Toothless is the new project from Ed Nash, bassist for Bombay Bicycle Club, who released his debut album, The Pace of the Passing, on January 27th via Rostrum Records. To all intents and purposes, Toothless and his debut record have been carefully conceived by Nash. Everything up to and including the album’s artwork ties into the central themes that run throughout the record.
Despite The Pace of the Passing being very much the mind of one man, Toothless welcomes some friends to assist in finding his vision. Marika Hackman (Palm’s Backside), Tom Fleming of Wild Beasts (The Midas Touch), Bombay collaborator Liz Lawrence (Party For Two), and The Staves (The Sirens) all add vocal flourishes to the respective songs, whilst Bombay Bicycle Club’s vocalist Jack Steadman shares the production duties with Ed himself.
The Pace of the Passing is a beautifully realized, and carefully constructed record. You can hear a delicious sense of leftfield playfulness in the melodies across the whole album, and rather than obscure them with fuzzy noise, or layer them up with guitar on guitar, Ed just allows them to radiate and glow in their own simplicity. It’s a charm he employs on both “Charon” and “Sisyphus”, the opening tracks, and then weaves across the whole album. Despite endless highlights, it’s an album that deserves to be heard as it was made to be heard, in its entirety. A playlist in its own right.
What were some of the central lyrical themes that you focused on with this album?
I’m obviously under the feeling of balance, space, astronomy and the Greek myths. That runs direct. I was using those as metaphors and things like that.
What is the significance behind the album title/cover?
The album title is a perfect metaphor what I was talking about that fear of time passing and getting older. When you’re young, days, months and weeks seem a lot longer than they actually are then when you’re older because you’ve used more time when you’re older, which is an idea that absolutely terrifies me.
A Ray Pettibon drawing inspired the cover. How did you discover his work?
The album cover wasn’t but the name was. I’m a huge fan actually. The cover was more inspired by a childhood video that shows the world from above… you go in and out, stuff happens, and that’s the album cover.
This album features collaborations with Tom of Wild Beats, The Staves, and others. How did those collaborations come about?
Well, all of the collaborations and guests on the album had to be those specific people. They kind of had to add something to the song. For instance, Tom from Wild Beasts had the song “The Might of Touch” which had loads of kind of harmonies in it. And it kind of had to be him to sing because of the harmony, because if someone else it wouldn’t have worked. With the sirens I had to get The Staves to do that because they are literally like a modern-day embodiment of the sirens, from the greek myth. I couldn’t have gotten anyone else but The Staves to do it. They come as a unit and they are just passionate together.
You wrote the song with them in mind?
Well yeah, I wrote the song the “Siren” and then I finished it. I knew someone else had to sing the part of the siren and I thought The Staves, and so I finished the song and I was like it will be perfect, perfect part.
Bombay Bicycle Club announced a hiatus in early 2016. How did that impact the album?
Obviously it impacted it that if Bombay was still going. I wouldn’t have been able to because Bombay took up so much time. And it was so demanding that we all had to kind of stop and do something else. But I mean it impacted it that way. The part with the lyrics, finding your place or one’s place in the world is probably being in a band for 10 years and then breaking up had something or some barer of that. But nothing too literal… no lyrics about Bombay life. You know, just the facts of it I had the time to do something else and then I could make this record. I don’t think I could have if I was still in Bombay, it took so much time and it was kind of like, one of the other.
Do you think the hiatus is open-ended in the sense that fans can expect you guys to eventually reunite?
Yeah I guess, I guess it’s open-ended, but not in the sense that we can reunite. In the sense that there are absolutely no plans, we could do it. We love each other very much, we don’t hate each other but we may never work with each other ever again That kind of open-ended, haha.
How do you compare working on solo material as opposed to Bombay songs? Is the process any different?
Yeah it’s completely different actually, the main thing in Bombay I didn’t write songs, I played the bass, I was part of the band. With this everything lives or dies by me, I write the songs… I completely drive it myself. And then I guess with working it a bit it’s not too dissimilar like with Bombay, Jack wrote and recorded songs. He sent them to a group… then rearranged and wrote and recorded everything. I co-produced this record with Jack so I’d take songs to the studio and he’d begin to go through them. That retrospective, like that.
So tell me how you came up with the moniker of Toothless?
It’s from a drawing about a tiger biting a boy’s head. And the caption says ‘Even toothless she can still bite off a boy’s head.’ That’s the reason I wanted to use that because no one expects to go out and do that much and they certainly don’t think it will, that you won’t have much merit with it. So it’s kind of a mini tribute to myself. But I don’t think it’s toothless I think it’s got bite. I think people are going to initially underestimate me.
Yeah it sort of becomes a recurring theme, in the since that you know people who are not the lead singer or something like that who take on side projects people don’t really expect much from them. Which is unfortunate.
Yeah, yeah. Well yeah that’s the thing people and I find myself doing it too, you just have to treat everyone individually it’s obviously fantastic when I’m with Bombay but it’s like people already have a preconceived idea of me. What I’ve done before and it effects this music. It should be a blank slate, not go into it with preconceived ideas.
Jack co-produced the album with you. What was that like?
Great! He’s one of my closest and oldest friends so it’s like music. Outside of Bombay, we’ve been in Bombay for years, you know it’s just, it was just a really easy friendly way of doing it. if I’m not singing or playing right, he’ll tell me, I won’t get offended. Yeah, just one of the easiest matches there is.
Was he your first choice as co-producer?
Yeah I guess so, it’s not like I really had a set choice. I was just making this record and he was like ‘Do you want me to come into the studio?’…. And I was like yeah… it just happened like that and I didn’t even talk or think about doing it with anyone else. I think if I make another record I’ll probably try another producer and go with someone else because you know as much as I love working with him… it’s very much in my comfort zone… and it might be better to go completely outside of my comfort zone. And try someone else.