JOB CORPS “A lot of the songs are about trying to do the band as a career,” says Sam Halliday (right, with Kevin Baird and Alex Trimble).
If a band play and no one is around to hear them, do they make a sound? That must have been the kind of philosophical quandary bubbling in the heads of Two Door Cinema Club around 2006. Before the Northern Ireland trio produced compact indie pop, they were a bunch of teen lads in LifeWithoutRory, who've become an uncomfortable subject for guitarist Sam Halliday. "We were trying to re-create At the Drive-In songs, pretty much. It wasn't very good. It wasn't quite emo, but it was definitely more emo than what it is now." Shows were attended by "hardly any people." Desperation set in. "We just wanted to make music that people could enjoy, because it's not very fun playing to no one."
In 2007, the young band were reborn. They rechristened themselves Two Door Cinema Club, ditching their mangled angular rock and embracing a taste for melody. Actually, they kidnapped melody and jammed it into every guitar line for a sound that Halliday now simply calls "super-melodic." The approach came out of their newfound interest in poppier rock like Death Cab for Cutie and "stuff like Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel — stuff our parents would play. If you want to remember a song, it has to be super-catchy, and the melodies have to be there."
Last year's debut LP, Tourist History (Glass Note), is loaded with its share of hooky fodder. Most inescapable is "I Can Talk," which leads with robotic inflections repeating "Ah-oh/Ah-ah-oh" before skittish but starry-eyed rock snaps in. That five-syllable string then embeds itself in the action, reappearing at intervals and consolidating its presence in your brain, destined to be brought back to life when you have nothing better to think about. As Halliday recalls, that insidious hook is what set the foundation for the song: the band recorded some vocals, chopped them up, and looped them. Several other tightly wound melodies populate Tourist History — "Undercover Martyn," for one, spins like an impeccably precise top — and they're enhanced by singer Alex Trimble's dainty Ben Gibbard–esque coos.
Halliday's characterization of 2DCC's lyrical content as "very self-motivational" is tied to all the time and effort spent practicing and writing. "A lot of the time, we were off writing songs together when other people were probably studying for their exams. There comes that point in school when you either go to university and get a real job or you do your own thing, and a lot of people were saying, 'This isn't a good idea. Music is a really tough thing to get into.' A lot of the songs are about trying to do the band as a career."
You could argue that there isn't much stopping the band from having a career if they've gotten this far. The only problem is that 2DCC's arsenal of sounds is so non-threatening and luscious — they never leap for the emotional jugular, perhaps smarting from past incarnations — that they teeter on the edge of becoming a generic indie-pop or rock outfit. Even if Halliday wouldn't mind taking on something conceptually ambitious, like a movie soundtrack, the band haven't devoted much thought to experimentalism. "I don't think we'll ever really go for too self-indulgent stuff," he says. "We were doing that when we were younger, and it turns out that it's not too enjoyable."
TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB + TOKYO POLICE CLUB + SOMEONE STILL LOVES YOU BORIS YELTSIN | Paradise Rock Club, 967 Comm Ave, Boston | January 19 at 6 pm | all ages | $16.50 | 617.562.8800 or thedise.com