Broadcast: “I think people find us a bit tough to deal with.” Interview by Jon Tjhia


(Full version forthcoming in Cyclic Defrost)

Jon Tjhia spoke to James Cargill of Broadcast. True story.

So what’s this about discontent and band departures? What’s happened?

Tim was the last guy to leave. He left towards the end of this album, and I think for him, he just wanted to write his own songs, and I think when we were making the album we’d probably gotten enough songs that Trish had written, that we’d want to do those songs. And I think he wanted to do his songs, so therefore… you know. He left to do that.

Did it end badly, or are you still friends?

Uhh.. it didn’t end brilliantly. But it’s not too bad. I understand why he went, you know?

What do people keep asking you?

I don’t know. When we talk about doing live shows, people always ask if we’re going to do it as a two-piece. For us… we try and do it with a drum machine, with Trish and sparse electronics, but because we’ve always been working with a band live, up until this point, it felt weird going for a more electronic sound live. That’s why we got a drummer. It seems to work so much better when you’re working with a real drummer, playing live.

Do you have a lot of sequencing that you have to sort out with your drummer?

It’s pretty straightforward with a drummer. I mean, you don’t have to push any buttons — you can just fade the synths. I find it a bit demoralising working with technology when you just want to go and do performances.

That’s an odd thing for you to say — your records are really detailed and very meticulously technologised, I would have to say…

Yes! But this album isn’t, actually — Tender Buttons was quite intuitive… there’s nothing really laboured on, as far as sequencing or fiddling with electronics goes. Maybe it was the mixing. But we definitely did that more when there were more of us in the band, because when you’re doing that as a group, it’s more enjoyable, you know. You’re sort of talking to people as you’re doing it. But as there are less of you, the technical aspect becomes a bit less enjoyable.

You head toward cabin fever and stuff?

Yeah, a bit!

This record is really good — I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot?

Yeah, I don’t mind though! We’ve seen a few criticisms in the UK… well, it’s funny because we really weren’t sure what anyone was going to make of it, to be honest. We really didn’t know. We just got to a point with that record where we were just going to have to call it finished. Because the way the record sounds is pretty much how we demoed it. And the plan after that was to put drums on it and make it more elaborate sounding like the old record. But when we tried to do that, it just didn’t work. It just didn’t sound right. So that’s when we had to make our decision to just sort of go with it. That was the hard bit about the record — deciding that it was going to sound like that.

So, in terms of criticisms, have people said things like it’s cold… are people criticising the lack of drums, and the big change? Because it’s pretty different to the other stuff..

Yeah — it’s funny though. The papers that criticised it in the UK were the ones like Q magazine, like the kind of “quality rock” papers. I could see why it wouldn’t be up their street. Because it’s so… the other people in there are like, Eric Clapton, you know what I mean?

Is it true that you’re coming to Australia next year?

We really haven’t got anything definite. We want to; so if financially we can make it work, I guess we will be. I’m pretty sure nothing’s booked but we’re talking to somebody about it. We want to get there.

Is there anything you want to add to what seems generally quite clear about what informs and defines Broadcast?

I think the thing that I’m quite glad about is… when we started the band, it was based on the kind of idea to produce pop songs, but to colour them differently, to try to create more interest in the sound around them. Like the United States of America did — who were our favourite band when we started. That goal is still what we try to do today.

Have you had much… I don’t know about mainstream, but perhaps left of mainstream success, particularly in the UK? Are you most popular in the UK?

We’re not popular at all — I think people find us a bit tough to deal with. I think that unless you tell somebody what sort of music you’re doing, what genre you’re part of, I think it’s quite tough for a lot of more… you know, people who aren’t necessarily music fans. I think that’s the wall you need to break through. To do that, you need to fill in a lot of the blanks – but because we don’t fill in a lot of the blanks, I think that restricts our success.

But we do alright on a sort of smaller level.

Well, globally, you’re in pretty good stead at the moment…

I mean, I really don’t know…

It’s hard for you to know, I guess, because anything that you read about yourselves is of interest, but it’s very hard to gauge. But from our end, you’re getting a lot of widespread respect!

That’s great! I didn’t know anything about that…

So, are you doing anything else aside from Broadcast? Other than, you know, eating?

No, not at the moment. There’s a plan…the next thing I want to do before we start on our next album is… I don’t know if you know Julian, who does our artwork? He works for Intro – they’re a design company in London. Well, he’s got a CD-R label called Ghost Box, and he puts his own stuff out. He’s put about five or six CDs out. The website is, if you want to have a look at it. I want to do this thing with him, because I really like what he does, and I’ve got so much in common with him. I think that’s the next thing I’ll do.

