The Delays

Live @ Bristol Fleece & Firkin
May 7, 2004

Interview & Photography: Steve Bateman


Delays first came to my attention way back in April 2003, when Radio 1's Mark & Lard, named the summery Nearer Than Heaven, as their single of the week.

What initially struck me about this song, was its characteristics, and how different it sounded from every other Indie track at the time - this was polished pop! It featured lush falsetto vocals, West Coast harmonies, cascading melodies and a catchy chorus, driven by jangly guitars and ethereal keyboards.

Classic retro bands from the sixties / seventies (The Byrds, The Hollies and Fleetwood Mac), and from the late eighties / early nineties (Cocteau Twins, The Stone Roses and The La's), could easily be pinpointed as musical references. But in 2004, Delays anthemic / dreamy sound, is both refreshing and unique with a modern twist.

Later singles - Hey Girl, Long Time Coming and a re-released Nearer Than Heaven - have thankfully, broadened Delays audience, and coupled with their much lauded live shows / musicianship, have shown that they are a very promising young band.

Hailing from Southampton, Delays are Colin Fox (bass / vocals), Aaron Gilbert (keyboards / vocals), Greg Gilbert (guitar / lead vocals) and Rowly (drums).

With their debut album Faded Seaside Glamour, released a mere month ago, I was fortunate enough to chat with Colin about the band and their infectious music, and later met Aaron, Greg and Rowly during the sound-check, who were equally as friendly and polite.

As you will read, Delays wide-eyed determination is moving them onwards and upwards, as they strive to become "The Perfect Pop Band."

 



1. Delays have just completed a European Tour, how did it go?
"The tour in Europe, was one of the best experiences I think we've had as a collective, and certainly one of the best experiences I've had personally. It's something that we talk about a lot as a band, because everybody's always saying "When are you going to go to America?" and we've always been of the opinion, that the first place we really want to go is Europe, and it was really good to actually get out there. Italy, where we spent most of the time, about 6 days, was just such a beautiful country - everything - and we got a chance to see a lot of the cites as well. We saw the Vatican, which is one of the most incredible things that I've ever seen, I mean I'm not a religious person, but to walk inside and to actually see it - everybody just went silent for about 20 minutes. Looking at it, it's so vast and ornate, it was just incredible and Florence is a beautiful city. Rome, the city itself, is just busy but has a great atmosphere, and the people there were wicked. It was just great to go to all of these different places, and to see how peoples humour and the way people interact, slightly differs. It was a little bit embarrassing how good everybody's English was though, it made me feel quite bad (laughing). I think our album is just about to come out over there, within the next couple of weeks if I'm correct, so we're just starting to creep into peoples consciousness, kind of like where we were in Britain a year or so ago. We're just starting to stick our heads out of the sand sort of thing. It's sometimes the most exciting time, because when you first 'click' with people, they'll see you live and they don't even know who you are, but then they'll come up to you afterwards and say, "I'd never heard of you but it was great!" Touring is the old-fashioned way, and that's very much the label's ethos. Geoff Travis has always been of the opinion, that the best way for bands to have longevity, and to have people that are really passionate about them, is to go out and play, because then there's no hype involved. People will see you and they either like you or they don't, and those people will stay with you throughout your entire career."


2. You must be very pleased to be headlining the New Band Stage at V Festival, and to be supporting The Pixies at Brixton Academy?
"Its not been quick for us, but in the last couple of months everything has sped up so much, it's really like a blur, it's really incredible. People who were stand-offish before, are starting to come on board now - certain areas of the press that didn't know what to do with us, are starting to realise that we just make good music, you don't necessarily have to fit in. One of the great things about the Manics (looking at R*E*P*E*A*T), was that they never fitted in with anything, so I think it's just a mark of how exponentially, things have sped up over the last couple of months, it's exciting. The Pixies, that's something that I don't think any of us have really got our heads round at the moment. Because when they announced the dates, we all tried to get tickets, we didn't have a clue that this was going to happen, and they sold out in like, I don't know, 10 seconds or something ridiculous (laughing) - they just went didn't they! All of the tickets were just gone, and I mean if somebody had offered to give me a ticket for £100, I would have ripped their arm off (laughing). And then to get a call a couple of weeks ago, saying "Oh, by the way, do you want to support them on their first date at Brixton?" - it doesn't really compute (laughing) and it's Brixton as well, which we've never played before. It's quite a legendary venue as well, so everybody's sort of like, we've got to be good, we've got to be good at that one (laughing). It's just going to be incredible to actually see them as well, because they're such a touchstone band. I'm not sure if we'll be able to meet them, as you never know what bands like that are like, whether they have an entourage and a barricade, or whether they'll just hang around backstage or whatever. But I hope so though, because they're such an influential band and are so important."


