Manchester group on their debut album

Dance and rock rarely make easy bedfellows.

Too many hard liners on both sides of the camp mean that beats and guitars tend to shy away from one another. However in the right hands electronic music can merge with rock to make something very special.

Emerging at the tail end of last year, Delphic seemed to implicitly understand how the two sides of the musical brain can be brought together. The Manchester group had the tunes, but yet they also had some hefty beats wrung together with the assistance of producer (and minimal techno don) Ewan Pearson.

Debut album 'Acolyte' is released this week (January 11th) so ClashMusic tracked down Rick Boardman from the dance rock gurus as media hype began to rain down upon their heads...

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You were all in bands previously – how did Delphic actually get together?
Yeah we all played in bands before, but in those bands I think we were making music to try and get a record deal. We were doing it for the wrong reasons. I think it all kind of culminated in a group decision to do something about it, because it just felt totally pointless. We were desperate to break out of our musical areas and really get somewhere with it. So we quit the other bands and went over to the Lake District for a weekend, just staying in a cottage and conceptualizing what we wanted to do. Delphic was born out of that, really.

Delphic - This Momentary

Did your other bands have a dance element as well?
Not really. Only a few of us were in a band together before, but it was just your traditional indie rock, sub-Coldplay kind of thing. We’ve always liked these big epic instrumental sections, I guess that came from post rock like God Speed. I know the album is a dance record but there is a post rock influence on tracks like ‘Acolyte’. The old bands were fine in their own way but let’s just say they weren’t musically challenging. It also was just too disparate – the music was developing in a really erratic way. So we went to the Lake District and just planned out how the album would sound. We spent most of our time just talking about music, what we liked and what we were listening to. So we just conceptualized what the album would sound like. We had the whole thing mapped out quite quickly.

What dance music did you take as an influence?
As kids we all went to similar clubs. People like to reference New Order with us quite a lot, but we were too young to really experience that. I guess the dance music we bonded over was stuff like Big Beat – Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy. We were about fifteen when that was going on. With regards to dance music were more inspired by what we hadn’t seen in Manchester, by what wasn’t going on. There was a lull in Manchester, where there was no clubs which were really doing it for us. It all seemed to be The Stones Roses, Blue Monday… the same tunes. We wanted to pull things towards the future. One of the things that kind of inspired of us along the way was going to minimal raves. We started going to these raves now and again, playing techno music. We knew techno, but not really – this was something else. The beats were exactly what we wanted, we were desperate to hear something a little more subtle.

Was Manchester’s reputation as a dance capital something you were actively aware of?
Definitely. We were too young to be involved with it – I was 12 or 13 when the Hacienda closed down. But Manchester took to Acid House, and did so much. The Manchester we saw growing up disappeared underneath a kind of lad rock thing. When we tell people we’re from Manchester we get funny looks from people, so we want to change that. I think the city deserves more than that. It’s not just us, there’s loads of great bands in Manchester right now, a really disparate scene just pushing away from that lad rock sound.

The debut single came out on R&S, how did that tie up happen?
That was an interesting one. When we first started we got a bit of an industry buzz and my phone number got passed out to people. We didn’t have a manager and then we met all these major labels. We didn’t want to sign to a major as we wanted control over things. We met a load of labels and then R&S in the same week. It just stood out a mile, as everyone else was saying the same things about money, percentages and contracts. Then at the back of the room there were these guys who put out Aphex Twin, Carl Craig and we thought – ‘we’re going to have to do something with those guys’. It was just perfect timing as they were setting up their label again after about ten years.

You’ve also worked with Kitsune – is that level of appreciation from the dance world reassuring?
I guess so. The Kitsune remix was fun to do. We’ve never really got into remixes too much, but the offer came when we were over in Paris. They got in touch and asked if we wanted to put a record out. I guess it all helps to push you into a certain world, but we really wanted to get our own label up and running. To exist on our own terms, rather than doing something that other people want you to do.

How did the tie up with Ewan Pearson happen?
We’d been to a few different producers, and to be honest this time last year we were panicking. We’d written the bulk of the record and attempted to record it. We were confident about doing it ourselves, and we tried to do it ourselves but it didn’t quite work. We tried to work with Tom Rowland from The Chemical Brothers, who is obviously one of our heroes. What he did was brilliant but to be honest it wasn’t right for us. The same with Paul Hartnoll from Orbital. Then we thought ‘oh God what will we do’? Then we packed up all our things and went to Liverpool to get some tracks down. We really struggled to finish it, until we were all arguing and almost ready to give up. Even our manager was struggling to calm us down, because we just couldn’t get across what we wanted. Then someone from R&S got hold of the stems from one of our early demos and sent them to Ewan Pearson. Then we got this email with the mix attached and listened to it, then breathed a sigh of relief. Ewan had just got it, really understood what we were about. So we packed up and went to Berlin.

What does Ewan Pearson offer in the studio?
We’re composers, we’re arrangers. Some people think that we wrote the song and Ewan added some beats but that wasn’t really the case either. We’ve got a drum machine in our studio so we could do that as well. It’s very hard to understand what Ewan did because I don’t really know! He put a gloss, a sheen over it. I think the most important thing is that he realised there was a song underneath and would react to that. Sometimes he would add stuff, then other times takes it away. He added some really soft minimal sounds in his own style, but there was no overhaul of the tunes. I guess that’s why we fell in love with Ewan as a producer because he kind of got inside our heads and knew exactly what we wanted to get. Another reason is that as a band we sometimes clash about where we should go musically, and Ewan acted as a really good referee between the three of us.

Delphic - Doubt

Dance music is traditionally a singles led genre – how did you go about impacting a sense of coherency on the album?
When we first started we wanted to make an album. Maybe a reaction to the iPod generation, I don’t know, but we always wanted to make something coherent. Rather than a collection is songs thrown on in a disparate manner. We knew we wanted it to be called ‘Acolyte’ even before we had a band name. We didn’t quite know how to put it down in words, which I guess is why we’re musicians and not writers. We knew what elements it had to have. I guess in terms of sound you’re partly defined by the equipment you use, the instruments you use. We wrote the album on two synths and a laptop, and that really gives it a certain feel. We took it into the rehearsal room and then recreated it on guitars and that added something organic to the songs.

You’ve had a massive amount of media attention how do you react to this?
To be honest it’s kind of passed us by. We’ve done our work on the album, we hand it over to the media. If they want to cover it they will – it’s out of our hands. So as a result we don’t take it too seriously.

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