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By Mary Chang
on Friday, 20th July 2012 at 11:00 am
Editor’s note: All of TGTF’s coverage of London 2012 Olympics – at least my jaundiced view of the musical portion of it – is available through this link.
Put out a BBC Sound of… feted album, then scuttle yourselves away for 2 years with next to no public appearances or live concerts: sounds like a recipe for disaster in this day and age we music editors know too well as the fickle music business and its equally fickle daughter, the music media, aka the people who forget you unless you either keep putting out music or keep getting into trouble. Yet Delphic have done exactly that; without canceling tours on the basis of “exhaustion” or pronouncements of mental illness, the Manchester band voluntarily chose the life of hermits since summer festival season 2010, withdrawing from the scene that had ushered them in as the preferable compromise between indie and dance. Looking back at it now, I can hardly believe it was only 2 and a half years ago when ‘Acolyte’ came into our lives and even then our readers knew we were all in for something special.
So it is with some disappointment (or is that editor’s trepidation?) that I bring to you on this Friday afternoon ‘Good Life’, their new Olympic single that premiered Wednesday night on Zane Lowe’s Radio1 programme. Maybe you weren’t a fan of the Delphs to begin with, or maybe you wanted something completely new from the band? Either way, this falls under the Monty Python rule of “and now for something completely different”. So different that when right after its first play I was asked by the band “YEA OR NAY ?” for my opinion of it, I was too dumbfounded to respond.
Listening to it on tinny office speakers on half volume didn’t give me a good first impression either, so after recording that portion of the show, replaying it several times over the course of an 18 hour period and thinking about it long and hard (even involving the Mother Chang for a second opinion of the new release – PS, she wasn’t entirely fond of it either, asking rather innocently, “where are the electronic gizmos?”), I was left with more questions. So many that somehow I convinced James Cook to hear me out over a cup of coffee (he ducked into a coffee shop during one of what seems to be a series of never-ending English rain storms, judging from my mates’ reports up and the whole of the country), and he kindly considered and responded to each and every one of my concerns while having a cuppa. What follows after the video is a summary of what we discussed.
We all know ‘Good Life’ is Delphic’s Olympic single, but will it appear on the new album? Cook says yes. I then asked if we can take this song to be representative of the tracks to appear on this new album, reported by Rick Boardman Wednesday night as dropping in early 2013. (Yes. I can hear all of you Delphic fans groaning. You aren’t the only ones. Bloody hell, 3 full years?) James’ response? That ‘Good Life’ is “closer to the ‘Acolyte’ material than any of the other new tunes. It is [better] representative more of [the] mood [of the new material], not [its] musical direction”. Colour me intrigued. I personally cannot see the similarities between this new one and ‘Acolyte’, but should I listen to it some more? Maybe. The first mental block I had with this song? I could have been the bit-rate on the version used by Radio1, but the vocals, even the ones purposefully layered on as backing, felt blurred and unclear, directly the opposite of the crispness of those on ‘Acolyte’, all of which I think I can safely say were never shouted out at the top of someone’s lungs (what I’m guessing was the kind of ‘party’ effect they were going for on ‘Good Life’).
When I pointed out the dense yet sophisticated eloquence of ‘Red Lights’ and ‘Submission’, Cook countered with, “I think you should expand on what parts of ‘Good Life’ aren’t dense or eloquent. Not every song can fit in the lyric ‘kickstarted by some neurotic desire to be free'”, of the first verse. Point taken, and I will revisit this when I have liner notes for yet to be named album #2, so I know what all the lyrics are. (I have since listened to the song with my special blog listening earbuds several times, again, trying to hash out the lyrics and it can’t be just me, some of it is unintelligible. So I’m still not sold on the lyrics.)
I also wanted to know what effects, if any, working this spring in Atlanta and with American music personnel would have on their new material. Just look at Mystery Jets and Two Door Cinema Club as two recent examples: it seems to be in vogue for British bands to come over here to America to record their cool new albums, doesn’t it? Cook emphasised, “everything was written before we went over” (in other words, the songs weren’t terribly influenced by their production’s surroundings), but the producer and engineer they worked with were responsible for helping them “attain some great hip-hop drums”. It’s not clear to me which producer he means; NME had reported weeks ago in an interview they did with Boardman earlier this year that both Ben Allen (Bombay Bicycle Club‘s long time collaborator) and DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy were both tapped for production duties on the new Delphic album, but we can expect that information and any delineation of which producer did what – along with the band, who have produced in their own right – will come along when the new album is released.
