Nearly 20 years after they first played together as teenagers just outside of London, TV Priest began writing their debut album. “It was probably just a way for us to be with each other again in a space that wasn't the pub for someone's birthday,” frontman Charlie Drinkwater says of reuniting in their thirties, in 2019. “I think some artists get to that honest place quite young. But I think it took us having some life experience—having personal setbacks, having joy—to get to a place where I feel like we had something to say and something to write about.” Recorded before the global pandemic, Uppers is a set of alternately heartbreaking and hilarious post-punk, as Drinkwater and his bandmates—guitarist Alex Sprogis, bassist/keyboardist player Nic Bueth, and drummer Ed Kelland—barrel through the beauty and many indignities of modern adulthood with all the urgency of a much younger band. “It's a time capsule for me,” Drinkwater says. “Hopefully it speaks to this moment, and to people who feel potentially the same way as I do. Like this weird totem to a really fucking weird time.” Here, Drinkwater guides us through the album track by track. The Big Curve “I think it's relatively direct in terms of its intention as a song. It's got a groove to it. It was one of the songs that we wrote on the record that was like a bit of a breakthrough song for us in terms of just letting it live and breathe and just kind of be a bit sprawling. It's about your place in history, this idea that somehow human endeavor and human work corresponds with the progression of time, which, you can see that that isn't necessarily the case. It's not always up.” Press Gang “My granddad has had a very big presence in my life. He had the fucking maddest life that anyone's ever had. He left school at 13, was a dirt-poor working-class South Londoner. He got a job as a messenger boy in Fleet Street, would run between the newspaper offices and the photography agencies. At 18, he became a photographer. He did five tours of Vietnam, covering that. He was in the Six-Day War. He was doing the Angolan Civil War, the Biafran War of independence. He took pictures of The Beatles, Brigitte Bardot. He was maybe naive in a lot of ways about how his work would be used, but he was very honest. He really believed that what he was doing was like holding up a mirror to the world, showing truth to power. He believed in the idea of truth, and over the last couple of years, my belief in that was rocked by a lot of events. But I think more than ever, the truth matters. This is not an easy song, because it has to balance the feelings that I have about what he taught me and what I see.” Leg Room “‘Leg Room’ refers to the leg room in a cinema, actually. Where I studied in London, my university, used to be right in the middle of Soho and the West End, which is ‘Theatreland.’ It’s a bit abstract, probably a bit more like a paintbrush in terms of it's trying to set the scene and tone more than anything else. I remember Black Francis saying that Pixies lyrics have meaning, but more than anything, they have a visualization. That whenever you hear it on the radio, or you hear it on a record, the thing that jumps up first is the weird visuals that it puts in your head. I think that this song was exercising that as well.” Journal of a Plague Year “Alex wrote most of those lyrics. He’d read [Daniel] Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year, which is a sensory account of the plague in London, talking about how London emptied out. It was like, ‘This would be a fun, interesting exercise, to write a song about what would happen if there was a plague again.’ And then six months later you're like, ‘Fuck.’ We did actually have a discussion about whether or not we should put it on the record. I think we sat with it for a minute and were like, ‘No. Maybe it's good. Maybe it offers a take on it in a different way, rather than just like, ‘We're all in our houses.’” History Week “The album is supposed to be listened to as an album—probably a really stupid thing to do, now that you're just streaming. There's a purpose to the fact that the first three songs are very intense punk songs. There's a reason why they come at the start, and then the record starts to open up as it progresses. This is a purposeful intermission.” Decoration “That first line is an in-joke. It was from a TV show called Britain's Got Talent, a misremembered quote from Simon Cowell. One year, the winner was literally a dog that can jump over itself: Pudsey the dog. And there's this quote—that I can’t find now—where Simon Cowell goes, ‘I've never seen a dog do what that dog does.’ And it became this running joke, something we’d say anytime someone did something that wasn’t particularly impressive. I’d completely fucked the vocal take in the studio, and I think I said that about myself, and Ed was like, ‘That's a great opening line.’” Slideshow “This is about our relationship to technology. I think anyone can write songs that are just ‘iPhones are bad.’ But I'm complicit in it all the time. I fucking doomscroll forever. It’s a bit of an uneasy balance. That song is calling myself out, in a way. It really came alive, I think, in the studio. That was a bit of a breakthrough for us in terms of Alex's guitar playing. Alex Sprogis by nature is quite a precise person, like an engineer, but he's going against his instincts there to play like that, which I think gives it this element of tension.” Fathers and Sons “That was written when I was in a B&Q—which is a huge hardware store—buying some wood to fix a fence. I sat in my car and I was like, ‘This is what I did with my dad on so many afternoons, and now I'm a dad, doing the same thing.’ It’s about a particularly British male sensibility, the way that men talk to each other. If I meet a guy for the first time, the first thing that they’re going to ask me about is football. I think this song was written about me trying to talk to my son in that way as well.” the ref “I think that's the sound of a pneumatic drill outside our studio. It's also got a bit of the tube in there, some traffic. It’s supposed to be very interruptive. It's supposed to take you out of the record and put you in a place. A physical place, rather than a sensory place.” Powers of Ten “Before we did this, I was working at a big record label as a designer. And this song is about what corporations do to people, including me. It's about the pursuit of something that you never even thought you wanted. I think corporations breed a certain competitiveness, and it bred something in me that was not nice. I think something that I struggled with was I was working ostensibly in a place that was supposed to be creative, and it didn't engender any form of creativity, at all. To be creative is not to compete with people. I don't find that. I find that my proudest moments of creativity is when I've collaborated with someone, and shared an idea, and a space, and a feeling. Those are the things that made me get out of bed in the morning, and made me excited.” This Island “It’s about nationalism, and it's about being in a country that you don't really recognize anymore. I don't think that's only about the process of Brexit, or the Brexit decision. I think it's about the things that it unleashes. In a lots of ways, England has a fucking superiority complex. The war is constant; you cannot escape it. It’s fucking spitfires over Dover and Churchill and D-Day. I got a fucking email from the butchers on Remembrance Sunday, being like, ‘10% off: Remember our troops.’ What? Fucking celebrate the horror of the Somme with a fucking leg of lamb? I'm proud to be a British person; I'm proud of many, many things of my history. I'm proud of the fact that we have a history of multiculturalism. I'm proud of the fact that we have a history of many, many different things, but what I am not proud of is this belief that we are somehow better than other people.” Saintless “It was a hard song to sing. It's about my little boy being born, and about my wife. We had a shocker, and my wife was really, really unwell. I was suddenly left in an operating room with a newborn baby, while she was rushed to emergency surgery. It's one of the only times in my life I just didn't know what to do. I felt completely helpless and confused and overjoyed—but terrified. Terror, sheer terror. It’s about plans changing, about being hopeful for the future as well as being scared for it, about being fallible. The main line of the song is ‘We're no saints, but that's okay.’ I probably will let my son down at some point, because I'm a human being, but I'll make it up to him. I’ll always be there.”

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