On a chilly Saturday in November, two bands high off the back of award victories descended upon Bristol. One on the final leg of a Europe wide tour, the other stumbling out of celebratory parties and sell out shows. Alt-J had just won the Mercury Prize, and Team Me were touring their Spellemannprisen (the Norwegian Grammy’s) winning debut To The Treetops. I had the pleasure of interviewing the latter whose release has not been off my record player for more than a week since it came out this February. I was joined by Marius, the Me in the team – guitarist, keyboardist and song-writer, and Uno, who is tasked with percussion, guitars and vocals as well. Relaxing in a Subway just across the road from Start the Bus we chatted about origins, influences, the Wombat’s fantastic cello talents and playing it by ear.
Started as a demo project, Marius began Team Me in early 2010, winning a radio competition and having to cobble a band together out of friends. They seem to be born out of a pretty incestuous group of musicians from Oslo. Marius coyly pointed out ‘we don’t like to call it a collective, but it really is’. Each member seems to have their fingers in many different pies, Uno currently has his own solo project as well as a Hardcore band, a few other band members make up a metal band called SiN, Marius began in a 70′s Hard Rock band and their lead-female vocalist was in a ‘roots-country band’. ‘It’s kind of strange that we sound like this’ admitted Uno.
Team Me – With Me Hands Covering Both My Eyes I Am Too Scared To Have A Look At You Now
Drawing on a breadth of British musical influences ‘from the 60′s with the Stones and the Beatles and then all those one hit wonder bands like Herman and the Hermits – cos my mother was into all that’ all the way up to ‘the whole Grunge thing’ and ‘especially the Smashing Pumpkins’ it’s hard to see where their poppy sound comes from. But digging a little deeper the influences start to appear. Certainly in relation to the Smashing Pumpkins whose string laden instrumentation has definitely made a mark on their dreamy compositions.
There is a very childish theme to the album. Marius described the recording process as ‘like a big kindergarten’, and not only because half of it was recorded in a school hall. ‘We were really picky about the drums and the bass and guitar, the fundamentals, but when it came to the extras, the glockenspiels and the strings and the woodwind[s], all the details, we didn’t think too much we just did it. We just decided to do it big’ And it comes across. Conceptually the album is very much about childhood, ‘the album is called To The Treetops, and music has always been a reality escape for me, so it’s all about turning into this little boy and climbing up to the top of a tree.’
Very relaxed about their sudden limelight Marius let on ‘it seems like it’s a big deal for everyone else except us. It was unexpected, really. Yeah, really. There’s like a panel of maybe 5 or 6 people who pick out the records and decide, “Ok these people are the winners”, but music’s a matter of taste really, so it’s much greater deal when I see people sing along during shows and stuff.’
Talk turned to their tour with the Wombats, a band I’ve never felt much love for, and was pleasantly surprised to have my perceptions completely shattered. It turns out Marius grew up with Tord (Wombassist), who he claims is ‘one of the most gifted and talented musicians I know – y’know he started playing the cello, and I still reckon he’s better at that than bass.’ When asked if they aspired to reach the commercial heights of the Wombats Uno just laughed. ‘We tried to do all the wrong things, at least everyone kept on saying “No, no, you can’t do that”. Especially with the title [With My Hands Covering Both My Eyes I Am Too Scared To Have A Look At You Now] they told us that we couldn’t do that.’ Marius joined in, ‘Yeah, that was like putting flames on the fire. Y’know when record labels and management tell you what to do, you suddenly turn into a fourteen year old’.
They seem perplexed that everyone was reading deeply into their music: ‘The thing is that everything we’re done is not under a really big plan, like calling that song that was just because we couldn’t figure out anything to call it, and our bass player said “Oh, can’t we just call it that” and then then we got a lot of attention for that. Radio programmes started making jokes about it and others were saying “Oh these guys are so clever, oh wow!” But it’s all shit!’
Stepping out of Subway and waiting for the late show to start (at 00.00?!) we graciously parted ways, only to come face to face again four hours later. Headbands donned they played the ‘punk versions’ of the album, stripped down and euphoric. I couldn’t but feel sorry for all those people stuck on a decommissioned boat watching a triangle.