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Exclusive Interview with Toy guitarist, Dominic O'Dair

Earlier this month, we spoke to Toy's guitarist, Dominic O'Dair in the run-up to their self-titled debut album, which drops on the 10th September on Heavenly Recordings. Self-proclaimed psych / kraut enthusiasts, this record resonates these influences - the band's adherence to stylistic cues borders on religious at times - clockwork rhythms and cycles of synths driving tunes like their first single 'Motoring', while blisteringly romantic shoegaze takes centre stage on 'My Heart Skips a Beat', each sounding like a study on genre.

However, with far-reaching connections into some of the most talked about bands recently, Toy rides a close line between a hotly-anticipated addition to the burgeoning London pop scene, and a mathematical study on the intricacies of the past forty years of experimental music. The contrast between the melodic hooks of 'The Reasons Why', the pared back rhythm of 'Dead and Gone' and the drawled, softly, softly vocals and mushy synths on 'Make it Mine' illustrates this combination of pop sensibility and calculating, motorized texture. ?Similarly, the band members veer between unkempt hair and vintage double-breasted coats to Dalston hipsterdom, perhaps revealing their deep seat within London's music scene, but also visualising their broad influences. Yes, this debut pulls many threads from the long-haired jams of the Seventies, but there's a strangely compelling blend of melody and mechanics that makes this record unique. With a concept recording next in the pipeline, and a second album planned towards the end of next year, Toy are far from finished, and given the maturity of this first album, they look set to create their own groove, albeit with some help from a few German inspirations.

LF: Hello Toy - it's great to talk to you. How has 2012 been for you? Busy?

Toy: Hello - it's been amazing so far - we recorded our first album, been on plenty of tours and played some festivals abroad and around the UK.

LF: Tell us a bit about where you've come from.

Toy: We all met in Brighton - Tom, Panda and I became friends when we were about 12, then when when we were 18 we met Alejandra, who had come from Leon in Spain to live in England, and then Charlie, who we met at a psychedelic club on the seafront.

LF: I remember the moment when Toy really stood out for me was through Marc Riley, and subsequently the residency you did at The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston. I like the way you've taken your time to release an album; how has this influenced what you produced?

Toy: The more time you have to develop your songs the better - our songs have progressed and evolved from having played them live lots of times. Also, by having the chance to play plenty of gigs first, we were able to get tight enough to record the album live, which was important to us.

LF: Also, i've heard that you tend to be pretty adventurous in the studio to get something just right. How was working with Dan Carey? What did that relationship bring to the record?

Toy: For us, working with Dan Carey is perfect - he likes to capture sound in strange ways and has an unorthodox approach which really suits us too. We've been good friends with Dan for years now and we've always talked about making albums together once our band was up and running, and now finally doing just that, it's great. We discussed how we wanted to approach it and how we wanted it to sound, and we have the same tastes in music anyway, so the whole process was just really enjoyable. We can't wait to make the next one.

LF: So you are mostly all seasoned band members; some of you have played in Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, and you're very close to The Horrors. How has this influenced the music you make as Toy, and also how you go about being part of a band nowadays?

Toy: A lot of our friends are in bands, The Horrors and various other really good groups, and we play each other demos of songs we're working on, discuss making music and watch each others gigs, so in that sense we influence each other, although each band has it's own musical agenda. The JJJ has no influence at all on TOY's music, as it never had anything to do with with the music we wanted to do in the first place, which is why we left.

LF: Similarly, Heavenly could be argued as an unusual choice for a band that habitually resides in Dalston. Was this a conscious choice when you were looking to release music?

Toy: Heavenly Recordings were immediately really enthusiastic about our music, and they're nice people who love music, so it was an easy decision for us.

LF: Your new record is full of Korg synths, loops of guitars and metronomic drums in a way that can't escape parallels to 70s Germany and Krautrock. What brought this into your style?

Toy: It's a genre that we've been listening to for for years that we all really love, so I guess it's influence just naturally seeped into some of our music. There is so much variety in that music, it's brilliant to explore and get lost in. The hypnotising qualities of Krautrock and Kosmiche are a big influence.

LF: On that note, what would you say that your new record sets out to communicate? Is there a message that listeners should bear in mind?

Toy: I think it's best to let people derive their own meanings from it.the music, or get a hear a slightly different angle on them.

LF: You've been credited with a live presence that is hard to beat, and this has been a central part to how people have discovered Toy. What should people coming to see your shows expect?

Toy: It's good that people have discovered us through watching our shows, as the way our band sounds is a result of developing through playing live. Our shows probably sound more raw and noisey than on record, which I think makes a nice balance. On the album it's a little cleaner in places, so you can possibly hear more details in the music, or get a hear a slightly different angle on them.

LF: Given that you do spend a whole load of time onstage, where has been the most memorable, the best, and the worst place that you have played?

Toy: Playing the Roundhouse with the Horrors was definitely a memorable gig, it was a big step up from playing the clubs we had been doing and luckily it went smoothly. The first pressing of our debut single arrived to the venue on 12" on the same day. I can't think of any gig that was a bad experience really or that went drastically wrong.... When we played in Ibiza it was pretty bizarre because everyone in the crowd wanted to hear pumping house music, but I still enjoyed the gig.

LF: Looking to the future, after your release in September, what are your plans next?

Toy: We are going to be doing plenty more festivals, like Reeperbahn, Festival No 6 and Bestival, then supporting Death In Vegas at Brixton Academy. In October we're heading off on a UK headline tour and a European tour in November/December. It's all really exciting. Meanwhile, we'll be writing our second album, and also an EP of more experimental, improvisational music. We want to have about 20 songs for our second album ready by January, when we will go into the studio and record full demos, with a view to recording around March/April time and releasing by next September.

LF: If you could share a bill with any artist, who would it be?

Toy: The Velvet Underground. I would have loved to have seen them play when they were in their element.

Toy's album is now streaming here and is out on Heavenly Recordings.

Oliver Spall
22:47 - 01/10/12