A Teleman Interview.
Teleman formed in 2012 from the ashes of Reading’s acclaimed Pete and the Pirates. The new band took it’s name from composer Georg Philipp Telemann – signalling a shift to a more refined form of pop from their indie guitar-fest early days. Featuring from the original band Tom Sanders on vocals, brother Jonny Sanders on synths and Pete Cattermoul on bass – they were joined by Hiro Amamiya on drums. Teleman’s second album, Brilliant Sanity, was released earlier this year and the band are currently on a UK/European tour. I spoke to bassist Pete shortly before their gig at Koko in London.
How’s the new album – Brilliant Sanity – going down?
It’s going down really well, everyone we speak to after the shows is really into it.
Düsseldorf and Fall in Time definitely sound like crowd pleasers
Düsseldorf is definitely pleasing the crowds – and Glory Hallelujah, the next single, that’s going to please a lot of crowds.
Is there a story behind the album title?
There’s a book called Brilliant Sanity, if you search for Brilliant Sanity online our album isn’t the first thing that comes up. It’s some kind of Buddhist thing, about having a state of enlightenment.
Is that something that you’re into?
It’s something that appeals, for sure … I’d love to have a state of enlightenment.
As for the Buddhism stuff?
I haven’t read the book. I think Tom might have read it, because he came up with the name. I think it’s just a nice title, a nice vibe. We feel pretty sane as far as the way we’re working now, we’re working well and cooperating – a streamlined machine, so that feels pretty good.
Teleman has a very quintessential English sound. I was thinking apart from the Franz Ferdinand Sparks collaboration FFS, there aren’t that many non-English bands with that sound …
Well we supported Franz Ferdinand around Europe, so I can only guess they got all their ideas from us!
But are you conscious of being an ‘English-sounding band’ – is that a style or image you’ve tried to develop with Teleman?
I suppose it’s a sense of identity – being conscious of your sense of identity and not getting sucked up singing in an American accent, for instance. I remember when I was a teenager just learning guitar and maybe being into Bob Dylan or something, so you start singing like Bob Dylan. I think to find your own voice is very important. If you’re English, it kind of makes sense to sing with an English accent.
I think the thing that’s fresh with our band is the songwriting, really. I mean the sounds are fun and interesting and we rock out when we want to rock out. We make good pop songs really, that’s what I like about it.
So is that what you always set out to do, to write decent pop songs?
Yeh, I mean, what else can you do in this day and age!
What would you call your sound? Is it a scene, could you put a label on it?
I think it’s just good music, really, that’s what I call it. Tame Impala is another example of a band that just makes really good songs, they don’t stick in one genre.
Tom’s vocal delivery has changed since Pete and the Pirates, there’s a cleaner presentation of the lyrics, was that style actively pursued as a band?
I think everything got tidied up a bit, you know, we wanted to refine the arrangement and have a bit more of a considered sound, because Pete and the Pirates is pretty much a full-on guitar fest. Everything was played on guitar, we didn’t have synths, really, and all the vocals were very laddish, almost, even though it had the quintessential Englishness to it. Teleman has refined something that was always there with Pete and the Pirates, but has now come to the fore.
Jonny used to play drums in Pete and the Pirates and now he plays synths. Did you make that switch to accommodate Hiro on drums?
No, initially we chose to not have a drummer and just play with a drum machine. Jonny said at the beginning: “I want to try something different, I want to play some keys.” That was a way to update the sound of the band, so to speak, and there was just me, Tom and Jonny left. We didn’t even know Hiro when we started Teleman. So we did a few gigs like that, then we got a manager quite quickly who just sort of turned up from Moshi Moshi and said they wanted to manage us. Someone around that time was saying: “You really need a drummer, this is going to make it so much better.” I think at that time we were just a band without a drummer; we hadn’t changed that much for it to be like some kind of new form of pop, FKA Twigs or something, we hadn’t gone that far into electronics. I think because we have a bass guitar and a real guitar, drums really does go with that, it makes the trio.
Is that the main reason you moved away from Pete and the Pirates, the sound wasn’t what you were into anymore?
What do you mean, ‘moved away from’?
Well, did the band end because you guys were saying: “We don’t want to play this music anymore”, or was it because the band ended and the people who were left had a different kind of music to play? What came first?
Well the band kind of ended because people wanted different things, and it wasn’t as though … I don’t know, how to explain … some of us wanted to keep working on it and some people wanted a break, so that was kind of the breaking point – you want six months off and we don’t. One of the guys stopped playing and it was a weird time because we weren’t really sure what to do; some of us had moved to London. Me, Tom and Jonny eventually decided to start a new group and get a new name, also because we’d been Pete and the Pirates for quite some time and we wanted to try something new – but with the same people! Kind of weird, but I think we felt we’d built so much with Pete and the Pirates, but still felt that it wasn’t exactly what we wanted. The name even felt quite kiddy and fun, and I think we wanted to be taken a bit more seriously, so that was the start of Teleman – we had these more serious songs. I guess we were tired of the whole “indy” thing.
So there’s no chance the two bands could co-exist?
No, I wouldn’t say that, I never really wanted Pete and the Pirates to break up, I was saying we should keep doing it, let’s make a third album now because things were going really well, but there was so much disagreement within the band; maybe I was just under some illusion that things were going to work.
It could work out having two bands – double fees at festivals!
We could tour! Pete and the Pirates could support Teleman and the next night switch it around! Pete and the Pirates making a comeback in 2017! Ha, ha, ha! The other guys are going to love that!
You, Jonny and Tom have been playing for quite some time together, but who writes the songs?
Tom, pretty much. Teleman is all Tom’s songs, Pete and the Pirates was more mixed up, but Teleman has just become his thing as far as songwriting goes. We work on arrangements together. Other people have put in songs, but we’ve never actually started playing them. It’s not like it’s a closed door, but I think the first album, for one reason or another, we just ended up doing all of Tom’s songs – because he’s a brilliant songwriter, there’s no doubting that. The rest of us do write songs, but we’re maybe a bit less prolific. I think because he’s the singer as well, he kind of has the last say on whether we do a song or not. Anyone can put their foot down and say: “I really don’t like this song”, but when Tom writes a really good song, you can’t really say: “I don’t want to do this song”, because its really good, you know what I mean, it would be stupid.
So what’s your tip, what band should people check out?
Floating Points – have you heard of them? Definitely check them out. And Kate Tempest.
Every time I listen to Marc Riley, he seems to have you on …
Yeh, he’s an uber, uber supporter, he’s been great, there from the start from the Pete and the Pirates days, pushing the band. We can’t really thank him enough, he’s a top bloke. I think everyone who listens to 6music knows who we are now.
Do you have any festivals lined up this summer?
There’s Latitude, Secret Garden Party, Hidden Door, Tramlines, Kendal Calling, a few others and more coming, we’ll get some last minute bookings, I’ve got a feeling.
So Teleman is going to be around for the long run?
I’d give us six months!
Interview by Craig Scott and portraits and live shots by Rachel Lipsitz. See more of Rachel’s great portraits at little trousers.