Island Records

Toothless

There is little preparation for the strange flux that greets a musician when a band ends. For the past decade — since he was just 16 years old, Ed Nash had been known as the bassist for Bombay Bicycle Club, one of the UK’s most esteemed indie bands. But earlier this year, when the band announced that after four albums and endless tours they would be going on indefinite hiatus, Nash found himself faced with the curious task of working out what he wanted to do with his life. “And it was really strange,” he says. “It was only at the point when the band stopped that I actually made the decision to be a musician.”

The problem, Nash is keen to point out, is that “no one really cares if the bass player’s going to do a solo project.” But it was through the acknowledgment of such preconceptions that Nash found the name Toothless — a name he describes as “kind of a joke to myself really” — a nod to the fact that some might expect the bass player’s solo album to be inconsequential, “that it wouldn’t have bite or substance, that it’s toothless.”

Yet Nash’s debut is an unexpected and glorious thing; an album that reveals the secret musical life he lived away from his bandmates, full of “the musical ideas that would come to me, and lyrical ideas I’ve been collecting all my life.”

The Pace of the Passing is more song cycle than a simple collection of tracks. It is marked by its sense of completeness — its themes and preoccupations extending from its lyrics and musical motifs right through to its artwork: thoughts of gathering time, of love and death and relationships past that draw on Greek myth, astronomy, and the work of Charles and Ray Eames, invite guest vocals from The Staves, Marika Hackman, Liz Lawrence, and Tom Fleming from Wild Beasts, and display a love for music that is fiercely melodic, multi-layered and fine-spun.

It seemed natural then to follow this by writing the track Terra — a song about the point where the sun ends. “It’s looking at the passing of time, zooming in and out, at the idea of something being incredibly important to the individual but then in the grand scheme of things being less important. But then within that it’s also the most important thing in the world, because it’s important to you and you’re the person who matters.”

Elsewhere, Nash draws on the myth of Sisyphus, the King of Ephyra, punished for self-aggrandisement by being forced to roll a boulder up a hill only to see it roll back down and start again, for eternity. “Really this song’s about friendship,” Nash explains. “It has the line ‘If you ever let go we’ll help you start again.’ It’s about helping people out, that no matter what someone does, no matter how many times they make mistakes you’ll always be there.”

And in one of the album’s gems, Nash recruits The Staves to sing The Sirens, a modern-day interpretation of the Greek myth of the creatures who with their exquisite voices lured sailors to shipwreck on the rocks. “I wrote the song and thought I’ve got to get The Staves to sing on this — these three beautiful ladies, like modern-day sirens with the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard. But I didn’t know them at all. Then two days after I wrote the song they sent through a cover of a Bombay Bicycle Club song and said ‘We’d love to know what you think about it.’ So basically the universe stepped in to help me… It’s probably my favourite song on the album.”

Now 26, newly emerged from a band that occupied 10 years of his life, it is perhaps unsurprising that Nash should find himself concerned by such ideas, by thoughts of maturity and mortality and finding his place in the world. “This album probably is me thinking about all of that,” he concedes. “And I came up with all these ideas and concepts to divert from the fact that I was writing about my own concerns and worries. So if anyone asks me I can say ‘It’s about Matthew McConaughey,’ or ‘It’s about the guy that shot John Lennon.’ But then in there there’s the worry and concern at time passing, and the way that it came into focus with the end of what I’d been doing all my life.”

The Pace of the Passing is released on the 27th January 2017.

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