3. Rowly and yourself, originally met Greg at your local Southampton Indie Club 'Thursdays'. Can you tell us about Idoru, and the change to Delays with Aaron?
"We met at 'Thursdays' on a Wednesday night, which is a little bit confusing (laughing). There's a general debate on how Idoru was actually pronounced, because of its Japanese origin, but the last time I heard, I think it was either (adopting Japanese accent) e-door-oo, or i-do-roo, depending on the way you want to pronounce it. But it came to a stage, where it was so hard for people to remember our name, as much as we liked it and we did (I tell Colin that I have Idoru's rare debut Safety In Numbers EP), oh really? (surprised & laughing) - but it was just like we're going to have to change it. It was a shame, but it took so long to get through to people. At the gigs, people would ask "So what are your band called?" Idoru, "Sorry?" and you'd just end up spelling it. It was taken from the novel, and was quite apt as well, as we liked the imagery. But yeah, it was a shame that we had to change it, but it was necessary. When Aaron joined, it was kind of a good time for everything to change, and when he brought what he brings, it gave us so many more opportunities and avenues to explore musically. A lot of the stuff that we're working on now, the first thing that comes up, will be something that Aaron's come up with, and that gives you so much more scope musically, to fuck around with things and to go in different directions. Before, it was more traditional, but Aaron adds a lot more colour to it - especially live, there's such a wider range of colours that you get on the stage I think, because of those different sounds. Writing around it is different, as it's very much an instrument - some people might get the wrong idea, and think that it's just backing tracks to the songs that are written, but it's not. It's very much an involved process, and a lot of the stuff is based around this first, and then worked around. So it's like an instrument, as much as the bass or the guitar. What I like about the name Delays, is that aesthetically, if you take the meaning away from it, I like the sound of it. Then there's always the view, that everybody's always waiting for something, which is quite a nice concept - whether good or bad we don't know, but someone is always waiting for something. But we just like the sound of it, as a word it's almost French sounding, and I just like the way it rolls of the tongue, and of course, you get a lot of free advertising on our roads (laughing)."


4. Delays standout from other bands at the moment, due to your distinctive sound. Was this a conscious decision?
"We didn't sit down and say, "We have to make sure we don't sound like anyone" - it just popped up like that. We worked together and came up with the album, and we listened to it and thought we've got something. It's not conscious, but what I think it is, is it's kind of honest. If there are 4 people making music in a room, they're all individuals, everybody's different and I would always find it staggering, if they could come up with a sound even remotely similar, when everyone has their own influences. What I accept, is that if 4 completely unique people are in a room making music together, why should it sound like anybody else? I don't understand that, I've always found that strange. I mean yeah, scenes develop fair enough and scenes influence people, but if you're being intuitive about it and honest about it, pooling all of your influences, then I don't see how it should sound like anybody else. We like loads of stuff, we're not into specific things and we've got a very wide musical range."


5. You think music should be "A blissful respite for people, like a flotation tank, to just lose yourself in?"
"Absolutely yeah, I mean that is like the whole live experience, that's what we hope people will get from it. When they're there, we sort of hope that it's like (pausing), in an ideal world, a great gig is kind of stepping into a bubble for 45 minutes, and then afterwards we go back into the real world. But just for those 45 minutes, you're in there with the band, and the audience gives to the band, who give to the audience and time stops. Then you leave, and remember that there are things to worry about or whatever - because you know, the band and everyone has worries. But for 45 minutes, wouldn't it be great if you could suspend it and just get off on it, and that's what we hope people get live. That's what we're kind of aiming for, whether we achieve it yet or not I don't know, but it's something to strive for."


