TV ME Interview: “I was making Simpsons, S Club 7, Crash Bandicoot music”

By Shaun Ponsonby
Thu 15 February, 2018

Ahead of TV ME’s single launch on Friday, mainman Thomas McConnell spoke to Shaun Ponsonby about their upcoming EP, popular culture and his peculiar style of song writing.

It seems February is the best time of year to launch new material.

Just one day after Emilio Pinchi launches his new single at Studio 2, TV ME are launching theirs at 81 Renshaw.

The name had been plastered on posters throughout the city for quite some time, so when we finally caught them with Childhood at Liverpool Music Week, they were finely tuned.

Needless to say, they made at least one new fan that night, their blending of progressive creativity, accessible pop and cultural references stuck out by a mile.

Thomas McConnell is the band’s leader and songwriter, and ahead of the launch of Stitches – the debut single from their upcoming EP A Broadcast From TV ME – he spoke to Planet Slop about the upcoming EP, and his peculiar style of song writing.

Planet Slop: You’re in the middle of a full tour, but so it important to you to come back and launch the EP here?

Thomas McConnell: I suppose it could be launched somewhere else but I didn’t really think about doing that. We live here, I made it here and we want everyone in Liverpool to hear it so it’s only natural to launch it here.

PS: The mixture of sounds you include in your music shouldn’t necessarily fit together – psych, electronic, a bit of prog, a sort classic pop sensibility – how do you reconcile those things?

TM: It’s an unconscious choice really. I just like flavours of all the styles you’ve mentioned and I try to filter them into my own thing. I think all my favourite music does that too. I’m not too bothered about the extreme ends of any specific genres and I don’t think I could stick to just one, even within one song. A lot of my favourite tracks and albums flit about in style.

PS: One aspect of your work that fascinates me is the pop culture references. Even in the music itself – Mountain Biplane actually brought 90s Nintendo to mind. How much of this is a conscious effort, and how much is just natural from your surroundings and interests?

TM: It was definitely a conscious effort at first. Last year I recorded a suite of music inspired by the sounds of my childhood. I was making my own Harry Potter-style music, Simpsons-style music, S Club 7-style music, Crash Bandicoot-style music, which I then sampled into the songs in the suite. That was a very deliberate idea – I wanted to make something that sounded as if you were going back in time to that era. Since doing that, a bit of that feel has seeped into my newer recordings so it now feels like a natural part of the sound.

PS: Are the pop culture influences as important as your musical influences on your work?

TM: I don’t know if one is more important than the other but I need to use both. The pop culture influences are the things I can throw on top of the song to give it character but the bones of the song itself should be informed by the influences.

PS: Why did you pick Stitches as the lead single from the upcoming EP?

TM: It just feels like a natural opener to me. It starts our live set and the EP. It’s a good representation of what my music is about.

PS: I’ve been told that Stitches took you 15 years to write. What was THAT process like?

TM: Again, it was unconscious – I happened to make three random pieces of music over 15 years that one day just clicked together. The piano intro was a piece of ragtime/silent movie-style music that I made up when I was about 14. I came up with the ending section when I was about nine – it was a tune about the comedians I liked and it was called Stitches. The main section was written in 2016 and that was about memories of watching 60’s kids TV shows, Laurel & Hardy and other old comedies at my grandparents. When I started recording it, those old bits fitted perfectly with the whole theme so it was lovely for them to finally find a place.

PS: Going back a bit, you did for a while perform as a solo artist before forming TV ME. What were the deciding factors in that decision?

TM: I’d gigged as Thomas McConnell for a few years with an early batch of songs that were all very 60s/Beatles/mod style. I got bored of that so I made an EP on my phone which was my first experiment with my own ideas. That EP was released under the name Tom Low in 2016. During that year I recorded a lot of new music but I’d started to feel a bit silly having a stage name so I dropped it. Frankie and Adam had been in the Tom Low live band so the three of us took some time to plan a new way to display all this music I had. I wanted a project that could house both my solo recordings but also a live band version. TV ME is what we came up with…

PS: Do you find it more fulfilling in the band situation than solo?

TM: It depends on what we’re doing. For gigs it’s definitely more fulfilling to be in a band, the songs couldn’t be done on my own and it has a more commanding presence as a unit. Recording is something I like to do solo, a lot of the ideas behind the songs are very specific to things from my life so I like to work it all out alone and at my own pace.

TV ME launch their new single Stitches at 81 Renshaw on Friday 16th February.