Bill Cummings 12/11/2007
After eighteen months away Southampton guitar pop four piece Delays are back. Catching them on the first date of their November mini tour last week in local Cardiff dive The Barfly, nodding my head and straining to peer my way through a crowd that included actor Mathew Horne (of Gavin and Stacey fame) dressed in a rock star's coat, one is struck by just how pristine Delays' bittersweet falsetto sprinkled guitar sound is. Theirs is a refreshing kind of sun kissed pop that is given a real emotional heart, capturing hints of the looping psychedelica of Ride and the Stone Roses and marrying it to a soaring sense of melody that harks back to the early to mid nineties when the likes of the La's and The Boo Radleys ruled the morning airways. Highlights of the set include the melodic yearning of "Nearer Than Heaven" and the pulsing keyboard of "Valentine." Newer efforts taken from their new EP have an insistent edge that burst forth with the first joyous rush of love (“Love Made Visible”) and the mental torment that is part of the human condition (“Panic Attacks”).
In a musical climate awash with sound a like indie pop wannabes, and NME tipped art rock chancers, maybe there's a niche in the market for a band who still classical craft pop melodies the old fashioned way. They aren't everyone's cup of tea; some will see their melodic pop as slightly wet and slightly over commercial, and following up two good albums 'Faded Seaside Glamour' (2004) and 'You See Colours' (2006) will be a challenge. However with their third album “Everythings The Rush” out during March next year, they have the opportunity to capture a section of the musical mainstream in the way the likes of Guillemots and Ghosts have in recent times. They're certainly popular with the female contingent here tonight, with their golden floppy fringes and wiry frames, the brothers Gilbert are pretty boys who have a following. Tellingly, as they finish their set and leave stage right, a rush of young females file after them backstage (well the toilets and stairs).
The week before their tour started, I caught up with keyboardist and vocalist Aaron Gilbert for a chat about the new Delays EP, dancing naked in the mountains with Youth, mental health, getting messy with paint, The move from Rough Trade to Fiction, and their "BIG, BRIGHT, BEAUTIFUL" new album.
Hi, how's it going? I've read that you've been doing some secret gigs recently?
Yeah it's good. It was a friends and family invites only gig, it was a tough crowd man! Nah they were cool. We just played some new stuff because we haven't played in front of anyone for nine months; it was good to get back on stage and sweat.
Was that with a full band?
It was full band, I lost five pounds that's how hot it was coz I had a skeleton outfit on.
You've got this new EP coming out, can you tell me a little bit about that, I read somewhere that people weren't sure whether any of the tracks would make it to the album?
This EP isn't meant for TV radio or anything, the only track off it that's going to be on the album and stuff is “Love made visible.” The albums not going to be coming out till March so we wanted to do something before then. We wanted to give something to the existing fans just to say thanks for sticking with us; It's also to celebrate the fact that we've just signed to Fiction.
So with the new album is it in the can or you still mixing it?
It was finished last Friday, its totally done I'm going to listen to it today.
You were working with respected producer Youth (Verve/Primal Scream) on this one, how was that?
Yeah the astral being, it was stunning we went to his place in Spain in Grenada, he's awesome the second night we were there was beltang which is apparently pagan time, we did this ritual where me, him and Rowly danced naked round the fire at the side of a mountain. We worked in a way we'd never worked before; we were doing like a track a day which leaves you less time to be an anal TWAT.
Was the stuff written before hand or was it all in the studio?
We were ready to go before we went in. Yeah we had 100 songs ready beforehand, we recorded twenty-two tracks in the studio, and whittled it down to twelve.
How do you feel this record sounds compared to the other two albums 'Faded Seaside Glamour' (2004) and 'You See Colours'(2006)?
I think this time we've really embraced what we are, I think on the first two albums there was part of us wilfully trying to make it sound smaller, I think this time it just sounds FUCKING HUGE and emotional. It's the most emotional thing we've ever done, it sends shivers down our spines and that's cool.
So would you say that this one is more based on personal experiences?
We all suffer with our heads we all suffer with breakdowns and panic attacks, and it was cathartic to write about it, with that kind of stuff once you get your head around it makes you appreciate life that little bit more. Greg suffers with OCD quite badly, which is funny for me because I don't, but it's a horrible affliction.
So it's the state of your minds that's a major influence on this album?
It always has been for us, it's not taboo but people don't really talk about it that much, but everyone suffers. Everyone says yeah how you doing? I'm good (put your head on the pillow soak up the tears) everything you experience inspires you. Lots of stuff happens good and bad, we're not a social commentary band, we write about personal experiences and what happens to us.
There's a track on the EP called Panic Attacks that was sent to fans as a download?
Yeah I was singing on that one...
Will there be more of you singing lead on this album?
When we were writing the songs, I was writing songs in my studio at home and Greg was writing songs in his house. When we came to record them, with the two or three songs I'd written that Greg would have usually sung, it just didn't sit right because I'd written it how I'd sing it. I think there are two or three tracks I'm singing lead on, but even when I am, Greg's singing the chorus. But yeah it's Greg mainly.
People like to make that kind of distinction, or put you in a box but its good that you have that other string to your bow?
Yeah it's cool.
Some bands are very much the lead singer and that's it…
Yeah, It becomes a formula and that's it, it's like come on try something else. But like I say it wasn't deliberate it just kind of happened this way.
I guess sometimes a change is as good as a rest...
Well what's the point in doing the same fucking thing time and time again, we want to evolve and we have....
Was moving labels part of evolving as well?
Yeah I mean we went as far as we could with Rough Trade, they couldn't do for us what we wanted, we weren't your typical Rough Trade band. We want to be FUCKING HUGE and we want everyone to hear our music. We're not interested in being obscure our songs are made to listen to and blare out in their car in the summertime or whenever.
