East India Youth

Adrift on pop's high seas

Text by Nazanin Shahnavaz

Photography by Rosaline Shahnavaz

William Doyle, a 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist from Bournemouth, was something of a teen recluse. He first tried his hand at music aged 12, spending days writing songs and dabbling with soft synths and drum loops. Eventually he formed The Forefathers, an indie group championed by 6Music’s Marc Riley who supported The Undertones on several national tours. Yet Doyle’s focus was shifting – his enthusiasm for the indie-boy-band lifestyle had started to flag. “There was a lot going on at the time. Things had gotten really hard and stressful, not just for me but for everyone in the band. My personal life was also at a difficult place and I just really needed an escape from all of that. I had reached my breaking point.”

Doyle sought refuge in electronic music: meandering through dance, ambient and noise, he began getting lost in sonic detail. “The music I was listening to provided an escape and started to shape my influences. I wasn’t keeping it secret as such but I started making music on the side. I was in my own little world and I had finally found the outlet that I had been looking for. That’s when I decided I had to leave the band and pursue East India Youth.”

It has been a year since Doyle made that crucial decision. In a pub nestled in Victoria Park, east London, he shifts and fidgets, resting his lean frame on the edge of a chair. Shyly, he sips his beer and says: “It was totally the right thing for me to have done, everything has turned out really well since. I was a nobody. I didn’t have a website, a Facebook page or anything like that. I just had the music and I knew I had to get it out there.”

And that is exactly what he did: with his promo in his back pocket, Doyle set off to a Factory Floor gig. That night, amid the crowds, his eye fell on the burly figure of Quietus editor John Doran, who holds himself to a slightly masochistic commitment to listen to every promo he receives. “I remember handing John my CD – I just wanted to see what he thought of it really. I had no idea what he was going to do but I didn’t mind... I was just hopeful of the possibility that John might listen to it. I have always been a massive fan of the site.”

Doran and his associate editor Luke Turner quickly fell head over heels. “After about a month of playing it, I realised that it was actually my favourite music of the last 12 months,” Doran says. They decided to risk branching out as the Quietus Phonographic Corporation label, just so they could release some of Doyle’s material – a limited edition 12-inch EP entitled Hostel. On the eve of the release, the Quietus gentlemen invited London’s movers and shakers to meet their protégé at a very special soirée. Doyle took centre stage, surrounded by sprawling wires, laptops, buttons, pedals and electrical equipment.

His songs mutate through soft synth pop to dark Detroit techno, noise rock and abstract electronica. The effect is both mystifying and thrilling in its unpredictability. “It may seem miscellaneous but I tend not to think about how to interpret my sound. The blessing and the curse of electronic music is that you have scope to change every tiny possible detail and create any sound imaginable. I’m just fascinated with trying to tread the line between something that is simultaneously avant-garde and pop. I think that engaging properly with the art you make, asking questions about it and finding connections within it is key and that’s what I strive for. I am looking for something that’s going to pull me out of my comfort zone. I don’t want to say too much about the new album but I don’t think people who have heard my music so far will expect what’s next.” §

The Hostel EP is out now on the Quietus Phonographic Corporation.

  • East India Youth