Having released their sophomore album, Crown Shyness, in July 2017, the last two years have been full of excitement for St Albans' five-piece Trash Boat. Ahead of their show supporting As It Is in London, we caught up with frontman Tobi Duncan to talk about their second album, their whirlwind year and the struggles with social media in the modern age.
Looking back at 2017, Duncan laughs, "I can't even remember how it started off, all I remember is from Warped onwards." Trash Boat took part in the last ever Vans Warped Tour [as we know it] playing shows across the United States in the intense summer heat. The excitement of this was added to by the fact that the band released their album whilst on the road, "we were hustling those CDs in the queue every morning and every evening! We got really good first week numbers because of it."
As well as just being able to reach a new audience during the tour, Duncan also notes the special opportunity to be on the road with so many friends, "we got to spend the whole tour with As It Is, Don Broco, Grayscale, With Confidence, made so many good friends..." Before noting that Trash Boat have a long and loving history with As It Is "now we get to be on this tour which is kind of a full circle tour really because As It Is took us out on our first ever tour! We'd done weekenders and two days here, three days there but they took us out on our first tour that was longer than three days. It was As It Is, Trophy eyes and us in 2015."
Although there were mostly highs, from being with friends and releasing an album which has been overwhelmingly well received, Warped Tour didn't come with some struggles, of course, "we had a lot of bus breakdowns. We went through three different buses," Duncan laughs (if you don't laugh, you'll cry, I guess!) "Just real bad luck. We got trapped in the desert for a few days, missed a few dates." That beings said, he emphasises that there is no bad taste from it, "all in all it was an outstanding experience. I would do it all again."
When it came to releasing 'Crown Shyness', Trash Boat went in a heavier direction, something which can be a risky move and is in essence the antithesis to what a lot of bands do as they progress in their careers. Duncan says that this move was not something they were anxious about, "I wasn't worried, that's what I wanted, it was what I was kicking up a tantrum for! I really wanted it to be a little bit heavier it differentiates us, everyone else softens it up and tries to appeal to a wider audience. But I just wanted to write music that I wanted to hear and I want to hear heavy music."
On top of getting heavier, Trash Boat also released videos on YouTube, where to Duncan talks through the lyrics in depth. He explains that he hoped it would help fans see and listen to the songs in a different way. "I always found that an album would change from something that I really liked to something that I loved when I sat down and read the lyrics with it. That's true of albums even that I thought were just alright, if I sit down and listen to it while reading the lyrics along to the song you gain a deeper respect for what the song is and I always enjoyed it. So I wanted to give people a bit of an insight into why I wrote the songs, maybe it would inspire them to read through the lyrics."
It's clear from both the music and Duncan's demeanour how important lyrics are to the band and himself. "I'm always writing lyrics, if I think of something cool or poetic or whatever, I'll just write it down. Or if I think of a phrase or an idiom or something and I think I can make it rhyme or think of a metaphor that fits into a concept I have or something... I have a notepad on my phone that I just keep writing on." When it comes to favourite lyricists that he admires, he easily mentions a number off the top of his head, including Pat Flynn of Have Heart, Jordan Dreyer of La Dispute whom he calls "an artiste", Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years,Derek Archambault of Defeater to name a few.
In the lyrical explanations on YouTube it becomes clear that Duncan writes about topics close to him, including some of his family stories, he explains that he does tell them ahead of time, but it's also important to know the limits, "I give them a heads-up, but I never write anything that isn't any of my business. And even I've written about things that aren't solely my business but I write them in a way that gives people anonymity, I don't hit it too on the nose."
He also mentions that it may not be the case for Trash Boat in the future that they will always be writing about topics that are so deeply personal, "it has been important but I can't say that it always will be. I had a lot to get out of my head and put on paper." On that note he admits that they have been considering delving into the art of concept albums, but nothing is set in stone yet, "I have no idea where to begin, listening to Defeater would be a good start because he's one of the best concept artists lyrically I've ever listened to, we'll see."
For the recording process of 'Crown Shyness' the band worked with Andrew Wade, an engineer and producer from Florida who has worked with some of the most notable alternative acts around. From the likes of A Day To Remember, In Fear and Faith and The Word Alive, his production roster is seriously impressive, and now Trash Boat can be added to the list.
Duncan explains that Wade was exactly who they wanted to work with, "not only did we want to work with him, he was on our wish list of producers that we wanted to work with but we thought we would never get a chance to work with. And then we suddenly realised we could!"
The recording process was very different from their that of their debut "Nothing I Write You Can Change What You've Been Through". Duncan explains "the first album we recorded in 9/10 days, I recorded all the vocals for all the songs in like 2 days... It sucked. And this we had five weeks and I could do a little bit of vocals every day to keep the vocals warped up and fresh."
The band as a whole are pretty active on social media, so one could assume that they all love it. But Duncan explains there's somewhat of a complicated relationship there, "I'm always in a dichotomy with social media because I like Instagram, it's like a diary almost but the public validation part of it is something that I don't want to want to do. I'm not funny enough for Twitter, I don't have anything to say," he laughs.
That being said, he's not looking for any sympathy, nor are you going to get any from him, "you make the decision when you put something on social media to put it into the public forum and you bring any comment anyone makes on yourself and you've got to be able to handle it."
On that note, 2019 is seeming to just continue on the same upwards trajectory for the band. With a huge amount of touring in Europe, the U.K. and in the U.S. going on - including a show at The Workman's Club coming up on September 18th, things are certainly not slowing down anytime soon for Trash Boat.