Awakening from their slumber, Delays are laying the foundations for a possible album number five.
It resembles a world of kaleidoscopic colours outside as rich vibrant shades intermingle with the busy hustle and bustle of people and traffic that even produces a besuited penguin among its ranks before a rainbow decides to reveal its splendour overhead. Everything is exactly in its right place then, as FLW greets Southampton four piece – well, brotherly duo Greg and Aaron Gilbert of Delays with gushing appraisal because quite simply we cannot contain our admiration.
Once something resembling normal composure is restored, and four extra coffees ordered just in case John, Paul, George and Ringo decide to park up outside with the Magical Mystery Tour, FLW is eager to interrogate the sibling duo sitting before us as it has been some considerable time since Delays showed any signs of movement, let alone creativity. It becomes apparent that despite a somewhat rejuvenated Greg Gilbert, the years passed have not been too kind due to various anxieties taking hold and, to phrase it politely, been a nuisance for the Delays frontman. However, what remains refreshing is that both Greg and Aaron openly discuss these issues in the knowledge that it is far more important to share these problems than being completely burdened with them. In fact, such problems were hinted at in the song, ‘Hooray’ from ‘Everything’s The Rush’ despite offering an upbeat tone musically, the actual lyrics were a call for help.
“I don’t think you’ll hear a much more uplifting track than what we did called ‘Hooray’, which is about Greg’s OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder], and is quite a harrowing thing to have, but it’s really upbeat,” explains Aaron regarding Greg’s struggles.
“I don’t know, but I’m quite a melancholic person and I feel sometimes that the music we write is a way of trying to lift yourself, as musically it’s more aspirational in terms of where you want to be. I don’t think people really connected the lyric, but maybe that’s our fault in the way we presented it,” says Greg concerning the subject matter of ‘Hooray’.
The mention of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) came as a complete shock, as FLW failed to detect any references to this troublesome affliction in the aforementioned Delays’ song. Clearly, the upbeat tempo was an unintentional masquerade for the problems lying beneath its exterior, but there again OCD remains extremely problematic for many suffers preferring to bury their secrets rather than opening up to a wider audience because it’s not something that you want to share readily with your nearest neighbour. Such problems for Greg, however, seem to be behind him as he openly testifies:
“I reached the point where I can laugh at it now, but I was in my driveway and in my boxer shorts about two in the morning picking up crisp packets that had blown in because I was worried that they were going to get lonely and I couldn’t deal with that.”
“That’s why I had to group these!” refers Aaron to the adjacent salt and pepper and assortment of sauces whilst laughing sympathetically at his brother’s former predicaments.
“Lyrically, it was all about that [OCD] but it is such a euphoric piece of music that nobody really made that connection, but maybe we chose the wrong forum, I don’t know,” continues Greg. “What’s nice is when people hear songs like that, and then they get in contact with you due to us voicing something that they’re afraid to voice or thought that they were alone. That’s very satisfying.”
Were you not the slightest bit worried when you wrote ‘Hooray’ that other people might judge you differently because OCD is still a taboo subject for many sufferers to talk about?
“No, but at the same time…” begins Greg.
“It shouldn’t be, if I could interject,” says Aaron. “We have both got our own mental issues that we’ve had, and dealt with. I did an interview with a magazine last year dealing with depression and suicide in teenagers. I think when Greg and I write songs, a lot of it is to do with anxiety and depression and it’s an escape from those things, especially during winter time when you find yourself writing more melancholic sorts of things. But I was so keen [to do the interview] and brutally honest because people suffer unnecessarily with crazy, f*****up thoughts and thinking that they’re the only person to have had that and that the thoughts persist. But it is anxiety, and people don’t realise that, and it means a lot to me to try and let people know that it’s alright to think anything and I mean, as crazy and disgusting as some of these things can be, it’s alright, don’t hold yourself too tight.”
“I think it depends where you’re coming from creatively as well,” offers Greg. “If you’re a fan of [John] Lennon; he wrote about every single thing that happened in his life right down to primal scream therapy and other horrendous issues, and to me that’s the archetype of what a songwriter should be is that you are honestly reflecting yourself lyrically. I don’t know whether it comes across as confessional songwriting, as you’re trying to leave a percentage enough for people to project a piece of themselves into the song and take what they want, but at the same time you’re leaving enough there to give them a narrative of your situation, if they want to find it. I’m more for evocation over explanation as I don’t like things when they’re too explained. That’s why I love the Stone Roses lyrics because they’re a little bit cryptic up to a point, but there is always an intention and beauty there. But their lyrics are dark, yet sound uplifting as there is a real intellect and darkness at play.”
