Despite his previous fame in long-running indie success, Bombay Bicycle Club, Ed Nash’s current situation can be viewed as an underdog’s tale. At least the band name he chose embodies such; Toothless, a reference to a Raymond Pettibon sketch, in which a female tiger comically devours a boy’s cranium. The caption reads, “Even toothless she can still bite off a boy’s head.” It seems that Nash is the tiger and everyone else is the boy’s head. As the former bassist in Bombay, Nash is uncharacteristically the first of the group to set off and release a solo-album, a feat usually taken on by the lead singer or guitarist. Therefore, The Pace of the Passing marks an unusual look into what personal talents may lie within well-known bands. I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Nash about his untethered voice and how he plans to devour us all.
What is it like to get your voice out there after being in the safety net of a chart topping band for so long?
“It’s great, actually – obviously I’m going to say that – It’s fantastic! (laughs) I loved playing in Bombay but it’s quite democratic and there were lots of other people’s opinions to be heard whereas with this, it’s just me, which is refreshing to be in control of something…to be the be all, end all and not have to rely on other people. Also, I’ve been meaning to do it for a long time and I finally got my chance.”
When did you first start pondering the idea of creating this album?
“I’ve always made music. Before Bombay Bicycle Club I played in other bands, since I was twelve. I always had the intention of doing it but Bombay got bigger and bigger and there became less and less time before this break. We decided to stop playing together at the beginning of 2015 and that’s when I actually sat down and started writing the songs for the album. So, I’ve been tentative about doing it for five or six years.”
Did you feel that your creative energy let loose after having the project in mind for so long?
“There were like ups and downs, ya know. I was creative in the beginning but it takes so much work and so much time to get all the little bits. I was writing the lyrics, the guitars, the bass, the drums and everything. So it took ages and I went through spurts – I had a creative week, a creative two weeks and I don’t know, a month where all the songs you write and all the bits you write are really bad so it was definitely creative at the beginning but because it was such a long process it was really up and down.”
After listen to “Palm’s Backside” I couldn’t help but wonder if you would consider The Pace of the Passing a break-up album?
“Nah, not necessarily. That song (he laughs as if remembering the inspirational heartbreak for the tune), that song is certainly about a break-up and the song ‘Party for Two’ is certainly headed there as well. I wouldn’t say it’s that specific…but most of the songs are about relationships, actually. I wouldn’t say it’s a breakup album, but those two, which were probably the biggest singles in it and probably stand out the most are break up songs – break-up songs with a twist, I feel. They’re not the classic, ‘We’ll never get back together’ or anything like that.”
Featured are Tom Fleming, Marika Hackman, Liz Lawrence and The Staves…I can’t pretend that I know who the majority of these artists are, but why did you choose to work with these talents? Did you know you wanted to feature these vocalists from the beginning?
“I wrote the songs first and then I thought of these people to do it. I didn’t want the features to be gratuitous. Like, all of those features had to be those people. They added something to the parts in the songs. For example, ‘The Sirens’ the song about the Greek myth, The Staves are the modern day embodiment of that. It had to be them to do that song. And then, Marika Hackman – that was the boy, girl song – it needed that female counterpart and I thought her voice was perfect as a complete opposite side of mine. Tom Fleming’s voice is super low and I used it to work out the harmonies…I wanted that low register. They all had a purpose in the theme of the songs.”
Sisyphus is another Greek myth? Were you influenced by these myths while you wrote?
“I kind of used Greek myths on this album because they offer pretty clear-cut messages. You can use them for modern life. I used it to explain a relationship where people make the same mistakes and you’ll always be there for them no matter what. They’re stories I know from my childhood. They were a perfect starting place for a lot of the songs because they’re so clear-cut. All the work is done; you just have to use it to tell your story. I really like that.”
How has your involvement in Bombay influenced your evolvement as a solo artist?
“That’s been the strangest thing, a double-edged sword. I loved being in Bombay but a lot of people are very fond and love Bombay, which means when I came up with this project a lot of people had a formed opinion already before giving the music a chance by itself. If someone liked Bombay, they might be more inclined to listen to this and like it. And if someone doesn’t like Bombay, they might not even go check it out. And I think it’s a shame, actually. And while it does live in the same world as Bombay, I think it’s more similar to other artists. It’s hard to give it a life by itself and give it the attention it deserves apart from Bombay.”
“You Thought I Was Your Friend” and “Alright Alright Alright” stood out to me on the album as having meditative qualities. Were you thinking about this at all while you were writing?
“It’s interesting that you say that. It’s something I think about – meditation – and I’ve read some books on it, but I haven’t talked about it in relation to my music. Maybe it kind of snuck its way in there.”
How have your live performances been as Toothless?
“The first time we performed was about eight months ago. I think the show is really good now…but I’ve only played seven or eight shows as well. It’s like we were saying with Bombay – the double edged sword – it meant people were going to come to the shows immediately. I didn’t have that buffer where it’s allowed to be bad…It takes a lot of time getting tight.
Did you record the album by yourself?
“I recorded most of it myself. I recorded two songs and produced two songs completely by myself and the other eight I’d record and write the song and then give it to Jack’s studio and Jack from Bombay would mess with it. We would re-record all the bits that needed to be re-recorded and look at the arrangement and most importantly, redo all my vocals. It’s really hard to be objective about your own singing.”
What do you have planned in terms of a tour?
“Because it’s so new, it’s what people make of it. I’ve got a UK tour coming up now and then I don’t know, I’ll try and get over to the States as soon as possible. I absolutely love it there.”
How has the feedback been on this record?
“I’ve already started writing the next album now. The feedback’s been very different for this record but you can’t really listen to it while making music, I don’t want it to influence stuff too much. So I’m kind of doing what I’m doing. If they like it, they like it, if they don’t…(I immaturely shout, “Fuck ‘em!”). You’ll get stuck trying to please everyone, you’ve just got to keep doing what you’re doing.”