Meet Oliver Jack and Tom Lenton. By day, they are respectively an Architecture undergraduate at Bath, and an English Literature student at Exeter. By night, however, they become one of the South West’s most exciting musical prospects. Now, with their debut album All Over Again, All Over Again released, the customary interview in McDonald’s and quay-fuelled press shots were in order.
TL: We’ve been making music together since we were probably thirteen, with emo fringes listening to metal, and we’ve cycled through different attempts at different projects and arrived here.
OJ: Theoretically, we’ve already had about three albums which have just heated out.
TL: This is the kind of culmination of everything we’ve done since coming to University; the first time we’ve been able to put something cohesive together.
OJ: We’ve definitely progressed musically since the start, in that we’ve branched out from just guitar and traditional rock songs.
TL: And this is by far the most we’ve ever sampled.
OJ: I just think it’s more fun, and more interesting to listen to.
What led you to sampling?
TL: For me at least I think there are two levels to this, first in terms of practicality. It’s honest and sad to admit, but sampling in a lot of ways is easier. Not so much in the sense that you’re cutting corners, but in that it opens up a lot of new doors. You’ve taken all these things that already have a very nice timbre and acoustic quality, and you’re working with that rather than having to battle against your lack of equipment and funding. If you can just sample part of a beat that someone’s recorded with much better equipment somewhere else, you’ve got a great start and you can get a much better mix in the end. I think more artistically though, with sampling, it allows you to have a conversation with things from the past in different genres and styles, even in specific songs. I guess it’s very postmodern in that sense. Our first single, ‘Paris Street,’ has quite a lot of samples from Kamiko Kasai and Gretchen Parlato’s versions of ‘Butterfly’ by Herbie Hancock, and so becomes quite a direct conversation with those songs.
OJ: The backing vocals actually quote some of the lyrics from it, and the middle chorus section has scattered fragments of vocals which are Emily [Burns] recording different lines from the songs.
TL: It’s an explicit undercurrent in the song, as much as a conversation with it.
OJ: In terms of the album as a whole, I would write some of the songs and Tom would write others, and we do tend to write in quite different ways. We ended up with five songs each roughly, which came about by using samples differently. Public service announcements became a bit of a motif as well.
TL: Most of the songs have a core which is one person’s. I think if we told you, “I wrote these, Oli wrote these,” you’d probably be able to start hearing the differences between how we go about things. It’s an interesting way of trying to bring two ends together.
OJ: We also ended up sampled our own songs, so a lot of the pieces on the record will feature samples of bits we cut from earlier tracks, as a little sonic pallet, to keep recognisable things running throughout.
How was the writing process, with one at Bath and one at Exeter?
OJ: I wrote the very first one in Freshers’ Week last year, ‘Sparrows in the Gutters’
TL: and then I wrote ‘Waste’ in around October 2013. The album’s a pretty even spread in individual writing from the start of University. Essentially we write the chorus of songs individually – I think that’s true of everything other than the introduction, ‘When All The World Came Back.’ Oli wrote the original bell part, and we both liked it so jammed it out in my basement for three hours and built on it. We very consciously put one distinctive synth in every song afterwards, so the introduction has at least one quite identifiable sample or some feature from every song afterwards.
OJ: I think it’s a really nice way of writing, as you can get to a point with a song and then stall and think you can’t finish it. But then if I send it over to Tom…
TL: It’s quite a good way to kill each other’s darlings, I think we both have our habits which the other just says ‘no.’
What are each of your darlings?
OJ: Your miserable lyrics.
TL: On this album, I wrote all of the vocal parts.
OJ: Apart from one word, I wrote one word.
TL: I think I have quite melodramatic tendencies, where I might need to reign it in a little, and have some grace and eloquence.
OJ: Bloody English students.
TL: I think sometimes I just need to hold it back a little…
OJ: I don’t have any darlings.
TL: Your darling is writing things too long. I had to quite brutally cut ‘Sparrows in the Gutter,’ there was a whole section in the middle that I didn’t even condense, it just went.
OJ: The last few weeks have been the hardest bit. Tom’s been mixing and mastering the album in Exeter’s studios, which I haven’t been able to come down for. The wait is so tense. The worst was on ‘Beat 54,’ which was probably my favourite song I had ever produced. It was perfect. And then I got a message from Tom saying something like “look, I’ve added all these samples to it, one of which is about an orgasm.” Thankfully it turned out alright.
You did some work on ‘Paris Street’ and ‘Wolves’ with Abbey Road artist Emily Burns, how did that come about?
OJ: I’ve been friends with her since Year 4. I was in a band with her – and I’m going to namedrop here, because every time she does an interview she never name drops – we were called Conspiracy and we did Blink 182 covers in her attic.
TL: I played in a school production of Buggsy Malone with her.
OJ: She’s one of these people who is just always around. I’ve helped her out with a few videos before and she was more than happy to help out.
TL: The thing we loved about recording with her was just how much she gets it. She just gets it. You give her the lyrics and tell her the kind of thing we were going for, and she very immediately and very directly engaged with the emotions of the song, and engaged with the nuances of the song, bits of expressions. She performed it better than how I imagined it to be done when I wrote it. Plus I’ve got a vendetta against vibrato, and I liked how much vibrato she used.
In terms of the record, was there a theme you were considering when writing?
TL: It’d be a lie to say that every song on the album from the outset was trying to engage with a particular theme.
OJ: Yeah, it’s definitely come about through the process of making it rather than setting out to make it.
