A tale of booze, gambling, male-bonding and books on the open road…
Words: Tia Clarke
What happens when you send two fun-loving Northern-Irish rogues on a road trip down the West coast of America in a classic car, taking in the scorching Nevada desert and seedy sights of Las Vegas, armed with a pair of Contax G2 cameras and literary notions like Kerouac’s On The Road for company? Mustang Margaritas – that’s what.
Here the two old friends Alex J Trimble, lead singer of world famous Northern Irish indie band Two Door Cinema Club and Belfast based photographer, Jamie William recount their journey from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in summer 2012 in warm, vivid detail. They divulge their plans to release their holiday snaps as a book ‘Mustang Margaritas’; with a London exhibition to follow.
How long have you guys known each other?
Jamie: Over 4 ½ years now, I think? Roughly – it was early 2008 anyways.
Alex: I think we met properly in 2008. We attended the same school for a few years but we didn’t know each other as we were a couple of years apart. Our official meeting came about after I formed my band and we were looking for someone to take pictures of us. We heard Jamie was good!
Why did you decide to make the trip?
Jamie: It was during the NME tour at the start of this year. Alex mentioned that he wanted to do a photo book to go along with the album release. The band were going to LA after the tour for a couple of months so I said we should do it there. We started talking about it properly at the after party of the Brixton show. Then Alex started planning it when he was in LA.
Alex: At first it seemed like one of those drunken conversations everyone has. You know, nothing ever comes of it. But I was in LA making a record and I just decided I should take a few more chances and live life a little more, so I booked flights and rented a car. A few weeks later Jamie arrived and we were ready to start!
Was there any inspiration behind the trip– like the freedom of the open road in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road?
Jamie: Definitely, that was talked about. Alex also really loves Hunter S Thompson, so Fear and Loathing was a big inspiration for him.
Alex: Kerouac’s On the Road was one of the first books I fell in love with, so I developed a lust for travel and exploration early on. Hunter S. Thompson’s way of documenting his experiences -photographically as well as in print – was also a huge inspiration. I was reading a lot of Steinbeck in the months before and his stories of the people and places of California painted it as the perfect place for our trip.
How long was the trip with just the two of you?
Jamie: It was just the two of us on the actual road trip, but Sam and Kev (the other members of Two Door Cinema Club) were about for the first few days. We all shot some guns. I was in LA for a week – the road trip was, like, 4 days.
Alex: I think we travelled for 4 or 5 days in total, with a day or two spent in LA on either side. Just the two of us in the car but we spent time with lots of other people in LA.
Did the trip provide a good chance to reconnect as friends and have some time off touring?
Jamie: Yes, definitely. It’s rare to get a chance to spend that much time with Alex, so for me that was a privilege.
Alex: It was wonderful- one of the main reasons for the trip, in my mind. I rarely get to see Jamie and when I do we don’t see each other for very long.
Did you go with the intention of making the book or did it all just happen naturally?
Jamie: We didn’t really plan that much. It was just like, ‘let’s drive to Vegas and take some photos along the way’.
Alex: I’ve always had the idea of one day putting my photos together in a book, but it wasn’t the main reason for the trip. Really, we just wanted to see some of the world, drink and have a good time. We take pictures to capture those moments. The pictures almost feel like a bi-product of the experience.
What was the car like? A Mustang, I presume?
Jamie: Yep, silver Convertible Mustang! It was all down to Alex. It was perfect- although we did need to invest in lots of sun cream. An Irish boy driving around California in a convertible Mustang doesn’t really work out the best!
Alex: I was on the SPF 100.
Did you take turns driving? Any on the road playlists?
Jamie: I don’t have a license. So, no, I did no driving whatsoever. Maybe a cheeky spin around in the desert! We just had our iPods, so just played what we wanted really. I can remember blasting some new Ed Zealous tunes in the desert en route to Vegas. Alex also introduced me to Alt-J on the way back. I am obsessed with Patrick Wolf, and Alex hadn’t really heard of him, so I made him listen to 3 albums back to back!
Alex: Patrick Wolf is my main musical memory. I had never heard his music and completely fell in love with it when Jamie played all his albums on the way into the desert. And yeah, I did all the driving – until one day we drove to the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum, just outside of the Joshua Tree, and we drank beers and Jamie did donuts in the sand!
