After 10 minutes in the company of Hannah and Colette Thurlow I've become slightly paranoid that the sisters are hiding something from me. It's not that they are evading my questions, although there are a few polite rebuttals here and there, it's because they are so different from what I had imagined.

2:54, for the uninitiated, are a loud and complicated storm of emotions. Seductive and forlorn, tense and murky, poised and strung-out, it's really quite hard to summon the right words to fully describe what could lazily be described as shoegaze or grunge (their name comes from the precise moment on The Melvins' 'A History of Bad Men' when it dives into a gloomy, dreamy breakdown, if that helps). The music, and accompanying promo pictures, exude an aloof, impenetrable charm, but try hunting for this 'hidden self' in person and you'll slowly realise that it's simply not there. They seem a little jittery about the interview but overall are exceptionally nice and impeccably well spoken.

Born in Ireland, raised in Bristol and residents of London for the last 10 or more years, the Thurlow sisters came to the attention of the blogging world in typically dramatic style with their first demo 'Creeping' in 2010. Picked up by a large swath of the music press, online and in print, this intense flash of exposure was driven by a recognition of the maturity of their sound; it was so distinctive and fully formed that it was quite breathtaking that this was only their first demo. I remember very clearly the first time I picked up on the band as I'm sure many of their fans do because it was like meeting someone at a random party and you hit it off straight away and they become your best friend. It was simply meant to be.

They signed with Fiction, a subsidiary of Universal, and released their eponymous debut album in 2012. Whilst it was warmly received by the music press and fans alike, the publicity around the album was markedly more low-key than you would might have expected after the initial hype. Despite this, there have also been high-profile support slots with The xx, Wild Beasts and Warpaint. A period of hibernation followed to write the follow up, The Other I, which will be released on Bella Union in early November.

The Other I is not in any sense a change of direction, rather they have chosen to go further down the rabbit hole, honing their sound and craft. It is unmistakably a 2:54 album. Though there are moments where they've tentatively peaked their heads out of the hole on tracks like 'Tender Shoots', an apparition of sorts, where looped and overlapping lines like "Looks like she's back in her bed again" and "Administer me something new" are sung in a dazed, angelic tone, suggesting anxiety and a numbness with modern life. But this is a misnomer in the context of the album, which generally feels angrier than its younger sibling. The visceral thunder of 'Crest' or the violence in the distorted breakdowns on 'No Better Prize' provide moments which are thrilling to hear.

We meet in the prim surroundings of Pimlico for an after work pint (at least I am, they stick with the cold, smoggy London air) to discuss life since the first album and the new record. The Thurlow sisters are curious interviewees. They finish each others sentences, nervously laugh when I ask them about their relationship, and leave awkwardly long pauses to consider the question before answering (perhaps I would too if I had the good sense to think before I speak). More than anything, I get the sense that after some time away, they are overjoyed to be back.

What was starting point with making the record?

Colette: Well we kind of regrouped, Hannah and I, after we finished touring the first album and we sat and started playing together, just seeing what came out. It started growing and growing and developed into the sound that the album was going to be."

Do you ever go in with an idea of what you want to achieve or is it more natural than that?

C: Yes it's a very natural process. I think we just feel compelled to make a song and whatever comes out will follow that. The song dictates the shape of things.

When you were looking back on the first album, did you spot things that you didn't like or think of things that could be improved, and take that on board when writing the new record?

C: [pause] Erm, no. I think we just...I think you learn as you go along. I think our songwriting has naturally evolved. Erm, yea [nervously laughs]

Do you write the songs together or do you write songs independently?

Hannah: Colette and I do it all together...

C: ...Often in the same room for most of it. I guess just playing around and feeling around sounds. H: There will be a spark which triggers the song and it will just unfold.

C: Maybe I will go off to write a melody, words or whatever. Hannah will write a guitar line and then we will come back together but, yeah, it's a beautiful thing.

Is it right that Hannah that you did most of the production on this album?

H: Yes, we both did. We very much took a hands on approach. Just because when we finished the demos together they are very much a finished thing.

C: Well, they are complete...

H: There isn't too much embellishment in the studio aside from recording certain things. But it's been a really great experience to be more hands on.

Were you daunted at all by that challenge of producing a record or did you throw yourself head first into it?

H: I think because we complete the demos to such a near finished state it felt like quite a natural step to take. There is some learning as you go but it was great.

C: And we worked with James Rutledge and David Pye. David has been the engineer on every track we have ever done. He's an incredible engineer who we found through Wild Beasts. So he's been with us the whole time so we were thrilled to work with him again. And James who came in to mix the album and help us mix the drums in The Fish Factory which, again, was a place where we had recorded previously. That was incredible as well just to work with them and have them help us achieve the ideas that we wanted to.

You went to Paris to do some writing. I read somewhere, Colette, that you went to Paris previously on a bit of a run away mission. Was this your idea to go again?

C: It's about the closest place I could run away too! [laughs] I managed to get a room through a friend of a friend. She actually gave me her whole apartment and she had my tiny, tiny bedroom. I was mortified when I realised but elated. Little did they know...But yes we decamped there and that's where the first songs - 'Blindfold', 'Glory Days', 'Raptor' - they came to life then.