But I had other questions about this ‘new sound’ of theirs. The vocals sound very different to the ones on ‘Acolyte’ and there seemed to be a lot of different voices, so I asked if part of the Atlanta production involved sophisticated vocal effects. While the track features Cook on lead vocals and Boardman on backing vocals as usual, they also enlisted the vocal talents of Rebecca Lovell, one of two singing sisters in local Georgia folk/bluegrass band Larkin Poe. Right, a folk singer on ‘Good Life’ that they “randomly met in Atlanta”? Whoever writes their biography in 20 years’ time is going to have a field day getting this all down.
Something that became very clear in our brief chat is that Delphic, though known as those Englishmen in suits with suitcase after suitcase full of synths, no longer feel constrained by their electronics that helped make them their name. Sampling, not synthesis, and a musical journey through ‘This Mortal Coil to Kanye West to Aaliyah to Neil Young’ all makes this sound like an album that has a billion different influences, but what will the final sound like? Cook promises “lots more ‘song’ on this record, [as] opposed to dance jams”. This made me feel ill. I am a dancer, I am a mover and a groover. We need more dance on TGTF, not less. But he maintains “it was just a natural progression” to move out of the space that was ‘Acolyte’, especially after having a false start with what he called a “techno-centric album in 2010″ and then abandoning it in favour of something of meaning to them as artists: “There are still images and emotions [like in our previous work], we wouldn’t have written it if it didn’t move us!”
I know why I had such a violent reaction to and became admittedly torn up about this new single. When you’re waiting for a follow-up to an album that means a lot to you, there’s all kinds of ways the resulting product you receive could go wrong. You’ve set the bar so impossibly high, no mortals could meet your expectations. Do I think it’s better than the Chems’ ‘Theme to Velodrome’ that I reviewed on Wednesday? No. But it’s an apples vs. oranges type comparison, and I’ll tell you why.
‘Good Life’ was never intended to be straight techno or overt dance. If you go by what guitarist Matt Cocksedge reported in their Radio1 interview with Zane Lowe, their demo was submitted for Olympic consideration unbeknownst to them, so there’s no way they could have given it an ‘Olympic sound’, if there is such a thing: the song was already written and done. It’s very convenient the single premiered on Radio1, a channel I never listen to unless there’s a feature I specifically want to listen in for, but the kind of radio station with a fan base that, predictably, eats up this kind of urban pop / not really rap / not really r&b / party vibe stuff.
If one of Delphic’s primary intentions with ‘Good Life’ was to connect with that kind of fan base, they’ve done a bang up job and can expect a massive leap in popularity. But that wasn’t what it was all about before. In my eyes, one of the main issues (if you want to call it that) that ‘Acolyte’ had was its trailblazing ‘intellect’ and this attribute, which to me wasn’t a negative at all, probably hurt its sales, especially in America. You either got it and loved it to death, or you didn’t. After an album that Simon Price of the Independent described as “on kissing terms with magnificence”, I’m left thinking that on this grand international stage on which they knew they would be announcing their comeback, this entry falls short and makes you wonder just what could have been.
But those of you clutching ‘Acolyte’ to your chests and sighing, take heart: Mixmag has reported they’ll be using ‘Clarion Call’ on Channel 4’s broadcasting of the Paralympics, so ‘old’ Delphic is still making the rounds in London, just in a less obvious way. However, I’m not sure where I stand on Delphic reworking ‘Chariots of Fire’, the classic 1981 film theme song by Vangelis, to be played at all the medal ceremonies. Let’s leave it at that…
‘Good Life’, the Olympic single contribution by Delphic, will be released digitally for purchase on Monday (23 July). To cover all bases, the video stream of the song in the YouTube embed above can be listened to by anyone, no matter where you are in the world. If you are in the UK, you can listen to it via Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record in the World blog. Rather confusingly, there were two Hottest Records in the World Wednesday night (the other one was the Vaccines‘ ‘Teenage Icon’, who were doing a live session at Maida Vale), so to get to ‘Good Life’ and the interview, fast forward to 35 minutes in to the listen again stream.
