Two Door Cinema Club released their second album Beacon in August, 2012. After a busy six months playing festivals and shows all over the world, they're about to head out on a UK tour. Andy Welch talks to frontman Alex Trimble about the quick rise from unknowns to one of the most popular bands in the country.
By Andy Welch
Is guitar music dead?
This has been an evergreen discussion in broadsheets and the music press ever since around 2005, when guitar bands last sold any records.
In a time when electronic beats inform the charts rather than six-string strums, it's a salient point. The only reason the subject is still up for discussion is down to a handful of bands. Two Door Cinema Club are one of them, The Vaccines, another. These bands are still selling records, selling out venues and, crucially, being played on the radio in spite of fierce opposition and the general feeling that their chosen genre couldn't be more unpopular if it put on a three-striped tracksuit top and badge saying 'I Love The 90s'.
If their music is unfashionable, no one told the 250,000 people who've bought Two Door Cinema Club's album, Beacon, since it was released in July. The band's forthcoming UK tour, their second since September, is all but sold out too.
Given how much they toured after their debut album Tourist History was released in February 2010, it's amazing they managed to find time to record Beacon at all.
"Well it was recorded quickly," says frontman Alex Trimble. "There were a lot of ideas floating around while we were travelling after Tourist History, things were recorded on phones, just melody ideas, and I always carry a notebook.
"I write a lot when we're away, but there came a time when we had to say 'Enough!', that we wanted to get cracking on album No 2. That's hard to do because - fortunately - there were so many people that wanted to see us, and we wanted to play to as many of them as possible."
Thankfully the band were able to stop touring for a few months. Beacon might've been written in patches and recorded quickly, but it certainly doesn't sound like it. Instead, it's slick, more sophisticated than their debut and contains a clutch of melodic, radio-friendly gems. Few bands succeed in being played on specialist stations such as XFM and BBC 6 Music as well as the likes of Radio 1, Radio 2 and Capital, but Two Door managed it.
The album was recorded with Garret 'Jacknife' Lee in Topanga Canyon, just outside Los Angeles. Lee has worked with Snow Patrol, U2, REM and Robbie Williams in the past, and definitely brought out the best in Two Door. They even started getting healthy while they were in California.
"We were there for two-and-a-bit months," says Trimble who, like the rest of the band, is originally from County Down in Northern Ireland.
"We lived in Venice Beach and recorded up the road," he continues. "It was lovely, such a change of pace. The three of us have only ever lived in the UK, but being in California was so different; the weather, the relaxed way of life and surroundings, it just helped everything.
"I didn't learn to rollerblade or anything, but we did get really healthy. It's almost a guilt trip going there as they're all so health conscious. After a while we got into it and really started to enjoy it. By the time we finished, we were in the best shape of our lives. Maybe that health kick every two years when making an album will be enough to keep us going?
"But then, I am a ginger guy from Northern Ireland. The sun isn't really my friend," he adds, laughing.
As a result of their constant touring, Two Door now have fans all over Europe (they're especially big in France, being signed to French record label Kitsune), South America and Asia, and by the time they return to the UK in January for their tour, they'll have performed all over Australia once again.
The modern trend for bands and artists naming their fanbase hasn't passed TDCC by, either.
Lady Gaga has her Little Monsters, Jessie J has her Heartbeats and Justin Bieber has his Beliebers.
Two Door Cinema Club have The Basement People; thousands of devoted fans named after a lyric in the song Undercover Martyn ("To the basement people, to the basement").
These fans are hardcore - go to any of the band's shows and you'll see a strong turnout. They arrange meet-ups before gigs, talk online constantly and generally demonstrate their love of the band however they can.
"The dedication is amazing," says Trimble. "And because those fans haven't discovered us from advertising, or from being on TV or whatever, it feels to them as if they discovered us themselves.
"We've never had massive marketing budgets and things, especially at the beginning, so if a fan has found us on a blog, or they've just taken a chance on the album, they feel more of an ownership. I know that from liking bands myself.
"The fans have created their own websites, they have meetings and so on. It's great that lots of them have made lasting friendships through the Two Door community."
The "slow-build", as Trimble calls it, going back to cities time and again, playing bigger venues each time, is all well and good - and it's worked so far - but a big boost for them came during the London 2012 Olympics.
Trimble was asked to sing on Underworld track Caliban's Dream, which also meant him performing at the opening ceremony, in front of a TV audience of billions.
"That was amazing," he says, looking as if he's still taking it in.
"It was a huge step up for the band. Initially I saw it as a great honour and experience, but, thinking about the band for a moment, the timing was impeccable. We had a new album about to be released and a world tour on the way - and there I am at the Olympics! Good old Danny Boyle."
Extra time - Two Door cinema club :: Two Door Cinema Club are Sam Halliday, Alex Trimble and Kevin Baird.
:: The band formed after Trimble and Halliday met at Bangor Grammar School, County Down. Soon after they met Baird.
:: They performed together (as Life Without Rory) for the first time when they were 16.
:: The name Two Door Cinema Club came from Halliday's mispronunciation of local picturehouse, Tudor Cinema.
:: The band's debut album Tourist History has now sold around 1.2 million copies around the world.
Tour dates: January: 24 - Newcastle Academy 25 - Manchester Apollo 26 - Manchester Apollo 28 - Southampton Guildhall 29 - Nottingham Rock City 31 - Cardiff University February: 1 - Birmingham Academy 2 - Birmingham Academy 4 - Aberdeen Music Hall 5 - Glasgow Barrowlands 7 - Leeds Academy 8 - Brixton Academy