Home > News & Reviews > William Doyle

Rhythm, Playfulness: William Doyle On 'Springs Eternal'

Monday, 19 February 2024 Written by Jeremy Blackmore

‘Springs Eternal’, the new album from William Doyle, is imbued with a playfulness, a lightness of touch, revealing an artist unafraid to have fun even as the characters in his songs drown in the chaos of an uncertain world. It’s a vibrant, pulsating, euphoric ride that fizzes with a greater focus on rhythm than Doyle’s recent works.

It’s a spirit founded, ironically, on a sense of artistic loss during the making of Doyle’s last album, 2021’s critically acclaimed ‘Great Spans of Muddy Time’. Then, all his initial embryonic melodies were lost in a catastrophic hard drive failure, forcing him to rebuild the album from a series of cassette tape recordings – the only copies that still existed.

It was an experience that proved freeing for a self-professed perfectionist and if ‘Great Spans…’ was minimalist by necessity, its successor is ambitious in scope and finds him at his most confident and assured, delivering the strongest vocal performances of his career.

“The last one was born of a circumstance,” he says of ‘Great Spans…’, an album he says he is still very proud of. “I couldn't reconstruct anything; it was just as it was. And that was nice. It was a liberating process. I think I took from that experience a playfulness, learning I can still make a great album, without breaking my back, necessarily – at least not to the same degree I have done in the past. So, I wanted to bring that sense of playfulness into this one, ‘Springs Eternal’. But obviously, I had a little bit more control, and lots of backups this time!”

To achieve a wider, fuller sound and infuse the latest record with that playful spirit, Doyle called on the services of producer Mike Lindsay (Tunng, LUMP). Initially Lindsay was only going to mix the record at his MESS studio in Margate, but after early sessions, Doyle started to re-record parts, with Lindsay assuming the role of co-producer as the album evolved in a different direction.

“When we first started working together, I’d already done a lot of production per se at home,” he explains. “Just because of how I like to work, but I wanted it to sound better. We would run things I'd done through Mike's much more advanced gear and his critical ear. But, also, the [finished] record was a bit different than it was [originally] meant to be. It didn't have the same spirit it’s ended up with. It was a bit more introspective, or less poppy, with less emphasis on rhythm.”

Two songs, recent single Now In Motion and Soft To The Touch “popped so much more than the other songs”, suggesting another route. Back home in Manchester, Doyle used the six weeks before returning to Margate to set about writing another batch of songs. It changed the direction of the record entirely. He adds: “I think the stuff I brought in played more to Mike’s strengths and sensibilities as well. If it hadn't been for Mike, I don't think I would have taken that sudden vibe shift.”

Doyle’s previous albums have often been rooted firmly in an environment, a world he could build into. While this wasn’t the case for ‘Springs Eternal’, recording in Margate had another, almost subliminal impact on the lyrics. Searching for an album title, it was noticeable how often water, in all its varied forms, permeated the lyrics.

“While there wasn't the same sense of place in the songs originally, I do think when I brought it down to Margate, the seaside element started to rub off on the feel of it a little bit,” Doyle says. “There ended up being a lot of references to water and I think that probably wouldn't have happened had I just wholly made it in Manchester.

“I'm from Bournemouth originally. I've lived in Brighton for a bit, so I'm quite a coastal person. There was a sense of homecoming. Coming to Margate, I loved working here with Mike so much. I met so many people here that we decided to make the move, because it felt like a really good place to be and kind of inspiring.”

While the flood of references to water were unintentional, they do resonate with ‘Springs Eternal’s’ overall concern. “There’s a deluge and you’re caught in the midst of it, maybe you’re even responsible for it, and perhaps you didn’t even notice until now it’s too late,” Doyle says. “But the best response, maybe the only response in the face of this irrevocable thing is to revel in it. Accept the absurdity in the situation, see the dark comedy and laugh, dance, sing, drink yourself senseless.”

While not intended as a COVID record, a lot of writing took place during the pandemic. Doyle admits it would have been impossible for the overwhelming nature of that time not to have fed into his writing. The lyrics allude simultaneously to the global climate crisis.