In the days of that internet they have now, international boundaries are irrelevant; pan-continental collaborations can happen online at the click of a mouse; genres meet, merge and split at a speed never before seen. However, the vibe and visceral power of a live show is impossible to replicate online. With live performance arguably the most important promotional tool in a band’s arsenal, there’s no alternative: flights must be taken, the miles have to pass under the tour bus wheels, to bring a live show to the audience. Which is all well and good for UK bands – even the continent is no more than a few hours’ drive away. But when Fat Freddy’s Drop decide to do a few European dates of a summer, it’s a somewhat more daunting eleven thousand miles betwixt home town and audience. No wonder such performances are prized indeed.
Having said that, 2012 sees a handful of European dates for the FFD Wellington dub machine, with Standon Calling their only UK festival date. In preparation for such a rare occurrence, TGTF sent a few questions all the way to New Zealand. Trumpeter and founding member Tony Chang (aka Toby Laing) sent us his upside-down pearls of funky wisdom.
For our readers who haven’t heard you before, give us a description of your sound, your band, your vibe.
Pacific soul with vocals from the inimitable Joe Dukie. Beats from DJ Fitchie – drawing upon the many flavors of the Fat Freddy Sound System – everything from “road house techno-blues” to “Country Bashment”. The band also includes the stomping rhythm section of Dobie Blaze and Jetlag Johnson as well as the Fat Freddy’s three-piece community orchestra horn section.
You’ve been going for 14 years now. Your geographic base and the band’s organic history paints you as a band of nomadic, fluid outsiders. With increasing recognition, do you aspire to become part of the musical firmament, or are you still keen to remain a respectful distance from outside influences?
The short answer to that question is yes. We like to perform. We like audiences. We like performing to audiences. We just do what we do and we are always happy when what we are doing works out okay! We are genuine outsiders, it’s not a conscious decision. As genuine outsiders we would love for our music to be heard everywhere – inside and out… We like playing outside at festivals and inside at clubs and theaters. If you are able to get us into the musical firmament please do!
Following on from that question, you are clearly fiercely independent as a band, having allegedly described the possibility of being signed to a major label as “evil”, and are still independently distributed after two successful albums. Has such a stance held back sales and been a logistic distraction from making music? If so, is that a price worth paying for principle?
I’m not sure about ‘evil’. Whichever of us said that – and it might have been me – was probably just exaggerating for extra effect. To be honest, we don’t know any other way and I’m not sure if it’s been a good business decision or not. Being independent suits us and suits the way we make music. We have received a lot of support from our international audience over the years – lots of people have taken it upon themselves to grow the awareness of the group by turning their friends onto it. Perhaps if we were with a major label, with the same marketing and media presence this support would never have materialized in the same way.
There seems to be a lot of cross-pollination between New Zealand bands (yourselves, The Black Seeds, TrinityRoots); does this explain the distinctively funky Kiwi sound that the bands share? Why do you think the sound has developed in such a way? What influences have led to its development?
There is a large and ever growing community of collaborating musicians all around NZ. We meet up at the summer festivals or get together to make up songs at random studio sessions. I wish I knew all the amazing collaborations that are certainly happening right now in Wellington alone. Wait a minute – that sounds like any music scene around the world. I guess NZ is just like any music scene around the world, except that due to the small distances and population, it seems to be a bit easier to get together than it is in some mega-tropolis.
Your most recent album, Dr. Boondigga, touched on a more dance-oriented sound, rather than the slow-burning dub songwriting of the debut ‘Based on a True Story’. How is your contemporary songwriting developing in style?
The albums are like a snapshot of what we’re doing at that particular time. Fat Freddy’s Drop is formed from a lot of different influences and we follow different sounds at different times. Maybe as we’ve got to play bigger shows the tunes have got a bit faster.
What can the lucky people with tickets to Standon Calling expect from your show?
