Drift Records interview with Thomas White

1. Which Indie Record Shop did you grow up with? Rounder Records, in Brighton.

2. Which is the best indie record shop you’ve ever been to? Rounder Records, though I’ve never been to Totnes! Avalanche in Glasgow is also particularly good.

3. Which is your local indie and how often do you visit? Either Rounder or Edgeworld, both in Brighton.

4. Why do you like that store? Rounder has pretty much everything that comes out, and a good range of back-catalogue… Edgeworld caters for the lesser known/harder to find stuff.

5. Who is the most exciting musician you have seen in an independent record shop (either playing or browsing the racks)? Bob Monkhouse, browsing the Kid 606 section in Sister Ray.

6. Best band/artist that you’ve heard of via an indie shop that you might have missed had you not been in the right place at the right time? Marnie Stern. She was playing on the stereo in Resident Records in Brighton, and I just had to know who that was playing the guitar.

7. The worst ‘Wallet Punch’ you have taken on impulse purchasing Recently – it involved Christmas On Mars by The Flaming Lips, and tickets to a depressingly expensive (and shite) Mark E Smith solo show.

8. Have you ever heard your own music in an indie shop (how did you feel?) No, but I heard Restlesslist in Mothercare once.

9. The album that you would like your money back on? Not an album, that f****** Mark E Smith gig.

10. You greatest indie record shop experience? Having the sleeves of our records spray painted on the famous ‘back wall’ of Rounder.

11. Your worst indie record shop experience? Being turned down for work in the same place. I got signed instead, which is some consolation I guess…

12. What makes a good indie record shop? Good bands, and people behind the counter who aren’t, ahem, twats.

How was your year? – Thomas White

How was your year? – Thomas White at Drift Records

My personal highlight of this year (and probably every year to come for a long while) has to be touring Europe with The Electric Soft Parade. Having spent months piecing together a set of films to accompany our ‘No Need To Be Downhearted’ album, it was a joy to be able to take the show around the UK late last year. To then take it all around Europe, and to have it received as warmly as it was (especially in Germany) was touching, to say the least. It was a truly rewarding experience, having spent so many lonely nights meticulously recording click-tracks and synching edits etc… we felt like we’d truly arrived as a band.

Other highlights were, of course, working with Drift on ‘I Dream Of Black’, ESP supporting Sparks at their 21 nights in London, and being part of the continuing gestation of Clowns, a project which is finally coming to fruition right about now! In addition, much fun was had playing with Restlesslist (new record coming soon) ….making the new Brakes record, oh and another couple of solo albums, all of which will hopefully see the light of day sometime next year.

Other notable mentions are:

– The imminent downfall of the worldwide economy… arf!!!…
– Discovering Richard Linklater‘Waking Life’ and ‘A Scanner Darkly’, in particular…
Sparks‘Exotic Creatures Of The Deep’
Elbow winning the Mercury Music Prize (brought a wee tear to the eye!)
Obama winning the election (hell, yeah)…
RTX finally touring the UK properly…
Wild Beasts‘Limbo, Panto’
The Levellers 20th Anniversary show at The Royal Albert Hall, London (great gig – insane evening all round)
– The first ‘At Home By The Sea’ Festival in Brighton (great line-up…bring on next year)
– People finally waking up to the magnificent genius of Of Montreal, even though Skeletal Lamping kinda sucked…
– Playing Summercase Festival w/ Brakes and witnessing the full force of Grinderman on the main stage…
Blondie at the same festival…
Cornelius at the same festival…
The Week That Was…………. THE WEEK THAT WAS!!!!!!!!!!!

……and that’s about it!

Sweet Dreams

musicriot.co.uk reviews I Dream Of Black – my favourite review so far…

I Dream Of Black Archive More Album Reviews and Interviews, Radio, Tour Reviews.

Given only a white disc with a Thomas White sticker on it I was left to guess what this might be. It happily ran on a loop in my car for a week before I had to know. I assumed it was a portfolio of a composer trying to get work creating soundtracks for films. It plays like an artist’s sketchbook. Almost every song is a different style and many of the songs don’t have vocals. Despite this sketchy, demo like feel it’s really rather enjoyable. It’s calming but not so much in the way of background music. You’ll feel very aware of what you’re listening to but it’s not intrusive.

