The Big Issue : Edition 472
THEBIGISSUE21NOV–4DEC2014 35 Seeds Of Change As much as the world came to them, the band were also driven and ambitious. They sought to channel the “exhilarating energy” and “positive stress” of living in New York into their music, which grew grand and dense – all blaring horns and heavily detailed production from the intense, anxious Sitek. “There’s an undeniable power in having this maelstrom of sound, but you can only take it so far,” says Adebimpe. “I think these last two albums have been a gradual process of stripping things down, removing the clutter.” Their fifth studio album, Seeds, finds TV on the Radio trying to tap into that spirit of when they regrouped. “The goal was to not get too caught up in anything, to work quickly with real excitement and joy. When you work intuitively like that, you can make up a song, some words and a melody, just for the joy of writing a song. It doesn’t have to be some experience that you have to drag out of yourself and mould into something that’s an exact replica of your soul in turmoil.” The first line Adebimpe sings on the opening song ‘Quartz’ is How much do I love you? On the second song, ‘Careful You’, it’s Oui, je t’aime. Each is built on sinuous synths and layered vocals, a sound far from the glowering, towering, apocalyptic angst that once defined the band. The song ‘Right Now’ is filled with space and levity, built seemingly for the simple pleasures of dancing. And on ‘Trouble’, Adebimpe croons: Everything’s gonna be okay / I keep telling myself / Don’t worry, be happy. “Whenever anyone says that,” Adebimpe explains, “my initial reaction is: In the face of all that’s going on in the world, you’re going to give me a catchphrase? And, even worse, a Bobby McFerrin catchphrase? But the sentiment becomes interesting to me when sung by someone at the top of their lungs. What does it mean to hear someone singing this saccharine sentiment as if they truly believe it?” Adebimpe sees the need to remind yourself to be happy as a sure sign you’re not. The catchphrase – which he heard uttered after Smith died – has both mantric power and in-built defeat. The loss of their bandmate imbued TV on the Radio with the desire to make music with more joy, but it was also at the core of why Adebimpe sometimes couldn’t feel the sentiments he was singing. The vocalist doesn’t like speaking of Smith’s death, but he still hears his life on Seeds. “It’s a fact that he’s not on this plane anymore, but he’s definitely with all of us, in different respects. And still present, in some way, in both the band and in our lives.” by Anthony Carew » Seeds is out now.