Despite a catalogue containing four very well-received albums, Delays remain among a long line of indie bands on the cusp of greatness yet for some reason the ‘big’ breakthrough has not quite materialised; step forward House of Love, Shack, The Real People et al. However, this is not to suggest that the band has not experienced any form of success as each and every album has proven its worth, and critical approval has been more than admirable, yet there remains a nagging injustice when it comes to this Southampton four piece in terms of where they should be. There remains, however, life in the Delays’ tank for now, as Greg and Aaron reveal plans to start recording new material for a possible album or EP.
“We’re going back to our second home, our spiritual home, up in the valleys in Wales at Rockfield Studio. It feels like a really good place to record. I think every album has been approached differently, and this time we’re not shackled by anything,” comments Aaron.
“We’re doing a lot of writing and recording at Aaron’s home studio, but we really like the sound of the demos as there is a freshness and simplicity that we’re going to try and retain,” says Greg.
“The cheapness!” laughs Aaron.
“We have been away for a while and all our situations are very different now,” continues Greg between sips of his tea. “We’ve all been looking outside of music for other avenues due to having to think about families and stuff at the moment.”
“I’m really, really enjoying my life at the moment, and more than I have in a long time,” claims Aaron.
“It’s been difficult as the album came out in 2010 [‘Star Tiger, Star Ariel’] and since then, in terms of the music industry and what we’re able to do, we’ve not been able to do as much as we’ve wanted,” explains Greg. “I have been in a side project in Liverpool with a band called The Lunar Fields, and that’s been good, but again it’s trying to get a record label and stuff. I have been producing a lot of artwork and writing poetry and looking for other things that will enable me to carry on being in the band and keep writing.”
Is there a working title for the next album?
“Opus Five!” laughs Greg. “No, I don’t know.”
“No, not at all, as we’re still undecided whether we might release four EPs,” adds Aaron.
“No matter what anyone says, nobody knows how it’s going to play out or what the right thing to do now is,” continues Greg regarding the prospect of new material from Delays. “All I know is that we’ve written some good tunes, and we want people to hear it.”
What direction will the new recordings take?
“The intent is exactly the same as we’re always going to sound like us, fortunately enough,” explains Aaron.
“We will try and retain some of the rawer aspects of the demos as it will be even less produced sounding than previous records. In terms of the writing, I think monstrous choruses happening,” says Greg concerning the new material. “Our interests, musically, are always about melody. It is never about agitation or any other aspect as we love melodic music, and the form it will take will depend on the mood we’re in at the time.”
Melodic music is definitely something Delays know a thing or two about due to all four of their long players being infected with sweetly addictive pop moments such as the heavenly ‘Long Time Coming’. Everything is encapsulated in that one song with its shimmering guitar sounds, soaring choruses that tingle down the spine with every listen and its subject matter harking back to better times full of nostalgia. Four albums later, the fact remains that ‘Long Time Coming’ is still the ace in the pack that has the ability to engage a variety of emotions and render FLW speechless.
Bearing this in mind, discussion turns to that early period in the Delays’ history as ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’ has lost known of its charm as it continues to resonate with a nostalgic longing that remains an FLW favourite to this very day.
“If you look at the title, it is just that,” acknowledges Aaron with great enthusiasm regarding FLWs’ perspective of ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’. “I think we were performing in Margate, and we played in this old hall right on the seafront and it was just this real slice of melancholy as everything reeked of nostalgia and the kind of place you can imagine your grandparents ballroom dancing, and that was when Greg came up with the title for the album. But I think a lot of the things we write generally are nostalgic.”
“I think musically, we tend to veer towards a quite euphoric sound,” suggests Greg regarding Delays’ sound, “but lyrically, I don’t think it has ever been explicitly happy. I think there is a Portuguese word, and I never know how to pronounce it but I think it is ‘saudade’ which is a stronger than melancholic expression for something you’ve lost. It’s also in relation to Brain Wilson as they [The Beach Boys] described ‘Pet Sounds’ as euphoric and melancholic, and that’s what we’re veering towards. I don’t think a lot of great art comes out of bliss – bliss is temporary, and a window of opportunity of respite, as I think, on the whole, the best music comes from a sense of deficiency.”
‘Long Time Coming’ once more springs to mind here, as there seems to be great loss at the very heart of this song.
“’Long Time Coming’ is definitely a melancholic song about loss -100%. The lyric about; ‘Throw your Lego in the lake’ is actually a metaphor for disposing of your childhood innocence,” explains Greg somewhat pensively.
