Dressed sharp – even in the blistering humid Texas sun – is William Doyle, the mastermind behind East India Youth.
The immaculate sense of style reflects the sleek electronic ambiance of his musical project. Last year, critics took note of a pristine take on electronic music as East India Youth’s debut album ‘Total Strife Forever‘ earned a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize. Just a year on from the first album, he’s back with ‘Culture Of Volume‘, which sees Doyle’s songwriting and production skills take a notable leap.
East India Youth began as a passion project of sorts for Doyle, who previously did not have any knowledge on how to create electronic music. “I just used the computer to record songs, just because I wanted some sort of record of them,” he told Live4ever during an interview at the Eightball Media Lounge. “I didn’t listen to electronic music at the time, it was just me and my acoustic. Then I started using effects on the computer to make it sound different. I didn’t have a clue on what to do, and I still don’t in some cases, and that’s how it grew from there.”
East India Youth might be an electronic based project, but don’t label Doyle as a producer. “I’m a songwriter and I use electronic music as a means,” he declares earnestly.
Doyle was in a band during and after college, but quickly decided he was more emotionally invested in his own project. It was during this time in 2012, when a friend let him crash at his flat, that much of what became the debut album was written and produced. “We jokingly called it the Youth Hostile, which is where the name came from, and it’s the name of the first EP that I put out. East India Youth was born there, because that is where I feel the spiritual home of the music was.”
Live performances followed, organically gaining fans, but it took another year and a half for the album to be released officially on a record label. Wasting no moment and losing no momentum, Doyle continued to write and record. “In that time I pretty much started recording this second album, which is about to come out immediately after I finished ‘Total Strife Forever’,” he told us. “So, there’s a lot of crossover there.”
When comparing recording to playing live, light is shed on the unified but dichotomous challenge that electronic musicians face. “It is different,” he reflects. “They are two separate challenges. I feel like everything on this new album has been informed by me playing live the past couple years. I wanted the material to fit into a live context. You want to be able to play it live.”
“Everything is a bit more energetic and vibrant in comparison to the first record, and that is because of the whole live situation, the two have informed each other in a way. They are two different beasts. With electronic music when you’re playing it live there can be a lot of pre-recorded stuff, so you have to separate what’s going to be coming out, like what I am just triggering, and what I am manipulating, and what I am actually playing. There’s actually three aspects to the sound – trying to juggle those is the real tricky part. There’s a conversation between you and the technology. There’s not a master and a slave, either way. It’s a two way street.”
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Doyle strikes a precise balance between live and electronic music. Don’t expect him to just sit on stage with his laptop, he has sticks to hit a drum pad and will play bass guitar at various points during the show.
“I wanted there to be a performance aspect to this, because electronic music solo can sometimes be a bit dull, I guess,” he says. “You want it to be more energetic, to perform, so I’ve given myself these tools to be physical and visceral on stage. The presentation of East India Youth is really important.”
During gigs at SXSW, East India Youth keeps energy levels high. Over the course of thirty minutes, it unfolds with sounds collaging together before reaching a dance floor peak. When describing this artistic process, Doyle remains very self-aware of his tendencies. “My whole process is solitary and collaboration is hard for me because it takes a long time for me to make a song. Some songs on this record have taken two years to finish, and that’s not very conducive to a quick collaboration when you have people in the studio. I’m just not that type of artist.”
After releasing two albums in as many years, Doyle now has a vague vision when moving forward – perhaps a live drummer, more live percussive instruments, maybe more musicians on stage, but also keeping an understanding of the ever-evolving nature of life and the music business. “There’s plenty of legs in it, but I’m still watching it grow,” he contemplates. “It is hard to say how things are going to go, especially at this stage. Everything is in limbo.”
Doyle seems to be using East India Youth as a unique vehicle to push the boundaries of songwriting within electronic music. “I don’t consider myself part of any scene or something like that,” he reflects. “For me, it’s interesting, I’m incorporating elements of indie rock and electronic music, or songwriting or instrumental stuff. That is what keeps me going, incorporating and blending all those influences in one.”
Still in his early twenties, Doyle displays an artistry and craftsmanship that is beyond his years. The music he creates is distinctly electronic, but what we have here is a master of juggling the colliding worlds of multiple genres, studio work and live performance.
And that’s where his real strength lies, and why East India Youth’s star is shining bright.