Joe Talbot has been the lead vocalist for rock outfit Idles since the band’s inception in 2009. We caught up recently to discuss new music, the creative process, and how he’s been keeping himself busy throughout lockdown and beyond.
As a self employed musician, Joe Talbot is used to working from home while not on tour. The Idles frontman has remained productive through these otherwise strange times, using it as a good time to reflect, regroup and get organised in his work.
“I spent most of my time focusing on Idles as a band, processing all the art and music together for six or so years,” says Talbot.
“I had the freedom but sometimes I didn’t leave the house for five days at a time, and I think it’s at times like this with isolation and restriction when creative thinking flourishes. It’s a tool and a weapon for the people, and they’re starting to understand just how freeing it is to only have your family and your imagination to work with. People will learn a lot about themselves and discover just how much of a capacity they have to be brilliant without buckling.”
Like many, Talbot sees the pandemic as a dire situation for the industry, and is disappointed with how the UK Government has responded.
“It’s times like this where we realise how important the arts are and how important music is,” he says.
“We’ve had no work for three months now, and are instead trying to make money through merchandising. However, a lot of people don’t have that luxury. The venues are shutting down and half of our booking agency have unfortunately lost their jobs. This is a time where we need stimulation through art and music, and we need that connection with the rest of the world and with ourselves. We’re at the mercy of something that could either be very enlightening for the people, or more likely devastating ideologically and logistically.”
Notwithstanding the doom and gloom of the situation, the band (at the time of this interview) had just finished mastering their third studio album, Ultra Mono), which was released on September 25. “With the last album I tried to be as instinctive as possible,” Talbot explains.
“I don’t write lyrics until the song’s completely finished. I’ll listen to it quite a few times and then something clicks and I’ll write the song in one go - that’s the way I’ve always done it. I find that the more I liberate thought processes around the song, the more diluted it becomes. There’s usually a feeling to the music. It will either sound huge or small, intimate or violent, angry or sad. Writing it often just comes as instinct, and I think the closer I get to writing the lyrics to the music as instantaneously as possible, the more right it will be for me.”
As well as working on the album, Talbot has also been writing and collaborating with a bunch of other artists and musicians, including English singer-songwriter Anna Calvi. Talbot appears on the track Wish on Calvi’s fourth full-length album, Hunted, which was released earlier this year.
“There was a connection there in that Nick Launay produced both our album Joy as an Act of Resistance and the latest album, along with Anna Calvi’s Hunter record. I think she’s incredible, and it was her who offered the idea that I could interpret her music. I basically ended up doing the vocal on top of a more raw, and perhaps intimate version of the track Wish. It just sits really nicely and I like to sing which is a rare thing for me, so it’s a real privilege to work with someone like that.”