At the risk of editorialising, I love Tellison. Love. Them. Their debut album, Contact! Contact!, was brilliant, and if their new effort, The Wages Of Fear doesn't make them one of the biggest bands in the UK then there is seriously something wrong with you all. Their mixture of American Midwest indie rock and UK pop, of heartfelt, open honesty and dense literary references, is easily already one of the best albums of the year. Also, they're all quite nice people, so I was more than happy to ask singer/guitarist/songwriter Stephen H Davidson a few questions about the new record, the old record, solo records, a bunch of other bands and what Tellison have been up to in the four years it's taken them to put out a second full-length. Here is what he sent back, and it was the first time ever that I've not had to correct someone's spelling or grammar in an interview, so fair play to him.

Hello Tellison! Who are you? Where have you come from? And how are you today?

Hi there. We are Henry Danowski (Drums), Stephen H Davidson (Vocals/Guitar), Peter Phillips (Guitar/Vocals) and Andy Tickell (Bass). We come from Hammersmith, Edinburgh, Indonesia and Kingston-upon-Thames. Today we’re pretty good. I’ve just watched it and it’s ridiculous and great. Also it’s raining a bunch here and I’m home alone and I’m enjoying that.

It's been four years between records, what have you been doing in the time between Contact! Contact! and The Wages Of Fear? Have you been writing for the new record the entire time? I know Thebes and Freud at least have been around for a couple years now.

We have been writing the whole time but we basically wrote and then threw away a whole record’s worth of songs in-between Contact! Contact! and what has become The Wages Of Fear. Some songs arrived sooner than others: Freud has been kicking around in various guises since it was written one Xmas Eve in my parent’s basement. Thebes was the very first demo we recorded for the album while we were looking for a producer and I know that demo slipped out into the world a while back. As well as being in Tellison we’ve also had to get on with the mundane living of our lives. Pete and I both finished Uni and everyone has been quietly creaking under the pressures of bill-paying jobs in London and Cambridge. We’ve also been on a few tours with the likes of Hot Club de Paris, The Living End (bizarrely), Johnny Foreigner and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly as well as playing some festivals and supporting people like Biffy Clyro, Noah and the Whale and Japandroids. Alongside all the above we’ve been pretty busy trying to cook the perfect chilli.

Whatever happened to your solo album? I remember it had a label and seeing a title and artwork and everything, but then just never materialised.

Well remembered. I did make a solo record. To go back to the answer above I guess the solo record was another whole album’s worth of songs I wrote in-between Contact! and TWOF. All that happened with that record was that I ran out of money to finish the thing. I can reveal that I’ve actually gone back to it recently and will be back in the studio with Dan Halliday in the next couple of weeks recording a few more songs and mixing the thing into some sort of shape. The record was/is/will be called Danger My Ally. I have no idea if or how it will be released.

I've noticed a bit more of an even split between songwriting/lead vocal duties on this album as compared to Contact, with Peter taking the lead a bit more. Was there a conscious effort for this to happen more this time around or did it just happen naturally? Also, is songwriting a completely solo process for the two of you or do you ever write together?

I think it definitely happened naturally. Pete can be quite shy about his songs and on Contact! we rarely prodded him into playing them to us. This time round I think he’d grown in confidence a little but also we were more ruthless about locking him in the practice room until he’d actually shown us what he was working on. Every song he came out with we all thought was great so we’d work on them and very quickly they became integral to the record. As far as songwriting goes we both always start very much alone with a guitar I think. But as the process develops everyone has a hand in making the song into a Tellison song. 'Gallery' from Contact! is a great example of how a song can grow from a demo with an acoustic guitar and one voice into something completely different and yet recognisably formed from a solo beginning.

Literary references are always a big part of Tellison lyrics – Contact had Tender Is The Night and references to Keats, and this time there's Edith Wharton, Shakespeare and probably a whole lot of others I'm missing. And of course The Wages Of Fear is a 1950s film. What is the significance behind these, and what other writers/films etc. have influenced the new album?

I spend a lot of my time reading things and watching films. I enjoy other people’s ideas I guess, be they in books or films or just on the Internet. On this record I think I had a lot of stuff rattling around in my head at the time of writing so elements of all the things I had in my consciousness made their way into the songs quite naturally as points of reference or comparison. I do also really enjoy bands whose lyrics have a bit of depth and footwork behind them. Where you can hear a name or a phrase and go and do some excavating and find out a bunch more behind what started off as just a little throwaway line in a song. I like the detective element to writing in that it can almost spark off research leading to other levels of understanding between reader and writer. There’s quite a lot of that going on in this record. The Wages Of Fear has a bunch of meanings and thoughts behind it. There’s obviously the film (which is very great by the way) but the title also evokes some ideas that are relevant to the record and to our experience of the last four years. In order to carry on being in Tellison after Contact! and leaving University we all had to make sacrifices in our lives. The title works as both a reminder and a memorial of that.

Similarly, what's influenced the new album musically? I personally hear a lot of Get Up Kids and Weakerthans in there, but a fair bit of British indie influence too.

As a band we’ve always listened to a lot of quite varied music. In terms of writing I guess I take my cues from people like Stapleton’s Al Paxton, Pedro The Lion’s Dave Bazan and Osker’s Devon Williams.

Peter has just walked into the room and he says pop music influences him. Peter loves pop music. While we were recording everyone was definitely talking about The Weakerthans and Phoenix amongst many others. We spent a lot of time trying to make Phoenix drum sounds and Weakerthans guitar tones. I think everyone’s varied tastes contribute to make Tellison’s sound. Henry trained as a jazz drummer at Berklee College of Music in Boston and he’s a huge fan of electronic music and hip hop so he brings something new to the table again. Andy and I love indie rock and Peter, as I mentioned, loves pop music.

