The Southampton quartet is content to find its own voice
Delays: Part One
[Part 1 of 2]
By night, New York's Mercury Lounge may gleam of the roaring music that has trounced concertgoers for years. But by day, this CBGB's-for-the-21st-century looks like any other bar: beer-stained, dirty and dead.
Then Delays takes the stage for a quick sound check.
The moment this Southampton quartet plays the first notes of album opener "Wanderlust," the grit and grim of the venue disappears, taken over by an ethereal glow. "Everything is about escaping and trying to get away from an unrequited wanderlust," says vocalist Greg Gilbert later that evening. After being swept away during sound check to a place straddling the overcast coast of England and the sunny shores of California, it's hard not to believe him.
On first listen, the band's debut, Faded Seaside Glamour, comes off as an upbeat summertime sampling. But as the album's name reveals, beneath Delays's Hollie-rific and La's-ified pop is a bit of longing, a bit of bittersweet sentimentality and a bit of completely un-sunshiny sadness. But outside of their music, things aren't entirely gloomy for the band; besides performing on the same stage as Television this summer at Glastonbury and working with their dream label Rough Trade, the boys of Delays have a very healthy penchant for none other than Prince.
Prefix Magazine: How did you guys meet, and how did the band come about?
Delays: Part One: Greg Gilbert, vocals: Aaron and I are brothers. We all went to school together, so we all knew each other, but we were in rival gangs [Laughs]. We all wore different colors. Then we'd see each other at clubs, specifically at this club in Southampton that was the alternative club, and we'd request songs that would clear the dance floor, like Prince and stuff. We remembered each other from school, so we finally met and decided to try to get a band together. Colin (Fox, bass) said he'd help out and still hasn't confirmed if he's actually joined yet -- and it's been about four or five years.
PM: So you're questionable?
Delays: Part One: Colin Fox: Yeah, I'm still waiting for the right band to come along [Laughs]. PM: What did you listen to growing up?
Delays: Part One: CF: My parents always listened to old stuff, like Motown and stuff like that. That was the first music I ever listened to. GG: My first record was Apex Twin. PM: Did you and Aaron (Gilbert, Greg's brother) have similar tastes in music? Was your family very musical?
Delays: Part One: Aaron Gilbert, keyboards: We liked different stuff. Our parents played in a function band -- GG: You know, they'd do those crappy covers of Celine Dion and they'd play at weddings and stuff. My mum would sing and my dad played guitar. But that wasn't an influence. PM: Is Greg the leader of Delays since he's the songwriter?
Delays: Part One: GG: It's a group. I am the main songwriter, but Aaron and I have written half of the album together, and it's open to anybody to write. We're all composers. I don't think a band is very interesting when it revolves around only one person. It's rubbish. When you have someone else, they take a song and stretch it in more ways you could ever think of. PM: How long had you been together as a band before Rough Trade founder Geoff Travis approached you?
Delays: Part One: AG: As it were, not very long. We'd been together maybe four months. CF: Yeah, as we are now. GG: We've been together since 1996. PM: You were called Corky, right?
Delays: Part One: GG: That's the one. When Aaron joined we realized that we had something worthwhile. AG: That's when it got good. PM: Oh, of course. Once you joined.
Delays: Part One: AG: Oh, yeah [Laughs]. PM: What was appealing to you about Rough Trade? Were you choosing between other labels or was it Rough Trade or bust?
Delays: Part One: GG: We never wanted to go anywhere else. AG: It was the first label we went to. The first port of call. PM: What year did you sign to Rough Trade?
Delays: Part One: CF: In 2001. PM: About the time Rough Trade signed the Strokes and the Libertines; how would you compare yourself to your label mates?