“Our friend got killed in a car crash around that time. So that whole time, which should have been unbelievable, was f****** hard,” says Aaron reflecting on the Delays early period.
Like we said, things have not been easy for Delays, not for one moment they’re looking for a sympathetic shoulder to cry on as there is no room for self-pitying in their camp.
“That was the first time we had lost somebody roughly our age and that close to us in tragic circumstances,” explains Greg. “So that first album is dedicated to him and tempered by that experience. But I’m glad that we let these things influence us, and I’m proud of the fact that we’ve made that jump from ‘Hey Girl’ to ‘Lost In A Melody’ as I think it’s very brave of us. We did an interview for the NME and I said that we’re the bravest band in Britain, and I wasn’t talking about cage fighting! There was a lot of great music at the time, but there was a template as everyone had their template and rigidly stuck to it. We just went with what felt right for us, and still do.”
Do you think ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’ was in relation to your childhood memories of Southampton as well?
“I think so,” replies Greg, “as it was very unconsciousness and very natural.”
“There was no one sound or anything like that,” interjects Aaron. “But for instance, I could hear a ship from the docks where we were and there was this droning sound. So I went and created a similar sound musically because of that, and maybe that was a direct influence on our music at the time.”
“The last album we did – ‘Star Tiger, Star Ariel’ – that was the most area-based record lyrically, and very much about Southampton. All my favourite writers are very interested in documenting where they come from, and hopefully that is something that will continue with us and we’ll keep bringing that through,” says Greg.
One thing which becomes apparent throughout the discussion with Delays is that not only do they have much to talk about, but the sheer enthusiasm displayed for their work and issues in general. There is simply never a dull moment, especially with the deadpan humour Aaron keeps throwing up and, in particular, a compelling anecdote regarding a certain pop singer who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons. Humour and anecdotes aside, the duo are keen to reflect on the rest of their recorded output as next up was the slightly more experimental and electronic influenced, ‘You See Colours’. But was this a conscious decision to introduce more electronica to the Delays sound?
“Naturally, as I joined the band halfway through the writing process of ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’,” comes the immediate reply from Aaron. “So it evolved naturally in terms of how it happened.”
“The electronic influences, in a sense, were present from the beginning,” adds Greg concerning the band’s second recording. “Before we got to the second album, we had a song called ‘Lost In A Melody’, which is a really hard-edged electronic song but is very organic as we talked about being eclectic and being natural. If people are on your side they see it as a quest in spirit. If they’re against you, they’ll say that you can’t make your mind up what you are. It is an interesting learning curve to stand back and see how these things are perceived.”
Were you expected to incorporate a more-electronic sound by your then record company?
“At that point it wasn’t,” replies Greg, “as our contemporaries were Keane, The Strokes, and The Libertines. We did an interview where the interviewer credited us as being a progenitor of new rave as there was nobody doing what we were producing.”
“It wasn’t contrived, as it just felt really natural to do it, and we kind of had to do it if we wanted to be a band together because I wasn’t going to pick up a guitar as I’m terrible at it!” says Aaron laughing. “So it just kind of happened as ‘Lost In A Melody’ was written pretty much the same time as ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’.”
“We had a really heated debate with our manager when we first started to come through [with the songs] because we produced the album with him. He was saying it was all over the place due to electronic music and guitars and so on. That was the only thing you could say was a cynical or conscious attempt by us, noting that we needed a thread or otherwise this was going to sound beyond schizophrenic,” reflects Greg.
So you had enough material during the recording of ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’ to release a double album?
“We recorded approximately 26 tracks for that album,” says Aaron. “I lost a hundred songs on a disc I had when we on tour – that was annoying!”
“Before we recorded the first album, I had about a hundred songs written. It’s the same now, as there are countless songs that we’ve got because it’s all we’ve done for such a long time,” states Greg regarding the band’s stockpile of written songs.
To refer to an earlier point raised regarding Delays lack of a breakthrough, part of this shortcoming can be attributed to record company politics – a fate suffered by many bands – at a point when serious momentum was gathering apace, creatively and critically, the band’s record label Rough Trade was having difficulties of their own financially. As a result, Delays decamped to Fiction Records, who offered them a welcome home, even though the band was apprehensive of waving goodbye to their former label.
“It’s a bit political as at the time…” says Aaron midsentence before Greg’s interruption.
