Interview: Hudson Taylor

Here is a couple of Irish brothers who took their busking roots and continue to make music ‘for the craic’. After sharing some stickers (You’ve been Spindle’d ones of course) and agreeing that 50 First Dates is a perfectly acceptable film to make you cry, we got going. We talk about their positive power cut omen, how songs translate and what it’s like working with your brother.

Hudson Taylor’s debut album ‘Singing For Strangers’ is out today in the UK and the band’s 2015 is taking shape to be an exciting year with festival announcements at Dot To Dot and Benicassim, this duo are full steam ahead. Watch out for more UK tour announcements succeeding their Irish tour coming up this May and also a second album…

So, considering you’re brothers, have you always played music together?

Alfie: Pretty much always. Not always as serious as we do now but we always played at family events. Our parents would have us play.
Harry: “Go on Harry, get up there. Play a tune”.
Alfie: We used to sing when we were kids, we were in the school choir and stuff.
Harry: We always did really elaborate Happy Birthday’s. Four part harmonies, me, Alfie, our Dad, our sister.

We hope they’re on tape.

Harry: A few elaborate videos. It always really annoys me when we’re at an event for our family and there’s not loads of harmonies for Happy Birthday. I’m like “no, don’t destroy this”.
Alfie: It usually happens on Harry’s birthday because he’s normally the conductor of the whole thing [laughs].
Harry: They like to mess with my head.
Alfie: “Let’s give Harry an awful rendition of Happy Birthday”. Anyway, we started seriously playing together in about 2008.
Harry: That’s mad, it’s like seven years ago.
Alfie: The first we willingly picked up a guitar and went “this is fun, this is cool”, it was in 2008 playing for a group of German people on the beach at a family holiday. After that, we started going busking because it was the recession in Ireland, our parents stopped giving us pocket money so we were finding our own way to make a little bit of money.
Harry: We were doing it for the craic. We still are doing it for the craic. If we weren’t enjoying ourselves we would probably stop, but you know, I think initially we really were just doing it for the fun and we kind of moved into more serious “let’s go to London” kind of stuff.

And what was your favourite song when you were busking?

Alfie: I like doing Twist and Shout by The Beatles. If we had a big crowd around us we’d go for the [Alfie starts doing ‘aah’ harmonies’]. You’d get one side of the crowd going [more ‘aah’ harmonies].

Sounds like a big performance.

Alfie: It was big.
Harry: You can get big crowds in Dublin.
Alfie: That one and then we used to do a medley of a bunch of songs that sounds quite similar.
Harry: A blues medley.
Alfie: We started with Paolo Nutini ‘Pencil Full Of Lead’ went to Newton Faulkner ‘She’s Got Time’ then to Elvis Presley ‘That’s Alright Mama’ then to Johnny Cash all in the same song in about 8 minutes. It sort of kept people’s attention I suppose. Those two were the ones we played quite a lot. We probably enjoyed them to most but shopkeepers didn’t.

“They’re back again”.

Alfie: “That stupid 8 minute song again” [laughs].

Your debut album has just been released! How was it developed since EPs and busking? 

Harry: It’s mad. We’ve got a few songs on there that actually have been released on EPs, we’ve got new versions. There’s a song on there which is the first song we ever wrote. Which is mad to think, that’s a song that is about 7/8 years old. It’s called ‘The Place I Called Home’, it’s on the bonus tracks section of the album. We’re really happy with it because we did it 100% live and just did it at home. So, some of it’s all in the studio and some of it we did at home. I’m really proud of that song. Most people would maybe thing their first song’s “eurgh”, we didn’t know what to think at first with the idea of putting such an old song on a new album. It kind of felt right.
Alfie: In the last couples of years we’ve been playing live quite a lot, so with our album we really wanted to capture some of the energy we feel when we’re playing live. That’s quite hard because you have no audience and you’re in a studio, totally quiet rooms with nothing to bounce off. That was one of our main objectives, to try and get that live energy. We didn’t really stop until we found that. We had to record things numerous times to try and find the right performances and stuff like that.
Harry: It’s a hard thing to go “okay, we’re done”.
Alfie: With the EPs, we’ve released five in total. The first one we released was all on our label called Craic Records that we set up when we first moved to London and were learning about releasing the right songs. We released ‘Battles’ as an EP, that was our first time in the studio, our first time recording something. It was a really good learning experience for us to get it under our belts, to put it out on our own label, to understand the whole thing a little bit more. After that we signed to Polydor, Universal. People who were following us at the time and were coming to our gigs really helped us out, they shared it with their friends.
Harry: We get to now have this album and we’ve put 21 songs on it, which is pretty mad.