TL: It comes back again to one of us writing the chorus line to each song and everything coming out through that. In terms of lyrical content, it’s all fairly cohesive from the same points at the same time. The best way we agreed to describe it was that it’s a break-up album. But it’s not quite that overt. I think it’s quite self-reflective about the fact that it’s a break-up album. It’s a break-up album that knows it’s a break-up album and is about the fact that it’s a break-up album. A lot of the samples were focused as well, I mean public service announcements from America in the 40s and 50s were often very direct, and we got that when sampling them. The first sample on the album is just “the picture you are about to see deals with the problem of self-destruction.” That’s pretty to the point.
Where do you get the samples from?
TL: A subsection of a website, archive.org, called the Prelinger Archives, which is also where we got the majority of the footage for the ‘Paris Street’ video.
OJ: I think the video for ‘Paris Street’ actually informed a lot of the audio. When we made the video we had to initially strip the audio out. And then we realised that the audio was as nice as the visual. When ‘Paris Street’ came out, we hadn’t finished producing and mixing the album, so it informed a lot of what we were writing about, and the vocal samples contributed towards that. Many of the samples are from things far beyond the issues of a break-up.
TL: ‘Disrobe’ and ‘Sparrows’ have some samples from nuclear safety warning videos, what to do in a nuclear attack. And then, there are some samples from – and I was quite conscious to do this as tastefully as I could – from a public service announcement about the problems of suicide, and having a healthier attitude to understanding it. And then there were some about drugs. So the things we sampled were way beyond the issues we were talking about, and supposed to be melodramatic to the point where it seems contrived and aware of itself. Am I making it sound like I know what I’m talking about?
OJ: Better than I could.
Why did you choose ‘Paris Street’ as the debut single?
OJ: I think from the start we always saw it as the strongest single. It’s the best mix of the two extremes on the album.
TL: The two extremes being the part on ‘Good Morning, I Love You,’ where it’s just the piano and voice, and the bass drop on ‘Disrobe,’ or parts of ‘Caswell.’ I think ‘Paris Street’ was what we felt was the best middle point.
OJ: And more simply probably our favourite at the time. Now we just can’t wait to hear reactions from the other songs like ‘Beat 54,’ they’re all songs that could have been or become singles.
Are you planning any future singles or videos?
OJ: We talked about releasing another single and video post-album, but we’ve got some rather bigger video ideas. We’d like to, at some point, properly film a video. We’ve tried to make a film before, but for ages didn’t have a camera between us.
TL: This summer we had a whole concept planned out, but realised a few problems, such as we didn’t have an actor… or a car… or a camera.
OJ: And we needed to be on a beach.
TL: We needed to be in Norfolk.
OJ: We’d like to do a proper video, but I don’t know if that’ll be related to this album. I’ve also started a hand-drawn stop animation, which is taking its time. When it’s done we’ll probably be on album four.
TL: Eventually, the goal is to work towards another album. And we’re being quite ambitious with the kind of things we’d want to do on it.
OJ: Like we said, it’s not that this album came about by accident but it wasn’t quite as planned at the start. And through recording this album we’ve learnt so much. Now I think we could say “we’re making an album,” and it’d be an entirely different process, and could be really interesting.
TL: Good way to sell an album isn’t it? ‘The next one will be good.’
OJ: We’re not planning our Greatest Hits anytime soon.
Is it possible to perform live with the current setup?
TL: This has always been quite a contentious issue, we really want to. I’d have to buy some more equipment.
OJ: We did a live recording of ‘Monaco/ Korea,’ and that was a huge learning experience. It worked out well in the end but was much more difficult than we thought it would be. A lot of set-up and having automations pre-mapped. I think we’d certainly have to do a lot of planning out to perform the album.
TL: It’d probably see very different mixes of the songs.
The album was released last Saturday, how did you go about circulating it?
OJ: Well we’re not looking for anything really. It’ll be on Bandcamp for a ‘pay what you want’ set-up.
TL: Worked for In Rainbows. I think that was the first ‘pay what you want’ album. And I think it went on to be their best selling record. Trust Radiohead to be the pioneers of everything. But we’d just like people to download it and listen, and give it a chance. We’re not looking to make any money out of it. It’s been such a massive life ambition to do this, and it’s been a year and a half in the making, and we’re so proud of it now.
OJ: Three months ago we didn’t even have a name.
What does your name mean?
OJ: It’s a reference to the Paul Thomas Anderson film Magnolia. Delmer Darion is the name of the character at the beginning who gets accidentally picked up by the fire-plane. He’s scuba diving and gets sucked up into the plane and dropped out with water over the burning forest, and is found dead in a scuba diving costume at the top of a tree. It’s a really weird idea at the start of the film, just, can it be a coincidence? There are a really strange series of coincidences and events. The artwork we’ve done for the album as well references a lot of the songs and the lyrics. Initially we were going to do some 3-D stuff but it ended up just being a sketch that I did. It just seemed to suit it. And then there’s the fire-plane, burning out the forest fire in the back, as a semi-ode to Delmer Darion.
You’ve referenced cars a lot throughout the album, too.
TL: There are a lot of references to a lot of things throughout. The first few lines of ‘Waste’ for example paraphrases a beautiful poem at the end of Nabokov’s Lolita, I mean it’s beautiful aside from it being addressed to a twelve year old from the perspective of a paedophile.
OJ: You didn’t tell me it was about that.
TL: Yeah… the limping car becomes a metaphor for your body, trying to move forward. That’s definitely a key thing in the album – how to move forward.
OJ: With a car.
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