Image & Video by Jan-Willem Dikkers
“I like songwriters that tell stories lyrically in their songs.
Old folk songs that have a narrative and people
that use stories or metaphors or myths to get their point across.”
— Ed Nash
Toothless is the solo project of Ed Nash, the bassist of Bombay Bicycle Club. Nash sings and plays most of the instruments along with drummer Suren de Saram (Bombay Bicycle Club). He co-produced his solo debut album The Pace of Passing (2017) with Jack Steadman, Bombay’s frontman. Toothless’ newest release, an EP entitled Palm’s, contains new versions of tracks from his debut album and features singer/songwriter Marika Hackman.
Bombay Bicycle Club
From Crouch End, London, Bombay Bicycle Club is an English indie rock band consisting of Jack Steadman, guitarist Jamie MacColl, drummer Suren de Saram and bassist Ed Nash. The band experiments with a variety of genres, including folk, electronica, world music and indie rock.
London-born bassist Ed Nash has been playing music seriously since age 15, when he and his friends formed indie rock band Bombay Bicycle Club. In 2016, Nash began his solo project, Toothless, an experimentation of acoustic melodies with electronic instruments and folkish influences. Fresh on the heels of his first album Pace of Passing (2017), Nash recently released his Palm’s EP, featuring reimagined versions of his debut tracks and a duet with singer-songwriter Marika Hackman. Nash discusses his influences and what it’s been like starting a solo project.
Where are you from?
I’m from London, England. Hornsey, to be precise.
When did you start making music?
I started playing guitar and making music and writing music when I was about 12. I played in a string of pretty terrible bands and then played in what I think are pretty decent heavy metal bands. I started Toothless about two years ago, and I’ve been doing this since.
Who did you listen to growing up?
It kind of went through phases. When I first started playing guitar, I listened to a lot of Guns N’ Roses. You know, all the stuff you listen to when you start playing guitar. So I learned to do guitar solos and shred and stuff like that. And then about a year or two later, when I had actually learned to play guitar, I realized it was incredibly uncool to listen to bands like that, and I started to listen to the kind of music I listen to now. Like American indie, English indie and folk music. People like Elliott Smith. The kind of the transitionary artists from the heavy metal into the hopefully more tasteful music.
“My mum came up with a much better explanation
than I did, so I’ll go with that.
My mum was like, ‘You were born without teeth
and you die without teeth.’”
— Ed Nash
Who would you say influences you the most?
I don’t know if I can pick a particular person. I like songwriters that tell stories lyrically in their songs. Old folk songs that have a narrative and people that use stories or metaphors or myths to get their point across. People like Nick Cave, Sufjan Stevens. Joanna Newsom is one of my favorites. Storytellers. I really, really enjoy them.
And how did you decide this is what you wanted to do?
I didn’t. I never really decided, it just kind of happened. My previous band, Bombay Bicycle Club, started when we were 15. And from an early age and a very early stage in our career, we started to do well, so I just went with it. I had the best time doing it, but I never made an active decision to do it. Like if you go to university or you change jobs, you make an active decision. It was something that was going good and something I loved doing, so I continued to do it. I guess when I finished playing in Bombay Bicycle Club, I made an active decision to start Toothless. But up until this point it was just a path that I was set on from the beginning.
“It was a huge leap—
undertaking something creatively by yourself,
when you’re the sole driving force.”
— Ed Nash
So how did that transition go?
We did Bombay for 10 years, from age 15 to 25. It was time to not do it anymore, you know? All of our adult working lives and a huge amount of our teenage lives, we spent doing something that was one thing—an incredibly time consuming and incredibly creatively draining thing. So we decided to stop doing it. I really wanted to do Toothless. As I said before, it was a decision that I made. Also I’m incredibly unqualified to do anything else.
So what’s the inspiration behind the name Toothless?
My mum came up with a much better explanation than I did, so I’ll go with that. My mum was like, “You were born without teeth and you die without teeth.” And I like that. Well, you hopefully die without teeth when you’re old.
How does it feel to have finished your debut album The Pace of the Passing earlier this year? And your new EP, Palm’s?
Fantastic. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done, actually. When I made the decision to do Toothless, it was a huge leap—undertaking something creatively by yourself, when you’re the sole driving force. So to actually finish not one but two things feels really good. Even if I stop doing this tomorrow, I’d feel proud with what I’ve done.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
Someone asked me this the other day, and I gave a terrible answer. I’ll try and do a better job this time. I really like collaborating with other singers and hearing other singers sing songs I’ve written. There are my favorites like Joanna Newsom and Nick Cave and people like that. But I also think it would be fun to work with people outside of my comfort zone. Some pop people or maybe some people in hip hop. Just try and expand the sound of Toothless.
Marika Hackman is an English vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. Hackman has released three albums: That Iron Taste (2013), We Slept at Last (2015) and I’m Not Your Man (2017).
How did your collaboration with Marika Hackman come about?
I wrote the song “Palm’s Backside,” which we just played for you, and the song has two parts. It’s a guy and a girl talking to one another about a relationship that they had before. So I needed to have someone else singing in it, and I love Marika Hackman’s voice and music. I thought it was a fantastic counterpoint for my voice and for the song.
“If I hadn’t done music, I probably would
have gone to art school. I paint,
and I’m sure when I’m finished doing music,
I will paint as well.”
— Ed Nash
What are your interests and passions outside of music?
If I hadn’t done music, I probably would have gone to art school. I paint, and I’m sure when I’m finished doing music, I will paint as well. I’m going to go to LACMA after this and see what they have on the floor. I like art and the art world. I’d like to spend more time doing that.
What are your favorites books, film and music right now?
At the moment, I’m reading a book called On the Beach which is an Australian book about the nuclear war that’s happened. It’s about people living in Melbourne while the rest of the world is dead, and there’s a cloud of nuclear radiation coming to kill them. It seemed pretty pertinent so I started reading that. In terms of music, Marika Hackman put a new album out, and I think it’s absolutely amazing. I’m listening to Sufjan Stevens’ Planetarium collaboration a lot. For film, I watched the Oasis: Supersonic documentary on the plane. I hate Oasis, and it made me love them. It’s really kindhearted and endearing, and it put into context what they were about. I thought they were just—well, they probably still are—quite obnoxious, loud Mancunians. But they’re a good band. It made me realize that.
Hippo Campus is an indie rock band from St. Paul, Minnesota. Their first full-length album, Landmark, released early this year.
So what is next for you now?
I’m playing shows over the summer. I’m doing a support show with a band called Hippo Campus in October and hopefully recording it and getting it out at the end of this year or beginning of next.