I’d be hard pressed to say what I Dream of Black reminds me of as a whole. There are hints of Simon and Garfunkel in the opening track but then the second track presents more of an updated 80’s new wave sound mixed with a pounding, industrial sounding beat. There are definitely hints of Garbage… How can I fully describe this album? …Sod it,

1. Simon & Garfunkel 2. Garbage, Talk, Talk 3. Radiohead, Eels 4. Muse 5. Chronicles of Narnia 6. The Who, The Beatles 7. I’ll come back to this one 8. The Who, Lamb 9. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

10. The nicest little tune I think I’ve ever heard. It makes me feel nostalgic for a time I never knew and a musical I never saw. Wall-e would love it; up until the three minute mark anyway when the song winds away in to the distance in an electronic soundscape; such a nice end to an album. I’d recommend it for something to put on when you can’t sleep.

Despite my GROSS oversimplification of what this record holds it is extremely complex. Maybe that’s why I’m having so much trouble reviewing it. It’s a scary concept but something I’d like to see a lot more of. It’s not at all radio friendly but I really hope it finds the right crowd.

Oh, and track 7 is too rare a piece to sum up in one sentence. It starts off with clarinets and piano and sounds something like the soundtrack to a film noir before becoming something a lot darker and quickly turning in to something very sweet and reminiscent of Morcheeba.

I Dream Of Black review

The professionals already said all this but I thought a fan review would be nice.

Read more reviews: I Dream Of Black Archive

This an album about surviving, it is not an album about giving up…

I’m not a reviewer and I never write about music and the thought of writing a review of an album terrifies me but a few things I read about I Dream Of Black concerned me slightly. First I would hate if anyone gave this album the depressing tag because that couldn’t be further from the truth. Beautifully dark yes, yet at the same time totally uplifting.

I was flicking through TV channels last night with no sound and reading subtitled lyrics for god knows what band and I couldn’t believe how bad they were. And that alone made me want to listen to I Dream Of Black and really appreciate it. I don’t have the lyrics but listening to the songs, the meaning is crystal clear.

The one song that really stands out is Will The Moon Ever Rise Again for the sense of quiet contemplation and the tenderness of the vocals. You just want to repeat play it which is unfair to the rest of the album. And as you listen, you can literally see the full moon in the sky shining brightly, illuminating the sadness. There’s such a brightness in the dark. And the video, if there was one, would show Thomas sitting in the middle of an empty room, slowly strumming his guitar, and through the window behind him the moon high in the sky. By the end you’d have a lump in your throat. That’s what music’s supposed to do. You feel a sense of helplessness, in the black of night… like a tiny dot on planet earth. And there’s no-one to hear you except for the moon. Everyone’s been there at 3am at some time in their lives. The worst thing is that bands are writing songs about nothing. Thomas White could never be guilty of that.

Wartime Love continues the sentiment and there is no sense of escape. You imagine sweethearts swapping this on 78 rpm in romantic days of old. Maybe he whistles the tune to himself on the battlefield and she plays the fragile old record in the bomb shelter. The emotion is claustrophobic but real. All through time people have been ripped apart whatever the reason. Wars, hatred, death it’s all the same. The song asks the question “whatever happened to the love?” but there is no answer because by then it’s too late and you can never get it back again…

The Runaround could almost be from a different artist entirely and has a devil may care attitude towards an un-named guilty party (record labels, press, fans, all three?) Maybe just maybe those people who still to this day proclaim the first Electric Soft Parade album will always be the best or those from the recording industry who got it so horribly wrong – kicking ESP off their label must be a crime against music surely.

“They’ll give you everything that you need, they’ll give you everything that you don’t need”. Thomas proudly declares he has “made it through the heart attacks” and I think he may very well still be making music in a good 20 years time, against all the odds.