But ‘Springs Eternal’ also presents a strange and thrilling cast of characters – from cowboys to castaways – who just might be Doyle, once or twice removed. It’s a very different approach to 2019’s lovingly produced, multilayered ‘Your Wilderness Revisited’, which explored his relationship with suburbia and the Southampton new-builds where he spent his teenage years following the death of his father.

“I have a bit of a problem with admitting if I'm being autobiographical or not sometimes,” he says. “I think because Your Wilderness Revisited was so intensely personal and so hyper specific to my experience. I don't think that was something that got in the way for anyone, necessarily.  People seemed to connect to that record. I was really surprised, because it felt a bit like it was really me I'd made it for. It was sort of a conversation with myself.

“So, maybe having done it in such an intense way, I didn't really want to start on a process whereby people expect that from all of my records. Because it can be tricky, starting to get details of your personal life involved. It can be a bit messy. But at the same time, if you're writing in the first person, it's difficult not to take bits of your experience and weave them into the songs. I think that's why I've mentioned with this one that the songs are not really dealing with any one part of me. Each song feels like a different character, who's maybe two or three degrees of separation from the real me in a hyper real way. Just as a thought experiment, mainly.”

While the circumstances each character is grappling with are not ones Doyle currently faces, they are human struggles from which no-one is fully immune. It prompted him to imagine what if the decisions he had made in his life hadn’t led him to the relatively comfortable state he finds himself.

If the lyrics address a feeling of being out of control, of waves crashing, the music reflects that, too. After a quiet pastoral opening (‘Garden of the Morning’), the music is in perpetual motion, constantly moving. It’s a switch back to his Mercury nominated work as East India Youth and a shift in focus after two albums under his own name in which rhythm was not the central focus – something he concentrated on more this time.

“I think rhythm is a good indicator of some kind of playfulness and dynamism between musicians,” he says. “If I'm playing with other people, that's the wavelength you're sharing with other people often. There's obviously harmony and melody, but if you're not in time with each other, it's going to suffer a little bit. That’s probably why that ended up being a more central part of this record. But again, and maybe this wasn't intentional, it is kind of a thematic thing. Water, constantly in motion, wanting there to be a feeling like you were caught in the current of the record.”

Long-time collaborator Alex Painter added cello, saxophone and clarinet to flesh out the sound, with additional synth and percussion work from Lindsay, while legendary producer Brian Eno again played a pivotal role. Doyle has learned much from his childhood hero since their first collaboration on ‘Your Wilderness Revisited’. 

Doyle turned to him when he needed to write additional songs for ‘Springs Eternal’, asking his mentor to send some rhythm beds for use in some alternative, art-pop songs. Relentless Melt, for example, finds Doyle writing a guitar riff over two of Eno’s rhythm beds, while the legend’s contributions also form a part of lead single Surrender Yourself.

“I think the thing he's probably best at is getting something started,” Doyle says. “He was a great instigator of things when people were at a loose end or they were blocked. He ended up sending me 26 pieces. I was only trying to write four or five songs. But that was great. Not all of them worked. But there were a few I was able to take, and they got the ball rolling. He's very good at making something interesting that puts you in a frame of mind or an environment you're able to respond to quite easily.”

William Doyle Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue March 19 2024 - BRIGHTON Alphabet
Wed March 20 2024 - CAMBRIDGE Portland Arms
Thu March 21 2024 - MARGATE Where Else?
Sun March 24 2024 - MANCHESTER Deaf Institute
Wed March 27 2024 - NOTTINGHAM Bodega Social
Thu March 28 2024 - EDINBURGH Sneaky Pete's
Fri March 29 2024 - LEEDS Wardrobe
Sat March 30 2024 - KENDAL Can Yam Brew Co
Wed April 03 2024 - LONDON Lafayette, 

Compare & Buy William Doyle Tickets at Stereoboard.com.


We don't run any advertising! Our editorial content is solely funded by lovely people like yourself using Stereoboard's listings when buying tickets for live events. To keep supporting us, next time you're looking for concert, festival, sport or theatre tickets, please search for "Stereoboard". It costs you nothing, you may find a better price than the usual outlets, and save yourself from waiting in an endless queue on Friday mornings as we list ALL available sellers!

Let Us Know Your Thoughts

Related News

Thu 22 Feb 2024
William Doyle - Springs Eternal (Album Review)
< Prev   Next >