That’s insane!

Harry: It is insane. The reasoning for that is because we weren’t allowed to do a deluxe because we had too many releases going on. But that doesn’t matter. We put 21 songs on it because it was like “there’s the 12 and they’re grand, but here’s another load of songs that we always do live but if we don’t put them out now, they’ll probably never go out so let’s put them on our debut album”.
Alfie: But the EPs were great for progression. We felt like every EP we were getting closer to what we wanted our album to sound like basically. It was a good thing to do, I’d say we’d be able to do EPs and albums fairly quicker after that whole experience, now that we’ve been through it the first time. We’ll get it first time hopefully. Don’t quote me on it because in two years time when we’re like [crying] “why isn’t our second album out” [laughs].

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Were there any brotherly tiffs during the writing or recording processes?

Alfie: Not really.
Harry: No. We’re so close in age it means we grew up with the same friends and stuff like that.
Alfie: We have different feelings about things and different opinions about things, that can sometimes clash but that’s like anyone.
Harry: We respect each other’s opinions.
Alfie: Luckily when we were picking songs it was quite easy because we were playing live so much that it wasn’t really up to us, it was up to the crowds.
Harry: You play a song, a few times, different nights and you can see what ones people are reacting to. That makes it easy to pick songs.

It’s rare that families can work so well together [look at the Gallagher’s].

Alfie: A lot of people say that to be honest.
Harry: Well also, I went to boarding school so I was only home at weekends. Maybe that was enough, that was what did it. A little bit of space.
Alfie: And when he was home at weekends we both needed each other to make pocket money for the week, to go out and busk. I was a little bit younger so my mum wouldn’t necessarily let me out on my own, so when Harry came back he’s a little bit older, she would trust us both to go into town. From very early on and quite frequently, every weekend, we’d see each other and we’d need to get along to go busking [laughs]. We’d need to so there would be no question, no arguments, we’d get together and go and miss all of the stuff in the middle of the week, Monday to Friday arguments. So that was quite handy. Still to this day we get on really well.

Obviously being in a band, you sing for strangers all the time. What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you guys?

Alfie: You got a snowball thrown at you on time.
Harry: Yeah. It was snowing in Dublin, which is really weird. It doesn’t happen very often.
We went to Germany, the first time we played there it was strange because so many people turned up. We were absolutely freaked out. We were like “what’s going on”. More people in this festival came to see us than at home in Dublin sometimes.
Alfie: Or anybody in the UK.
Harry: That was very strange. We’ve got to get back there soon.
Well this isn’t strange, it’s really sweet, there’s a particularly committed girl who comes to a lot of shows and she always brings us brownies…
Alfie: And rocky road.

That’s adorable.

Harry: They’re absolutely unbelievable.
Alfie: And you can remember everything after it as well.
Harry: It’s not laced in anything [laughs]. There were many jokes passed around about it.
Alfie: But we never suspected them [laughs]. Then other people taste them and go “mmm yeah”.

Proving them wrong!

Harry: Another strange thing would be power cuts. We’ve had a couple of power cuts.

Mid-show?

Alfie: Yeah! Mid-show. We’re very unlucky with power cuts, but we actually consider it lucky with power cuts.
Harry: It makes the show.
Alfie: obviously we come from a busking background, so no microphones, no amps.
Harry: We’re in our element when the power goes down.
Alfie: It happened to us at Glastonbury last year.
Harry: During that big electrical storm that happened. And it also happened to us on the first date of our tour. It was in Edinburgh, it was a great way to start our tour. Doing a song with no microphones.
Alfie: Everybody thought it was staged!

How are you going to be celebrating the album release? 

Harry: Our friend Gabrielle Aplin always says to us, release day is like your birthday.

