WeTransfer has partnered with Nigel Godrich's iconic music series From The Basement to bring you six new performances from some of the world's most extraordinary artists and bands. Here you can see a show by beloved UK band IDLES. Writer Lucy Bourton meets Joe and Mark from the Bristolian group to talk about their relationship with From The Basement, past and present.
Sometimes the most enjoyable parts of a night out aren’t actually the hours spent amongst crowds in clubs or busy pubs, but the window of time spent winding down afterwards. Those magic few hours back in the comfort of home, still giddily keen to keep the night going just a little longer.
For Joe Talbot and Mark Bowen of Bristolian band IDLES, it was this routine that cemented their friendship. Often, after a night out, the pair would head back to one another’s houses to while away hours watching Nigel Godrich’s “From The Basement.” Viewing the intimacy of other acts helped the pair get to know each other, to learn what it was about a song’s arrangement or the mechanics of great performers—White Denim for Joe, PJ Harvey for Mark—that they wanted to take forward themselves. Wide eyed with excitement they’d muse over what they might do if they were to be invited on, “not ever thinking that we would,” recalls Joe. “It was very much something that we loved.”
Fast forward a decade and four studio albums later, a performance by IDLES excitingly marks the return of “From The Basement.” It’s particularly apt timing for the band, who performed tracks from their latest record Crawler; an album exploring far wider musical territory, actually inspired by much of Nigel’s production work. Yet despite the fitting timing and IDLES’ famed reputation as performers, when the day finally came around the band were full of nerves.
Recorded in August of 2021 ahead of Crawler’s release in November, “From The Basement” was the first time these songs were ever performed. The recording also features the introduction of a fresh rig setup, where delicate maneuvers implementing new technology replace the throttling of songs prior albums have leaned into. “Now it’s down to these intricacies and making sure things are executed well… IDLES have never really been about executing something well,” laughs Mark. “It sounds like a nightmare but that’s also a dream, you know? To be able to say your piece, or play your piece in fact, in front of the person who influenced your decision making, is incredible.”
Settling into “From The Basement”’s recording space in south London however melted away much of this anxiety. An old Victorian furniture warehouse Joe describes as like walking “inside a giant piano,” the aura of performances IDLES first fell in love with permeated the recording environment. “It felt like the same psychological space,” continues Mark. “I guess this might be something Nigel tries to engender in his sessions. You feel like it’s the only thing going on in the world at that moment.” The producer’s laid back temperament also helped, with Joe describing Nigel “as the kind of producer who doesn’t impose his ego on the artist at all,” he says. “It makes you forget that you are around someone who is very much going to help steer the ship, but silently and brilliantly, almost going unnoticed.” Such energy was particularly appreciated given the filming element, as “doing TV makes me fucking uneasy,” adds Joe, with each crew member seemingly “trained in this philosophy of not impeding on the creative process.”
This level of detail by the “From The Basement” team is necessary in its execution. Where other filmed sessions can feel part of a larger machine, its only aim is to utilize the highest level of production techniques to share, and honor, an artist’s craft. In fact for Nigel it can often “feel like I am doing a service,” he says.
In doing so, “From The Basement” manages to let an audience peek more into the gestures of each member of the band. Like how Mark will let out a deep breath in the millisecond before a song begins, for example, or how drummer Jon Beavis’ eyes often appear closed while never missing a beat. As Nigel puts it: “When IDLES are really going for it, it’s like you’ve taken a watch apart and you’re watching everything move in synchronicity. When you watch that in two dimensions on a screen it’s a direct version of the very intimate performance they give on stage. That’s the point, to capture that ‘thing’ and make people feel that they’re in the safety of an environment where they can fuck up, they can be nervous.”
It’s for this same reason IDLES initially became such fans of “From The Basement” after all. “They focus on the things you wouldn’t necessarily be looking at when you’re watching something live. It makes it all the more exciting when you’re watching it, like I do. I see something completely different that I hadn’t seen before,” says Mark. “That’s what is brilliant about ‘From The Basement,’ isn’t it?” adds Joe. “The nuance.”