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Escape Velocity

A Call To Arms: Delphic Interviewed
Ben Hewitt , January 19th, 2010 10:56

Manchester's newest hopes talk unsold albums in HMV and Steve Martin's banjo prowess with Ben Hewitt

No sooner have the regretful remnants marking the end of 2009 began to clear - the litter-strewn streets, the vomit-splattered pavements and our mashed-up brains - than we're met with an brand new horror: the music industry's 'Tips For 2010'. Every year we're presented with a brand new batch of supposed pop saviours, and for the next 365 days they're thrust into our faces ad nauseam until we're heartily sick of the sight of them. One only has to recall the constant fan-faring surrounding the kooky talents of Florence & the Machine last year to realise why such lists are so irksome.

The latest band to be adorned with such an honour are Delphic. Such lavish praise could potentially sink a band before they've even got started, but the Manchester three-piece have refused to get sucked into the hype. Following the release of three sublime dance-rock singles - 'Counterpoint', 'This Momentary' and 'Doubt' - they've just released their self-titled debut album.

The Quietus caught up with guitarist Matt Cocksedge to find out how they've dealt with the hype, Steve Martin's banjo and those pesky New Order comparisons.

So how’s all going for the ‘Band to Watch for 2010’?

MC: Er, yeah. It’s... quite nice. It’s slightly strange. I had a moment the other day when I was walking down the street and I saw a huge stack of our albums on the rack in HMV. And I just thought ‘Is this really happening to us’? It was very weird.

Did you see anyone buying a copy?

MC: No, there were just a shitload of copies sitting there. It left me feeling quite depressed for the rest of the day.

It [the hype] is really strange, though. We were listening to the radio the other day and there was a piece with someone talking about us and then Massive Attack. And I was just shocked - how can you even compare a new band like us to an amazing and established band like Massive Attack?

Does it make you wary of a potential backlash further on down the road?

MC: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s part two of the hype process, you know? First you get the hype, and then after a while it turns and you get people looking to knock you down. So we’re prepared for it. And I think we’ve done all we can not to court the hype - we’ve written songs and gigged for a long time. I think I’d be a lot more worried if we hadn’t released our record. It would be a lot of pressure if we’d just released a couple of singles and not recorded anything more.

Is it true that all the members of Delphic share a flat together?

MC: We do. That’s either a lovely thing or a horrible thing depending on which day you talk to us.

It must have made it a lot more intense since the hype started…

MC: Absolutely. You know, you go on tour together and spend all your time with the same people, and when it gets near the end you think to yourself ‘Finally, it will be great to have a bit of time to myself’. But then you get home and everyone’s still there. And you go down to the kitchen in the morning and everyone else is there...waiting for you.

But you’re not at the stage where you need separate tour buses quite yet?

MC: [Laughs]. No, not yet. Unless... I mean, if someone wants to offer them to us we might take them.

When you were younger, which were you more into: dance music or guitar music?

MC: We were kind of into both equally growing up. On our album we tried to blend the two parts together to make one big whole. I mean, we grew up in the 90s when there was a lot of great dance music coming out, so we were all massively into that when we were kids. But then we became moody teenagers and got into guitar bands like Radiohead. And then as we got older we got into techno and things like that. So with Acolyte, I guess we came full circle.

I think you can tell that with Acolyte - that the two spheres are given equal weighting. A lot of guitar bands turn to dance music with an almost contemptuous or snobbish attitude.

MC: Yeah, definitely. I think we always wanted to have dance music at the centre of the record. We tried to make it as organic as possible, rather than writing a load of guitar tracks and then just sticking synths over the top of it, which is what a lot of bands sometimes do.

Were you pleased with Acolyte in general?

MC: We were all pretty happy with how it turned out. If we had more time then I think we could have done more...with the track ‘Acolyte’, for example, we’d probably still be working on it for the next two months if we could. But it’s good to have a cut off point - you need to have a time where you draw the line under it, otherwise we’d probably never finish it.

I mean, you can tell it’s our first record, which is how I think it should be. There’s a lot of optimism, a lot of euphoria...almost open-eyed in wonder. You don’t want to lose that by working on it too much. I expect over time, as we make more albums, it will all become a bit darker.

One of the things that strikes me is how cohesive it feels. Often, when you have a band who release a couple of really big singles, the rest of the album descends into filler, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Acolyte.

MC: That’s probably the biggest compliment you could pay us, because that was something we really wanted to do with the record. It feels like the album is a bit of a dying art form, and with the whole shift over to iTunes and things like that, it seems like people aren’t into the idea of the concept of the album as a whole. So that was something we tried really hard to do - we didn’t want to release an album which was just a collection of singles.

I’ve seen a lot of people refer to the album as retro, or even plagiaristic. What do you make of that?

MC: I don’t know...it’s hard for any of us to say because we’re so close to it, you know? I think that you could have a completely different view of Delphic depending on which articles you read. You could read one article on one website which says “They’re just massive plagiarists” or you could read another review on another saying “This sounds like the future”.

If you had to choose one of those descriptions, which would you say is more accurate?

MC: Well...the future one, I hope. [Laughs]. I know we tried to make something new and contemporary, because there’s new point in just plagiarising the past, or ripping of New Order. And if we wrote a record which just sounded like a rip-off of New Order then we wouldn’t want to release it, because there’s no merit in doing that. I don’t even like New Order that much.

I don’t think the New Order comparisons would be so commonplace if you weren’t from Manchester. Do you find the musical history of the city to be a bit of an albatross round your neck, because it’s hard to establish an identity outside of that context?

MC: I think that’s true. If we came from Sheffield or something, I don’t think people would say it so much.

Were you being serious when you said you didn’t like New Order that much?

MC: [Laughs] It was half true. I mean, some of their songs are my favourite songs. But people would listen to tracks and say ‘This sounds exactly like this New Order song’ and I’d think ‘Really’? It’s obviously flattering, though, because New Order are a terrific band. And, you know, Oasis made a living out of ripping off The Beatles, and I don’t think we’re anywhere near that level, so it’s ok.

Finally, you played Jools Holland in November when comedian Steve Martin was on the show. Did you meet him?

MC: Yeah, we did play the same show! I didn’t meet him, but I stood quite close to him. That was really strange. When we were announced for the show I saw the name Steve Martin and thought ‘I only know one Steve Martin, but it can’t be him’. And then I saw it in the newspaper and I was like ‘Shit! It is him!’.

How did he fare at the infamous boogie woogie jam that kicks off the show?

MC: He was very serious, actually. He seemed really into it and very focussed on what he was doing. You have to be if you’re playing the banjo, I guess.

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