"It had to have integrity" - How Talos made a show of the 'difficult second album' cliché
Cork native Eoin French shoots for the stars on his latest work.
Eoin French allows a knowing chuckle, registering above the din of forks reverberating off of plates and general lunchtime chatter.
"Ah yeah," he nods. "We have to say that, don’t we?"
The man behind Talos is gearing up for an extended stay in the United States, having landed a big publication deal as his project expands in all sorts of ways.
He's excited to relocate for the guts of half a year, majority of new bandmates in tow, but he's not about to forget where he came from.
"One thing that I have realised quite quickly is that Cork is definitely still the base," he explains. "I’ll always come back to that."
And with that, we get the inevitable 'real capital' thing out of the way, along with that earlier knowing laugh.
French has earned the right to wander. Upon constructing his debut record, the RTÉ Choice Music Prize-nominated Wild Alee, the Carrignavar man cut an isolated figure.
"While I was making the album, all of my friends and all of my school friends did the whole travelling thing," he recalls.
"I was sitting in a room in Cork writing music, probably writing about the fact that I wasn’t able to travel while they were all doing it.
"Now, it’s completely the opposite thing and I’m really excited about it."
A joie de vivre is palpable, in person and on sophomore effort Far Out Dust, even if the video for its title track presents a ruthless dance with death.
Clip via Talos
A few buzzwords tend to come up when describing Talos' sound. Evocative. Ethereal. Dreamlike. Precise.
Another thing that French couldn't get away from for a time - a background in architecture.
Though music would ultimately come to the fore, that particular foundation proved press release gold for many a journalist, especially when you factored in the hermetically sealed nature of the soundscapes.
We're beyond that now. Wild Alee is a terrific debut, though it now feels a much tighter, at times near-claustrophobic experience when compared to newer work.
Piercing through on both; French's legitimately stunning voice, the tone a mixture of fragile and audacious, perfectly at odds with its specific reaches.
Even the contrast of his singing with his regular speech - there's no mistaking where he hails from - has given some fans cause for alarm.
"We did two shows in Dublin in St. Ann’s Church last year and I was standing at the merch stand after the gig," French begins.
"A girl came up to me and I thanked her for coming, and she said, ‘You probably shouldn’t speak, just keep singing!’ I thought it was kind of hilarious, to be honest. It is what it is."
Far Out Dust embraces contradictions, harnessing a brighter strain of pop sensibility along the way. Rich colours dance and burst throughout. Songs like 'See Me', 'The Light Upon Us' and '2AM' reach for the stars. Was this a conscious move?
"100%," nods French.
"We came out of the Wild Alee thing and then we made the Then There Was War EP, which was the full stop, purposefully the destruction of what came before to find the level and then go again.
"The first thing that I wrote down before starting Far Out Dust was, ‘This is going to be a pop record’. That was super conscious. That was the main focus going in.
"But it had to be the right type of pop record. It had to have integrity. There’s such a thin line between something really worthwhile and thought about, and… candy floss."
Clip via Talos
Live, Talos has evolved into an inventive six-piece. A recent gig in a Dublin church presented lively worship elevated by additional percussion and unabashed showmanship.
Working towards such flourishes was very much in French's mind when assembling his second record proper. That, and recontextualising his debut.
"There was such a left turn with the EP; we were really aware of the shortcomings of the record," says French.
"Because it was something that was made over three-and-a-half years, looking back now, there was definitely a fear associated with making that album. I was very aware that I wanted people to like it. It was really, really considered.
"Whereas with this record, I think what really helped was the time constraints on this album; I had to just trust what I was making. I had to be like, ‘Okay, I can actually make music’ and just do it. The last album was surgical at points."
Would he consider himself a perfectionist?
"I definitely was, anyway. 100%. I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m beginning to find it a lot easier to just let something be what it is.
"With this record, something we did a lot and Ross [Dowling, producer] would have done a lot is that we’d have something that sounds really rich or expensive or ‘perfect’, and then next to it is something really shit, or run through a shitty tape machine, or is a really terrible Casio synth - that kind of contradiction kind of holds onto the handmade feel, which was important."
Perhaps more important, the weight that has been lifted by those around French.
He credits his bandmates for changing the way he thinks about creating music. He's lucky, he says.
"It was a really, really mad year," he reflects.
"We were continuously uprooted and scattered and then within that you had to find space and draw from something to make this record or whatever it was.
"The obvious thing is to make it about this situation. It’s kind of a record that documents complete bewilderment. That’s where I found myself a lot this year. It's tough to ground yourself, but making this album is what grounded me."
Far Out Dust is out now.
Talos play the Set Theatre, Kilkenny on 25 April, Galway's Róisín Dubh on 26 April, Dolan's Warehouse, Limerick on 27 April and the Body & Soul festival in Ballinlough Castle, Westmeath in June.