We are really looking forward to it. Heard lots of good things about Standon Calling. We’ll be dropping our new songs and relishing the chance to mash them and wreck them beyond all recognition. The studio can be a bit dry – the festival stage should be quite the opposite.
My wife thinks the jelly-legged trombonist with the pork pie hat she saw playing with you guys at the Big Chill in 2005 one of the most inspiring musicians she’s watched. Could you pass on the message? Will he be there again at Standon?
Hopepa: the infamous bone man will certainly be there. All that stuff about mashing and wrecking, I was thinking specifically of his rambunctious carry-on.
Fat Freddy’s Drop headline this year’s Standon Calling on Sunday 5th August, and may even drop a new album later this year – keep an eye on www.fatfreddysdrop.com for breaking news.
I was so pleased to learn that Daughter were signed – rather quickly in indie band terms, actually – to NYC’s Glassnote Records here in America. On their first trip over to America, they were filmed performing their song ‘Youth’ acoustically and interviewed by the Bowery Presents, aka for those of you who don’t know, the people that own and run most of the important indie music venues in New York City that you’ve probably seen bandied about on your favourite UK bands’ American tour date posters (Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, Music Hall of Williamsburg, etc.)
I am, however, confused by the description of Daughter on these YouTube videos as “experimental folk” – how experimental can folk get? Elena Tonra sings fragile love songs. How exactly does that become experimental?
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 22nd June 2012 at 11:00 am
Interview by Larry Heath of www.theaureview.com
Reproduced by permission
Having the opportunity to catch them several times live at Liverpool Sound City, Larry managed to grab the members of Liverpool outfit The Hummingbirds (not to be confused with the 80s Sydney band of the same name) to talk about their shows, performing for the Queen, The Beatles, their music and much more…
Let’s talk about what you’ve been up to the last couple of days. You were saying you had never busked before and you busked for the Queen!
Yeah, so it’s a good start to busk for the Queen. We didn’t know it was busking until an hour before, we thought it was going to be a full stage with amps and lights and we got a call just saying it’s completely acoustic, just take your guitars and just play. We always talked about busking though, we thought it’d be a cool thing to do with harmonies and acoustic guitars, we’re good live, it’s not like we’re a studio band. We couldn’t cancel, we couldn’t cancel on the Queen so we just decided to do it, and we’ve been busking all weekend basically.
Well you played the opening party a month ago and at the industry party Wednesday night, so you definitely are sort of ambassadors, official or otherwise!
It’s a big festival, so it’s great that they actually picked us to do the opening party in London and the party in Liverpool. The roof-top show today was a one-off so that was brilliant.
Read the rest of Larry’s interview with the Liverpudlian band here: www.theaureview.com/interviews/liverpool-sound-city-the-hummingbirds-liverpool
At a festival packed with American pop-punkers from top to bottom, I caught up with Jimmy Lopez and Joe Lussa from The Audition at this year’s Slam Dunk South for a quick talk about leaving Victory Records, their new EP and having legions of female fans.
You played Slam Dunk North yesterday, how was that for you?
Jimmy: Fun, man. It was awesome. It’s my first time here in the UK. Everything’s backwards like driving, but I like it.
Joe: He’s new, it’s his first time over here. But it’s our first time playing back in the UK for a few years, and it was awesome. The kids seem to be excited.
You’re playing alongside some pretty big bands in pop-punk, how does it feel to be a part of such a line-up?
Joe: It’s awesome. A lot of our friends are here so that’s cool – bands like Taking Back Sunday and Every Time I Die are bands we grew up listening to, so it’s cool to be playing the same festival as them.
You do festivals differently in America than the UK…
Joe: Well, these are definitely bigger than Warped Tour, I’d say.
Jimmy: Especially now.
Joe: As far as festivals go, we don’t do too many, but when you’re over here a lot of it is festivals, which is awesome because I enjoy festivals more than a regular tour. I like being around people and playing outside – it’s a lot of fun.
Do you prefer UK or US festivals?
Joe: UK. Always.
Your new EP ‘Chapter II’ came out in America a few months ago and it’s out in the UK on the 11th of June, can you tell us a bit about it?
