Before Hudson Taylor smashed their sold out headline show at The Institute, brothers Harry and Alfie kindly sat down with us to talk about the growth of their fanbase, details on their debut album and how they’re still busking to make money.
How do you write your songs?
Harry: It’s a quite a spontaneous thing that happens. We’ll start doing a riff on guitar, or Alfie just starts singing something and we’re like ‘ooh let’s try that’. We usually just go with the flow.
A: Melodies, that’s where most of our songs will come out of. Sometimes we get very lucky and we finish a whole song in 10, 20 minutes.
H: Some songs on our album took like 2 years to finish. We had them floating around as ideas for ages.
A: Yeah, just a verse and a chorus, stuck on your phone for a year, then you return back to it and write it again. But yeah, mostly just the two of us jamming.
When did you decide to expand it to a full band?
H: Pretty much since we’ve been performing we’ve always had other people playing with us. There’s something magical about playing with just two of us, but it’s even more magical if you can get other people supporting you.
A: We’ve known some of our band for years.
Didn’t you used to be called Harry and Alfie?
A: Yeah, so that would have been a lot more restricted! What do you call the other lads?!
Your album’s called Singing for Strangers. Has it been weird to move from encouraging people you know to come see you play, to playing sold out shows like tonight?
H: It’s one of the reasons behind the title of the album. Singing for Strangers encompasses everything from busking for people on the street, to singing to a camera and people seeing it an hour later. It’s what we love. There’s no better feeling than going and singing your heart out to people, and people singing the words back to you is even more mental.
How much did YouTube help you in the early days?
H: An awful lot! The foundations of what we are now comes from busking and YouTube, and trying to make that come together so people recognise you on the street.
A: Also, we weren’t releasing music when we started but we were putting stuff up on YouTube. People could hear us without us having to pay to put a CD in a shop.
Do you still busk?
H: We do yeah, all the time! If it wasn’t so cold right now we would probably be down by the Bullring.
Have you ever starting busking and drawn a crowd from people who recognise you?
H: Recently we’ve started tweeting that we’re going busking, then people actually come.
A: When we go home we only get a couple of days, and people ask us to do a show so we usually put on a little outdoor gig. There’s other times when we need a bit of cash! We might make £10 in a few minutes, can get some food.
How many gigs have you done?
A: We’ve played a lot of gigs… Must be coming up to our 1000th gig.
H: I’d say so, we’ve been gigging for 5 or 6 years. Last year we did 220, 230 gigs or something like that.
I was gonna ask if you enjoy touring, but…
A: Oh yeah! It’s the best part. You can’t fake being on a stage. I love going to see live music as much as I love playing it because what you see it what you get.
What’s the best gig that you guys have seen?
H: Recently? We went to see Damien Rice 4 months ago. It was just him and his guitar on his own, but it was just unbelievable. So inspirational, a fellow Irish man just singing his heart out.
A: Another gig we went to recently was Rebirth Brass Band, from New Orleans. We went to New Orleans over Christmas and saw them there, they were brilliant. Except I don’t think brass should be put through microphones… nearly went deaf.
What’s something that people might not know about you?
A: We’re brothers. It does go over the heads of some people. I heard someone last night like, “Is that Hudson? Who’s Hudson and who’s Taylor?” Yeah, our names are Harry and Alfie, not Hudson and Taylor!
H: There’s got to be more interesting stuff than that, come on…
A: C’mon!!! ….Harry used to be a hairdresser , I dropped out of school to do music. I studied Computer Science for one year before moving to London to do music.
When you moved to London, did you find that there was a change in your music?
H: Moving to London really inspired us actually because it’s a pretty daunting, scary place to move when you’re 18 and 19. For example, we lived in a house in a really dodgy place, with neighbours banging on the walls the whole time because we were playing music too loud. That got us really riled up…
A: That’s ‘Drop of Smoke’, actually, on the first EP we did. We wrote a lot of it in Ireland and we recorded it when we moved over, so it took a lot more of a darker tone. We were also more starry-eyed, it was the first time we went to a studio and all that. We had an early song called ‘Ready to Launch’ which was about that.
What about the recording process?
H: Some of the songs on the album were recorded in Alfie’s bedroom which is pretty cool. But we did most of it with this guy called Ian Archer, over the space of about 2 months, in Eastbourne and London.
On the pre-order you’ve got about 20 songs, that’s a lot.
A: That’s value! Our main album has 12 songs, but if you just buy the album on iTunes or HMV, you get 21 songs.
Would you say you’re quite prolific writers?
A: Well our first album’s taken us 4 years to write. We wrote about 100 songs and had to whittle it down.
Any pre-show rituals?
A: Started doing a bit of yoga, nothing too serious. Our mum’s a yoga teacher, so she’ll be very happy with us when she finds out!
Who would play you in your biopic?
A: Jim Carrey.
H: For you? I think maybe Brad Pitt. Or Leonardo DiCaprio or something.
A: You’re too kind, Harry, too kind. You’d be Ashton Kutcher!
What song would you perform in an X-Factor audition?
A: Maybe Michael Jackson ‘Beat It’…
H: Beat It? You would do Beat It? What?! I’ve never heard you sing Beat It before!
A: Together, we’d probably do a Beatles song, or Simon & Garfunkel, or Everly Brothers.
Who is your dream collaborator?
H: Probably Paul Simon, from Simon & Garfunkel.
A: Yeah he’s a bit of a dude. Bob Dylan would be pretty cool.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
A: We’re gonna get our album out, we’re gonna finish this tour, we’ve got more touring booked in…
H: Everywhere! Let’s just go everywhere! You guys come with us, too.
Thanks to Harry and Alfie for their time!