Paris is such a romantic, stylish city and I kinda feel that matches your music in a way. Does your locality influence your songwriting at all?

C: [pause] Well, on a personal level, I love Paris and I would live there in an instant if I could. But I think just having difference from the place you are from...[pause]...essentially it could have been anywhere. We were just in a room, the two of us. I suppose there is that alienating quality of not speaking the language fully and having that noise shut out of the city, so you are not hearing people chatting on the metro or whatever. You are not part of that noise so maybe you are more in tune with what is going on in your head which constantly fascinates me.

And lyrically you were inspired by Percy Shelly. What is your fascination with Percy and his writing?

C: I guess he feels more current now, more than ever, and that's why I have been re-reading him over the last year or so. But the politics of it and the romance of it, and the heroic outrage in some of it. I just been reading more about him and retracing my steps from when I was a kid and getting into poetry. A kid? Teenager, really. And I fell upon stuff about his muse. I just found that fascinating, Elizabeth Hitchener the 'sister of my soul, my second self'. It just ended up being a catalyst for a series of fun thoughts for me.

I was reading his life story and it is fascinating. He seemed like a real wild child and his politics are very relevant today. Does his politics feed into your own lyrics in any way?

C: I suppose the personal more than the political. There's lots of questions. The album is questions, really, and modern day anxiety. There are a lot of questions about the challenges of reconciling creativity with the realities of business. It's a challenge, to say the least. To keep all of that creativity open and forward-facing, to not give up. It's those questions.

You've changed labels for The Other I. You were on Fiction before and now you are with Bella Union. What happened with Fiction?

C: We just started looking for a new home at the end of our tour in 2012. Things reached a natural conclusion. We then started what feels like an extraordinary journey into the arms of Bella Union.

They are such a good fit for you guys, it's almost a surprise you weren't there before. How has it been with them so far?

C: Incredible. [looks to Hannah] Sorry, I'm gassing away, aren't I?

H: No, no, it's fine [smiles]. We very much feel like a part of the family and it's a wonderful relationship. It's a wonderful label to be a part of and it's a very exciting place for us to be.

When the first album came out there didn't seem to be that much press, particularly in comparison to when you first came to prominence. Did you feel that? Were you happy with the way it was released?

C: I think we are only interested in things we can control. The music. That's it. Things play out the way they were meant to be, I feel.

You're right. That is the most important thing but it was such a great record I feel like it could have been bigger than it was. Going back to those early days, you had such a fast ascent, do you feel that was a positive thing because it got you so much exposure or is it a hindrance because the project had to develop in front of everyone?

C: [pause] I think the idea of visibility for any band trying to garner any snippet of attention these days is an incredibly difficult thing to do and to retain that. I look at it as a lucky, privileged thing to have happened. Something ignited, a connection was made. I'm even sure if it is on us to maintain it. All we can do is, like I said, make the music we love, the same as we did when no one was listening. That's it.

That's very true. It can be so fickle. I feel like people don't always take the responsibility upon themselves to follow the artist rather than just one song.

C: Absolutely. And the concept of longevity, to me, that's interesting.

I'd like to talk about your relationship. Obviously you must be very close if you are touring and writing together. Were you always this close?

(They both giggle)

H: Oh yeah. We'd just hang out...forever.

Really? Even through school?

C: The same social groups really. Through the ages they have just morphed into one.

You lived together before but now you go on tour together, which is a different set of pressures, as well as having a creative relationship. Have you found that the relationship has changed in any way because of this?

H: No. It's just incredible to travel around and play music together. It's excitement.

C: It does feel like a family with the boys as well. We have Alex Robins who's been our drummer from the start and we have a new bassist Rich who is joining us on the tour. It's exciting.

You must be excited to go back on tour. The London show has already sold out which is positive. What are you most looking forward to?

H: Well playing the show is definitely the highlight, but all of it. Just enjoying the travelling, waking up somewhere new every day.

C: I think what it is for us is having these songs for what feels like so long and we've only played one show in the last year. We played the Bella show in early September so we are dying to play these songs live. I feel like it will be a huge relief, a physical release...

Don't faint on stage.

H: [laughs] Like a true romantic!

What are the elements of the new record that you would like people to take notice of?

C: I would just hope, or be delighted, if people connect to any element of it. That's what I most intrigued by. The potential for connection, in a real way, for a song to matter to someone. That would be huge, a dream.


The Other I will is set for a release on November 10th via Bella Union. Their forthcoming dates are as follows:

  • Friday 7 November - Ramsgate – Ramsgate Music Hall
  • Wednesday 19 November – London - St. Pancras Old Church (Sold Out)
  • Thursday 20 November - Sheffield - The Harley
  • Friday 21 November - Glasgow - The Broadcast
  • Saturday 22 November - Manchester - Soup Kitchen
  • Monday 24 November - Nottingham - The Corner
  • Tuesday 25 November - Bristol - The Louisiana
  • Wednesday 26 November - Brighton - The Hope
  • Wednesday 4 February – London – Dingwalls