What's the thinking behind playing smaller venues on your up coming tour?
When we go out and do the album proper we're going to do the normal size venues. But we wanted to do a tiny little tour to get back and play the smaller venues, and play for the people who've been there for us to give them something back.
It's a different sort of experience playing smaller venues as apposed to supporting bands (like the Manics)/playing in medium sized venues?
Its different for them and for us, whenever we gig we want to create our own little world and we try to do that in whatever venue we're in.
So its about introducing your new songs then?
We played full band for the first time in nine months, so its about playing the new songs and getting peoples reactions and seeing how they feel about them.
Who's supporting you on this tour?
We're looking to do an acousticier sort of thing, so Kat Flint, and there's a band called Mesmemoires are coming down to play with us, and we're still talking to people. Like I said this isn't like a proper “tour tour” we're just going to go out and play some sweaty little dates.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I'm listening to Mogwai a lot at the moment, also I really like this new band called the Teenagers, and The Shout out Louds, my IPOD is all over the place.
What band are you into that nobody would expect you to be into?
Let me think about think. This is a guilty pleasure but I find Cindi Lauper being played more than it should be.
What about groups you think should be getting more attention?
There's a friends band who used to be on Rough Trade called Pellumair, I love their album I listen to it all the time, in regards to newer stuff there's a million bands getting less attention than they should be. Recently I've been listening to the “Field of Dreams” soundtrack man, there's a couple of little soundscapes on that that blow me away. Also, the “Shaw Shank Redemption” soundtrack: if you don't like that film you haven't got a soul.
Will you be looking to release any singles in the months before the album?
Yeah we'll have a new single out January/ February so it will be on the radio and in your ears proper.
In your new video “Love Made Visible” why are you the only one not to get messy with the paint?
Do you want to know the truth? We ran out of studio time, I was gutted I was up next and it was stupid o clock in the morning….
Are they quite arduous video shoots sometimes?
Oh yeah its military, sometimes I ended up just painting myself as well just because I wanted to be slippery.
You were saying that your going to listen to the new album today, what would you say you were trying to get at in terms of sound?
We wanted it to retain everything that was good about the first two albums, but make it sound more personal, and more cohesive, we've got a lot of different things on it that not many other people are used to. We've even got a synthetic steel drum…
I guess there's a danger with pristine pop that it can sound a little bit too over produced and bland?
It can sound MOR, which is Shit but the fact that we're playing means that it won't. We don't do that, we do what we do.
I guess it's a balancing act for you.
It would be really easy to make it sound shit…..
Would you say having someone like Youth with you is helpful in terms of mixing the sound?
The main thing that Youth did for us was arrangement and the fact that when we were recording he stood in the studio dancing like a mad man and you see that and it's great. So when we went for takes we were like “Right, we're headlining Glastonbury on this one?" Sound wise we always know what sort of sound we want to get, the engineers we had there were fucking brilliant, so if you say we want a xylophone to it sound like pissing through broken glass they can do it. But yeah it all sounds epic.
Are there strings involved?
The London symphony orchestra is playing on a few tracks, which made me cry. To see twenty or thirty people playing on a song you've written is mind-blowing, and something I've always wanted to hear, but it sounds BIG man.
So have you got an idea of what will be the first single then?
I can't say but there's one in particular that's looking like the first single which is actually Greg writing about OCD, its a tune man.
Almost two years away is quite a long time, the music scene has changed a lot?
We've changed a lot. There's a scene but there's no real resonance for me its very fucking angular and lyrically bullshit for me. There's a few fucking unbelievable bands around but as a whole its all very disparate
What do you think about the “so called” digital revolution? Did that have an influence on how you chose to release the EP?
No, we wanted to do it as an Internet only thing... Personally I like to be able to sniff the CD case and read the inlay case, its real. I'm always going to want the actual thing in my hand. The EP is a Internet thing, but its a physical thing as well, so we've done a great little package that's limited to 2000, the video was purely for the Internet.
A lot of your stuff has been used on the TV, would you see any of your tracks being used in the future?
It depends how it works with the visuals really, but yeah they used “Long Time Coming” on a bulldog advert. When we finished the video we thought we should have used that instead it was absolutely beautiful. The BBC (Match of the day etc) tend to use us quite a lot which is not endorsing any of us, which is nice. We've almost had to use that as a vehicle because we've not had certain types of coverage we should have had.
Do you mean in terms of radio play?
Yeah I guess a bit. I don't listen to a lot of radio. Saying that I do listen to Radio 4 in the winter because all the voices are all brown and warm. If you get on Radio One you're pretty much set these days. That would be nice, but we'll see. Some people only seem to know our songs but not us....
Its good that you've been able to record three albums though, not many new bands seem to even make it that far these days?
I guess that's down to the fan base, and good songs are there forever and I think that's why we've been doing what we do for this amount of time.
Would you say good song writing cuts through the gimmicks and the obsession with imagery?
It cuts through everything. Its almost like its not good enough just to be good anymore there needs to be more but there is more but they don't fucking see it, melody is the thing and its been lost for a fucking long time and we're reclaiming it, man.
Would you say you're a throwback to the early nineties guitar pop in a way?
I guess that was the time we were all growing up and we were influenced by The (Stone) Roses and The La's and that whole baggy thing, the colours were beautiful at the time. I guess that could be a nostalgic thing though looking back.
Well that first Stone roses album is an amazing album…
It was beautiful, sweets for the ears, but yeah we want to create our own little world musically and that's what we do its BIG its BRIGHT, and its BEAUTIFUL.
The fan-only limited edition EP “Love Made Visible” is out today (Monday, 12th November). Delays are on tour in November, and their new album 'Everythings The Rush' is slated for a March 2008 release on Fiction.