It's been a season of near misses for Doves: Last month, Lady Gaga beat the band to No. 1 on the U.K. album chart — by four copies. And just last weekend, Manchester City, the football club the band grew up with, saw its dreams of qualifying for the Europa League crushed in a 2-1 loss to Tottenham. So let's start out by asking Doves guitarist/songwriter Jez Williams which of the two felt worse.
"Fuck me, you don't mess around, do you?" asks the beleaguered Mancunian. "Well, guilty on both accounts, obviously. Although with City, it's something we get used to. We've always been the underdogs, so that's nothing new."
But Kingdom of Rust's failure to hit No. 1 is something new for an "anti-Britpop" trio that's managed to claim the top spot with each of its last two albums: "Four copies, yeah, we couldn't believe it. If it was like a thousand records, you'd go, 'Yeah, it is what it is.' But four records, yes, it's painful, that one."
Couldn't the band — which also includes Jez's twin brother Andy on drums and Jimi Goodwin on bass — have just bought a few extra albums for themselves?
"Personally, I always buy two copies of my albums, just out of tradition," says Williams. "And Jimi did. But Andy didn't ...
"The strange thing as well — I'll just say this and then we can move on — is that Lady Gaga doesn't really sell in independent record shops, and we're the kind of band that does. And they're saying we sold 3,000 in the independent shops, which aren't chart-registered, you see. So strangely enough, we sold more records, but didn't get the hat trick we wanted. Oh well, such is life."
Disappointments aside, the band members are still much happier now than they were going into this album, back when Goodwin was coming to terms with his parents' death and Jez was watching his long-term relationship unravel.
"It wasn't an easy time," says Williams of the personal upheavals. "And musically as well. We wanted to go for something that was different for us, and it took us a long time because we didn't know quite what we were searching for. So it was a bit of a long path, to be honest. But it's always a good test of a band to stick together and make it through to the other end. And sure enough, we did."
The resulting Kingdom of Rust is, as even a casual Doves fan would suspect, a beautifully composed and crafted album from a band that Williams says started out as a kind of downbeat reaction to the prevailing Britpop movement.
"On this one, we were into being as schizophrenic as possible," he notes. "The opening track, 'Jetstream,' has a stark, Germanic, minimalist, kind of cold sound, and then it goes into a sort of country-tinged 'Kingdom of Rust.' It was a calculated risk, but we found out that we could get away with it. Because it's all got a kind of Doves DNA."
As does the official anthem the band was recently asked to record for its hometown team.
"We did 'Blue Moon,' but it's a really messed-up, drugged-out, psychedelic version," says an obviously pleased Williams. "It's a little bit left-field for the City, but they play it, so it's all good."Purchase a CD: