Interview: English Teacher Unleash Everything in a Chaotic, Eclectic, Beautiful Mess on ‘This Could Be Texas’

English Teacher © Denmarc Creary
English Teacher © Denmarc Creary
Leeds, UK band English Teacher’s long-awaited debut album ‘This Could Be Texas’ throws everything at the wall, and it’s a magical sound when it all sticks.
‘This Could Be Texas’ – English Teacher

Great things often take time. Think whiskey, wine, or a great friendship.

So turning on English Teacher’s This Could Be Texas, why would it be any other way? Sure, it’s instantly melodic and beautiful, intriguingly drawing us into its wacky world, but it’s true meaning and deeper levels only unlock to those who invest the time. From a band that formed in 2020 — and on Atwood’s 2023 artists to watch list —but are only releasing their debut now, would you expect anything else?

“I feel like we’ve grown into it into it. I think it took so long because we were finding our legs, finding out what creativity looked like,” says guitarist Lewis Whiting.

So apart from age, what else did the long road give them? “Scope. Piano and scope,” adds drummer Douglas Frost.

This Could Be Texas - English Teacher
This Could Be Texas – English Teacher

And it’s that scope that makes the album such a sonic treat. At times it’s eclectic bordering on hyperactive. Take album standout “I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying,” or Whiting’s (current) favourite song, “Broken Biscuits.” Like most English Teacher songs, they start out mellow and grow, edging you along, before taking a long detour and delivering you exactly where they wanted the whole time. There’ll be surprising instruments — an organ or a sax maybe — but it’ll all feel real, and more ultimately, feel like exactly what you needed.

“I worry that people are going to listen and be like, ‘What the hell? Why can’t they just stick to one thing at a time?'” says Frost. “I worry people are just going to be kind of confused by us, it feels too sketchbook and we’re just like throwing everything at a wall, and then everything’s stuck.”

English Teacher © Tatiana Pozuelo
English Teacher are vocalist Lily Fontaine, guitarist Lewis Whiting, drummer Douglas Frost, and bassist Nicholas Eden © Tatiana Pozuelo

Yet somehow, This Could Be Texas, released April 12th via Island Records, is never overwhelming.

The album is chaos, but controlled chaos. The band’s role is more dam than musicians, attempting to stem the flood and direct it towards some kind of coherent sound. There’s spoken word, discordant pianos, pulsating bass lines, and at the centre, a charismatically enigmatic lead singer, Lily Fontaine, trying to hold it all together — seemingly both the songs and herself. “We tend to go down the more maximalists route, when we’re in the studio,” says bassist Nicholas Eden.

In an age on constant information, rising costs and dwindling prospects, the end result is an oddly relatable feeling. “It’s such a good snapshot of the f**ing chaotic year we had,” says Frost.

This is where the slow burn approach has been vital. An immature band would have been buried by this task, by the squealing horns and the tangible angst. Hell, maybe English Teacher two years ago would have struggled.

“It’s been slow and steady but I personally quite like that,” Frost reflects.

“We had a lot of figuring out to do. I think we could have dove into it and just smashed out an album, in theory, but I feel like we actually had a lot of soul searching and a lot of things figure out,” adds Whiting.

“I think back to our first gigs in 2020 and 2021 and literally I look back and see like four children,” Frost adds with a laugh.

But this album arrives in a sweet spot: There’s the youthful, energetic exuberance that only comes from being young enough to care and dream, mixed with the time-earned wisdom of a band that’s been around a while. This potent cocktail is what makes This Could Be Texas worth coming back to time and again.

English Teacher © Tatiana Pozuelo
English Teacher © Tatiana Pozuelo

Perhaps the most impressive part of this debut, however, is the way English Teacher maintain their identity throughout.

Despite This Could Be Texas being about self-discovery — both personally and sonically — it has the feel of the same band throughout. To be this eclectic but still sound like yourself is a challenge that more accomplished bands have tried and failed.

“There’s certain production elements, little atmospheric sounds and techniques that are on a lot of the songs that pull us. Where our songwriting is very different song to song, there’s sounds that we use, especially in the background, that make all those songs sit in the same kind of universe, even if they are different countries,” says Fontaine.

Now the only exciting thing left is to ponder the future, to get lost in the idea of where this Yorkshire-based quartet could end up next. And in the meantime, we wait with this album on repeat and the knowledge that whatever they produce is worth the wait.

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:: stream/purchase This Could Be Texas here ::
:: connect with English Teacher here ::

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This Could Be Texas - English Teacher

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