Photos by Jade Falconer for Musicology.
Trash Boat took to The Cave stage at 2000 Trees with tireless fervour, launching through an impressive, breakneck set. We caught up with vocalist Tobi Duncan after the set to discuss the creation of the band’s recent debut album Nothing I Write You Can Change What You’ve Been Through.
Trash Boat have just completed a headline UK tour with WSTR and Weatherstate, and they are feeling incredibly positive, explaining that the worst show on the tour was “better than the better shows on other tours”, and from the reaction they received earlier that day it is not hard to see why.
Discussing which songs the band enjoy playing live off of Nothing I Write You …, Tobi muses “I like How Selfish I Seem, that’s probably my favourite song on the album. Brave Face is good because people seem to really dig it, and that’s the one they shout back the loudest which is cool. I like Panegaea because it’s such a hardcore punk song.” This is largely what the band have gauged their crowds to enjoy most too, adding that Tring Quarry is a good hit and people “really kick off” for the album’s first single Strangers.
Thinking back to their initial signing with Hopeless Records, Tobi recounts receiving a message from the band’s manager at the time letting them know they’d received an offer from the label. An offer they understandably “almost immediately accepted”.
Trash Boat recorded their debut album with The Wonder Years’ frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell. As another Hopeless Records artist, Campbell had let the label know he was interested in producing an album, and as Trash Boat were beginning to start writing their album, the label matched them up for what turned out to be an excellent pairing, leading to some stunning guest vocals from Campbell on Strangers.
“It was good, he was a highly respected opinion throughout the whole process.”, Tobi explains, “If we had a riff or a song, we could send it to him and ask what he thinks, maybe send him a verse saying ‘We don’t know quite what to do with this’. So he was there as an ear whenever we needed it.”
Most of the ideas and riffs were in place for Trash Boat’s album as they began working with Campbell, so the album had a rudimentary structure. Whilst some of the songs were written largely independently of Campbell’s input, Tobi describes sending songs to the producer who would suggest alterations, helping to shape the album cohesively.
Often, these contributions would end up leading to restructuring songs. Tobi clarifies “We’ve gotten as far as we can go with a song, then something as simple as ‘cut that guitar and have a drum fill there’ and it would totally restructure the entire song. We’d put it somewhere else and start an entire brainstorm which is useful to have.”
When given the challenge to describe the writing, recording and release process of Nothing I Write You Can Change What You’ve Been Through in two or three words, Tobi pauses for thought before selecting “Stressful. Rewarding… and a word that’s somewhere in between those two!”
Expanding on the stressful nature of writing the album, Tobi reveals that their musical style derives from “a lot of arguments”:
“We all have a lot of very specific artistic ideas and we really butt heads quite often when it comes to how we’re going to write a song. As irritating as it may be, it’s what makes the songs the way they are. So we’ll end up coming to some sort of middle ground on something a bit tougher, a bit riffier, a bit more melodic, and mesh the ideas.”
It’s actually Trash Boat’s drummer Oakley Moffat who comes up with the “lion’s share of the riffs”, but Tobi credits each member of the band with writing different songs, though he himself writes all of the lyrics. The frontman also explains that they write the most alone, and send material to each other before developing it as a unit.
Discussing the varying musical influences within the band and the variation it brings to their writing, Tobi says “We like a lot of them same stuff but also a lot of different stuff. We all like pop punk and we’re all involved in that, but Dann likes a lot of punk – Misfits, Sex Pistols kind of stuff, I like a lot of metal and hardcore. Everyone’s got their own little branches of stuff like that they listen to.”
The album artwork for Nothing I Write You… has a story to tell too. It turns out that one of the prospective names for the album was “Cautiously Optimistic”, and the crossed fingers represent that. Even when the band settled on a different title, the design still remained relevant to the album and stuck.
With Trash Boat equally excited to head out on tour with Beartooth later this year, we asked who would be the dream band for them to support. It’s a question Tobi has never been able to really answer, even for himself. He muses over A Day To Remember, who would’ve been his undisputed choice a few years ago, but many of the other bands he’d most love to tour with have broken up, so it seems Trash Boat will be forging their own path!
On the other side of the barrier, the tour that the frontman would most like to see is equally out of reach. “Have Heart would be on there”, he says, “because I just want to see Have Heart live, every time I watch that video of their last show it’s just mad.” He goes on to mention Metallica playing set-lists from the 1980’s and 90’s, as well as Blink-182 and Sum 41 at the height of pop punk’s heyday in the early 2000s. What with both band’s returning this year, perhaps this isn’t too far outside the realms of possibility.
And a tour with The Wonder Years? “It would be great, wouldn’t it?” chuckles Tobi, “I’d love to. We’ll have to see!”