Joe: We just tried to go back to the old style of the band, combining the sounds of the first two records together so we can give the fans what they know the band as. The other records were a lot more ‘poppy’ than the rock that we like to play.
This is an EP but you haven’t released a new album since 2010, are there plans for a new album?
Joe: There’s a lot of songs we have written that we didn’t put on the EP but we’ll probably end up writing instead and making it fresh instead.
How do the crowds like the new material?
Joe: The response has been good and it’s nice to be able to play those songs and have kids already know the words.
Jimmy: It was cool when they started singing along. I think that was probably the loudest crowd since I’ve played with them – even in America.
You left Victory Records 2 years ago, how has it been since you decided to go alone?
Joe: It’s nice, we don’t have to answer to anybody. It’s better because when things happen for the band we know it’s our hard work that’s paying off, it’s not the record label that’s getting these things for us. We have a great agent and manager so they help out a lot but it’s definitely nice to be a free agent and know that whatever songs we really like will be the ones that we release. No-one else can say “We’d like you to do something else” or “We’d like you to take a different route”, we can just release what we want to release.
Is it something you’d advocate? Would you encourage bands to go it alone?
Joe: It depends on what kind of band you are; if you’re a real pop singer, a record label is going to be your best bet. The bands and the connections they have to put you on the giant tours and you need that promotion. But I feel the internet is a very viable option now, you can do a lot of promotion for free yourself. If you spend enough time you can do really big things on the internet. So if you can do it and you’re willing to put the work in, it will pay off in the end.
There’s a lot of girls here wearing Audition t-shirts and there’s always loads of girls at your shows, what is it about your band that attracts women primarily?
Jimmy: This guy right here (laughs). That and the dancey type groove we have going on.
Joe: I think a lot of it has to do with how we are as people. People see that we just have fun when we play and when they see us off stage they see we’re just hanging out with everybody. We’re very approachable people having fun with everybody – drinking and partying. It attracts people to hang out with us because we want to hang out with everyone else as well.
Finally, if the world ends at the end of 2012, what’s the last thing you’re going to do?
Joe: I’m going to make a billion dollars then buy a spot on the spaceship to the next planet.
Jimmy: I’ll rob the richest man in the world. I’ll rob Jimmy.
Joe: He’ll go the illegal route. I’ll make my millions, then he’ll kill me for it.
At this year’s Slam Dunk South Festival I caught up with Sam Carter and Tom Searle from the Brighton bruisers Architects for a quick talk about guest vocalists, the departure of guitarist Tim Hillier-Brook and tripping on DMT.
You played Slam Dunk North yesterday, how was that for you?
Sam: We really enjoyed it. Really fun.
Tom: Like we’ve been saying to everyone – we get here at 10.30 in the morning to sound check, so it’s a long day of keeping your energy levels up before you go on stage for an hour. But the crowd was amazing and that’s what’s important.
How does it feel headlining the second stage?
Tom: It’s really nerve-wracking, I’d rather be lower down. I don’t like the pressure of watching all these bands getting great reactions all day, so you feel the need to justify your position on the bill. I’d rather go on with low expectations. I’m not complaining because it’s awesome, it’s just a bit nerve-wracking for me.
It’s justified, though, you have become much more popular over the past year. What do you think the catalyst was for that?
Tom: Just good songwriting (laughs). We’ve never really had any gimmicks, none of us are poster boys, we’re normal people – there’s nothing particularly flashy or fancy about us. We just write music and put out quite a lot of music, and I think that’s it. There isn’t really a trick for us.
I’ve spoken to bands recently who’ve said there’s a heavy resurgence occurring in music, would you that’s true?
Tom: I wouldn’t know in England because when we first started out touring there was a much bigger community of British bands. If there was a festival like this there would have been five or six heavy bands on it from England, but today there’s only two – us and While She Sleeps. The rest of the bill is American and Canadian, so I’m not sure to be honest. It comes and goes, though. In 2 years’ time there might be loads, then 2 years later there might be none.
Your new album ‘Daybreaker’ is out tomorrow [out now on Century Media], can you tell us a bit about it?