6. Song writing is obviously very important to Greg, are his songs based on personal experience?
"If you ask him about it, he'll give you interpretations, but the way he writes I think - maybe deliberately, is quite coded. He writes in code and I agree that it's always good to be interpretable, because I don't think he wants to lay himself too bare, and I know for a fact, that there's a lot of personal stuff in the songs. But he's not going to come out and say, that this is what happened / this is why it happened. As I say, I think he would like it to be open to interpretation and I think that's good, because if you get a feeling from it, then you can interpret the lyrics in whatever way applies to you, and you still get enjoyment. It's kind of inclusive, rather than exclusive."


7. How do you work on musical ideas as a band?
"Well it depends now, because as I mentioned, Aaron is bringing in pieces from the groove box. But at the moment, either Greg will have a germ of an idea that he'll bring, and then the 3 of us will work around it, or maybe Greg will work on it with Aaron, and then they'll bring it in and we'll work around it, before we play it. But it depends how quickly it comes together, maybe for days we'll just jam it around, and while we're doing that, we'll come up with ideas for harmonies, changes, arrangements and things like that. Rowly has always been really good at hearing how it's sounding, and then making arrangements, you know "What if this went here?" So at the moment, Aaron and Greg create the stuff, but it's a very 4-way process when it's brought in. We'll be jamming it, and then everybody will sort of look at each other, and we'll hit on it, and that will be where it becomes a proper song, a proper piece, and then from there you'll just refine and embellish it. That's possibly one of the most enjoyable parts for me (pausing), it sounds pretentious to say telepathic, but every now and then you'll be jamming something, and everybody will suddenly perk up, prick their ears up. You could have been doing it for 20 minutes, and then one little piece of the drums or bass, or whatever, will change and everybody will be looking at each other, and that's when you know that you're onto something. That's the best bit, that's when you get the shiver down your spine - it's one of the times, when you realise why you started doing it in the first place."


8. Geoff Travis signed you to Rough Trade Records, after driving to Southampton Joiners for a private show. Why did you choose his label?
"The reason why, is that basically, they were the first and subsequently last label that we went to. Because of their history and the business we're in, they seem to have integrity, where a lot of other labels don't. So it was their history, the bands that they had signed before, and people we'd met who had met Geoff Travis, who'd said that above all else he's a music lover, he's not a businessman. So we sent the demo to him and he was really quite quick to respond. But we said before we'd sent any demos out, that we didn't want to do the London track, because we'd done it earlier and I think it splits more bands up, than it amalgamates you know. It can be horrible, you can get told "If you play these venues, certain people will definitely be there, that's an 'A&R Hot Spot', you've got to go there, you've got to do those places," and I think you just end up playing to 50 of your friends, that you've brought up from the town that you're from. Unless you get a lot of those people through the door, the promoter won't let you do the gig, so we said we won't even do that. Geoff Travis rang us up and said "Fine, well I want to come down and see you" - so we did a private gig at the Joiners in Southampton, which was possibly the most terrifying day of our lives (laughing). He's so unresponsive when he's listening to music, he's like a blank slate, and you can't tell one way or the other. He'll sit like this (mimicking a thoughtful pose) and you can't tell whether he's absolutely hating it (laughing), or completely lost in it. As luck would have it, it was the latter - he pretty much said there and then, that he wanted to work with us, so it was great! I don't know what we would have done if it hadn't worked out, because Rough Trade was everybody's first choice. (I ask Colin if it's true that Greg played a sympathy card) He did yeah (laughing), he said he was thinking of going back to Art College, and Geoff Travis was like "What do you want to do that for?" I don't think we ever explained it to him, I think it was just our little ace card."


9. Have your personal lives been affected much, since being signed?
"Yeah, I think it's inevitable. I mean I've never spent so much time away from friends and family, so inevitably you become a little bit detached. For personal relationships, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a strain, because you spend so long away and then you come back for a day, and it's almost like you need more time than that, to actually start communicating properly. You're almost in a different frame of mind when you're on tour, and you come back if you've got 2 days off, and you see these people - friends, family, girlfriends or whoever, and it's almost hard to interact with them. Because you're on such a different level, in terms of the way you react to things on tour. It's almost like a different plain of consciousness, and it can make it hard, because you're there for 2 days and then you're gone again, and you're not sure if those 2 days, really did what you hoped they would do (laughing). It can be hard, but the plusses outweigh the minuses so much, I'd be a fool to say otherwise, because that is part of it and it's always what I've wanted to do. I'm not going to quit just because it can get tough - doing the tour so far has been so cool, the gigs have been really, really good, so to have gigs like that, it puts everything on the right level, and makes it all right again. I think it's just too good to not do."


