Doves tell us about ‘Broken Eyes’, and how David Bowie and mental health shaped their first album in 11 years

The Williams brothers explain the inspiration behind 'The Universal Want'

As Doves release their acclaimed new album ‘The Universal Want‘, the band have spoken to NME about returning after 11 years away and the inspiration behind new single ‘Broken Eyes’. Check it out below, and watch our video interview with the band above.

Today (September 11), the Manchester trio have dropped their first new full length since 2009’s ‘Kingdom Of Rust’ – and it comes with a vivid video for album highlight ‘Broken Eyes’.

“We’ve had it for many years, but never managed to finish that song,” drummer Andy Williams told NME. “Then at the start of this [new album writing] process in 2017, we were going through the hard drives and came across this great song again. We approached it in a much more simple way. With the clarity of time, it was a lot easier to finish it this time.”


Brother and guitarist Jez Williams continued: “We had to change the words to this one. There are a couple of songs on the record that after a decade and a bit of hindsight, we knew where we went wrong. ‘Broken Eyes’ was originally called ‘Cocaine Eyes’. We realised that we couldn’t have a band like us talking us about cocaine eyes, because it just looks silly.”

After some revisions, the song “took on a whole new meaning” while “still dealing with the subject of addiction and repetitive behaviour”.

When it comes to lyrics, Jez said that “honesty and integrity” in their music is essential to Doves’ approach.

“When we get together, we don’t have a mandate – that would be the beginning of the end,” he said. “We don’t even talk about it. We’re there in the moment and going with what sounds new. The song will dictate where we’re at.

“These songs are a timestamp of where our heads are at at the moment. I think it’s still got that yearning that all Doves songs have got. I was trying to tap into a balearic, summer yearning. I also thought there was a lot of self-help in these lyrics, especially on songs like ‘Cycle Of Hurt’ and ‘Prisoners’. There’s a lot more tapping into mental health issues.”


He added: “It feels like a bit of healthy therapy. We’ve not had the pleasure of playing it live where people sing it back to you, but I imagine that will be a pretty cool moment – if it ever fucking happens!”

Doves, 2020 (Picture: Jon Shard 2000)

Andy said that the band weren’t afraid of maturity in the lyrics, while also adding “a dash of hope”.

“It can’t just be us moaning on. There’s got to be light,” said the drummer. “It doesn’t wash well for me with middle-aged bands coming out with adolescent lyrics. It’s good to register that life is a struggle, but to offer some kind of help.”

The drummer also explained how the death of David Bowie left a mark on the record.

“The morning we went to record ‘Cathedrals Of The Mind’ was the morning that David Bowie had died. It was one of those moments that anyone who’s into musical culture knows where they were when they heard it. We definitely didn’t write it about him, but I think he’s in there subliminally. Lyrics like ‘In the ballroom, I hear the crowd going insane, I hear them calling out your name’ – they definitely resonate with his passing, looking back.”

Doves, 2020. Credit: Press
Doves, 2020. Credit: Press

After an 11 year wait for ‘The Universal Want’, the band remained coyly optimistic that it might not be so long until they drop another album next time.

“I definitely feel like there’s a lot more music in us,” said Andy. “Whether we’d sit down to write an album, I don’t know.”

Jez added: “It feels like we’ve just finished a bloody album. According to the Spotify guy we need another album every few weeks so should start now! We’d better pull our socks up’.”

‘The Universal Want’ by Doves is out now. The band will be heading out on a huge UK tour in 2021.