Ed Nash (bassist of Bombay Bicycle Club) recently launched an exciting new side project named Toothless, named after a drawing by LA’s own Raymond Pettibon. Toothless have since released a fantastic full-length titled The Pace Of The Passing. The record is a bold and determined effort that sees the indie bassist tapping into the oeurve of Bombay Bicycle Club, albeit with a slight variation that is wholly original.
As part of our music and literature series, Ed has given us five works that have informed his creativity on The Pace Of The Passing.
The Odyssey – Homer
When I started writing the Toothless record I had a real problem writing lyrics, I had ideas and themes that I wanted to cover but found it hard converting these ideas into actual lines that made sense in a song. Everything I tried seemed overly emotional, basic, or wasn’t interesting to listen to in the context of a song. I started looking at how my favorite lyricists got their ideas across and noticed that many of them created worlds or retold familiar stories as a vehicle for their own ideas. Nick Cave sings about Mermaids and Murderers, Sufjan Stevens retells stories from American Folklore. I started trying to do the same with my own songs and found that Greek myths was a great way in. They are not only stories that I love and know very well but also have very clear cut messages and morals. Starting with that very clear framework meant that I could easily work in my own ideas. The Odyssey is the most famous ancient Greek story, and it’s full of small stories and messages that I use throughout The Pace of the Passing.
Waking Up – Sam Harris
Another theme that I look at throughout the album is the existence of God and what happens when you die. I became aware of Sam Harris’ work while writing the album and found that his views regarding religion and spirituality were the perfect fit with my own. In Waking Up Sam Harris puts across the idea that you can be spiritual without following any organized religion. Up until reading this book I had always thought that the two went hand in hand and there was no place in between. This book opened my eyes to a rational scientific way of thinking about spirituality and death.
Orchard book of Greek myths – Geraldine McCaughrean, Emma Chichester Clark
My mum gave me this book for my 6th birthday when we were on holiday in Greece. It’s a beautifully illustrated children’s book that retells the most famous Greek myths minus all the gruesome stuff. Reading it while being in Greece really captured my imagination and is the reason that these stories have remained so important to me – the stories seemed real and I could imagine them happening in the area that I was staying in. This book is entirely responsible for my interest in Greek Mythology and the majority of the Greek myth references on the record. I learned about King Midas, Charon and Sisyphus here! Out of all these books this one had by far the biggest impact on me.
Animal Farm – George Orwell
In the same way that I retell stories in my songs to convey my own ideas, I use personification. I think its a very easy way to get a point across while still making the song interesting and not preachy, especially with the themes that I am thinking about on this record. Animal Farm is my favorite and most effective use of personification in literature that I can think of. The fable uses the microcosm of an English farm to tell the story of the rise of the Soviet union. The physical traits of the animals relate to their personalities and those of their real life counterparts.
The very first idea for a song I had came when I was reading an article that said the Sun was in the middle of its life – its about 4.5 billion years old and is expected to last the same again. I had the idea to personify the Sun as someone who is having a midlife crisis, where they are looking to the future and realizing their own mortality. As it’s the sun there is an added level of anxiety as there are so many other people relying on this one person.
In my song Terra I turn the earth and the sun into lovers that have been wanting to be together but have never properly met.
The Rules of Attraction – Bret Easton Ellis
My favorite of Bret Easton Ellis’ books, this story focuses on students at a New Hampshire liberal arts collage in the 80s – in particular three students and their love triangle. It is written in first person with each chapter belonging to a different character. As the book progresses and you hear from more characters, your opinion on the story and the events change, Rashomon style. This device is particularly effective with the love triangle, as relationships are almost entirely subjective.
I wanted to try something like this with a song, where your opinion on what is happening is constantly changing. The song “Palm’s Backside” is a back and forth from a guy and a girl looking back at their relationship. The first half of the song is from the guys point of view where he has seen his old girlfriend with a new partner and thinks that she looks happy. In the bridge of the song the girl takes the lead and everything is flipped around. You find out that she actually isn’t happier and it’s all for show. This song wouldn’t have worked in the same way without using the stylistic device from The Rules of Attraction.
The Pace Of The Passing stream: