When NME meets Thomas Cohen at a rickety private members club in London’s Soho, it’s exactly two years since his wife, Peaches Geldof, was found dead at their home in Kent. It’s a tragedy that’s recounted in stark detail on ‘Country Home’ – the fifth track on Cohen’s graceful debut solo album, ‘Bloom Forever’. A swirling ballad, it’s strung together with the haunting lyrics “my love is gone/turning so cold”.
“I found it really impossible not to be honest on this record,” says 25-year-old Cohen, who is now raising his and Geldof’s two children back at home with his parents. “I just hope that people listen to the record rather than just the story. That’s not what I’m giving people, I’m giving them music.”
A tender weaving-together of bucolic Brit-folk, hippy Bowie and the simple elegance of alt.country greats Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, ‘Bloom Forever’ – which is taken from his second son Phaedra’s middle names – also pays tribute to lesser known talents, such forgotten LA singer Judee Sill, who died of a drug overdose in 1979. “She’s just about become my favourite musician,” explains Cohen. “There’s so much happiness and sadness on each song, I wanted to try and achieve that on my record.”
The album is a world away from Cohen’s old music, made with experimental post-punkers SCUM, who formed while he was still at school in Sidcup. The band broke up in-between the birth of Astala, his and Geldof’s first son, and the couple’s marriage in 2012. However, before the split Cohen had already started writing the music that was to make up his solo record, crafting the joyous opening track ‘Honeymoon’ during soundcheck at a festival in Berlin. Immediately he knew it was to be for a brand new project. “I knew what I didn’t want to do and I knew it didn’t want to use,” he says of his plans for his old school solo sound. “I didn’t want to use too much reverb and delay, I felt like I’d done that. I didn’t want to make a particularly electronic record. I wanted it to be quite traditional.”
The album’s nine tracks play out in the order in which they were written, with first four tracks coming in the afterglow of marriage of childbirth and the second half following Geldof’s death, Cohen’s grieving and eventual coming to terms with her passing. I ask if, after her death, he ever thought he’d make music again. “I don’t think I was thinking very much for about three weeks and then after that I met up with my manager and told him I still wanted to make music.” So it was the logical response? “There was no logic in it,” he says with a nervous chuckle. “There wasn’t much choice in the end. Anybody who experiences something of that nature who has a creative outlet, it’s the best subconscious therapy, I guess. It just shows you how you really feel – what you’re really thinking.”
Cohen got out of the UK to finish up the album, recording over half of the record in Iceland. “You leave the airport and the air is kind of obnoxious – it’s so fresh and clean and it really smacks you round the face. The landscape looks like Mars was colonised by America. I loved it, I loved making music there.” Cam Avery from Tame Impala joined Cohen to add backing vocals and guitar and Cohen was able to cut loose. “It was really fun going out with him – it was first time I’d been out in a long time.”
So far, Cohen has only played two solo shows in support of the album, but will be touring throughout May. However, he won’t be taking his two young sons on the road with him just yet. “I don’t think its fair to take them to the Southampton Joiners or the Travelodge!” he explains. “But it’d be nice for them to come out and do a couple of days if I’m in Europe or something. When you become a parent and you’re a musician, your goals change and you get to the point where you’d like to be able to go on tour comfortably with them. That’s success.”