Starry Nite #2 is a Love Song and brings a sense of security to the record:

Sun in the sky, sand between my toes
Been walking a while, forever I suppose
Since we’ve been here, I haven’t slept a wink
It’s been time enough, time enough to think
Everybody knows, that we’ve been getting close
No-one understands, you’ve got oceans in your eyes
When I look at you and you look back at me
Suddenly I’m comfortable, talking ’bout infinity

No longer in a darkened room but sitting on a beach writing the lyrics on a notepad maybe wondering if they would ever see the light of day… This album is like stumbling across a very personal diary and knowing you shouldn’t really be reading it. At first glance some people may toss it to one side and dismiss it as a morbid curiosity, maybe they should have actually taken the time to examine the contents.

The Silence Stops Tonight has cryptic lyrics that flow into funky instrumentals (he’s just showing off his drumming really) This is very Electric Soft Parade and makes you want them back and soon. You can almost imagine Alex on backing towards the end. At one time the idea of one of the band going solo would have been unheard of but Alex did help out on recording and mixing Wartime Love. This is definitely an ESP song in its embryonic form though I reject the idea that it’s in any way a “half finished idea” as Thomas has said of the songs on this album. He may have been freezing his feet off in a basement but it’s far from that.

The Instrumentals…

I’m not sure I’m qualified to review them, not being a musician. They are: I Dream Of Black (just incredibly peaceful) This Is Just A Little Interlude (drumming high in the mix!)

Starry Nite #3: with its mournful clarinet intro and piano accompaniment which segues into distorted bass for a few seconds then unearthly strings and piano, a short acoustic section and finally arrives at an electric guitar solo that sounds in places like it’s a keyboard (I mean that in a good way) there are so many different sounds. I don’t know how to describe it but it’s magical.

White Wave is the sound of electricity crackling down power lines, almost like a song from the future (just as Wartime Love could be a song from the past) There are so many different styles on this album it opens your mind. One thing I know is it’s a million miles away from the album everybody has up there as the best thing ESP ever did. It’s so different it doesn’t even compare.

Solar Collapse officially “imagines the sound of a solar implosion as heard from earth”. It is definitely out of this world that’s for sure. There’s eerie breathing sampled in the background at one point and the music is full of restrained tension yet you know the end is coming and somehow Thomas has managed to recreate the sound of vast nothingness that makes you think, if the end’s like that, it’ll be OK actually.

Not forgetting the opening track, Is It Wrong To Lose Faith In The Person You Used To Love? which could be a letter from his subconcious to himself: Come back home, you’ve had a mad time… Is it wrong to lose, faith in the person you used, to love?

…Anyone who can make music like I Dream Of Black should be very proud of themselves indeed.

TW and Chris T-T on TinternetRadio

Here’s the fan recording, it’s approx 35 mb’s (Empty At The End live at the start)

TW and Chris T-T on TinternetRadio 5 June 2008

Read the transcript here – Click link to read it all but here’s TW’s quotes…

Who are you, where are you, and what are you doing here?


Hi Thomas, how you doing?

Yeah good, I’m a bit hot now I’ve sat down in my jacket. Just sat on the floor in Roy’s little radio studio where I slept last night along with various other people.

Did you have a good kip?

Yeah I did actually. I kind of overslept a bit, I woke up and everyone had already had breakfast.

Thomas White from Electric Soft Parade and Brakes Brakes Brakes and any other band you could care to think of that he’s been involved in…

Brakes Brakes Brakes – I forgot we were were supposed to be called that in certain parts of the world.

It can confuse some people, because there is a Brakes the bakers.

The caterers, yeah. They actually use exactly the same font as we did on our first record. It’s good, it’s like we were advertising for them and they were advertising for us. Spreading the word.

It’s great to see you guys here, Tom obviously welcome to Tinternet Radio towers, it’s our humble little studio here.

It’s brilliant, it’s a good little place.

So you’re on a bit of a solo tour at the moment although you’ve got back up with Chris T-T and the band. How’s it going for you?

I’m supporting him really, or I’m meant to be supporting him. I wangled some headlines out of it.

How did you and Chrissy T hook up?

Chrissy T? That’s brilliant, adlibbing names. Well we know eachother from Brighton.

