Editors' Notes They began by just playing the hits. In 2017, nearly eight years after Doves had last picked up their instruments together, drummer Andy Williams and his twin brother, guitarist Jez, gave bassist/singer Jimi Goodwin a call. Come over to Andy’s studio, they said, and let’s see if we can remember how to play “Black and White Town” and “There Goes the Fear”—just for fun. “It came back really quickly,” Andy tells Apple Music. “We were all laughing and having fun. As a drummer, hearing that bass—his bass—instantly felt very familiar, in a good sense. Pretty soon, there was a real enthusiasm and hunger from us to work together.” When they went on hiatus after 2009’s excellent Kingdom of Rust album, Doves were fatigued. They’d been together for a quarter of a century, serving up four albums as one of Britain’s best and more adventurous indie-rock trios—plus one before that as house specialists Sub Sub. They were never meant to disappear for a decade, but when you’ve got families and side projects (the Williams brothers as Black Rivers, Goodwin with his 2014 solo album Odludek), life gets in the way. “I don’t want to sound boastful, but I think there’s a chemistry between us three that you don’t run into every day,” Andy says. “That time away from each other has helped us appreciate that.”

Fizzing with that chemistry, The Universal Want sounds like a Doves album precisely because it doesn’t sound like any other Doves album. The exquisitely measured mix of euphoria and sorrow is familiar, but by experimenting with Afrobeat, dub and keyboards foraged from behind the Iron Curtain, the trio continue to expand their horizons on every song. “We didn’t attempt to resurrect another ‘The Cedar Room’ or ‘There Goes the Fear’, because it’s a recipe for disaster when you chase your own tail,” says Andy. “It’s really important for us three to be excited and feel like we’re moving forward.” Let him guide you through that evolution, track by track.

Carousels
“Originally, it started life as Black Rivers and we couldn’t get it to work. We put it down for a while, then Jez had a look at it again. He’d bought a Tony Allen breakbeat album and just sampled some breaks. It just clicked—the song came alive. We felt it was a bit of a progression for us, so it felt like a good song to introduce ourselves back to people again. Lyrically, it’s a bit of a nostalgia thing. We all used to go out to funfairs as kids up here in the North West, and every summer we’d go to a place called Harlech in North Wales and there’d be a funfair near there. It’s a nostalgic look back at that era when you used to hear music for the first time, loud, on loudspeakers, and that excitement at the fair—trying to recapture that feeling. The music’s trying to push it forward, but lyrically, it’s looking back, so there’s that juxtaposition.”

I Will Not Hide
“Really fun memories of making this. Jimi loves his sampling, so when he played it to us, it was like, ‘Wow! What’s going on there?’ I couldn’t really fathom out the lyrics. I mean, I put a couple of lines in there myself, but I still don’t fully understand what it’s about. I don’t think Jimi does. But we quite like that place sometimes, where it’s almost a train of thought. Jimi’s demo stopped, I think, at chorus two. We just looked at the chords, me and Jez, and tacked the guitar section onto the end. That’s the nice thing about Doves—when people present ideas to the band, it goes through the filter of all three of us and it can change. That’s when it’s working well between us three, when someone has an initial idea and then the other two run with it.”

Broken Eyes
“Early doors, we found an old hard drive with loads of material on, stuff we hadn’t actually ever managed to finish, and this was one [from the Kingdom of Rust sessions]. We were like, ‘Oh, that’s got real heart and soul. Let’s tackle that again.’ Last time, we were maybe overcomplicating it, so we stripped it away and kept it simple. It always had a different lyric, right up until the 11th hour, actually. It had a very different vibe. Jimi sounds brilliant on this. When he did the vocal, it was hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff. That’s when you know you’re on the right path. You just hit a brick wall sometimes with songs. I read a Leonard Cohen book and I think he was talking about ‘Tower of Song’, that it took him 20 years to finish. Started it, put it down, picked it up again, kept going back to it. If a song’s got strength in it, it will keep knocking on your door. We’ve got other songs which I’m hoping we can look at again at some point. There’s a couple of things where I’ve gone, ‘Do you remember this one?’ And it was, ‘Oh no, I can’t.’ Because we’d absolutely hammered it at the time and not made it work, and no one’s ready to go back to that place.”

