2:54 on coming to America, touring with the xx, and (of course) Prince
Hannah and Colette Thurlow of 2:54
When Colette Thurlow answers the phone from her band's London practice space, there's a peal of noise that comes through the line. For a moment, there's just static, followed by a few trickling bass notes. "Can you hear me okay?" she asks with a half-giggle, her voice a gentle lilt. "We're having our rehearsal, and the boys are playing in the background."
Thurlow's band, 2:54, isn't very well known here in America, although they've already visited Minnesota once before--for a brief, sparsely-attended set at the Triple Rock last June. Back in England, however, they've had a big year, on the back of singles "Creeping" and "Scarlet," as well as their debut, self-titled album. In fact, these days they're even spoken of in the same breath as their good friends, the xx, a band whose dreamy R&B minimalism isn't too far from their own music. Of course, with Thurlow and her older sister, Hannah, often sporting bright red lipstick and black leather jackets, 2:54 also throws a healthy dose of punk rock into the mix.
The band returns to Minneapolis tonight to play First Avenue--logically enough, opening for the xx's very sold-out show in the Mainroom. Now may well be the time America gets to know this band, so Gimme Noise rang them up to get the lowdown.
2:54 at the Triple Rock, 6/18/12
Gimme Noise: So I understand you and Hannah actually played in a band together before you started 2:54. Is that right?
Thurlow: We've always played in bands together, since our teens. Hannah taught herself guitar in her teens and then taught me... We were in a band called the Vulgarians, a little punk band, just to sort of give it a go. And why not? Every song was sort of one-and-a-half minutes long; Hannah shredded, I shouted, and that was kind of it.
You've always been real close then, I take it.
Oh yeah, big time. And we always hung out, always really, and we always had the same circle of friends even though we were different ages. We sort of came as a pair really, I suppose.
Did you listen to similar music then, too, or did you have different tastes?
I was a huge fan of Aaliyah. I loved her vocal delivery, a really gentle, soulful voice. It was the first time I saw you didn't need to have huge diva lungs to sound soulful. And Hannah was listening to lots of heavy metal, like Metallica, Defones, System of a Down--all bands I loved too, actually, but we merged over punk.
So you were basically self-taught on guitar. Have you ever had any kind of voice training?
No, no, I've never had anything. I've only been singing since we made "Creeping," so only for a couple of years. I've just been trying to learn myself through playing live about how to use my voice and, yeah, playing live is such a different thing. But singing lessons are valuable. I suppose I should probably get some [giggles].
2:54 started with just you and Hannah, but you've brought on a couple other people into the band. Do you two still pretty well drive the band?
Whilst the songs come entirely from us, the boys are incredible, Alex [Robins] and Joel [Porter]. We never wanted to be a duo; we wanted the songs to reach their potential live and the boys are incredible players. But they're also beautiful boys to hang out with. We met them by chance, and it feels very natural and right, which you can't ask for more.
How did you meet them?
Through a mutual friend. We were looking, obviously kind of immediately, for a drummer and bassist, and my friend mentioned her friend. We met them, had one rehearsal, and after that the band was ready to roll.
You guys had the opportunity to work with a couple big names on your first album, Alan Moulder and Rob Ellis. What was it like working with them?
They both have incredible heritages in music and also in the same kind of music we make, so it was fitting that we all work together. It was an education and honor to be around [them]. Seeing how Hannah and I finish songs at home that are complete songs, we didn't need studio time to expand or explore or embellish a track because that was already done. It was more about finding out what professional recording experiences are all about and how to achieve sounds in different spaces.
The band already had a brief visit to the States back in the summer, and now you're touring with the xx. I imagine that must be pretty exciting.
We only got a taste but it was amazing. It's a big deal for a UK band to play in America, like a myth. It's really exciting when you find yourself there.
And you're pretty good friends with the xx too, right?
Yeah. We were friends of the band before the xx kicked off. We've know them a long time just from living in England; we're fans of the band and really proud as friends, and excited for their year they're having. And it's such an honor--playing with your friends, it's just amazing.
This is your second time in Minnesota. Have you had any particular relationship with Minnesota bands in the past?
We do! Prince is our dressing room jam before we go on stage, "Sign o' the Times." It's weird; I don't know why it's our track. Normally before we go on , we listen mostly to metal. But always before we go on stage we put "Sign o' the Times" on and it gets us massively amped to play. Because it's a massive tune [giggles]. So yeah, big love for Prince.
THE XX play a SOLD OUT show at First Avenue tonight, Friday, October 19th. With John Talabot Live and 2:54. 18+. 8 p.m. $30.50. 612.338.8388.
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