Delays: Part One: GG: I think the music we make can be called pop music. And that could be said either as, "Ah yes, pop music" [Approvingly], or, "Pop music," [Grimaces], you know what I mean? Being on Rough Trade lends you credibility and people take you seriously. That's the reason why we went to Rough Trade; there's that immediate cue to the label's history. Regardless of being on the same label as the Libertines and the Strokes -- and I like both bands -- it makes no difference at the end of day. We're so far away from what they're about. But it's cool because I think it makes us a more significant signing for Rough Trade, because we are so different from what they have. PM: Would you say that for as much as Rough Trade has helped you out, you have helped them out as a label?
Delays: Part One: GG: No, not yet. I mean we're still on the first rung of the ladder. AG: I think we're now second rung on the ladder. GG: Ah yes, we've moved up a rung. I'd never be that arrogant because Geoff's knowledge of music and everything cultural is pretty huge. We've only been on Rough Trade, so I don't think we realize how great it is to be on their label. It isn't like a business, and they don't talk demographics or anything. PM: Were they hands-off when you were recording Faded Seaside Glamour?
Delays: Part One: AG: Totally. We never saw anybody for three months. CF: They never saw us. They didn't know what was going on. PM: How was it recording?
Delays: Part One: GG: It was traumatic. PM: In what sense?
Delays: Part One: GG: Well, Aaron joined three or four months before we cut the album, so apart from the tracks we did together, it was a matter of trying to incorporate Aaron into the songs. Now everything is being written together, but then it was just really hard because we were evolving and changing in the studio. When we went in the studio we were almost this lousy, jangly sort of thing, and some of that's still on there. But we changed what we were about while in the studio, which created a lot of headaches. I suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder. PM: Was anyone else as bad as Greg in terms of obsessing over the album?
Delays: Part One: AG: No. CF: No, not as much, but I think we all over-analyzed it and took everything too seriously. AG: We actually had to get out of the studio and be away for a couple of weeks, because it got that (tense). GG: We hadn't found our feet as live band, so it wasn't a case of most bands going to the studio and recording their live set and embellishing it and making it shinier and brighter or rougher, if you like that. We hadn't had enough live experience, so we had to approach it differently and make a real audio record. We now have gotten on our feet, so we've just started to record our second album already. It's precisely what we're doing on the stage in the studio, so it's got that power source. But we had to consciously not do a live record because we weren't a live band yet. PM: What was the inspiration for the album?
Delays: Part One: AG: It's just different. Everything's different. "On" is inspired by a freight that you can hear coming in from the distance. But every song is different. GG: The general theme among the songs is escapism, which I think most new bands relate to. It's about trying to get away and change your environment because the grass is always greener, and it's never more so than when you are in a struggling band. I think it makes better art and better music when you are feeling dramatic in a situation. Everything is about escaping and trying to get away from an unrequited wanderlust. PM: You've been described by some music critics as being "uncool" or "unfashionable." I wanted to hear your thoughts on that and, if you agree, are you consciously going against what's mainstream or cool?
Delays: Part One: GG: Well, nobody has ever said that to our faces, so ... PM: Someone had to be the first [Laughs].
Delays: Part One: GG: We're just being honest, really. When the Strokes came around, there were a thousand bands looking and sounding like the Strokes. And we were all thinking, Well that's mad. There are all these bands independently growing toward each other in exactly the same style. Both the band and I would be embarrassed if we tailored ourselves. I admire a lot of those bands, but I don't relate to them. I don't spend my evenings in a bathroom in New York. I don't. I live in Southampton and I lead the life that I live and same for all of us. We're just trying to be as honest as we can, musically, lyrically, even with the way we dress. We don't care about anybody else. If all we cared about was selling records, we'd have dropped a garage-rock record a long time ago. Or we would have managed a boy band. We're not concerned with demographics and we've never spoken about a franchise. PM: Do you expect a whole wave of followers imitating your type of sound, or do you feel like you're just covering this small little niche that just won't have as widespread an appeal?
Delays: Part One: CF: I don't expect us to have a huge following. Not really. AG: Maybe. I want as many people to hear the record as possible. And them hearing the record means they may go after the look or something.