Jimi Goodwin didn't get it, didn't understand why he had to go to America. And usually, when Goodwin or anyone in his band, Doves, doesn't get it, there isn't much to get. Not for them, anyway. Sure, other British groups had done it, tempted fate and attempted to cross the Atlantic with their pride intact, but Goodwin wasn't in those groups. He was in this one, and he and his bandmates (twin brothers Andy and Jez Williams) had their own ideas. Goodwin was almost as proud of that fact as he was of the music they made together. Almost.
So when Doves' record company suggested, hey, why don't you guys tour America, Goodwin put them off: "Why not wait until we have another album out?" The Manchester group had become unlikely stars in the U.K. after releasing the sad-eyed Lost Souls, but there didn't seem to be any compelling reason to try to make the same thing happen in the United States. "Why not just be happy with what we've got?"
That was two years ago. Goodwin just returned to America yesterday, the fourth time he and Doves have been over here since they finally stopped asking those questions, stopped fighting the label and took a chance. He's glad they did. He is now, at least.
"First time around, we were thinking we were going to die a death here," Goodwin explains. "We didn't think anyone would get it or understand us. And it was wonderful. Four tours in two years, obviously, I think it's going well. Gigs are getting a little bigger. Hopefully progressing each time we come out here, otherwise, you know, what's the point?"
It's a rhetorical question that comes up occasionally when speaking with Goodwin, a musician who knows better than most that compromise is an option not a requirement. Doves haven't been as successful in the States as they have been overseas--not even close, really--but they're doing better than most and, best of all, they're doing it on their own terms. (As in: "There Goes the Fear," the first single from their latest album, The Last Broadcast, is seven minutes long.) And even if America had turned its back on Doves, well, worse things have happened to them.
The group got its start almost 10 years ago as Sub Sub, building an acid house for 24-hour party people to live in with turntables and computers and such. They scored a hit with 1993's "Ain't No Love (Ain't No Use)," but that would be their only one; Sub Sub disappeared, along with its studio and all of its equipment, after an electrical fire in 1995. (On the twins' birthday, no less.) Reborn as Doves, with guitars and drums and the same ear for sounds, the Williams brothers and Goodwin spent the next four years crafting their debut, Lost Souls, only to have their mentor, Rob Gretton, die suddenly of a stroke in 1999, just as they were finishing it up.
If, then, Lost Souls sounded like the gray clouds that hung over the band for the last half of the last decade, The Last Broadcast is the sun shining through them, a hug you can collapse into, a voice saying everything is going to be OK: "Close your brown eyes and lay down next to me/Close your eyes, lay down/'Cause there goes the fear." And in a way, it's like a 12-song best-of culled from two decades of British music, U2's The Edge sitting in with The Smiths as they plow through a set of New Order songs. That might be saying a lot, but so does The Last Broadcast. Goodwin had time for a short interview to say some more.
Dallas Observer: Was there any concern that when you started recording The Last Broadcast the band would disappear into a studio for another four years?
Jimi Goodwin: We determined it wouldn't take another several years. A lot seems to have been made about how long Lost Souls took, but isn't that the case with every band? I mean, no one knew who we were; no one was waiting with bated breath to see what we were doing. It took that long because we were developing who we were. We evolved from Sub Sub into a band that was unknown. We were just changing what we wanted to be like, what our sound was. So we had as long as we wanted to do it. And we chose to take a long time.
DO: After taking such a long time, did you decide to bring anything from Sub Sub with you?
JG: The sensibility, the production, I think, is very important to Doves, and that's from our hip-hop- and dance-music-related-loving background. We feel it's still in there, in spirit, you know, the way we produce things and the way we use sonics and stuff, our love of film music and collage.
DO: Does any of that kind of music still interest you?
JG: I still listen to hip-hop big time. I still get the odd house track that I think is fantastic. Electronica, you know, some weirdness. There's only one song that we play from Sub Sub days, which is "Spaceface" at the end of the set. It's a live favorite. We're never gonna record it again. People are always going, "What the hell is that song you played at the end of the set?" And we go, "Yeah, it's the first thing we ever did as a band." It's just kinda funny that it's still got legs, like, 12 years later.
DO: Since you were in Manchester 12 years ago, what did you think of 24 Hour Party People?
JG: I was all set up to hate it. Nine times out of 10, these things just get it so wrong. But, no, it was definitely a surprise, especially with Rob Gretton, who was our great friend and fucking benefactor for, like, 10 years of Sub Sub and Doves. Rob was just a philanthropist at the fucking highest order, you know? He gave a lot back to Manchester. It was his idea to open the Hacienda. He helped New Order through the transition from Joy Division to New Order. Amazing man. You know, and Rob died a couple years ago, and seeing the actor who played him represent him so well was wonderful. The guy's amazing. It's uncanny. It's like seeing Rob up there.
DO: Moving on: Is The Last Broadcast somewhat of a reaction to Lost Souls? It certainly sounds more optimistic.
JG: Not everything is conscious. Not everything is discussed. We don't sit down and discuss where we're gonna go next; things just tend to happen. We do have talks about that, but there wasn't a board meeting before the album started about where we're gonna take it and how different are we gonna be. Shit starts to happen. We always set out to be different on every album we make. Even every song. No two sound the same. But there's a sound going through them, because we made them. We used to worry about that: Is this Sub Sub, this track? Is this Doves? Well, it is, because we made it, you know? Do we like it? Yeah. Well, stop worrying.
DO: You often say that Doves is "ambitious without being ambitious." What...
JG: ...does that mean? [He laughs.] It's a bit vague, isn't it? I keep saying that. Well, you know, I guess it refers to, like, how big do we want to be in America, or what are our expectations? We're pretty down to earth, and we've been around now for a while, as musicians and players and shit. If we feel it's getting nowhere, then that's when we pull the plug on the touring. Because it can be a bit stressful. We love playing, but only if we're getting results. We have to keep getting home and charging ourselves up and getting a normal slant on things. Of course, we want to do well. We worked so fucking hard in the last four years. We wanna see it happen, you know? But we're not gonna jump from the rooftops or jump through anyone's hoops. We never compromised yet, and that's what we're proud of. It took a long time to get where we are, but I believe things happen for a reason. It's because it's meant to be now that we're getting talked about or written about.
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