I Like Trains
|Track||Album / EP / Single|
|Spencer Perceval||Elegies To Lessons Learnt|
|The Voice Of Reason||Elegies To Lessons Learnt|
|The Deception||Elegies To Lessons Learnt|
|We Go Hunting||Elegies To Lessons Learnt|
|The Beeching Report||Progress Reform|
|A Rook House For Bobby||Progress Reform|
|Terra Nova||Progress Reform|
|Sea Of Regrets||He Who Saw The Deep|
|A Father's Son||He Who Saw The Deep|
I Like Trains (l to r): Simon Fogal (drums), Alistair Bowis (bass), Guy Bannister (guitar, synths, vocals), David Martin (guitar, vocals), Ashley Dean (cornet, visuals)
Contributor: Richard Warran
Writing songs about the only assassination of a serving British Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval in 1812, or chess players Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky and their 1992 match in Yugoslavia in A Rook House For Bobby, is hardly going to send you rocketing up the charts.
But then that’s not really what Leeds-based rock band I Like Trains wanted, or perhaps expected. Formed in 2004, they released a couple of singles before signing to Fierce Panda Records and releasing the well-received Terra Nova, later included on the Progress Reform EP (2006), a song about Robert Scott’s ill-fated trek to the North Pole, and the song that brought them to my attention. Brooding guitars and David Martin’s baritone vocal style set them apart from other bands that I was listening to at the time. I think I first saw them live supporting British Sea Power at a gig somewhere, though both bands are different in musical styles they both share that quirky oddness. BSP have sung about some strange things in their career; Oh Larsen B, the song they wrote about a huge Antarctic ice shelf springs to mind.
The first full length I Like Trains album, Elegies To Lessons Learnt, was released in 2007 after they signed a deal with indie giant Beggars Banquet. This helped them get a little more exposure and they built a solid fan base around Europe and the UK on the back of the album’s release. Elegies To Lessons Learnt carried on their interest in historical events and covered subjects like the Salem Witch Trials (More Weight) and the outbreak of plague in Eyam, Derbyshire in the 1600s (We All Fall Down), all rather dark subjects which helped give the album its epic brooding sound.
The success and glowing reviews for Elegies To Lessons Learnt should and could have sent them to the next level. Unfortunately, Beggars Banquet never released another I Like Trains album and went bust in 2008. This left the band with a strong fan base but no record label to release their material.
Their next album, He Who Saw The Deep, was made possible by crowdfunding and released on their own ILR label in the autumn of 2010. Receiving pretty positive reviews in the press the album looked forward in its lyrical content rather than focusing on past historical events. The single Sea Of Regrets, included here, got a fair bit of radio airplay but didn’t really extend beyond the band’s loyal fanbase.
Their most recent release, The Shallows (2012), described as a concept album, was influenced by the book of the same name by Nicholas Carr, about how the use of the internet affects our brains. Once again, the album was self released; lighter sounding and less brooding than previous work, The Shallows illustrates just what a great band I Like Trains had become.
Fast forward to 2015 and Brighton based filmmakers Matt Hopkins and Ben Lankester, longtime fans of the band, began a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the release of a documentary they had been making about I Like Trains. A Divorce Before Marriage is both a song by the band and the film’s title; it was launched and premiered in London in June this year and is now working its way around various film festivals. I was privileged to be at the premier and cannot recommend the film highly enough. Anyone interested in the struggles of trying to make a living in the music industry, the highs and lows, families, jobs, touring etc, then please go and see it. A Divorce Before Marriage is wonderfully shot and a great insight in the life of a band trying to make a living in the precarious world of rock and roll, and whether a fan of the band or not it’s a great piece of film making. My wife, who knew nothing about or had ever listened to the band before, loved it, so anyone that enjoys music then please go see. A CD soundtrack to accompany the film is now available, along with the DVD release. A new album is also set to come out next year.
Ten essential iLiKETRAiNS songs
The Beeching Report, A Rook House For Bobby, Terra Nova are on the first EP, Progress Reform (2006).
Spencer Perceval, The Voice Of Reason, The Deception, We Go Hunting are all on Elegies To Lessons Learnt (2007).
Two choices from the 2010 album He Who Saw The Deep – Sea Of Regrets, A Father’s Son.
That only leaves room for one from the latest album The Shallows (2012) and that’s track two, Mnemosyne.
“Brilliant, unique, wry … at odds with pop’s present trends.” NME
“Quite simply, Progress Reform is a breathtaking entrée to anyone not familiar with iLiKETRAiNS’ work, and to those who’ve already experienced that privilege, it represents a sacrosanct reminder of possibly the most insightfully ambitious band doing the rounds at the minute.” Drowned In Sound
“I Like Trains waft through the ages with the stately presence of a monarch. Poised. With a regal air of indifference and an impenetrably calm sense of self-confidence. Imperceptibly changing with the epochs. Never so much that they look like they’re trying to be on the crest of anything as common as fashion, but just enough to ensure they aren’t left looking bewildered by their surroundings.” music OMH
“Building on the early promise seen in their first EP, finding comfort in the future rather than dragging up the past. He Who Saw The Deep sees them full of emotion and energy, a tender collection of songs that rely on passion rather than sentiment.” The Line Of Best Fit
“Leeds quartet I Like Trains have been breathing a haunting, ethereal honesty of brooding Alternative/Post Rock into the ears of listeners, since their 2006 debut EP Progress Reform, commemorating a beautifully conjured dwelling upon life’s troubles and history, and delivering it with a spine-tingling shiver that flowers into a hair raising lump in the throat, with their evoking concept music.” Bring The Noise
“You’ll be hard pressed to find much around today that matches the band’s inherent majesty, ambitious scope and zeitgeist-capturing, quasi-literary, historically-informed perspective.” BBC Review (Elegies To Lessons Learnt)
I Like Trains (l to r): David Martin (guitar, vocals), Simon Fogal (drums), Guy Bannister (guitar, synths, vocals), Alistair Bowis (bass)
Richard Warran lives in Haywards Heath, famed for being a rather dull but close to Brighton and London commuter town. He has a passion for music and travel sometimes combining the two and can often be found at gigs in the above two cities. Find him on Twitter @rickwarran1.