10. Congratulations on reaching #1 in the Indie Charts, with Faded Seaside Glamour. How did you feel after hearing the news?
"It was strange, somebody just rang me up and said "Have you seen the Net lately?" and I was like no, because I'm not a huge 'Net Surfer' - and they said "Oh, you should check out the Indie Charts." I remember when I used to watch The Chart Show, back when they used to have the Indie Chart, and I used to think wow, they must be really big to be #1, so it was quite a strange moment to see that."


11. Was recording your debut album at Rockfield Studios, an enjoyable experience?
"We were confident that we could do a great album. I think what happened a few weeks in, was that we realised that it wasn't an easy process, and we felt the pressure, in that we were so over analytical with everything. Greg freely admits that everything had to be right, and it did become a bit tense for a few weeks, and there were some bad / nasty days. After that, I think we relaxed into the process of it all. The performances that are on there, were maybe redone a few times - there were times when we would listen back to it and think no, scrap it and do it again… scrap it and do it again (laughing). But I think what we came out with is great, it just took us a while to get over that initial hump, and once we did it was a lot easier. Most of the first album, was done with a producer that we're not working with now, and I think the person that we've got now, is just more in-tune with the way that we want to go. It can be difficult if the producer's got quite a different idea, of where he sees the sound going, and that did lead to friction. But the actual finished thing that we came out with, I love - but we're not that precious about it you know, that is how we were then and that's great, we've got to improve on the next one, because there's no point in doing it otherwise."


12. So your sound will evolve?
"Yes, because with the first album, half of it is a lot more traditional, it's pre-Aaron joining, so it was a question of trying to incorporate Aaron, trying to get him in there, without it sounding to superfluous - like you just put it on there for the sake of it. Whereas the new stuff obviously, now he's been in the band a while, is a complete 4-way process, it is becoming a slightly different sound, a more distilled version. A song like Wanderlust is quite representative of that 4-way sound, as its got the groove box element, the falsetto vocals and that colourful sound to it, and I think that's where we're going. Like I said, it's 4 instruments now, rather than trying to incorporate a groove box, on top of the more traditional guitar music. There are 2 new tracks that we're doing tonight, one called Out Of Nowhere and one called Lost In Melody, that we've already recorded, and there just in the process of being mixed. We did them just before we started this gargantuan tour (laughing), and they're sounding great, they're sounding really, really good, it's really exciting. The recording process was a lot freer, and it's good to know that we're growing into the recording process - it's great to go in there and not be tense, not be worried about things and that we can afford to take stuff off. On the first album, if something wasn't quite working, we'd think, well what can we add to make it better, but with the 2 new tracks that we've done, sometimes we'd listen to them and think, well what if we take something off and strip it down a little bit? I think that's something really important that we learned, that just by adding stuff, it doesn't always cover up the cracks (laughing)."


13. Do you have a favourite Delays song?
"Yeah, my favourite song is probably one of the more traditional ones, it's one of the older songs that Greg wrote, which is No Ending. As a song, I just love the whole sound of it, it's a very romantic song and I don't know, I think I'm perhaps a little bit of a sentimentalist, but I love the lyrics and I think his voice on it, is one of the best vocal performances I've heard from him. It really captures the mood of the song, which had always been there, but you don't always get it on record, and I think he really nailed it on that."


14. Why the LP title Faded Seaside Glamour?

"We were doing a support tour and played in Margate, which is a sea-side resort / town, and the place we were playing at was The Winter Garden, which I think a few years ago, used to be used as an old ballroom. So it kind of came about when we first went in there, because you can see all of the old decorations and red curtains - you can almost picture the old couples dancing and stuff. The town itself has got that sort of vibe, but it used to be a lot more prosperous, and has kind of lost a little bit - it's still there beneath the dust, but it's not quite there. Also, coming from a coastal place as well, it seemed to tie in and I think it also ties in, because there's a lot of yearning on the record. There's definitely a melancholic undertone to a lot of the stuff, which on the surface might be quite bright, but lyrically, there are some dark elements to it. So Faded Seaside Glamour just seemed to tie in with everything, and sum up the mood of the album."