Where did the journey take you? Was there a particular route you followed?
Jamie: Alex kind of planned the journey. He had a route in mind right from the start. The Noah Purifoy museum was a particular highlight. It was just us two walking around this isolated museum taking photos. The first main stop was the Joshua Tree National Park, it was beautiful.
Alex: We had a few places in mind that we wanted to hit but lots of places were a surprise. One day we decided to head to Big Bear, which was stunning, and the drive from there to Vegas was even more so. We took the route to Vegas via Barstow in honour of H. S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. ‘We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold’ is my favourite opening line from any book. Barstow is not exciting. It has a gas station.
Did you get up to anything crazy or particularly rock n’ roll? Was it a Fear and Loathing type affair or a little more tame?
Jamie: I guess we wanted it to be like Fear and Loathing, but I’m not sure you can really plan something like that. It was pretty tame, to be fair. We drank quite a lot, particularly in Vegas. It was wake up, drink, then drink some more. We played a lot of blackjack in Vegas- maybe too much.
Alex: The first few days were relaxed. We were pretty much in awe of our surroundings. Such beauty to take in and process. Once we hit Vegas though, the drinking took over. We both lost a lot of money.
What exactly does the book document?
Jamie: It just really shows where we went and what we saw, nothing more.
Alex: It’s like a photo album of holiday snaps!
What’s the state of play with the book at the moment and do you have any plans to take it further than a book and exhibition?
Jamie: The images have all been selected. At the minute, we are just going to put them up on our Tumblr. The exhibition is being planned though, maybe some poster sales before that too. I’d love to, but let’s see how it goes.
Alex: Yeah, we’re taking things slowly and not rushing into anything. I’d love to see where we could take this eventually though.
So both of you took the pictures for the book? What equipment did you use?
Jamie: We did. We both used a Contax G2, with various lenses and a flash each. All of which belong to Alex. I didn’t, and still don’t, own a camera.
Alex: Yes, Contax G2. I maybe shot a couple on a T2 but G2 was the main one. I bought a second, super cheap G2 body while I was in LA in a freak eBay auction, so we had one each.
Where does the name Mustang Margaritas come from?
Jamie: The Mustang and Margaritas were two main things on the trip. I lost count of how many frozen Margaritas we had in Vegas. I know Alex had one too many though!
Alex: I did have one too many, or maybe several too many. We sat at one blackjack table for five hours or so without moving and enjoyed the waitresses refreshing our drinks every 20 minutes.
What did you both take away from the trip? Did you learn anything from it?
Jamie: The main thing; if you have a chance to say hello to John Barrowman, take it! We didn’t, and regret it a lot. Other than that, I guess, just remembering having an amazing time. I learnt that the perfect day has to start with a swim and a beer.
Alex: I learned how important it is to unwind and enjoy the simple things. I travel so much but I hardly ever see where I am. I’m always in and out, one place to another. Always on the go. But you don’t need much time to appreciate the little things. I pay much more attention to nature and my surroundings and less attention to people. You decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing for yourself. I think it’s great.
So has there been a lot of interest in the book so far through the competition on Tumblr?
Jamie: More so just in the project. A lot of people haven’t a clue what it is. We had just over 350 entries for the competition, which was incredibly flattering. We also had emails from people afterwards asking if they could buy a poster.
Alex: The interest has been astounding, a little overwhelming actually. It’s made me even more excited to get the work out in front of the public.
Jamie, have you retired from photography? Or are you just on a break?
Jamie: I haven’t retired. I am on a break, but I have no idea how long that will last. So that could technically just extend into retirement.
Alex: Until the next trip!
Would you consider more collaboration in the future if this one was really successful?
Jamie: Yes. I truly hope so. We have talked about doing one in Iceland next year, maybe on motorbikes. I am ridiculously excited about that prospect.
Alex: Haha– YES!
Also, do yourself a favour and watch this dream of a music documentary by www.babysweetsessions.com to get an insight into life on the road:
To see more of Tia’s writing on the cutting edge of art/culture/music/fashion check: http://www.trendhunter.com/Tia.Clarke