07. DELPHIC “Acolyte”
One of the most impressive debuts in recent years, Delphic’s “Acolyte” managed to fuse indie-pop with rave synthetics and basslines effortlessly. Combining the dance-culture smarts and appreciation of the band themselves with the production finesse of Music God, the Almighty Ewan Pearson, proved to be a winning formula and pairing for both parties. It’s up there with Pearson’s best work, and is a sign of a band to be eagerly watched as they develop their career as one of the most exciting acts I’ve heard; “Acolyte” is a proper masterpiece.
If we lived in a world before Gen Y had the chance to bastardise the term “Epic”, then that very word would be a fitting way to describe the delights sprawled over Acolyte. Opener “Clarion Call” sees frontman James Cook shout upon the masses over monstrous chords and progressive build-up’s, the charming “Halcyon” showcases the frothy heights the band can take this particular blend of dance-inspired rock music, while stuff like “Submission” and “Remain” are in place to prove they’re just as much on their A-game when making subtle melodies as they are making ones ready for your unleashing feet.
The biggest calling-cards on this album though are the title track, “Acolyte”, and the fragile “Red Lights.” The former is a near nine-minute monster of slamming rave proportions that would make one of the bands heroes, Orbital, proud to be enlisted as an inspiration. It ranges from uplifting trance to progressive house to a ball-tearing, dance floor consuming rave-up. On the complete opposite though is the tender latter, “Red Lights”, bearing the record – and maybe the years – most tragically beautiful lyric; “If you were to call I’d risk a second broken heart for you.”
I was lucky enough last week to have a chat with James Cook from Delphic on the old warbler-phone. The Manchester three-piece released their debut album ‘Acolyte’ to glittering reviews, and rightly so. It remains 2010′s first five-star album (review coming tomorrow), and – quite amazingly – chatting to Cook was such a blast that the time flew by and, when it came to an end, it was a little sad to bid my farewell. The guys are touring Australia next week, visit TheirSpace for more details.
Please note that Cook brought up GaGa on his own without my prodding. I was as surprised as you are, and I apologise to those getting sick of reading her name on here but this one was really actually out of my control.
Hello James how are you?!
I’m very well thanks Adem how are you?
Very well thank you! Congrats on the album James, it’s an absolute corker…
(Laughs) Thanks very much, cheers, thank you, it was a long time coming. About two years ago this album was the holy grail, and now we’ve found it, I don’t know if you’ve watched the Indiana Jones movies, but I’m not sure if it’s the little wooden cup with all the gems around it, or the golden cup (laughs).
Is it a giant relief having it out there after all the work and, I guess to an extent, the hype you’ve faced?
Oh yeah totally, it’s really important for us to get it off of our chests and to kind of be able to forget about it. I think we were perhaps luckier than, say, Ellie Goulding or Marina & The Diamonds who topped the BBC list, at the time that the polls came out they still hadn’t finished their albums. So were fortunate in a way that, around October last year we’d actually finished the album, it was off of our chests, gone, we had nothing more to write, nothing more to worry about, and we could just leave that all with our team to either deal with the hype, or pursue or forget about the hype, and we could just get on with gigging, touring and writing again. It was a real relief to get it done and dusted, and I’m glad we didn’t have any more to write come January!
You came third in the BBC SOUND OF 2010 list – did that put some pressure on you, or was it just really an afterthought because you’d already finished everything?
It’s obviously really nice to be apart of it, because what we’ve realised also after speaking to a lot of press from around the world, is that it’s a real global thing, the BBC tips. And, over the last couple of years you’ve had some amazing artists on the list, Lady GaGa last year was Number 6 – she should have been higher actually, how amazing is that woman?
VERY!! Very amazing yes!
(Laughs) Florence + The Machine was number 3 last year and she’s done fantastically well, at least in the UK anyway. I think the problem with it is, is that it puts too much pressure on those that are first and second. First last year was LIttle Boots, and she had quite an aggressive campaign, but unfortunately it hasn’t really paid off for her, I feel really sorry for her actually because it’s quite unfortunate that’s happened. And it’s because there’s so much hype that surrounds these artists, and people in the UK and all over the world don’t really like being told what artists they have to listen to (laughs), and that’s what I kinda feel some people might think the BBC are telling them. This year I feel that same pressure may apply to Ellie Goulding and Marina, who are both fantastic in their own fields, but it’s the pressure you know. As for us though, we’re quite isolated, we come from Manchester and not from hustle-and-bustle of London. We trot down there and do what we need to do every so often, but we’re not really that fussed about it (laughs). We’ve got a team that sort of take care of that hype and take the pressure off us so we can do what we prefer to do, which is write.
