For those of you out there in MetalTalk-land who like to keep up-to-date with newer bands, Glaswegian trio The Toi took the timeout of their hectic schedule to talk to us about their upcoming debut album, for which they managed to acquire the production talents of Dan Hawkins of The Darkness fame.
Firstly, I discussed the origins of the band and as vocalist Paul Healy explained to me, all three members of the band attended the same school (and indeed played football together) so they were familiar to each other before connecting as a band. Later on, Paul and Andy Carr's paths crossed once again when they ended up working together outside of school, and they became firm friends from that point onwards.
"I had a cassette with different songs on it that we listened to as we cleaned up after work and that was it – pals", Paul explained to me. He also mentioned that the prospect of a musical collaboration between them began a little later: "The band came about after years of playing music with other friends and not really getting anywhere, so we made a conscious decision, probably two years ago, that we were really going to have a good go at forming a band, and it's been hard work ever since!"
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Although the band are still in the early stages of their career, they are very philosophical about what they have achieved as far. As Paul continues: "(I) don't think we've got much to brag about at the moment – the plain fact is that we're pursuing our dream and having people appreciate us in a live environment is something that gives a sense of fulfillment – there are so many people who would love to be going all out and trying to make it in a band, but they're just too fearful".
Bringing it back to his own agenda, Paul says that he's very proud that the band are "chasing the rainbow and also making strides forward as a live act. If you want to talk about our achievements, I'd just say to ask us (that question) again in a couple of years!"
Never one to shy away from telling it like it is, Paul casually mentions that Satchel lead guitar in Glam Metal band Steel Panther is a fan of the band too. As Paul enthuses, "he asked us for a copy of our record before it's even been released! Who knows – we might get to open for those guys - that'd be too good for us! In fact, if you're reading this now, then you should all email Steel Panther and say 'Get The Toi to open for you!' – but we'd probably steal all their groupies so maybe they'd be dead against it!"
Bringing the conversation back to the here and now, I asked Paul where the band's musical influences lay, to which he mentions that all three members of the band have shared influences like The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and Gary Moore as well as other artists from the 1970s and 1980s. "Michael Jackson", he says, "was was the guy that really inspired me as a kid. I'd wear the micro pore tape round my fingers and would feign injury on my knee so my mum would put a tubigrip round me. That would stay on until she was out of sight and then I'd put it round my arm. Jackson was the ultimate for me, but we're all big fans of him".
Paul also mentions that drummer Stevie McLay is a big fan of R'n'B whilst bass player, Andy Carr "actually wants to be in Steel Panther" – the band certainly do have an eclectic taste in music, which stands them in good stead to be able to reach out to more than just a rock orientated audience.
When asked what attracted him specifically to rock music, in the first place, Paul is clear that what got his attention first were the big bands with their big-budget promo videos that showed sold out arenas, lots of beautiful women and big, fancy cars. "We all remember David Coverdale and Tawny Kitaen" he says, with reference to the Whitesnake promo video for 'Here I Go Again' in 1987. Paul does explain further though, by mentioning that "one of my defining moments was when I was on holiday with my uncle, who had a fancy car that had a CD player in it – a rarity in those days! Anyway, I remember hearing the sound of the guitar lick on 'Hotel California' and thinking 'Wow! I wanna make that sound!', so I got a guitar but never actually bothered to play the thing! which is something which a lot of teenage music fans can relate to, I'm sure!
"I was hopeless – I mean I was properly terrible...", Paul continues, "...then I went to see my first ever concert – Bon Jovi live at Hampden Park, and the next day something just clicked in me. I was able to play songs, guitar licks and the chords... all the stuff that the previous day had been seemingly impossible. Very, very strange!"
