In the fickle world of music, bands come and go. What’s fashionable is as unpredictable as a Primark top outselling a Prada shirt and, like Kate Moss’s collection – bands don’t fit everyone. They don’t necessarily even need to sound good, so long as there’s a famous face at the fore.
Luckily, this interview isn’t about fashion. Neither is the band. I prefer thrift shops anyway… digging through the crap to find the odd gem. You won’t all agree (no one does in this industry) but Delays hit that spot. Their strong Southampton bred vocals ebb on the mystical and their quietly spoken frontman has come out of his shell and is keen to discuss his passion for music. A quick chat with Greg Gilbert reveals an intense young man with one thing in mind – he wants people to have fun with the music. You know what; I think it’s a sealed deal.
On 12th November Delays released a 5 track Limited EP “Love Made Visible” before heading out on a 6 date mini-UK tour of intimate venues. In the midst of this tour, I corner Greg for a chat about their new album “Everythings the Rush” (due for an early 2008 release). We talk guitar-driven tunes, body paint and playing live in skeleton suits. Fun indeed.
K: You guys are from Southampton; as a little Aussie from abroad, can you tell me what the music scene is like down there?
G: The music scene is quite eclectic really; there isn’t really a scene as much as a bunch of bands sounding like each other, there was a few years ago though. In the UK, regions tend to have their patron bands you know? Southampton’s bands are kind of spiritualised. There are a whole load of these psychedelic, shoe-gazing bands; it is quite fractured at the moment though.
K: As a band, how did you first come together in Southampton? I heard there was an Indie club involved.
G: Yeah, it was called Thursdays. It was the only place that you could get to hear your favourite records like the Stone Roses and stuff at a decent volume. We had all gone to the same school together but we didn’t get to hang out much as we were in different crowds. We just ended up dancing to the same tunes a lot. I would request Prince and stuff which would clear the dance floor except for us.
K: Did you get to see Prince in concert this year?
G: I didn’t. I saw him back in about 1993 in Wembley Stadium when he had the chain mask on. It was just awesome. It was a totally once in a life time atmosphere.
K: Do you still go to Indie clubs or is that your idea of hell on earth now?
G: Um, it’s not my idea of hell on earth but I didn’t go out for a long time; I lapsed in to being quite a hermit – I got quite a reputation. Over the last year and a half I have started to go out a lot more. It helped my music because I don’t think that you can write in a vacuum really.
K: Have you always turned away from public attention?
G: I don’t know. I have found myself getting quite nervous about going out; it just seemed safer to stay in with my guitar which isn’t very healthy, it’s easy to do but I felt like a big chunk of my life was missing. When we first started the band we were out every single night for ages, it might have just been a reaction against that. Indie clubs are quite funny really; they seem to be playing a lot of Emo.
K: If Delays get huge, how do you think you will cope?
G: I think we would deal with it with a smile and a pat on the back. We were an unsigned band for long enough. I don’t think any of us would have a problem with that at all – it has always been out ambition. I don’t believe in obscurity, I never have done. I don’t see the glory in it that a lot of people see. It is easy to be obscure; don’t seek out a record deal and don’t seek out an outlet for your music, just stay in your bedroom. We have been pretty unequivocal about that.
K: What’s the best gig that you’ve ever played?
G: We headlined a festival in Mexico City and it was mental. They know how to party! We were hearing that they were playing our records quite a lot. Sometimes, you get out there and it is not how you imagined but when we go there, they were like “Delays, Delays” before we came on the stage, that was quite an experience.
K: Who inspires you as a front man or woman? It can be in the past or today.
G: I don’t know really, I draw on all kinds of people, not just singers and stuff… comedians too; not just to be funny though. Also, when I was a kid, I used to watch a lot of wrestlers with all their cocky arrogance. It is not a natural instinct to want to stand in front of people but the music is everything and so you have to over come that. Prince is such a massive influence us too, Lee Mavers of The La’s and Freddie Mercury at Live Aid. You can’t go on the stage after that and feel meek.
