Music festivals are designed to be overwhelming. From text-heavy event posters, to sprawling concert grounds, to colorfully dressed attendees, everything is engineered for sensory overload. And it usually works. The goal that festival organizers have in mind is to compel you not to think so much and just lose yourself in the moment.
However, since last year, Music Management International Corporation (MMI Live) has offered a more thoughtful but no less euphoric version of the music festival in the form of In the Mix. By featuring a smaller and more carefully curated lineup in the same sort of wide space (the Mall of Asia Arena), In the Mix allows for its featured artists’ respective styles to complement one another more clearly, creating a more focused portrait of the international music scene today. Last year’s festival featured alternative and independent rock acts from the U.S. and the U.K., and this year’s edition brings together an even wider range of musicians representing different shades of the pop music spectrum: 5 Seconds of Summer (from Australia), Zara Larsson (Sweden), Two Door Cinema Club (Ireland), Dua Lipa (U.K.), DNCE, and Daya (U.S.).
The inclusion of Two Door Cinema Club, in particular, comes across as essential—not only because of their unique approach to pop, but because their personal narrative provides a very real image of what it’s like to work inside the pop music machine. Much of the recent press surrounding Two Door Cinema Club has focused on their lengthy hiatus following the health scares and tension between bandmates that forced them to put their touring on hold. It’s an old story by now, but it’s vital to understanding what can happen when artists are pushed to the edge by the constant pressure to deliver and outdo.
And so, their being featured at this year’s In the Mix gives the lineup that much more meaning. By returning to the scene in 2016 with the bold and inventive Gameshow, Two Door Cinema Club have proven that the pressure they encountered on tour doesn’t have to be the end of the road; they’ve converted their problems into creative energy, resulting in an album that successfully embraces sounds and influences further away from their guitar-heavy roots. The guys of Two Door Cinema Club don’t just survive, then. They evolve and keep the music going.
We spoke to Two Door Cinema Club bassist Kevin Baird about where the band finds itself now.
How would you describe the changes in your music leading up to Gameshow?
The main change is that we have matured a little bit… the curse of getting older! We’ve been exposed to a whole range of music old and new since we wrote our first album.
How do you make sure your music remains distinct compared to that of other artists who draw from the same influences as you?
The main way is to not think about it! The more you contextualize what you’re doing to what’s going on around you, the less likely you are to take risks and therefore end up sounding like everybody else.
How do you guys reconcile your individual musical influences with each other?
Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. For the most part it’s easy. We try to weave as much of our different personalities into the parts we’re playing. It usually works!
Lyrically, what’s changed with the songs in Gameshow?
Having a lot to say was a major factor. It had been a long time since we made and album and a lot had happened personally and in the world.
Gameshow comments that the digital age isn’t all good. How do you navigate through the present day and age, then, when technology and social media are practically unavoidable?
It’s a contrast balancing act that I think everyone in the world is trying to do. It’s always good to try and think, “why am I posting this” and “does anyone care?” If the answers don’t come quickly then it’s maybe best to put the phone down.
How has your outlook on touring and the music business changed since your hiatus?
We’re a lot more relaxed and comfortable in our position. Towards the end of the Beacon tour things began to feel a little fragile. Now we take things a lot less seriously and just have fun.
You’ve been candid about needing to spend time away from each other after a while. How have you been able to improve communication and collaboration within the band?
Very much so! In our younger days, like a lot of young men, we found it hard to communicate what we were thinking and feeling. Now we’re much better and because of that it’s a lot easier and enjoyable to work on music together.
What’s it like to tour all over the world? Is it still surreal, or do you get used to it?
No, never. It’s totally fucking mad.
In the Mix 2017 will be held on August 17 at the Mall of Asia Arena. Purchase tickets at smtickets.com.