Sam: There’s some tracks on it. There’s some heavy songs, melodic songs… We worked really hard on it and we put a lot of time into it. I just can’t wait for it to come out and be able to play a bunch of them live and tour the record.
Have you got a tour coming up to support it?
Sam: No. (laughs)
Tom: As of August we’re going to do all the touring everywhere in the world that will take us. But I understand the idea of going straight out on tour as soon as you release a record to support it, but it’s cool to give it a few months for people to listen to it, then we can go out and everyone knows all the songs. That’s more fun.
Your album also features Oli Sykes (Bring Me the Horizon) and Jon Green (Deez Nuts), how did you get those guys on board?
Sam: It features Drew from Stray from the Path as well. We toured with Jon in America and we just loved the dude so much he had to be on the record.
Tom: He has so much much enthusiasm about our band and is so supportive. And we all love the guy.
Sam: We were listening to ‘These Colours Don’t Run’ as a demo that had the heavy bit at the end, and I went outside with Jon afterwards and said, “your voice would be sick on the end of that”, and the whole tour he kept saying, “you won’t let me do it, you won’t let me do it,” and then his part is just so heavy. And Oli, we’ve known him for years and I sang on [Bring Me the Horizon album] ‘Suicide Season’, and we were trying to find a record to get him on and this was the right one. Drew as well we’ve known for years, he’s one of my favourite vocalists so to get him on the record is amazing.
Tom: It’s cool to be able to collaborate with friends who you have mutual respect for.
Is there anyone you’d want to collaborate with?
Tom: We’ve had Andrew from Comeback Kid, Greg from Dillinger Escape Plan, then these guys on this record. But I don’t know, there isn’t anyone that I’m like “god, I’d love to have them on this record”. I’d say someone like Chino Moreno from Deftones, but all the people that have sung with us support our band and have an active interest in the music we write, so if we got someone who didn’t have a clue who we are it would miss the point.
Sam: One of my favourite singers at the minute is James from Deaf Havana. I think if we were going to get anyone else it would be him – he’s so talented. He’s like Jon, we all love him as a dude.
‘Daybreaker’ is the last record to feature Tim, how’s it been since his departure?
Tom: We haven’t done an awful lot since. We had a practice yesterday with Josh who’s filling in and he nailed it so that was easy. We’re just getting on with it, you know? It’s always difficult when someone leaves a band they’ve been in for so long, but it’s not the end of the world. We all live in the south coast round Brighton, but he left a while ago to live in London, so even when he was still in the band we didn’t see him much when we weren’t on tour. When we go home we all go our separate ways a lot of the time anyway, but he’s doing a new band and I understand it’s going quite well.
You released ‘Devil’s Island’ as a single last year and the video features footage from the London riots, what’s your opinion of the social situation a year on?
Tom: Obviously there’s no riots going on but that doesn’t mean the underlying causes aren’t still there. I think as long as we have any sort of capitalist system in any society there’s going to be inequality. The people at the bottom who have fallen off the cut who haven’t got lucky or haven’t been given the opportunities that other people might have received, I think it can come down to things like race, sadly. So the problems are still there they will probably not be addressed. Things aren’t great.
Did you hear we came second to last in Eurovision yesterday?
Tom: Does that mean we’re the second worst country at making shit music? So we’re the second best at making good music? I’d like to think that might work.
But would you guys ever enter Eurovision?
Tom: Not even as a joke. I have zero interest in all of that.
Finally, have you heard the world is ending at the end of the year?
Tom: I’ve heard about it yeah, but they’ve found out that the Mayan calendar is wrong and it started at a different point, so the year 2012 isn’t this year 2012.
If the world did end, what would be the last thing you’d do?
Tom: Probably just get together with loved ones and have a drink or something.
Sam: Have a drink, probably have a few cigarettes – it’s not going to make any difference is it? If there’s any drugs around probably take a load of them as well.
Tom: I’d probably try to find some DMT. Just seriously, seriously trip on DMT.
Sam: Then when the world actually ends you’d be tripping so hard.
Tom: When you die, DMT is naturally released in your brain so it’s a double dose. That’s how I’d do it.
Sam: The world’s ended, but you’re still tripping out.
‘Daybreaker’ is out now on Century Media records.