You worked with Ewan Pearson on the record – how was that?
Ewan’s been, I think named, I don’t think there’s been an actual award for this but perhaps there should be, but he’s been named the most charming man in Dance music. (Laughs) He certainly is very charming, he’s a lovely looking guy too, a really level headed chap who, when we started recording with him, brought us together, our intentions and relationships were quite fraught at that time because, we’d gone through a five or six month ordeal of trying to do everything ourselves or with producers that didn’t quite work out, so we’d been in the studio for quite a while and gone through lots of different visions of ‘Delphic’. And for one reason or another, even though we were with some fantastic producers, it didn’t really work, it didn’t sound like what we thought Delphic should sound like. So we came out of the back of that, and there was a lot of tension between us, and Ewan dedicated enough time to each of us to really kind of manage us and put us in a place where we could really focus and have that vision, see it through. But on top of that, his fantastic production techniques! He’s got real a slick aesthetic to the way he does things, that really helped with the album because a lot of the things we were doing, they weren’t as refined as we would have liked them to be, we didn’t know how to achieve it, and maybe some of the things we were doing sounded slightly dated, so he was this contemporary force that could just push the album into 2010, as well as the extensive back catalogue of what he listens to, he’s a really important guy to have in the studio and it was a pleasure to work with him.
Is the ace “Halcyon” named in homage to the Orbital track of the same name?
(Laughs) We absolutely adore that track. It’s not a direct homage, it’s something that was an additional homage, I guess, it was a word that we’d found and we were like, look, we do know that this is a very similar title to “Halcyon + on + on” by Orbital, can we get away with this, can we do it? And we just decided one day, what the hell, we love that track and we love the title, let’s just run with it and see how we get on. But all of us though, Orbital were a massive, massive influence, and it was an absolute pleasure to tour with them back in the UK, probably around this time last year, we did a few gigs with them, it was so incredible to sort of see our healers in action (laughs).
Orbital were actually in Melbourne a few weeks ago and I got to see them live, it was pretty incredible.
Really?! They were in Melbourne?! Wow, did they play “Satan”?
Yes, yes they did!
(Laughs) Right, excellent! That is one of our favourites, we all loved it when they played that tune. It’s such a dark tune!
There are some truly big, uplifting moments and build ups, and an effortless crossover between dance and rock throughout the album, would you say dance music played an integral part in the formation of the album?
Oh yeah, 100%, and on many different levels as well. One of the first things we had to contend with was how we were going to put these songs across live, even before any real thoughts of how we were going to record it. How are we going to start getting these songs out there? And one of these things that we do when we play live is put a set together like a continuous DJ set, similar to how Orbital would do it or how The Chemical Brothers would do it. And that’s because we were listening to a lot of their live shows, and we went to watch The Chemical Brothers back in about 2008, and it was something that really inspired us and we thought, well, we can do this too you know? We hate all the innate banter that some bands have between songs on stage, so why not treat it like a real DJ set and have about 45 minutes of an absolute rave-up. I should probably mention Daft Punk were a huge influence on us as well. But on a very basic level, we’d come out of a Battle of the Bands, and we just naturally found ourselves sort of eating into synthesizers. And when you’re working more with synths and drum machines, you naturally drift towards dance music to inspire yourself with what sounds you’re going to make and what’s current, and we were listening to a helluva lot more band-dance music, but also a lot more of the European compilations such as the Compact compilations. We were listening to a lot of Techno, minimal techno and tech-house, it was important because we were really immersing ourselves in that life. At a similar time, the Warehouse Project, which is a clubnight in Manchester, started putting on nights more frequently, and all the DJs from around the world kinda transcend on the city in this disused car-park from about 10pm in the evening through till 6am in the morning, and that’s right where we live so we were there each night of the weekend, really just immersing ourself in the dance culture. The sense of euphoria that we got from those nights was something we really wanted to capture on the album. One night in particular, which we all remember quite well, we were at this unplanned rave at an indoor skate park in Manchester. The DJ was playing and suddenly he dropped this minimal techno choon that we’d never heard before, and the feeling of euphoria, we just had to leave right there and capture it to put something similar on the album, something that gave us the similar effect. The more we jumped into the dance world, the more we embraced it. And that sense of euphoria is something we try to stick to not only on the album but also through our live show.
James, thank you so much for the chat it’s been an absolute pleasure…
No Adem, thank you!