Interview: Rising Stars – THE TOI

Glaswegian three piece rock band the Toi consist of Pol Healy (vocals/guitar), Andy Carr (bass/guitar/vocals) and Stevie Mclay (drums/vocals). They release their rather good debut album, ‘Water Into Wine’ on March 2nd. Over to Pol for the answers…

The Toi - band photo

Brief history of how the Toi came together and what are the band’s musical influences?

We were childhood friends and played for the same Sunday football team. ‘Grew up in the same area, hung about in the same circles. Our musical influences range from Guns N Roses, Def Leppard and Whitesnake to Michael Jackson, Don Henley and Elton John, and just about everything in between; folk, country, classical….as long as it’s “good” we’ll absorb it!

Can you take us through your debut album ‘Water Into Wine’ e.g. recording and writing process, stories behind the songs.

We demoed the album at Gorbals Sounds in Glasgow and then recorded it at the legendary Rockfield Studios, near Monmouth in Wales.

‘Get On It’ – “A song about the archetypal ‘bad girl’…the one that’s out with her boyfriend but is making eyes at every other guy in the place. You think to yourself that you could handle her but then think that, actually, nah, she’s bad news and getting involved will ruin your peace!”

The Toi - Water Into Wine

‘Come Alive’- “It’s a tune about feeling a profound attraction for someone and you’d like to express it in the most carnal way. Me and our bassist Andy wrote this song while eating curry in his mum’s old flat, which was above an off-license, ice cream shop and Tandoori Knights, the worst curry house in Glasgow. Said room was fumigated.”

‘I’m Still Crying’ – “We were in Germany playing some small acoustic shows and were on our way to a party we’d been invited to after a gig. Andy was suffering from a broken heart at the time and came up with the title which, in a Jägermeister fuelled haze, I starting singing to him. When we eventually woke up the next day Andy asked if I remembered the chorus, which fortunately I did.  We then wrote the verses. The pre-chorus was from an old song I wrote and it just fitted perfectly.”

‘Til The Morning Comes’ – “I was walking to Andy’s place on a Sunday night when, in true Glasgow style, the heavens opened. I started to walk a bit quicker and came up with this chorus that mirrored the pace I was walking at. By the time I got to Andy’s I had the bulk of the song written in my head, and when we got together we put into the 70′s rock processor and it turned out well. I think this is why Dan Hawkins really liked the tune. The song is about a couple of friends who, shall we say, had trouble parting after breaking-up.”

‘The One’ – “I was a big fan of “Every Breath You Take” by The Police and loved that it comes across as a love song even when it’s not. So I wanted the lyrics to be like a psycho-love song, a stalker who’s voyeurism has gone well-past unhealthy. I think the outro is probably the best bit of jamming we managed to track. It’s got so much feel, and the bass and drums are just killer!”

‘Staring At The Sun’ – “Originally this was an old song called “Save Me”, which producer Nick Brine and Dan liked but felt could be better. They suggested we change the lyrics and tempo. So, the night before tracking it we were in our hotel room working it out. Andy must take great credit for persisting with it because me and Dog (Steve) were ready to jump out the window.”

‘I Think About You’ – “This is one of the earliest songs Andy and I wrote together. It’s just a straightforward sing-along song; big chorus, big solo and big drum sound. Lyrically, it’s about seasonal affective disorder which, being Glaswegian, kicks in around the second week of August. So, it’s a love song written about summer in the depths of a Scottish winter.”

‘Water Into Wine’- “The album’s title track nearly never made it onto the album at all! I had never sung it to the guys before, so they were somewhat in the dark as to how it was going to sound. When it came to pre-production Nick and Dan were convinced that a song was missing. The only thing we’d not demoed was Water Into Wine. When they heard it they turned and looked at each another and said, “That’s the best bloody song you’ve done all day! Are you mental?!”

The song is about a person who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The world is full of them; religious orders, politics, law enforcement, work places…even some girls in nice dresses! I’m a sucker for biblical references and it became the title track as it’s our first record and it’s the first of the miracles in the new testament – and it’s a bloody miracle us three have come this far!”

‘Cold In The Night’ – “Originally a song called Stay With Me Tonight, this was the first song me and Andy wrote together. Dan and Nick loved it but said we needed a stronger chorus, so I started humming the melody of a lesser known “Ave Maria” which Dan and Nick loved. Andy came up with the lyrics and Dog arranged some killer drums. The choruses ate a big homage to QUEEN, hence the ridiculous harmonies.”

‘Down By The River’- “Another writing session at Chez Healy and, as per usual, all we had done was drink tea. It was nearly home time and Andy turns to me, as he regularly does, and says, “Healy, gimme a song!?!?” I just started singing…it was all there. We worked on the lyrics, which I think are very Springsteen-esque; Boy meets girl, falls in lust, have a child, work isn’t easy to come by, they grow apart but something makes them stick together. It’s a song that people love when we do it live…it’s got a lot of sentiment in it. I guess we’re lucky that people connect to it. A great story and as always there’s that optimism attached to it, which is what we as a band are all about.”

What have the band got planned for 2015?

We release our debut album ‘Water Into Wine’ on 2nd March! We are also making two more videos for singles, and playing gigs galore (hopefully)! We’re also writing new material for our second album.

The band members seemed to have a series of highs and lows in 2014. How do the band face these challenges and how do you go about managing the balance between band and home life?

In the immortal words of Bret Michaels (no laughing at the back folks!), “you gotta cry tough”. What doesn’t kill you and all that. We never give up because we love our music and believe in it so strongly!

How did you manage to get Dan Hawkins of the Darkness involved?

Nick Brine, our producer, was doing The Darkness’ comeback album and Dan heard some demos we’d done with Nick and wanted to get involved as he liked where we were headed. Plus he wanted to come to Glasgow to eat great curry and drink Tennents Lager.

In an ideal world which bands would The Toi like to tour with and why?

We’d like to tour with lots of band, mainly because it would enable us to work at our craft. In an ideal world, let’s start with Bon Jovi, Springsteen and Steel Panther. We’d learn so much from them, and I could replace Sambora now he’s out of Bon Jovi!

What is the live rock scene like in Glasgow and Scotland in general? Often a lot of touring bands seem to miss Scotland off their schedules!

The scene here in Scotland? Hmmm…we wouldn’t really know, as we’re not part of any scene! The megastar bands like Bon Jovi, KISS and the likes, they ALL come to Glasgow. But Edinburgh and Aberdeen seem to miss out more than us on the west coast. We’re eager to get out and discover what the scene is all about, so if you’re a booking agent: GET IN TOUCH!

Message for your fans…

Thanks for your patience love and support. Please buy multiple copies of our album. If need be, cripple as many credit cards as you can so we can quit our day jobs and have pet chimpanzees.

Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 17 July.

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