After a ten-year hiatus, Doves released a new album, The Universal Want, on September 11. It is a much-anticipated album from the beloved British band, whose debut album, Lost Souls (2000) immediately made them stars on the indie rock scene. Their next two albums – The Last Broadcast (2002) and Some Cities (2005) – went to #1 on the U.K. Albums Chart. With Kingdom of Rust (2009) they just barely missed achieving that same mark, peaking at #2 in the U.K.
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It has been a remarkable career for drummer/co-vocalist Andy Williams, who formed Doves with his brother, guitarist Jez Williams, and bassist/guitarist/vocalist Jimi Goodwin when the three of them were all still in school together. Williams thinks that their career comes down to persistence, and he advises aspiring songwriters to be equally relentless.
“Just keep doing it – stick with it,” Williams says of songwriting. “Don’t beat yourself up. I’ve written stuff where I’m like, ‘This is awful, this is terrible.’ But you just keep going, and keep trying things.”
Williams knows that staying productive is often easier said than done, but “If you feel like you’re stuck in one place for too long, try moving somewhere else: go over to a friend’s, try and write there. Try mixing it up. Keep feeling inspired, keep moving,” he says.
Conversely, Williams warns, “You can ruin songs by overworking them.” As for knowing how to strike the right balance between sticking with a song and lingering too long on it, Williams says, “I think that just comes from experience.”
Williams says it also helps when bandmates can rely on each others’ opinions about a song’s quality, pointing to his own experience in Doves: “All three of us go, ‘Yeah, it’s getting good, let’s not overcook it.’ A song has got to be able to breathe. The mantra ‘less is more.’ Although our songs can be dense musically, I do try to fight to have some sparseness.”
Another useful thing that Doves members do, which up-and-coming bands might consider trying, is to switch their lineup configuration around to suit a song. While Williams is usually the drummer, he sometimes switches places with Goodwin and sings lead vocals. Having any member ready to step in and sing or play various instruments lends a dynamic aspect to the material.
“Certain songs which I’ve sung the demo, I only sang it to get the idea across, and then at times Jimi or Jez will hear it and go, ‘Your voice has actually got a really good quality on that song; let’s keep it,’” Williams says. “At times, I think it’s better if Jimi will sing something because he’s got a great voice.”
Ultimately, Williams advises, deciding on the best way to create and execute a song comes down to thinking about “the greater good of the song.”
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