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Two Door Cinema Club: The unassuming underdogs

The floor shook and sound permeated every pore. Johannesburg’s hipster-indie population descended upon Nasrec to see an unobtrusive little band from Northern Ireland.

Two Door Cinema Club has exploded into the music scene with guitar music you can dance to, and boy, did we dance.

The band, who started as Myspace phenomenon, says that it was hard getting started, as aside from their band page, did everything the old fashioned way.

Myspace was “a place to upload our music to – we did everything else the old fashioned way,” says frontman Alex Trimble.

“We sent off demos… called people up… and pointed them towards our Myspace.”

The band says it wasn’t that easy, though.

Myspace was very cluttered and “bands who weren’t really good enough to make a career out of it were being picked up as well,” says Trimble.

Now, says bassist Kevin Baird, there is a better sensor and better bands are coming through.

He says it’s now become more about interacting with fans and about the music.

It was even harder for them than other bands, being from Northern Ireland.

Trimble says they’re not quite part of the UK and that was a really good thing.

“We had to hone our craft … and only when we thought we were good enough we went over to the UK.

“So many bands that could have been massive picked up on too early to know what to do… to play live shows,” says Baird. “Isolation breeds creativity.”

Guitarist Sam Halliday says that kind of isolation helps you as a person. He says if you have everything off the bat, you almost feel like you deserve it, and you’re the best thing to happen to music since David Bowie.

“Not having that keeps you grounded.”

The band maintains that they want to make it big. “Anyone who says they don’t is lying to themselves,” says Baird with a laugh.

But Two Door Cinema Club has always had short-term goals. “Everytime we achieved [a goal] we pushed the marker slightly forward,” says Trimble.

This year marked the first time the band performed in South Africa and kicked off their tour Friday’s 5 Gum Experience held at Nasrec. The show was beautifully organised with 5 Gum giving the audience a free experience of a lifetime, with no traditional marketing or ticket sales, rather opting for the viral route. This is going to be a model to be reckoned with. Even some big-budget shows could not compete with this superb organisation.

Being used to smaller, more intimate shows, the band says the show here is against the normal model, with the show in Johannesburg attracting thousands. “We feel like we kind of missed out on that [intimacy],” says Trimble.

Baird says they’re excited to come back and play at FNB Stadium.

“We like these big gigs as well. After the small ones, you feel like you’ve earned the big gigs.”

However, the small gigs won’t sustain them, they say.

Halliday says it’s a fickle industry, and they have to keep fighting to maintain their position, but they will never sell out.

“Sellout is a funny word these days,” says Baird. “It means something different to 10/15 years ago.”

Trimble says if you wrote a song for an advert then, you were a sellout. “These days it’s one of the ways we make money… We work in different ways to make money so we can make records and keep touring.”

Halliday says they will never be a brand band and write songs for corporations.

“It’s always fans first,” says Baird. Trimble agrees and says they always keep their ticket prices low and “write music that we want to write”.

But the music industry is always evolving and you have to adjust your parameters accordingly, says Baird. “Running a band is like running a business.”

The music is unique and classy – and is even influenced by Jay-Z, according to Halliday. Almost anthem-like, they fall between the likes of Bloc Party and Foals with staccato rhythms, and elegant lyrics accompanied by stunning vocals. Though let down by rudimentary drumming, there is nothing simple or flighty about this band named after a mispronunciation of Bangor’s Tudor cinema.

“This band,” says Trimble “was always about having fun together and writing the music that we want,” though outside of the Two Door moniker, they won’t rule doing things like writing for movies out.

Before the show, it was thought that not many people knew about Two Door Cinema Club, but the concert proved the hipsters wrong. A thousands-strong crowd singing along to every song, dancing and screaming showed just how prolific the band has become. But they are still simple, humble and down-to-earth with soft voices and big hearts.

Trimble smiles shyly as he talks about touring the likes of Glastonbury. Even though they have permeated the international music scene, they are still grounded and rooted in their humble beginnings.

“I still don’t feel like we’ve made it.” – Nikita Ramkissoon