A bit of Ride, a smidget of my Bloody Valentine, and a dash of Beach Boys and a hairlock of Jesus and Mary Chain – those are just some of the references you may hear (or more likely hear others check off) in UK psychedelic rock outfit Toy, who first emerged on the scene in 2010 with the help of Brighton’s own The Horrors. And yet, those comparisons in many ways do the band a disservice, cause beneath the dreamy detachment and hypnotic rhythms is very much so a band forging their own path, creating soundscapes pulsating with lush arrangements and an assured pop sensibility that transcend the genre it’s often tied down to – psychedelic rock. Before the band heads to China for their first time, which kicks off in Beijing on September 13 at Yugong Yishan (with HedgeHog supporting) before ending at this year’s Concrete & Grass Festival in Shanghai (which is looking more and more like a good excuse to dip out of the city for the weekend), I asked the band some questions about how they sound has developed.
What I love about your sound is how expertly you merge your experimental and pop tendencies – is that balance apparent to you guys in the studio and is it something you strive for? How often do you just wanna go off the deep end?
Thank you. They are two aspects of music that we all love and enjoy. I think collectively we strive for both when we write. it’s not something we do particularly consciously, it’s more of a feeling. They are always two things battling with each other which I quite like. The result is more interesting than just one or the other. Recently we’ve been a lot more hands on in the studio and the results sound wilder.
It’s a bit of a shame that every new band that emerges these days is compared to the old guard and I’m sure it’s something you’ve had to deal with at just about every corner of your musical careers – how do you react to critics and fans who try to pigeonhole you and tie your sound down?
We don’t pay to much attention to be honest. We live in a sort of bubble when it comes to making music. It’s about what the other members in the band are influenced by and how we influence each other. When you hear someone outside of that trying to guess what it is you’re up to then often it can fall short. We don’t mind people trying though. We’re not really sure ourselves.
There’s something beautifully melancholic about your music – or perhaps a better way to put it – there’s beauty in the melancholy. From an emotional standpoint, how do your songs emerge and evolve?
I think a lot of our songs are born from just that – an emotion. Whether it’s one persons or how we feel collectively when we play a song together. I think a lot of the time we are looking for that combination of sadness and beauty. These are two things which resonate strongly with us all as well as euphoria. We understand what someone’s trying to convey when we hear those moments then it’s up to the other members to put their own interpretation of that feeling into it.
It seems you guys soak in a lot of film, music, and art in your daily lives – do you find these influences manifesting themselves in your music in various ways? How so?
They have done in the past. When we were writing Clear Shot we were watching a lot of Hitchcock movies and listening to the scores. That invariably trickled in to what we were doing. We’ve always listened to film music like Morricone or John William’s or Disney and anything we’re reading or interested in we’ll show it to each other. That’s what everyone does right? It can manifest itself in any way, that’s the great thing about creating something. There aren’t any rules.
On a related note, what music and films been lingering over the band this year? Is there anything in China that you intend to check out whilst here?
A friend of ours recently came back from a trip to Beijing and played us some music we really enjoyed. We’re interested to hear more! We want to check out everything. On previous trips to Asia we’ve tried to immerse ourselves as much as is physically possible so we’ll be doing that. I don’t expect I’ll be getting much sleep because of all the excitement. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of D.A.F a German band from the 80s. We’ve been listening to a lot of folk music courtesy of Charlie whilst we’ve been away. Recently started watching Werner Herzog’s films again. Fitzcaraldo is a favourite film of ours, where Klaus Kinski’s character tries to sail a boat up the Amazon.
Do you have any expectations for your upcoming tour in China? Looks like you’ll be playing with some wicked local bands here as well as in Shanghai? How do you think audiences will receive your music?
We don’t really know what to expect but we’re very excited. As you say we’ll be playing with some local bands which we are looking forward to and seeing what the music scene is like over there. We hope people enjoy it. We have had great times playing on previous trips to Hong Kong and Taipei. See you next week!