For Tomorrow
“Again, we had those chords for the chorus kicking round for a while but we never really had a song. The high string in the verses, we were like, ‘Oh god, look, it’s got that kind of Isaac Hayes classic soul thing we were going for.’ I know it didn’t necessarily end up that way, but that’s what we were going for in our heads. We did it live in the room, and I remember going back in the control room and going, ‘Ah, it’s just coming together.’ I’ve got really fond memories, a couple of moments of like, ‘Yeah.’ It’s a really fun one to play on the drums.”

Cathedrals of the Mind
“Initially it was from a Black Rivers session—another song that, down the line, Jimi heard and really loved and worked on with us. We were booked to go to Anglesey, me and Jez, in 2016. We were due to set off at nine in the morning, but at six o’clock, my wife wakes me up and says, ‘Bowie’s passed.’ I couldn’t take it in—like the whole world, I guess. I remember driving to Anglesey with 6 Music on, they cleared their schedule and were just talking about Bowie. We got to Anglesey and it was like, ‘Fucking hell.’ I’m not saying we wrote this song for him, but I think it was an unconscious thing. Jez had some chords and I tried a couple of different grooves. It didn’t work, and I tried that sort of dub groove, and that was the start of the song. The lyrics, as well—‘In the back room/In the ballroom/I hear them calling your name…/Everywhere I see those eyes.’ I think we were referencing the passing of such a musical icon. He was such a towering figure, cultural figure. Him passing felt like your own mortality, essentially.”

Prisoners
“It’s the love affair with northern soul that we’ve had for years. Very English lyrics. The Jam was one reference when we were doing the lyrics, ‘Town Called Malice’. It was written way before the situation we’re in [2020’s lockdown], but it’s got some sort of resonance. We’ve all been stuck in our houses and we’re only just starting to come out. But it’s also got a sense of hope. The chorus is ‘We’re just prisoners of these times/Although it won’t be for long.’ So there is a sense of hope with that. We let everybody know our struggles, I guess, but it’s good to have a sense of hope in there.”

Cycle of Hurt
“Jez came with that [robotic voice] sample and those chords. They’re probably the most direct lyrics [on the album]. It’s referencing a relationship really, and just trying to get out of a cycle of hurt—a cycle of thought that you’re trapped in. They’re quite collaborative, these lyrics. A lot of them that are [about being] just locked in a cycle of your own thought, really, and trying to break free from that. There’s definite references to trying to keep your own mental health on track. Looking back on it, that’s a subject we’ve definitely returned to on this record. We felt this [track] was really good for the album because there weren’t really deep strings on the rest of the record, and it just brings a new sound for your ears to keep your interest up.”

Mother Silverlake
“The end result doesn’t bear any relation to an Afrobeat song, but that’s what we had in our heads—something that felt new to us, we’ve never really attempted that. Jez and Jimi combined [on the] vocal—that was really nice to hear those two singing together in the studio, the mix of their two voices. Martin Rebelski’s pianos really uplift the chorus. It’s a feel-good track, but the lyrics are slightly melancholic, almost referencing our mum, who’s still around, thank god. We always try and make music as uplifting as possible, or as joyous as possible. It might be offset with more melancholic lyrics, but overall we always want it to be an uplifting experience.”

Universal Want
“I started it in my studio as a ballad. I never intended it to be like a house workout at the end. I was thinking of just a two-and-a-half-minute song about the universal want—this question of always chasing something, be it consumerism or some aspect of your life where you think you’re going to be happy. But Jez took it away and he obviously saw something else for the end section and thought of welding this house section onto the end. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it, it was just so unpredictable, and I hope that unpredictability carries through to the listener. I guess it’s kind of a reference to our past, our Sub Sub days—a cheeky doff of the cap to that era. It was a very formative era for all of us.”

Forest House
“Again, this had been knocking around for a while and we were never able to master it, didn’t ever find the key to unlock it. It just felt like it was a really intimate way to finish the record—a small way to wind the album down. A simple song, but with Jez’s Russian keyboard in there—this old Russian ’60s monster of an analog keyboard. It’s almost got a dystopian sound. Once that got brought into the song, it was like, ‘Yeah.’”

SONG
Carousels
1
4:49
 
I Will Not Hide
2
4:15
 
Broken Eyes
3
4:15
 
For Tomorrow
4
5:28
 
Cathedrals Of The Mind
5
5:20
 
Prisoners
6
4:26
 
Cycle Of Hurt
7
4:15
 
Mother Silverlake
8
5:13
 
Universal Want
9
5:21
 
Forest House
10
3:41
 

Music Videos

More by Doves

Featured On