Progress Report: Colette Thurlow — one half of British sister duo 2:54 — talks about the making of the band’s forthcoming full-length debut.
British duo 2:54 — the BTW comprised of sisters Colette and Hannah Thurlow — generated lots of excitement earlier this year with the release of previous singles “Creeping” and “You’re Early.” Exploring the same spooky, shoegazery terrain as friends (and current tourmates) the xx, the band has a knack marrying jingle-jangle guitars with subtle touch of tough girl snarl. Later this month 2:54 will release their much anticipated full-length debut (recorded with Rob Ellis and mixed by Alan Moulder), so I called up the unfailingly polite Colette Thurlow to talk about how their debut album came to be.
STEREOGUM: What can you tell me about the making of 2:54?
COLETTE: I guess Hannah and I are always writing and that kind of never stops, but we arrived at a point I think where we found that we had the family of songs we wanted that fit together the best and also felt like the definitive first chapter of the band and also represented where we are now sonically. I guess inbetween touring and the last couple of years it’s been an ongoing. We were putting together the album just as the band was starting to take flight.
STEREOGUM: Where did you record?
COLETTE: The main body of the album was recorded in Wales in Mono Valley. We were there for two weeks and it’s quite isolated out in the countryside and we specifically didn’t want to be in London. We didn’t want to be able to go home every night and see our friends, we needed to be a bit more isolated. We had the idea of it being this incredibly immersive experience. That’s what we wanted and what we got.
STEREOGUM: Did you know how you wanted it to sound before going in?
COLETTE: Absolutely. I think when Hannah and I demo stuff, the songs at home are complete and finished. We were never thinking of using the studio as a time for exploration or embellishment. It was more about going in and learning what a professional recording experience was all about. We knew how to record stuff the way we like, it but going into a real studio and learning the science of sonics — you know, how to get a good drum sound — was super educational. Plus, we got to work with Rob Ellis and Alan Moulder — they know how to make things sound fantastic.
STEREOGUM: How long were you there?
COLETTE: It was two weeks — 13 days or something — but we worked hard.
STEREOGUM: What can you say about the vibe of it?
COLETTE: I guess it’s very definitely our sound at this time. The summation of where we’ve been headed for the last couple of years. It’s dark but I think we wanted the songs to be big and vital without losing any of their darkness or femininity and I think that’s what we achieved. I’m just extremely proud of the album.
STEREOGUM: Do you find that people have this expectation based on your music that the two of you are going to be these morose, moody artistes?
COLETTE: Yes. And it’s so funny to Hannah and I because we are so totally not that way. The music is sometimes dark — and it is certainly a part of us — but we are quite the opposite. We seem timid at first, but that quickly goes away.
STEREOGUM: Did you grow up making music together? Did you always know you would do this together?
COLETTE: We couldn’t have known this would happen, but we have always been making music together. As teenagers Hannah taught herself the guitar and taught me some stuff and we just played around. It naturally evolved I think we had our first little punk band and played a few shows and it was formative in the sense that it was the beginning of that feeling that it could be a real thing. Everything just happened naturally, really.
STEREOGUM: Can you remember when you realized that the band was taking off?
COLETTE: I think the day we made “Creeping” in my bedroom, the day we finished that song. It was so different than anything we’d made together and it suddenly clicked that it wasn’t just for us and it had a real feeling to it. I remember playing that song over my stereo and knowing, really for the first time, that there was something different about that song. It was no longer just a fun thing that I was doing with my sister. I remember the feeling that I had in that moment, the excitement of knowing that maybe we had started on a path to something bigger … and things seemed to move really quickly after that.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been performing as 2:54?
COLETTE: I guess it’s about a year and a half — two years? About five or six months after we made “Creeping” we started to tour. We met the boys who play with us around then. It was important to us that we immediately start playing shows and learning the ropes — it’s all been about learning how to get better and slowly building up our confidence.
STEREOGUM: You’ve had the opportunity to play with a lot of different bands, what have been some of the highlights?
COLETTE: I have to say it’s all been so positive, whether it be Wild Beasts, Yuck or Warpaint — it’s all felt so supportive and embracing. For us, it was like, we’re such huge fans of all the bands we played with so it was a mixture of learning and just being fans.
STEREOGUM: When one of your singles gets 10,000 hits in 24 hours — as “You’re Early” did recently — does that sorta blow your mind?
COLETTE: Yes. The simple answer is yes. It does blow my mind. Everything blows my mind at the moment, it’s all amazing.
STEREOGUM: Will you be touring the states this year?
COLETTE: Yeah we’re doing a big tour — our idea of a big tour — in America starting June 8th. The album comes out May 28th and we have a London show then it’s America for three weeks. We also have festivals in the summer. This is all contributing to the “mind blowing” thing. We just can’t wait to see what happened.
STEREOGUM: Have you played here before?
COLETTE: Yeah, we have played New York and SXSW and San Francisco, so we’ve had a taste.
STEREOGUM: How was SXSW?
COLETTE: Great! It was actually a lot less intense than I thought it was going to be. We just loved it, so that felt really good. We got to be on some great bills.
STEREOGUM: What happens next?
COLETTE: I think we’ve got a couple of days off and then it’s all just the build up to the album and then we’re going to finally get a chance to rehearse. So we’ll have a nice period of getting in the studio and sorting out the live show, which is cool.
STEREOGUM: The press, particularly in the UK, can be brutal to new bands. They love you intensely, then they can sometimes hate you intensely. Has the increased attention been a difficult thing to grow accustomed to?
COLETTE: We try to just ignore that stuff and keep this little bubble around us. Our top priority, especially now that the record is done, is to just become a really good live band. And to continue to write good songs. As for the rest … well, you can’t control any of that.
2:54 is out 5/28 on Fat Possum.