anyway. So I was already a bit intimidated by the whole thing and it was an extra thing. Like, oop it is a bit strange everyone else here is a boy and I’m just here playing the drums. It is intimidating people being like ‘she’s a girl and she’s playing the drums.
Like we did that show in reading.
HS: Oh my god, I saw red.
CRC: Does that happen?
CG: It was an anomaly, this one guy was like ‘you’re good at drums for a girl’
But that is rare and I’ve developed since the beginning just to be like Fuck it.
CRC: Has your confidence grown since then?
CG: Yes. There are so many amazing female artists within our scene who are really inspiring who have helped me.
The front gal from Just Mustard- I am inspired by front women who can really own it. I need to channel more of that into the performance I’m giving. I guess it’s being self-aware but also not giving a shit at the end of the day. I think there’s a lot of men who don’t know what they’re doing.
CRC: I think that’s 80% of them
TH: I think that’s 80% of the world. It’s bollocks ain’t it?
CRC: Harrison, you are clearly from Manchester: Would you describe Talk Show as a Mancunian band?
HS: No, not really. I think it’s been useful, it helped us gain fans in cities like Manchester, even Leeds or Liverpool. Because I can up the ante and be a cocky northerner, play with it. I think fans react to that.
TH: It is quite strange seeing you banter on strange with northerners because we don’t what's going on and they’re like wheyyy.
CM: At Manchester shows, we’re like what’s going on?
HS: It can work in our favour. Even though we are from south-east London.
CRC: I think it gives you a bit of an edge, us southerners enjoy an accent past Watford because it’s something a bit different.
CM: It’s exotic.
CRC: An exotic skinhead.
HS: Fucking hell, I’ll take that. Sexy and exotic. Fucking hell that’s going on my Instagram bio. That you can keep that in the interview. I’m saying that for the rest of my life.
CRC: I’m cutting that.
CRC: What’s next for Talk Show?
HS: Next week we are going to go and record loads of new material with Joe Goddard and Al Doyle which is really exciting, it’s going to be the next EP. I think we are all in agreement that it’s the most exciting we’ve been to the band. It feels like a step up, the next phase of Talk Show. We can’t be the same band we were a year ago. Then obviously we are hoping to do some festivals, we have some headline tours booked. Hoping to tour around Europe in autumn.
CRC: And lastly, what’s your favourite F word?
TH: That’s copying mine man, you’ve just put an e on it.
HS: Fine, fish.