Chris T-T: We’re having a good time I think, one of the interesting things is like Thomas is playing very varied sets, like sometimes he’ll be really quiet and acoustic with a twelve string guitar, other times he’ll be with a laptop playing almost electro dance music, and other times when I’m trying to be interviewed, he’ll sit playing on a pink toy piano and play some cute tunes. That is the best piano I’ve ever seen, I have to say.

Tom, are you soundchecking right now?

I’m just having a go, pretty good. It’s only duo-phonic poly…

Little pink piano we’ve got going on in the studio here.

It only does 2 notes at once.

That’s brilliant, we could remix that and make that the next record release maybe, sample it and chuck it on a track.

Do your worst…

So you’re going to be at Wolverhampton then at the Little Civic.

It’s rotten tour planning really on the part of somebody.

As in scaling one end of the country and then going back to the Midlands…

Going York, Glasgow, Hull and then Birmingham, Wolverhampton, kind of defeats the point of doing a show in either because it’s like 2 minutes away, you know. A gig’s a gig, even if it is in the worst venue in the world.

Am I right Tom, your parents are both teachers?


So obviously your upbringing must have been quite outstanding. Did you duck out of school for a bit and probably get taught by Mum and Dad, musically, or…

No no… well my Dad’s kinda musical, he plays a bit of piano, infact he can read music and me and my brother can’t. Well my brother kinda can. My Dad plays clarinet and a bit of piano. Me and my Mum keep trying to persuade him to be a writer because he writes fiction, short stories and stuff and they’re really good.

Going back to the tour, obviously The Glee Club was the show last night.

Nice place, I hear the guy at the venue was saying a lot of comic’s try out new material there which is why they had the full on sign on the wall saying no cameras or anything, no youtubing people. Lee Evans basically did try outs for his new world tour, did like a week or a month of residency. And they’ve got Dylan Moran there and stuff. And good shows as well, good little place.

You performed a track called Blue It Is by Billy MacKenzie, tell us about that, it was just beautiful.

Yeah it’s just a tune he wrote on Beyond The Sun, I haven’t actually heard the album it’s off, just got recommended it as a tune to cover.

Oh wow it’s just too gorgeous. For listeners on Tinternet Radio who don’t know who Billy MacKenzie is, Tom White’s gonna tell us all about that.

He was the singer in The Associates, seminal 80’s band. They’re a brilliant band.

And their classic anthem was…

Club Country or Party Fears Two.

Very nice, festival season’s upon us. The Truck Festival, are you back at the Truck festival? It’s always a good weekender isn’t it.

I’ve been roped into it, I turned down my offer and somehow I’m still doing it. I got offered a slot and I said I didn’t want to do it and I’m now doing it which is really annoying. I wanted to not do it.

It’s a fairly new festival isn’t it, in Oxford.

It’s been going 10 years, if I play this year it’ll be my sixth year running which is just too much. It’s too disgusting.

Describe the idea behind the Truck festival. The whole thing is set up on a big truck?

It’s on a flatbed Truck and there’s a stage and a bar. It’s really good and the Rotary Club make real stingy portions of pasta with a little bit of pesto mixed in and some cherry tomatoes.

You’re quite a chef, aren’t you really, Tom? A secret chef?

And banana milkshakes, smoothies. A little wine stall. And a bar where all the barmen are cross dressers. The main bar, they always cross dress. There’s always that guy dressed as Madonna…

What’s all that about?

You see the same people each year and every year they just get a bit more knackered looking, just a bit more disgusting. It’s a great festival but it’s very debauched in a kind of middle class Oxford way. You know what I mean, lots of naughty things happening.

And other festivals, obviously you’re at Beautiful Days this year with The Levellers celebrating 20 years in the music induustry.

Don’t they look it, every day.

Obviously you’re good mates with Mark Chadwick, lead singer of The Levellers. How are they celebrating this year.

Same as every other year I think, every day with Chadders isn’t it.

And other festivals, you’re going to be hooking up with Brakes and ESP later this year?

Yeah we’re doing Doctor Loft Festival in Spain.

What’s that?!

Some festival on a beach in Spain, sounds good.

Here we are at Tinternet Radio camp, Tamworth-on-Sea, we’re in the studio.