Moving onto the present, I ask Paul about how the band approaches the songwriting process to which he tells me that "the songs have been truly a collaborative effort". I push him to explain further and he confirms that the band demoed around fifteen tracks of which ten will appear on their upcoming debut album. "I'll write the melody and the chorus and then I'll sit down with Andy and copious amounts of tea and we'll figure out what lyrics need changed, and how we can make things catchier". He clarifies that "(although) Stevie doesn't have any input on the songs per se, but if he doesn't like a tune then it doesn't get played, but when he does like a tune, then he really involves himself in the arrangement of it – It's a team effort 100%".
When it comes to lyrical inspiration, Paul says that "we write a lot about our own experiences. We've all had broken hearts in the past, so there's some classic subject matter right there. I always like to try and walk in someone else's shoes too", he explains, "I try to write in the first person when really I'm singing about someone else. The title track on the record 'Water Into Wine' is a bit of departure lyrically, but I won't tell you what it's about. You'll have to buy the record and figure it out!" he teases "but the track 'Til The Morning Comes' was written one day when I was heading up to Andy's house for a writing session, and because I was walking fast, this bouncy bass thing came into my head. I had the song more or less done by the time I got to his house having never played it on an instrument. Sometimes, the best songs happen like that!"
Moving onto the subject of their impending album release, I ask Paul how they managed to get Dan Hawkins, guitarist from The Darkness, onboard to produce the album? "When we decided we wanted to record an album, we started looking about and very early on in the search we all agreed that we didn't want to record it in Glasgow, so we began to research studios in England and Wales. It was Andy who found Nick Brine's details (he co-produced the 'Hot Cakes' album by The Darkness with Justin and Dan Hawkins), so we sent him an email. Nick got in touch saying he liked the tune we sent him, and he would like us to come down and do an EP with him".
Paul tells me that the studio chosen for the recording of the EP was Rockfield Studios in South Wales where Rush, Black Sabbath, Queen and Robert Plant are among those illustrious artists who have previously recorded there, and once in the studio, the band "worked harder than we ever thought possible and got three tunes down". He explains that Nick and the band "hit it off and got on really well and he had in turn sent the songs to Dan who was really enthused about producing them, so they both came up to Glasgow and we did pre-production for a full album. So instead of releasing a 3 track EP we're now putting out a proper ten track album!"
Paul mentions that although all the pre-production was done at Gorbals Sound studios in Glasgow, all recording was completed at Rockfield Studios. "It was the hardest two weeks of my life. I really found the discipline of recording so hard. I think by week two, if I had any money left, I would've jumped on the first plane back to Glasgow" he says. "I had two really bad days where I forgot how to play the guitar. It was just the intense pressure of trying to be great but knowing you don't have much time and everyone else watching you. It was a learning curve – and a very steep one too!.
"It was our ambition as kids to make a record and we've done it with the help of Dan, our amazing producer, who was one of my guitar heroes growing up, and in the most amazing studio where hit after hit has been engineered. Amazing!"
Although there is no definite release date yet, Paul confirms that they expect the album to be released around May 2013, so that's something their growing fanbase have to look forward to.
In the meantime, it's business as usual for the band with a hectic schedule rehearsing for their upcoming live dates. "We're actually touring the UK and Europe in May with The Burning Crows, although the dates have still to be confirmed" says Paul – exciting times ahead for The Toi indeed.
"We give 100% to every show" he says, "we don't mime, we don't have backing tracks, effects, auto-tune... we just do our very best at each and every gig, so if you're coming to see us live, you can expect a damn good time, a kick-ass band with big tunes and big hooks – not to mention lots of partying afterwards!"
With enthusiasm and commitment like that, The Toi seem to have everything ahead of them and I'm looking forward to hearing their album when it's released later this year, and catching the band live too.
You can catch the band live here:
Tuesday 9th April – Stereo, Glasgow (supporting H.E.A.T.)
The Toi are:
Paul Healy – Vocals/Lead Guitar
Andy Carr – Bass/Backing Vocals
Stevie McLay – Drums
The Toi Online: