The Delays - The Interview

The Delays are a pop band from Southampton, England who've built themselves a fanatical following in a short time. Here, Nicola Davidson has a nice long chat with Greg after their recent tour. The Delays are signed to Rough Trade.

Mstation: Now that the tour is over, how do you feel about it? Why was it an important step?

Greg - The Delays: The tour was great for both performing and observing. We are in the early stages of our "career" (hate that word), and there's so many unknowns to deal with. So the more alien the situation we put ourselves, the better. I think you instinctively want to stay on familiar ground, but you gain nothing as a group like that, so it's a matter of being alert and aware of easy options. The tour took in some less obvious towns and forced us to adapt to different atmospheres and personalities, but we're more confident for it. The music's reaching people.

What were the most memorable moments?

There was a point when everything clicked and it suddenly felt effortless. We were still giving 100 percent (we can't get onstage without that commitment), but a confidence came through and we maybe felt less need to ingratiate ourselves. I think everything became more honest, and posture and any quest for iconography went out the window!. There were also some weird and wonderful people along the way who are now regular features in band anecdotes. The video diary is Lynch-like in places.

What was your best show?/Worst Show and why?

Probably the Sugarmill in Stoke. That was the point we all felt an agreeable sort of comfort appear. I think it was finding faith in our personalities and ditching any pre-conceptions for how things should be. We aren't the bands we listen to. For pure enjoyment it was probably the garage in Highbury. We were all buzzed by the sight of homemade Delays badges and t-shirts, as well as so many knowing the words to Nearer than Heaven- getting a cheer when that song started reminded me of why I wanted to do this. The worst was Manchester Roadhouse, no question! Everything technical that could go wrong did, and the paranoia from that lasted a while- triple checking every little thing.

You have already been compared to some of the greats in music..who do you get most creative inspiration from and why?

I don't know anyone into one type of music, and between the four of us pretty much everything's covered. Personally, when I'm writing, I tend to gravitate to what I most need at the time: I find lyrics difficult, so Dylan, Morrissey, Holy Bible era Manics et al. tend to get caned. I've never stolen other stuff, but its good to know how far you've got to go and feel inferior sometimes (though too much can be bad!). I only realised I did this recently, when I was working on a melody for one of Aarons' pieces and found myself surrounded by Beach boy and Stone Roses records. When I'm in the studio I spread my favourite records on the floor around me. Its like a constant kick up the arse. In terms of an individual, the person I'm most in awe of is Prince. He has a talent that encompasses everything, and can embarrass anyone. For me, as a songwriter, he's not been topped.

What is your greatest long term objective? What would you hope to achieve in the future?

In the future I hope that quitting at the right time will be relevant and matter to a lot of people. No bands been perfect, so no-ones achieved what we want. When we fantasise about the future, its never about houses or cars or being in films, its about making an album that can stand next to Forever Changes or Spirit of Eden. We want our music to take us round the world and make a difference. Also, we're an uncommon band making fairly uncommon music, so to become a fixture in our culture would be a great achievement.

Your songs sound like a real labour of love, what creative processes do you go through when writing? Who does most of the writing? And who and what do the songs tend to be be about?

The songs start at a very unconscious level, a tune jumping at you from somewhere. There has to be some inspiration to motivate us to take a song all the way. I've had melodies come from a combination of a door creaking and a baby crying next door. But I try not to think about it too much, at least until I start to write lyrics. I find that tunes naturally suggest certain words, and from there you try to express something you cant express in conversation. Aaron and I write pretty evenly, and we mostly write together. I don't like explaining lyrics- peoples interpretations are probably more interesting. But I don't write because I'm really, really happy. I'm mostly trying to create somewhere I'd like to be. I wish I was more cathartic, but I'm not that brave yet.

What are you learning from your expriences of the music industry to far? What do you love and loathe about it?