Where’s the sea? I’m from Brighton, I don’t see a sea. I don’t smell the sea.

Well we’re based in the Midlands, we’re a bit closer to the coast than you actually realise. Tamworth has got a silent sea, it’s inbetween the M and the W. I’m just making it up as I go along. Here we are at Tinternet Radio towers with Tom and the posse. He’s on tour, he’s got a brand new record release out at the moment called I Dream Of Black. Tell us all about that Tom.

It’s not out just yet, it’s out in a couple of weeks.

I read a blog that the album was produced in a basement of a townhouse somewhere deep in the suburbs of Brighton, reading inbetween the lines it sounded like it was an awkward place to record an album but listening to the album – brilliant.

It was really cold, it was in a garage in the basement of my girlfriends house and it was just freezing. There was no heating in there, they wouldn’t let me put the heater on because it cost so much. So I’d kind of go down there in bursts of 45 minutes until I couldn’t feel my feet and then go back upstairs and warm up and then go back down and do a bit of recording. It was alright when you’re drumming but trying to do vocals you’re just stood there for hours on end it was quite painful. I like the idea that a record sounds wintry or summery depending on the time of year it was made.

So you must be really proud of the end result then?

Yes and No. Every record, as you’re finishing it you’re like yeah this is just right and with hindsight you could always go back and improve things forever. But I kind of had to just get it out as it was because I hadn’t done that before you know. Every record I’ve ever been involved in has been a democratic process involving loads and loads of people and record labels and A & R people so it was really nice to just do a record and not have to worry about any of that.

Greets Chris, what are you messing around with?

I’m in the process of trying to film your interview with Thomas in order to put it on youtube and humiliate him. Unfortunately my phone camera had not very much memory so I only managed to get a little excerpt of the interview.

Thomas White on T’Internet Radio

Here’s the fan recording:

Thomas White on T’Internet Radio May 18th 2008

Here’s the interview transcript – click to read in full. Some quotes:

T: Got a tour going in the next few weeks with Chris T-T, which’ll take us pretty much around the country so I’m preparing for that at the moment.

Excellent, sounds good, and tell us about Chris T-T, who is Chris T-T?

T: He’s kind of, in the best possible way, he is a protest singer, a lot of his songs are protest songs – very cutting, articulate protest songs. People have had a go at at him for it but I think it’s a dying art really, a lot of people tend to shy away from politics because it puts you on the spot as a listener, it forces you to have a reaction to it. When so much music these days is about satisfying peoples expectations and living up to an expectation that someone has, whereas his stuff really does push your idea of what a song can do and it makes you think which is great. He supported Brakes a few years ago on tour and we’ve played with him since and it seemed like a really good thing. I think he had the tour booked already and I just kinda snuck on there. It’s gonna be great, he’s a great guy. He’s a Brightoner as well so we know eachother.

Tell us about the gig you’re appearing at with Mark Chadwick and Jason Pegg?

T: I hooked up with Jason yesterday – I was on all the posters, I’m on the Joogleberry website and all that but no-one had actually told me that I was doing it but somehow I got booked and it’s all happening but no-one had actually made the call. So they did yesterday and I am actually doing it. I’m looking forward to that, we’re going to have a rehearsal in a couple of days. The idea is we’re gonna choose 5 songs each of our own and then everyone’s gonna learn them and help out and all that.

We’re also looking forward to seeing you in Birmingham very soon.

T: I believe we’re doing The Glee club. That should be a barrel of laughs…

It’s a really nice venue if you’ve never been there before.

T: No, I’ve never done it, I’m looking forward to it. We’ve only ever done The Barfly and Academy and that. Is there one called The Hare And Turtle, Pint Of Beer or something? I don’t know, some little pub.

Is it just going to be you and Chris T-T?

T: I think some of the nights will have a local support on first but it’s just me and ‘im travelling round in a van, it’s gonna be great. I can’t wait, the weather’s beautiful, it’s gonna be a proper start of the summer sort of tour.

How many bands have you been involved in over the years mate?

