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'The chemistry was still there, it felt very familiar'

Doves drummer Andy Williams talks to Alex Green about the band's return to the spotlight after a break

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Back on form: from left, Doves’ Andy Williams, Jimi Goodwin and Jez Williams

Back on form: from left, Doves’ Andy Williams, Jimi Goodwin and Jez Williams

Press Association Images

On song: Jimi performing on stage

On song: Jimi performing on stage

Press Association Images

Back on form: from left, Doves’ Andy Williams, Jimi Goodwin and Jez Williams

In 2009, Doves released Kingdom Of Rust, considered by many as their creative peak, but then they went their separate ways, suddenly and without fanfare.

The Cheshire band, who rose from the ashes of Britpop to pioneer a world-weary, introspective sound, were run down after years on the treadmill of recording and tours.

Twin brothers Jez and Andy Williams (on guitar and drums respectively) and singer-cum-bassist Jimi Goodwin needed some time apart.

"We never called it a day, it was just a long break," explains Andy (50), over the phone, as Doves prepare to release their fifth album, The Universal Want.

"It was a tough record to make, Kingdom Of Rust. People were going through personal stuff and it had been solid recording and touring up to that point.

"Everybody was quite ready for a break but we never intended it to be nine years," he adds with a sharp laugh.

Doves found their feet during the early Nineties, post-Second Summer Of Love, performing as a ravey house music-influenced act called Sub Sub.

As schoolboys they had been inspired by regular trips to the hallowed dance floor of Manchester's Hacienda nightclub.

They even reached number three in the charts with the single Ain't No Love (Ain't No Use). But in 1996, the band's Ancoats studio burned down and they were faced with a decision: rebuild or start anew.

Be thankful they chose the second option and recalibrated as Doves in 1998, releasing four albums of atmospheric, alternative Northwestern noir, culminating in Kingdom Of Rust.

That album was lauded as a perfect summing up of their two decades in music.

"There was never any big falling out or anything," recalls Andy.

"I felt that when we regrouped everyone was really ready for it. We felt we had a lot of music in us."

While on hiatus, the Williams twins continued to work together under the name Black Rivers.

They were drawn back to Goodwin by chance during recording sessions in a rented house in the Peak District.

"It was dead exciting," he admits gleefully. "We started songwriting together in 2017 but we didn't tell anyone for a year or two. That way there was no pressure because it might not have worked out.

"Me and Jez were up in the Peak District working on a second Black Rivers album and Jimi was close by so we invited him over, just to hang out really.

"We played him some material and he really liked some of it. He asked to play bass on it. It was just quite organic.

"It was clear early on that the chemistry was still there. It felt very familiar. It was really exciting to start building the songs up. After three of four songs we knew we had an album in us."

The twice Mercury Prize-nominated band continued to work on songs between studios in the North West and the Midlands.

The album's title, The Universal Want, points towards a message of anti-consumerism.

"I'm as guilty as the next person. I always want the next thing," Andy admits.

"It's an eternal impulse that things are better elsewhere."

Time has changed Doves but not so much that they have lost their essence.

They have returned to the fold on their own terms. With an established fanbase, they are better prepared to weather the pressures of the music industry.

Doves played a comeback show at the Royal Albert Hall for The Teenage Cancer Trust in March last year, after being personally invited by organiser and Who frontman Roger Daltrey.

They wanted to do their old material justice and so steered clear of the new songs.

"It was pretty nerve-wracking - but amazing," Andy offers.

"It was a night none of us will forget. The crowd carried us through it. It was brilliant."

The Universal Want is out now. Doves will tour the UK in 2021

Belfast Telegraph