Whether they influence you or not, who are your favourite bands in the UK right now? Who's fun to tour with and who's making great records?

Personally I love Frightened Rabbit. I think they are jaw-droppingly great. The first time I heard “The Midnight Organ Fight” I was consumed with jealousy that a band could be that good and at the same time I fell completely in love with that record and everything Frightened Rabbit do. As a band I think we are all massive fans of Hot Club de Paris. We’ve toured with them and played with them quite a lot and I think that live and on record they are absolutely belting.

Musically they can be so out there and so stunningly technical whilst maintaining the poppiest of sensibilities and always such a powerful emotional punch. They’re also hilarious to tour with because they’re so freaking funny. It’s not really fair, not only are they musically brilliant they’re also so funny onstage you almost wish they’d sacrifice songs so you can hear them talk. My First Tooth from Northampton are also a brilliant band who don’t get enough press. Especially considering the work ethic they put in.

I’m a big fan of a band called The Travis Waltons who used to be from Cambridge but now live in Bristol. They’re great. Then there’s people like Johnny Foreigner, Sky Larkin, Encyclopedia, Meursault, Avast! Copy Haho, Dave House, Big Deal, Katie Malco and Liam Dullaghan who are all very very good.

So many bands that were around when I was first getting in to Tellison are now long gone and split up ages ago, is there anyone in particular that you miss?

Definitely. I think we do all feel a bit weird in that almost our entire peer group of bands has quit or moved on to new things. I miss Stapleton, Dartz!, One Toy Soldier, Sam Isaac, The Maple State and TANAOU an awful lot. We toured with all those bands and I think we felt like the fact that we were all trying to be musicians in a sense justified each other. Seeing people decide to give up for all sorts of reasons has been a test of our resolve. When everyone around you decides there’s no future in being in a band it’s difficult to continue to tell yourself that you’re not wasting your life. Having said that it’s also exciting to see what some of the members of the bands above are going on to do: Ross from One Toy Soldier started My First Tooth, Will from Dartz! and John from The Maple State have just formed a band together called Algiers, Henry from Dartz! is the King of the Middlesbrough music scene, Ric from One Toy Soldier has joined us in Tellison on keys and guitar and Andy and Nico from Stapleton are about to release a new record in Avast! There’s definitely a sense of loss for all those great bands who we shared stages and tours with but life goes on and we’re excited to see all their new bands and make new friends.

Last time Henry Went To Paris and this time he went back to Boston, whatever does he get up to in these places, and where's he headed next?

Henry is basically a modern day Shackleton. He’s fortunate enough and talented enough to get to travel quite a lot and when he’s gone I often find myself feeling his absence. He and I have been playing in a band together for nearly ten years and I think we’ve developed quite an instinctive musical relationship. We know what each other can or might do next a lot of the time and it’s exciting to play music in that environment. His next planned trip is to Alaska for the ice fishing season. That isn’t even a joke.

I'm assuming the references to a bad time of year whilst Henry was in Boston on Horses are about real events – what was going on?

That line refers to what it felt like to be in Tellison at that time. Hank was back and forth between London and Boston for college and we felt a little like try as we might, our band wasn’t really going anywhere. Lyrically that song develops a lot from there but that’s a brief, corrupted and partial account of things.

Also, I'm assuming the novel referred to in Get On is real too – care to share any details on that?

I’m not the sort of person who is “writing a novel”. Although I do like to write things down. That song is kind of about being a songwriter but also just a creative person who tries to put down their thoughts. There were times when I was a little worried that I couldn’t write anymore, that I’d lost something in the time since Contact! and Wasp’s Nest came out and couldn’t find it any longer. I thought that lyrically it’d be interesting to write about not being able to write. There’s also an oblique reference to Bruce Springsteen’s 'Dancing In The Dark' in there.

I saw in the press release for the album that you finally got over your fear and went to New York – how was that? Can you still play New York, New York, New York the same way anymore? And did the visit have any kind of impact on the new album?

I did go there. I’ve been a couple of times now. We still play the song. I think it was always about more than just getting on a plane.

During my first visit I did see 'The Wages Of Fear' the film for the first time so that trip definitely had an impact on the record. I went during a pretty odd time and getting the Atlantic’s distance between me and everything was definitely pretty thought-provoking. If I could I would live there.

The album cover's a little odd, any explanation on that?

The cover arrived in Henry’s mind one day after we’d almost agreed on a completely different idea. We all trust Hank’s artistic vision so we let him go away and get on with things and he emerged with the image we used. The photo was taken by fashion photographer Georges Garnier and the layout was done by Nick Scott who has done work for The Cribs and Wild Beasts in the past. I think the image captures a kind of Hemingway-esque sense of blunt tragedy. There’s something awful in the boy’s eyes (his name is Mario) yet to all outward appearances he’s upright, strong and fearless. I like the mystery of it as a cover and I think it’s also quite recognisable. Which is exactly what we wanted.

Finally, what's next for Tellison for the rest of the year and beyond?

The record will come out on June 13th. We release 'Say Silence (Heaven & Earth)' as a single the week before that. Then we’ll be on tour all June, play some festivals over the summer and after that we’ll tour this record comprehensively and hopefully put out some more singles. There are plans to get the album out in Europe and even further afield and, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to tour those places as well. I’ve also started demoing new songs so hopefully it won’t take four years for our next record to come out.