T: This friend of ours Paul, he’s been trying to convince me to do a Brighton Rock Family Tree. I had a go and it’s insane. It started when I was about thirteen, I played drums for my mate Duncan, his band, whilst me and Alex were getting our first band together. I just got asked to play drums and from then, every couple of years someone will go “oh do you fancy helping out on this project that’s happening” and then suddenly it’s a band. Like I say that’s the way Brighton is, it’s not a big deal. That’s how the musicians down here work.

And how is Alex, how is your brother?

T: He’s doing well, he’s alright, currently he’s been roped into The Pipettes to help write their new album and he’s playing drums for them and helping them get their second record together. It’s just that typical Brighton thing where people help their pals out. The Pipettes have been mates of ours for years, we helped ‘em out on their first recordings, before they were signed and stuff… There does seem to be a lot of girl groups around at the moment like that kind of sweet 60’s vibe you know, there’s a hell of a lot of bands doing that thing. The Pipettes got there first! They’re the first revivalists. They’re a great band.

When can we next see The Pipettes? I keep looking around the festival season and can’t seem to find them billed on any of the gigs at the festivals.

T: They haven’t even finished their new record yet. They’re taking it easy, they’re writing at the moment, they’re all just working up in London and writing their new record and it’ll be ready when it’s ready you know.

Tell us about your new record release.

T: That’s coming out June the 14th, it’s on Drift records, that’s a little label based out in Stroud, they’re great. It’s called I Dream Of Black and it’s kinda psychedelic but acoustic, a bit folk, it’s good though, that’s what I’ll be playing on this tour.

New Thomas White song + video

Watch The Runaround video…

Debut Solo Album – I Dream Of Black – released 14th July on Drift Records

His first solo outing, I Dream Of Black, is a home crafted dream-scape of whirring synths, psych-guitar, and the instantly recognisable vocal. With the self-imposed remit of “making a cohesive record without going anywhere near a studio”, Tom set himself up with a Tascam 4-Track tape recorder and began brainstorming.

Inspiration is derived from a myriad of different sources including The Dandy Warhols, RTX, Broadcast, Money Mark, Clearlake and The Wicker Man. Amid ambient electro-acoustica and playful surf ‘wig-outs’, the single The Runaround sees Thomas “channeling Courtney Taylor-Taylor circa 1998”, while the albums’ “only love song” Starry Nite #2 conjures up The Beach Boys at their beatific best. Starry Nite #3 splices Robert Wyatt’s early seventies recordings with the dusty beats of Money Mark, and closer Wartime Love/Solar Collapse imagines the sound of a solar implosion as heard from earth.

Thomas White, 6 Music

Here’s the fan recordings:

As Yet Untitled and interview

More Interview

Interview and Dennis Wilson, End Of The Show

More Interview

Read a transcription of the above interview. Here’s just one quote from it. Marc Riley: It’s alright for you because you can play loads of different instruments, Eric Clapton could go, could you come and play bass for me then Thomas, I mean Tom, I mean Thomas. You could play piano, you could play drums, you can play anything you like, can’t you. TW: Except flute, I’ve never had a go at flute.

From the latest Drift Records Newsletter: Thomas White’s debut LP will settle it’s self neatly between The Matt Eaton and Tandy Hard records this June, and will doubtless appear online in our shop in the next few weeks. First it must be made…

Drift records Blog

The Drift Records Blog contains some recent posts about the solo album: 9th June, I Dream Of Black – We will be offering exclusive pre-sales of these albums to subscribers of the mailing list in the next week or so… Drift on The Luminaire. So we announced on our website that we are going to be working on an album with Thomas White. Sarah and I went along to the Luminaire last week to see Thomas play the songs live for the first time. We were both utter blown away and thankfully someone had the good mind to tape it! Hooray! Couple of smashing covers, but check out ‘The Runaround’ – It’s a bit special. Tom has some info on the debut solo album at his Myspace “…a mentallist 10-tracker of fuzzy acoustic psychedelia, meta-folk, futurist lo-fi, full-frequency rock, stoned beats, fantasy-surf, antique trip-hop and luscious harmonies stacked right up to heaven… an immense, sprawling beast of an album…”