So you’re going to have cake…

Harry: We’re going to have cake. It’s a really unique experience as a person, not many people get to have. When you’re a musician and you release an album, that day is like your birthday.
Alfie: We’ll be getting three birthdays this year because our album came our in Ireland early.

Let’s talk about the video you released for ‘World Without You’, does the story behind the video relate to the track?

Harry: It was very interesting really, the song is, from our perspective, is about missing a friend.
Alfie: Videos in general, we’ve found are a really cool experience. We get to write a song, explained what it’s about and then someone comes back to you.
Harry: Even sometimes not explain what it’s about. In the case of the ‘World Without You’ we didn’t explain what it’s about until we’d seen some ideas. This idea resonated with us in different way, obviously we’re brothers, our parents divorced when we were like 11 or 12 so it struck a chord with us there. You can take a different meaning from it.
Alfie: From our perspective, we moved from Dublin to London and a lot of relationships and friends or ours, we’ve just lost contact with them and we were finding that pretty tricky at some points because we haven’t spoken to people in a long time. We need friends around for our own wellbeing I suppose. We wrote the song and it sort of sounds like a love song about a partner but we realised it was more about a friend of ours that we’ve had for a long time and how our relationship was changing since we moved away.
It was interesting to see someone take a father and son relationship about it. We sort of said, “that really relates to us” then we said “let’s try and make it even more relatable to us”.
Harry: In that video there’s little 90s memorabilia and stuff.
Alfie: An action man, a Man United jersey from the 90s, Ryan Giggs…

It’s so nice that the track has different levels of meanings.

Alfie: Also, I wear a key necklace. We were sitting in the meeting with the directors and thinking “we need something at the end where it brings it up” because it’s a bit sad. We said, “what if the Dad gives him a key necklace”.

We’re not going to lie, we may have had a little tear.

Alfie: We were watching it with our family and our older sister, she said [crying] “he’s got the key” and everybody burst into tears. It was hilarious.

You’ve supported some other amazing artists! like Jake Bugg and Kodaline. How was it touring with them? 

Harry: It was great. It was really cool going on the road with Kodaline because they’re all Irish obviously. Lots of nice nights out and stuff like that, and equally Jake Bugg, he’s had us on tour twice. The first one we felt lucky enough to be on it, but he obviously liked us or something so he got us back again.

Alfie: Pure experience for us, it was absolutely brilliant. For them to have us is really really sound and we hope in our tours to bring up bands, bands from Ireland, bands that we believe in and generally friends.

Are there any new artists that you’re keeping an eye on recently?

Alfie: A friend of ours, on our UK tour, we owe a lot to him. He sort of got us into song writing.
Harry: Jack Morris, he’s got stuff on Soundcloud and he’s a proper poet. He writes serious and very lovely lyrics. He’s an inspiration to us, like Alfie said he got us into song writing.
Alfie: We brought him on tour with us, it was his first tour he’s ever done and we really want to champion him. We write songs with him as well, that was a great thing about having around, he’s always writing songs and reading poems, writing poems, whatever it is. He was a great influence for us to have around. At the moment, there’s so much great music coming out of Ireland. We love supporting Irish artists.
Harry: Friends of ours called The Coronas, we actually write songs with the lead singer Danny O’Reilly.
Alfie: Orla Gartland.

Would you rather live in the world of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?

Harry: Lord of the Rings.
Alfie: Lord of the Rings.

Would you rather be able to fly or read minds?

Harry: Fly.
Alfie: Fly. Otherwise it’ll be too much information.
Harry: I just think of Bruce Almighty.

Would you rather change your name to Bananahammock (remember that Friends episode…) or never eat chocolate again?

Alfie: Never eat chocolate again.
Harry: I like my name, so I’ll stick with that.
Alfie: We’d have to change the whole band name. Bananahammock Taylor [laughs], I don’t think it has the same ring to it.

Would you rather have a rewind button or a pause button?

Harry: Rewind.
Alfie: Ooh, you have some regrets [laughs].
Harry: Never regret anything, ever. Except, we did an interview earlier and I said something so stupid [of which we’ll keep undisclosed to save Harry another cringe worthy moment].