K: You are touring round the UK very soon aren’t you? What is tour life like? I know that on your Europe tour you didn’t leave the tour bus very much.
G: I don’t think I would be like that now, I think that was just where I was at in that point of time. Song-writing is like a snow ball going down a hill. Once you get an idea, it just builds and builds. I had more of an urge to sit and play than to get out and do the tour thing. I’m sure this tour will be fun; we have an album under our belts and we have a great label. I just want to enjoy it, I don’t want it to be a kind of angle of stress – I want it to be a celebration.
K: You must be looking forward to playing the new stuff live?
G: Yeah, there is such a desire to do that; playing the songs is really, really powerful. We did our first actual gig last night.
K: How did it go?
G: It was a secret gig for our friends and family. The Joiners gig sold out really quick so none of our friends got tickets for it. We did a Halloween gig for them and we played Ghost Busters and wore neon skeleton outfits. It was great. I know it was with people we know, but they have seen enough to tell you if it sucks. It just went so well. It was sweaty though; the nylon skeleton suits were kind of a bad idea – I had to be cut out of mine half way through the gig. It was a really good start to the tour though.
K: You are releasing a five-track EP called Love Made Visible. The video for that is fantastic; it must have been a fun one to film?
G: It was fun – I wanted more paint! I wanted us all to be painted. I’m so happy about the video; it divides people to which I think it always a good thing, some people were just totally freaked out by it.
K: How did you get the people to be painted for that one?
G: The guy who made it is from Los Angeles so he did all that over there, then he came over here and did all our parts separately. Initially, we weren’t going to be in the video; then we saw the paint and knew that we had to get involved.
K: Let’s talk albums. ‘You See Colours’ was released in 2006 and ‘Everything’s The Rush’ is out in 2008. How has your music evolved?
G: I think that it has evolved in two ways. One important way is that Aaron is taking up more of the song writing and so he is singing a few songs himself. For me, that is a total blessing; Aaron is such a talented guy and I don’t know how often that is recognized from the keyboards and strings. When he sings his lyrics they are quite different to mine. I can be obscure where as Aaron is more direct. All my favourite bands have more than one song-writer so I am really happy about that. Also, the whole album was recorded on a track a day. It was so different to all the others. All the music that we have been listening to is much rawer; it was just the most musically inspired atmosphere that I have ever been in.
K: I saw the videos actually; it was an amazing insight in to the recording process. It looked liked you were having fun, although I imagine that it was quite intense?
G: It was fun; I can be a d*** in the studio and I know that but it is difficult to be a d*** when everyone else is so up. For the first album especially, I kind of sat and went over all my parts before we went but I didn’t do any of that this time. We did a basic take and all the vocals and that was it. That is the only way that I ever want to record from now on.
K: That’s quite a voice you have on you there… have you had any professional singing training?
G: No, I didn’t, but I started to get throat problems the year before last so I went and saw somebody. She taught me how to preserve my voice and gave some vocal exercises to do. I haven’t had any training though. My mum and dad were in a function band that played at weddings so there was always music about.
K: Why did you choose to record in Spain?
G: That was just where the studio was. It was a ridiculous place. I don’t know if you have ever seen the film Stardust with David Essex? It is like where he ends up in this little castle in the mountains. It is a very spiritual place and the producer was a very spiritual guy. He would get us to do these ceremonies where we would light a fire and then jump over it. I totally connected to all that.
K: Were the animals in the video his?
G: Yeah, they were all knocking about. The studio is not actually finished; he is building an underground hobbit type section. It is going to be underground quarters for people to stay in.
K: What bands are you impressed by at the moment?
G: Actually, I really like the singles by The Enemy and Sigur Ros just blow my mind every time I hear them. In terms of contemporaries, I think the Kings of Leon are one of the greatest band – they never disappoint me with their records.