Since Orphan boy’s inception in 2008 their ethos and sound has been rooted at street-level. Accurately dubbing themselves as ‘council pop’, the band grafted hard playing hundreds of gigs a year with nothing but a battered Ford Fiesta as a tour bus, until the quartet met a premature demise in 2011. They are back with a new album 'Coastal Tones', released May 25th via Concrete Recordings, which was self-produced by band member Sam Orphan.
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To start things off, any feelings or opinions you want to express about taking on the music world after a break?
The break has mellowed the orphans, who now live sober(ing) and domesticated lives. Taking on the music world is still on my to do list, but I also need to get my back garden dug up and lay some grass seed.
You have shared that trying to be normal after being in a band was not successful, was there an actual event or conversation that made the band change their mind and reconvene?
It's not that being normal wasn't successful; we're starting to get the hang of it now. But we had all these songs floating around in our heads and as soon as we got back in the rehearsal room we realised we still had unfinished business musically. We still felt like we were developing and breaking new ground with these songs. If we hadn't felt like that we would never have committed to making Coastal Tones.
Was your approach to song writing the same as it has been in the past or has there been a change up?
We've just honed the way we work down to a fine art. A lot of the music starts life organically as jams, which we would record onto mobile phones and then rethink and redraft and eventually craft and arrange them into songs. Finally, I will lock myself in a room somewhere and fill in all of the blanks in the lyrics. Then we record ourselves with Sam (our sax and keys player) at the controls.
Was there a particular song on the new album that you thought “this is why we are doing this”?
We love all of our songs like they are our children, but ‘On A Nelson Skyline’ was one which sounded completely different to everything we had done before. It just felt like our music finally had that finesse we had been searching for.
Where was your first live performance and how did it turn out?
With Orphan Boy, our first gig as a three piece was at the Spiders Web, Grimsby in March 2005. I remember it well. We'd each been in previous bands that people knew and so there was a good turn out from that very first gig. We played a Libertines cover as the last song and it sent them all mental, leading to a stage invasion which has become a tradition at every local gig since. The Spiders has always been a special venue for us and we still do gigs there every now and again.
Is there one vivid memory that sticks with you about any of your performances?
There's been lots of great shows and lots of bizarre and shambolic ones as well. A lot of it blurs into one really, but particular favourites of mine are Glastonbury 2007, Toulouse 2007, Manchester Academy 2010 and again in 2012 supporting The Enemy.
If you could name one group or performer who made you think, that’s it, I want to be in a band who is that performer or group?
I often cite The Clash as the biggest influence on me, but also The Pixies as well. What I like about them was that they had no image whatsoever. They just looked like the road crew or something, but sounded like demons.
If you could see any performer living or dead who would that be?
I sold my ticket to see The Stone Roses in 2012 because I was so skint. But an even bigger regret is turning down plans to see Tom Waits in Edinburgh in 2008, again for reasons of frugality. So the lesson is, if you get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see your heroes play, don't be a tight-arse.
What was the first album you owned?
It was probably Definitely Maybe. Oasis introduced so many people of my generation to guitar music for the first time.
Vinyl, downloads or CD, any preferences?
I grew up on CDs but in recent years any new music I get is via download. When I've got a bit more disposable income I'd like to start a vinyl collection, because as a physical product they wipe the floor with CDs.
By your own measurement, what would success look like?
We've realised the music that was in our heads, released it to the world, gigged all over the country and have an army of diehard followers. So, by my own measurement, we're already successful. Some might say I've got low standards...but the way I see it, you set goals that it's within your power to achieve. Lots of bands say they're after fame and fortune and none of them ever get close. If you've formed a band and written an album of songs together, that's an achievement, so be proud of that. Then see what else you can achieve.
You have had to fight to get recognition for the band, and have done time in the trenches, what is your take away on the state of the music business?
I don't know, there's obviously less money in it now and maybe that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's less money to be creamed off by all of the suits and middle men. In the digital age you don't really need industry backing to exist as a band, and so I like to think that great bands will always be compelled to make great music even if there's very little money to be made. But industry people are tenacious; they'll find ever new ways of making music profitable.
What is the one thing you want listeners to take away after listening to Coastal Tones?
A lot of people wrote us off in the early days as a lad band, without really understanding what we were about. It always bothered me that. Perhaps we're insecure about this, but there's a stereotype that is placed on working class, Northern bands sometimes; that they make one dimensional, primitive music. Even though the likes of The Smiths, Joy Division and The Beatles and many others have proved otherwise. I always felt that there was a lot more to our music than some gave us credit for, but Coastal Tones is a different beast to the two before it. It's wiser, deeper and more focused. It's more complete. And it demands to be appreciated.
Thank you again for taking the time to be grilled, we wish you all the best on the new release and touring!
Thanks. And thanks for your support.