Does it take you a long time? I mean, is this something that might end up taking a lot of time out of Broadcast?

No, no — this will probably be ongoing. I’ll probably do this and start Broadcast at the same time. I don’t know, because what’s going to happen next, I think, is that Trish will try and write some more songs, so while she’s doing that…

Does she play a lot of the instruments, or do you? I guess you had a lot more band members in the past who did stuff…

Well, there are two types of songs we do. There’s one where Trish’ll write on a guitar pretty conventionally, and then we’ll try and put the sound to it. Or there’re the little demoes that I do that Trish will write the songs on top of. So Trish won’t play too much, you know, won’t do too much of the instrumentation afterwards, but she might write it initially.

So it’s pretty good as far as collaborative relationships go…

It sort of works quite well now. But it’s taken this long for that to happen. It never worked like that when there were more than two of us…

Does it feel like it’s been that long? Does it feel like a long time?

It does, yeah — I mean–

Well, it is a long time! I’m not doubting that…

It does. I mean, there’s things to be said about being in a group, and with just the two of us on this record it was hard for us to judge what we were doing, whether it was good or bad a lot of the time, because it’s good to just have ideas bouncing around a group of people. I miss that. But the pros are that you can be more focussed, and get more focussed on your ideas, which are less compromised.

So it’s kind of like the solo artist emerging from the band in a way? That side of the coin…

Yeah, possibly, yeah.

If things go your way, what’s your ideal future? I mean, I guess it’s hard to say much beyond that you’ll just keep exploring that abstract pop paradigm, but…

I think so, yeah. It’s quite a boring thing to say, but… I’d like to start getting some more visuals into our music. Something we’ve never really done.

Do you mean videos, films, or…?

Something more abstract. Imagery, yeah.

Well, it’s definitely a thing which is going on a lot these days and… would Julian do some motion graphics or something for you?

That’s what we were trying to ask him to do, actually. But you’ve got to pay people quite a bit of money to do that sort of thing.

The good people are busy, eh?

That’s it — busy. And expensive.

Have you been asked to do any stuff for people? Are people approaching you for films or anything?

Not to actually create anything, but there was the Morvern Callar thing…

And Austin Powers?

Yeah! But we weren’t used in the film, just in the CD.

Isn’t that odd!

Yeah, it’s very odd!

Have you ever been to Ibiza?

No. It’s not a Broadcast sort of place…

It doesn’t seem like it. What’s a Broadcast sort of place, anyway?

Birmingham — industrial town.

Been there all your life?

No — Trish has.

What do your parents think of your music? Do they listen to it?

Well, they say they do, but I think they don’t.

In that way that parents try to be supportive?

That’s it. They’ll support you, but they’ll sit there going “I don’t understand what you’re doing, you know, it needs more nice melodies” and things like that.

Have you got a full-time job?

No — we.. well, we basically make enough money to just sort of get by most of the time.

That’s really good…

It is good — I mean, we could be on the dole or we could do this, and it’d be about the same.

Was that something that changed having half your members, because now you kind of have less to share around with?

Well it didn’t quite work like that — this is the thing about that. Warp gave us a lot more money when… on the first album, when we had loads more people. It kind of works out the same. They’ve cut our advances down and we’ve had to renegotiate each time. So we got such a small advance on this record that if there was 3 or 4 of us now, we would have to get jobs. But that’s the thing about having the two of us. We can carry on but save money.

Is it kind of a happy thing you’ve got going with Warp, apart from that drop in the advance?

I don’t know if you know about when they used to be Rob and Steve who ran Warp… Rob died. Rob was the one who signed us, and I felt was the one who really understood us. Since he’s gone, you know, it’s Steve who looks after us — well, he doesn’t look after us, but you know, he runs Warp now. But I don’t think we’re necessarily his cup of tea as a band.

Well, they’ve been signing some pretty weird stuff lately, so…

I know what you mean. Like Maximo Park… do you mean like that?

That’s exactly what I mean.

Yeah… I kind of think it’s just Steve that more… you know, he wants success with that band, he’s put a lot of money into them. But when Rob signed us, I think he just really liked us, you know, he didn’t really see a commercial side to it. He just really loved it.

Well, time’s out. Thanks for the chat, James…

No worries – I hope I gave you enough information.

Well, I’m a hack, so anything’s enough and anything’s too much information… if you know what I mean.

I do know what you mean. We’ll be there next year.


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scissors for sparrow - abstract instrumental pop music. ii - made-up-just-then instrumental duo. text and melody - yes please. hello.