People being friendly are invariably the ones to avoid. We're getting to know the people at Rough Trade, but that wasn't a priority for us. I hate the level to which other people dictate what the nations hearing, old people deciding what "the kids"(sic) like. But there's always a slow transition in the mainstream- it takes a brave person to embrace new styles, and right now everyone's secure in their new york thing. But I love meeting like-minded people with the same tastes, as its always surprising: we've developed our style on our own, away from other bands, so we never knew if we'd translate.

What is your favourite track at the moment? What are the Delays listening to?

My favourite track at the moment is Fuzzy by Grant Lee Buffalo, which is always lurking around somewhere. Its so atmospheric and woody ( do'nt ask- that's just the word that springs to mind). We were all loving Off the wall on the tour bus, as well as Heaven or Las Vegas by the Cocteau Twins. Rowly's buying a lot of Serge Gainsborough(?) and Cols been a massive R.E.M fan forever. Aarons into stuff like Gerling and Carl Craig, as well as Scottish bands like Reindeer section and Mogwai.

What are your favourite album(s) of all time?

My favourite album of all time is Waterpistol by Shack. I first heard it during a very turbulent but beautiful time in my life and listening to it takes me there and it never fails to inspire me. The best bit of advice I've been given by an A & R man is to always return to what started it all for you, and it was this period when I decided to write seriously. I've always got a copy with me. I think most musicians have an album that does this.

What makes you different from other bands?

Our lack of shame at being called pop. Our definition of pop is the Stones in '68, the Roses in '89, Prince in'85, so we don't feel shackled by it or feel the need to disguise it. They all made great records, looked great and said great things, and consequently they mattered. We want to be a pure statement in whatever we do.

What has been th biggest pat on the back for the band to date, literary or otherwise?

The Guardian's live review couldn't have been better and said the things we've always wanted to impress upon people. But people telling us Nearer than Heaven is their single of the year is thrilling, and, no matter how confident we are, seems to have come out of the blue.

Where would you most like to perfom and why?

I would most like to headline at Glastonbury, as this was one of the first goals we set ourselves.

Who would you like to support and why?

Prince- I would be in no hurry to pack up and go once we'd finish. Plus it would raise all our standards and he might teach us a few moves.

Can you talk to me about any exciting new developments that you have in the pipeline? - perhaps a solo tour?

Nearer than Heavens being used in a film called Blackball, which is Johnny Vegas' film debut. We've just done our first video for our next single Hey Girl, and we are putting a Scandinavian tour together for early September. 15. The cheer when Nearer than Heaven started at the Garage. Or waking up in a Travelodge outside Leicester to find the van broken into and the bass stolen. It's a toss up.

In your mind what track defines the Delays?(your own)

For me it would be Wanderlust. It's the first song Aaron and I wrote together and completely changed the sound of the band. It's also got an epic quality that opened up possibilities for us on record.

How do you get on as a group of individuals creatively, who assumes which roles?

I think I can be quite bossy when we are working on new stuff, but it's never allowed to go too far. Aarons very spontaneous, so it wouldn't work to be too rigid in our ideas. Colin works from a melodic point of view and likes to work on ideas at home. Rowly takes us through loads of different rhythmic ideas and structures, and we all argue for preferences. Tracks very rarely stay as they are initially written.

The album will shortly be released can you tell me how this feels, what its' like and why it is special?

The album is everything we've been working towards, and is all we've really thought about for a couple of years. Its gone through a lot of changes, and if you could play it to us 2 years ago we probably wouldn't recognise any of it. Its hard to condense 4 peoples tastes and characters into one record, but it's a good indicator of where we are now. Its special to us because no matter what happens to us as a band, the first record will always be the most naive, the most innocent if you like. The second records always victim to the legacy of the debut, no matter what that is, but the debut is removed from any legacy. It's never a record by pop stars, but always by young driven fans, and that can only be captured once. Now we can start finishing other songs and evolving somewhere else. I wish when I first heard Waterpistol someone could've told me we'd get a shot, but then maybe we wouldn't have written all these songs.

Thanks Greg.

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