15. So you're more grey skies than blue skies?

"It's strange, because we do see the initial brightness of some of the music, and then leave at that. I don't know, maybe we all think too much sometimes, but a lot of people do that - but yeah, there's definitely an undercurrent to the stuff, and I think that's maybe how we are as people."


16. Is artwork important to the band?
"Yeah, we work with an art guy at the record company - but we've always loved bands, that have had something that follows through all of their stuff. It kind of gives a sense of identity, and for people who are buying the records (pausing), I think when you've got a collection of the work, they can be like pieces of art. I'm not saying that it's that artistic, but we've always liked bands like Supergrass, who have had a symbol or something, on all of their releases. Again, it's another good thing about Rough Trade, they are very open to suggestions. The album artwork is based on a drawing that Greg did, which was then taken by their art department and filled-out basically. The Idoru Safety In Numbers EP, is also a piece that Greg did years ago, when he was an art student. Geoff Travis always wants to know our ideas, and we always want to have input in our artwork, because it's quite a big part of it. Some of my favourite records, as much as the music I love, I love the package that they're in. That's why I don't know if I'll ever get the hang of downloading music, because I just love buying records. I've got Screamadelica on vinyl and I just love it, because that cover is so simple, but it sums up the record for me, the colours, the sun - it sums it up perfectly! If you get a great album and great artwork as well, I think it just lifts it to another level."


17. Are you pleased with how Faded Seaside Glamour has been received?
"I would say that 90% of the reviews we've had, have been great. I wasn't sure how people would receive it, simply because you can't put it in a box, and sometimes that can be a bad thing - because if the press are not sure what to do with it, they won't do anything with it. But I was more than pleased with the general reviews, and the only thing with the bad reviews, is that I feel a lot of them were bad, simply because they didn't know what the fuck to do with us. It does become a little frustrating, when people, just because they're not sure what it is, still can't see that there's good creative music going on. But I think that's quite an English thing as well, because the English press is very much package as well as substance, they're very much where you're from, what scene and what part are you going to play in the big jigsaw? But in the main, it would be hard to complain really and I don't want to be too precious either."


18. Is it true, that you would like to release another album within a year?
"Well, we'd like to release it as soon as it's done - I suppose realistically, maybe early next year, because a record has a life-span, so this record will have its life-span and then we'll release another record. But we're recording it deliberately in bits, and we've done 2 tracks, and when we have some more time, we'll hopefully do another couple of tracks, and then throughout the year, do it like that. We find we work better like that, because you're not putting the pressure on yourself, where you're saying "Right, we've got a month and that's when we've got to do the album." Whenever we get time and if there are tracks ready, we'll just go in and do them in little bits, and then hopefully by the end of the year, we'll have something that we can say, "Well now we can put the album together out of that." I mean we'd love to release it by the end of the year, but early next year I think, would be great. There's so much new stuff, that's the thing - we were sat on the first album for quite a while, and the new stuff is sounding so good, that we just want to get it out there as soon as possible really."


19. You want to be "The Perfect Pop Band." What are your other hopes for Delays / how would you like people to think of you?
"One of the main things that we want to do as a band, is not go on too long. One of the most horrible things about some great, great bands, is that they go on just 1 album, or even a single too long, and it tarnishes the whole thing. Even to an extent The Stone Roses, I mean as much as I do like Second Coming as an album, it's kind of less perfect - if they'd just split up after the first album (pausing), it's like The La's, it's just that little gem and that can never be touched, never be tarnished. So that's one of the main things, and I would hope that people will think that of us, is that we are the sort of band, who won't give people less than they deserve. Because that's something that is important to us, if we don't keep improving, if we get to a stage where we do say the next album, and it's not as good, then we'll scrap it and do it again. If it's still not as good, then we'd rather quit than not improve artistically."


20. Lastly, Chips or Cream Buns?

"That's a tough one (laughing) - I would have to go chips. If you'd asked me 10 years ago, I was a real sweet-tooth, but I've gone savoury lately, and I haven't had chocolate for about 5 years, which a lot of people find strange. I used to love it, but anything savoury now - I'd probably go cheese rather than cream buns as well (laughing), I'm a cheeseoholic!"


A very special thanks to Delays, Carl @ Coalition and Eddy, for all of their time and help.