“They [Rough Trade] were in trouble financially as they had lost their funding with Sanctuary and couldn’t carry on funding things at the level they were. It was unfortunate that ‘You See Colours’ came out when it did because we had had a ‘Record of the Week’ with ‘Valentine’ and there was nothing to push it on as unfortunately they didn’t have the money. They were a brilliant label and it was quite amicable when we left Rough Trade. To use one of our manager’s expressions, it was a fait accompli because we wanted to carry on moving and growing and they were being honest with us.”
“I think record labels rightfully have to watch what they’re doing because they’re in so much trouble in terms of surviving as a business, which I f****** hate talking about [says through gritted teeth] but it is for them,” adds Aaron. “So I think they’re more wary and they don’t take risks as much. Also, it’s gone from this wall of noise with guitars and then straight back to singer-songwriter again, which we’ve had for the last few years. I was watching television the other day and thinking, if I hear one more whimsical cover of a brilliant song I’m going to put my foot through the television!” finishes Aaron in sheer frustration.
With much critical praise following the release of ‘You See Colours’, the previously mentioned lack of a breakthrough continued to plague Delays as follow-up album, ‘Everything’s The Rush’ contained yet more hook-laden guitar pop moments to appease not only record company execs looking for that instant pop hit but also Delays loyal following keen for the band to maintain their momentum. In addition, the title of third album seemed to allude rather cynically to a necessity of ‘fitting in’ with current trends and perhaps, in the process, signalled the beginning of the end for Delays at this juncture in their career because clearly not everything was at peace.
“I was talking to my girlfriend about life, family and everything else when I said, ‘What’s the rush?’ In response she said, ‘Everything’s the rush’, and that just stuck,” explains Greg regarding the title of the band’s third output. “I think for all of us, ‘Everything’s The Rush’ is a bit of a damaged situation, as I think things happening on that record we’re still paying the price for a little bit.”
“I think we railroaded,” states Aaron looking at his brother for approval.
“It was a combination of being railroaded but also we’re really ambitious people musically, and in other ways, and we believe in what we’re doing. So I think we had a great bunch of songs, and I really stand by them, but we kind of backed off the production in a way that we had never done with the first two albums. I really f***** everyone off with the first two albums with how over-the-top I was, but come ‘Everything’s The Rush’ it was almost the first time we had worked with a main producer – Youth – and I think we all felt let’s back off and go with this. It was a great experience, and I learnt a lot in some respects, but in other respects it ended up not being what we wanted to go into the final result.”
“It could have been two albums as there were two or three tracks like ‘Panic Attacks’ and ‘Friends Of Force’ that we wanted on the album over the track ‘Keep It Simple’, as they’re all our songs but we wanted them to be presented in a certain way and it was presented in the most ‘pop’ way it could have been, which didn’t sit well with us. We had no control over it at all,” declares Aaron looking somewhat despondent at the memory of this third album process.
“The first album received a lot of mainstream press, but there were areas where we were creative and we wanted to be able to hear what we were doing. Therefore, ‘You See Colours’ brought a lot of people into the fold in terms of seeing what we’re about. So we just wanted to keep evolving along those lines, but the record label were fans of ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’. They were lovely people and did an awful lot, but I think there was a real disparity between the record label and where we wanted to go really,” states Greg concerning the difficulties experienced with their record label during this period.
With such disparity occurring between record label and band, did the Delays start to feel that this could be your last chance?
“I never thought that this could be our last chance, but at the same time you never take anything like that for granted,” responds Greg. “But also, I was in an awful place as that was when I wrote ‘Hooray!’. On the first album, I wrote many of the songs, and then slightly less on the second because Aaron was coming with more. With the third album, I had written one or two songs, which I think indicates where I was at [mentally] as my private life was a mess. It wasn’t a struggle to write but a struggle to take the helm, which is fine because now it’s an enterprise between the four of us. I put a lot of pressure on the first album because I had to be really hands-on with it because I was writing the lyrics. But come the third album, I knew that we were writing really good songs and proud of them and the band, but I honestly didn’t know whether I was coming or going.”
If you were feeling such immense pressure due to the extra responsibilities, did you ever feel like walking away from Delays during ‘Everything’s The Rush’?
“By the third album I was feeling it, but it wasn’t that I didn’t want it anymore,” replies Greg. “I was struggling for clarity, as I had no clarity of perception of what we were doing and I was second-guessing myself. I knew that we were writing good songs, but if I had been much clearer, then we would have spoken more about it and taken charge of production and what was going on.”
