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I’m Just Being Me”: Trash Boat’s Tobi Duncan Discusses Their New Album

I looked at myself, my anxieties, my family, my past and my future. I spent a long time looking inwards at my vulnerabilities in order to then be able to reach out.”

Yesterday, St Albans pop-punkers Trash Boat announced that their second full-length and the follow-up to 2016’s Nothing I Write You Can Change What You’ve Been Through will drop on July 20 via Hopeless. The new record will be called Crown Shyness, the lead-single is titled Shade (check out the video a bit further down the page) and the LP’s release comes in what will be a busy summer for the quintet, with appearances at Slam Dunk, Warped and Reading & Leeds’ main stage all on the cards. To celebrate the big news, we hit up vocalist Tobi Duncan for a chat about the new album, and he told us about his love of literature, the concepts at work in the new music and how looking up at trees inspired Trash Boat’s most ambitious release yet.

Hey, Tobi! How does it feel to be back with a brand new Trash Boat record?
We toured a bunch for the last album and that year on the road really paid off – it was so instrumental in shaping the sound of the album. The amount of shows we played gave me the discipline and the experience I needed, and it helped me refine my voice. It made me a lot better at what I do, and it’s all added up to a new album that I’m really proud of.

You called the album Crown Shyness, what’s that? How did it influence the music?
I came across it completely by accident. Crown shyness is what you might see if you were standing on the floor and looking directly up at a canopy of trees – you may find that the branches haven’t grown to touch each other and have stopped about a foot or so away. That creates these veins of light that emerge in different patterns, which is something that’s beautiful to look at and evoked a lot of thoughts and creativity in me. I started to imagine a person as one of those trees – they have everything in the world around them, but they never really touch those other things. They wouldn’t know anything was there unless you told them, because they can’t feel it. It provoked a lot of introspection in me, and I began to apply that thought process to the way I was structuring songs. I feel it’s a concept that works really well and speaks to a lot of different experiences. I’ve enjoyed writing songs when using this concept of crown shyness as a base.

Trash Boat – Shade

Does that theme run throughout the record?
Definitely. With Crown Shyness I looked at myself, my anxieties, my family, my past and my future. I spent a long time looking inwards at my vulnerabilities in order to then be able to reach out. The title-track is an acoustic song written from the perspective of me being this solitary tree in the middle of a dense forest, but lacking the capacity to understand my situation. The imagery and the metaphor of crown shyness contribute to the topics being talked about in the songs. There’s a song called Controlled Burn, which is something you do to prevent forest fires, and the lead-single is called Shade, so in terms of things like song titles, Crown Shyness is a lot more conceptual than Nothing I Write You…. That album was very literal and I was expressing things in a very black and white way, and whilst that style remains on the new record, I’ve tried to weave in this metaphor. I felt really comfortable expressing myself in that way.

In light of that introspection, would you say Crown Shyness is a dark album?
Not necessarily. There are dark elements, but it’s not a self-flagellation thing. I’ve written a really positive song for this album called Old Soul, which is about my grandad and his generation. He’s Hungarian and speaks with a thick accent, and he calls people Old Soul” as a term of endearment. It was only very recently in my life that I really got to know him properly, and the sheer volume of experiences and wisdom he’s offered me has been so eye-opening. He’s an incredibly interesting person who’s lived such a full life, and it was kinda tough for me to comprehend it all at first, so I ended up writing a song about his generation and the journey that I still have to go on. It’s a positive song and a tribute to my grandad and his life. But there are also songs on Crown Shyness that are really sad. I’ve written a song about my dog who I’ve had since I was a kid; he’s really old now and won’t be with us for much longer. It’s a really sad thing to write about, but I’ve tried to put a triumphant spin on it, like it’s something that I can and will overcome.

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The artwork for Crown Shyness

Have you got a favourite song on the record?
Shade is huge – It’s the most eclectic and hard-hitting song on the album. But the two real stand-outs for me are Old Soul and Love Hate React Relate, which is the song about my dog. I took influence from Margaret Atwood’s novel Surfacing when writing that one. There’s a paragraph in the book where she’s going over her attempts to quantify her emotions while going through something traumatic, and the way she describes her thought process and how she ritualistically goes through the same feelings is beautiful. I took that paragraph, restructured it so it rhymed and directly quoted the last eight words, which are Joy, peace, guilt, release. Love, hate, react, relate.” Those words struck me so much when I first read them.

Has literature always been an influence on Trash Boat?
Yes, but more so on Crown Shyness. I put my heart and soul into Nothing I Write You…, but the reaction we got to that album inspired more creative energy from me this time around. I read a lot of William Butler Yeates’ poetry, I love Margaret Atwood’s books and I’m a massive Emily Brontë fan, too. All of those influences shaped what came out on the record.

What about other lyricists who were an influence on Crown Shyness?
Lyrically, I really like Turnstile now, as well as Movements, Can’t Swim, Hot Mulligan and La Dispute. Also, Pat Flynn from Have Heart is one of the best lyricists ever, and John Floreani from Trophy Eyes is sick. I love all those guys.

What do you hope fans take away from the new album?
I’m not sure. I don’t see myself as some who preaches anything, and I don’t want anyone to take anything specific away from my music – only I can do that. A lot of what I write is helpful to me and speaks to how I think I should act and how I structure my thinking. If people hear this and relate to it, that’s great. But I’m just being me. If people love it, that’s awesome, and if they hate it, they don’t have to waste their time with it.

Words: @JakeRichardso17

Crown Shyness is out July 20 through Hopeless Records

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Posted on May 15th 2018, 5:45p.m.
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