“We had some blazing rows with Youth [producer],” comments Aaron. “I don’t think it would have made much difference with the situation you were in [referring to Greg] because the label had an idea about how they were marketing us. We had countless meetings saying; ‘Look, we don’t want this to be a single, and please can we do this?’ No, because obviously they know what they’re doing and we don’t!” says Aaron still smarting after the injustices that occurred during this regrettable period of the Delays’ history.
“I think it’s worth knowing that we are incredibly grateful to everybody whoever wants to work with us and put out our records,” responds Greg. “But the thing maybe I struggled with around the time of ‘Everything’s The Rush’ is that I also knew that I needed more faith in my own opinion, as we had made two records with success, and I needed to say actually I do know.”
“I think we did though!” claims Aaron with more than a hint of frustration. “I remember thinking we know what we’re doing now, and not in an egotistical way at all because there aren’t any egos here as we just believe in what we’re doing. I just don’t think it would have made a difference at the time.”
“But just the fact that how different we viewed it at that time will tell you where I was, as I was in a s***** horrible place, which is ironic because the album came out and looks like a confectionary and almost sounds like a confectionary as there is too much on the record,” states Greg.
“It didn’t need it!” agrees Aaron regarding the overproduced ‘Everything’s The Rush’. “We went up to the studio where we recorded the strings and the London Symphony Orchestra is playing for us – things that we had written – and I remember standing there thinking this is so beautiful, and expensive, and it’s not necessary,” he finishes shaking his head in disbelief.
“The one moment in the whole process was unequivocally a magic moment with a song on the album called ‘Pieces’,” reflects Greg. “I wrote that song when I was 19 years old, as we played it when we were Corky [Gregg’s previous band], and you end up all those years later recording for Polydor with a big orchestra. That was a moment when I did sit back and think give yourself a pat on the back as that was a journey and you’ve done something there. But it is sad when everything doesn’t add up right, it really breaks your heart, because all of your memories from that shared drive and optimism that you’ve got when you’re in the room seem almost a betrayal when it doesn’t work out.”
“I think ‘Pieces’ is one of the best things we have ever recorded,” concludes Aaron regarding ‘Everything’s The Rush’.
With such a turbulent period between band and record label during the recording process for ‘Everything’s The Rush’, it came as a surprise, therefore, that fourth album, ‘Star Tiger, Star Ariel’ ever saw light of day. Therefore, did the Delays feel that in order to move forward again that they had to go back to basics once more?
“I think we had to shake off…” Greg pauses for a moment before beginning again. “I don’t know what you’d call it, but certainly a lot had settled on us with ‘Everything’s The Rush’ as it felt rigid and unnatural.”
“It felt really free, didn’t it? To be able to do that as we weren’t shackled by anybody coming in and saying try this or try that and we could indulge ourselves and we did it in a non-egotistical way. Exploring is probably a better way of putting it,” adds Aaron.
“I think it’s our best album,” claims Greg before continuing, “as from beginning to end it flows and links both musically and lyrically. It’s a shame that it has been underexposed. A lot of people don’t know that we’ve had that album out. I think the first track on that album – ‘Find A Home’ – is the best track as it is not a pop song or a single or anything like that, but it has a weight and a depth and also I’m really proud of it lyrically.”
“It’s the best we’ve ever been in the studio together, as we weren’t arguing and mentally we were in a great place,” offers Aaron in support of this fourth album being their best.
“The first two records felt fairly clear in terms of the record label and what we were writing and how we felt,” explains Greg. “But the third album got quite confused. With ‘Star Tiger’ it was definitely about us experimenting more, but it’s a shame that we weren’t in a better place in terms of the label, and everything else, as I’m really proud of that record.”
The Delays deserve to be remembered as one of the true greats in the annals of indie guitar-based bands whenever that time comes. But for now, FLW, along with hordes of Delays supporters, waits with baited breath for the next glimpse of new material as the world will be an emptier place without their melodic indie-guitar pop adding colour to the too often grey exterior of everyday life.
We did an interview for the NME and I said that we’re the bravest band in Britain, and I wasn’t talking about cage fighting!"
Greg Gilbert, Delays
FLW - From the Tapes
A little offering from Delays in terms of where it all began.
“It happened over a period of years to be honest,” explains lead vocalist Greg Gilbert. “Rowly [drums], Colin Fox [bass] and I were at school together, and then we reacquainted at the local indie nightclub. We started a band called Corky, and did our first gig in 1996. Aaron was making music independently [at the time], and then one day I heard the steel drums from ‘Wanderlust’ drifting out of his bedroom, as we still lived at home, and I started playing along with it.”