The Orielles interview: "We always made sure to push ourselves outside of Halifax to make real efforts with bands in other cities"
Today sees the release of Silver Dollar Moment, the debut album from Halfax’s own The Orielles. For those unfamiliar, they’re a trio made up of sisters Esmé (bass, vocals) and Sidonie (drums) and their best friend Henry (guitar), all aged between 17 and 22. They’ve been playing together for years, and have been playing shows in the UK and abroad for a good while now. Silver Dollar Moment shows a band cultured beyond their years, with an ear for different styles and the nous to find ways to adapt them to their own ends. Across the album you can hear influences of disco, African, post-punk and pop music, swirled together to make a potent brand of devastatingly catchy pop rock.
We had the chance to speak to The Orielles’ drummer Sidonie, who told us about their journey from kids in the cellar to recording in Manchester’s EVE Studios to releasing an album on the renowned Heavenly Recordings.
First we have to get the obligatory Halifax questions out the way, because it's so exotic to me - I've never been nor know anything about it. So tell me, is there a scene, are there many venues, what's it like?
I wouldn't really say there’s much of a scene going on there. We kind of are the only band, and only one of us lives there now - Henry. Esmé and myself have moved out, she's in Manchester, I'm in Liverpool. But yeah, when we all lived there together we were the only band doing anything somewhat seriously. There are a few more bands now, and a lot of venues cropping up, such as obviously The Piece Hall, which has just announced a big show, which we're really hyped to be a part of. And also there's a few venues coming up like the Grace Community and The Lantern, which have got some really good bands playing there in the future. So I'd say it's definitely on the rise, Halifax, but maybe give it another year or so.
So, if there were no other bands taking it seriously when you were starting out, what gave you the impetus to do it? What made you feel like you could do it?
I think it was because there were no other bands really. We always looked to our friends in Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, looked up to them and wanted to be a part of their scene, a part of their gang so to speak, so we always made sure to push ourselves outside of Halifax to make a real effort with other bands in other cities.
How old were you when you started playing drums?
I was... probably 15 or 16 I think
Who were the drummers that inspired you to take it up?
My dad's a drummer, so he was probably the main inspiration. I just remember one day being in the cellar, which is where the drum kit was, and he was just playing beats and me and my sister were dancing and jumping around, and I remember thinking it was so cool and I wanted to do that myself.
And is that the kit you started using?
Yeah it is. For large shows I still use his kit actually, because it's well nice. It's probably the nicest kit going - anything I'd buy wouldn't be as good I don't think.
Did you start playing with your sister immediately? Did she pick up a guitar straight away?
Yeah it was immediately really. When I started teaching myself drums she didn't have a bass at the time, so she'd just play the top strings of the guitar. She'd just play that kind of as a bass, and we'd just jam in our cellar. It was awful, pretty much. It was only ‘til Henry came on board that he actually started kind of teaching Esmé proper bass lines and stuff like that, because he'd been taught guitar from quite an early age, so he's the only proper musician amongst us I guess.
Before Henry came along were you playing original songs or covering songs?
No we didn't do original songs. The only thing I can really remember is we'd play on repeat the introduction of Buzzcocks' 'Boredom', like the guitar riff at the beginning was the first bass line Esme learned, so we'd literally just play that on repeat for 10 or 20 minutes with no lyrics, just the guitar and a really rubbish drum beat. I could only do one beat at the time, so everything kind of had to fit to that rhythm.
It sounds pretty experimental!
Now, on the album, you use more than your standard drum kit, you've got a lot of other percussion in there. What else did you use?
In the recording session I used bongos, a DIY - do you know what a vibraslap is? It's like this instrument that when you hit it it makes a prrrr sound, so a lot of hip hop musicians use. But we didn't have one of those to hand, so we made a DIY one out of a ruler on the edge of a table, and then you flick it like you used to do in school, and it kind makes like a prrr sound. So there's one of those in there. And then just kind of like shakers, tambourines, wood block, cowbell, that kind of thing.
You mentioned the bongos, I think they add a lot of character to it. There's a few other bands using bongos at the moment, why do you think this African sound is popular?
It does have that laid back lo-fi vibe to it I guess. Maybe that's why a lot of people are using them. And also just because they're really fun to play! That was definitely my favourite part of the recording experience, doing the bongo track at 2 in the morning. It was fun, I could go for hours with that!
Tell me about the album title, Silver Dollar Moment.
In May of 2016 we were asked to play in Toronto as part of Canadian Music Week, and we had a few shows lined up. We landed on the first day of being there, rushed to pick up our instruments, check into the hotel, and then we rushed to play our first show, which was about maybe 9 or 10pm. By this point we were pretty jet lagged, but we had a few drinks and it eased off a little bit. But then we had another show that day at 2am, and by that time we were feeling so grim, we really wanted to go to bed. We were almost feeling hungover by that point, it was horrible. I just remember just before we went on we were thinking this is gonna be the worst show we've ever done. But it actually turned out to be amazing! And probably the best show we've ever done. Maybe it was kind of the jet lag that made us play a little bit more, like, alert. And the venue was called the Silver Dollar Rooms, so now kind of whenever we do something unexpectedly good we call it a Silver Dollar Moment.
Awesome! Is that also the story that's being told in the opening track 'Mango'?
Yeah so 'Mango' was written about our time in Canada. About what we got up to there, and it was that morning after we played that show and we were feeling pretty hungover and we really craved some mango juice.
You're credited with co-lyrics on a few songs, how does it work with your sister when you contribute?
I write lyrics myself as well, and keep them stored in a little notebook. A lot of the time they're really personal so don't make the cut with Orielles stuff. But when Es is struggling I'll give her a hand with some stuff I've come up with. Like on 'I Only Bought It For The Bottle' we wrote together because it's more like a narrative, so that was very easy for us to work on together, because we'd both be chipping in these ideas.
On 'I Only Bought For The Bottle', do you remember what the bottle was? I'm really curious what the drink was.
The drink doesn't actually exist! But we've all had that experience. I guess it was a metaphor for every experience of that ilk that we've had in the past, like we've definitely come across bottles that look amazing that don't actually taste that nice. And this one in the song was just an amalgamation of all these experiences I think.
Tell me about 'Sunflower Seeds'.
Quite a lot of people actually think that it's a love song, which is quite interesting because it's not really. I guess it is a little bit, because it's about actually being in a band together. The song is about one another, about our experiences that we share together, and about one particular night, when we all just looked at each other and had this kind of snap moment where we thought "this is really surreal, we never thought that we'd get this far." So I guess I can see why people think it's a love song.
Is 'Let Your Dogtooth Grow' related to the Yorgos Lanthimos film Dogtooth?
Yeah! So that film's themes really inspired us, and we actually thought they were quite apt for our own lives and being in a band at quite a young age, because we often get people asking questions like "what's it like to be in a band so young?" And people sometimes don't take us quite so seriously. So I guess the themes of the film to do with being held almost captive by society, and not being let out until you're of a certain age when your metaphorical dogtooth grows. That was a dead good theme that definitely rang true with us.
It's a really strange film. Did you all three of you watch it together?
I'm not sure Henry's seen it yet. But I watched it quite a few years ago at university, and I was straight away like "Es, you've gotta watch this film," and she loved it as well.
You guys are big film fans, are there any more film references on the album people should look out for?
Yeah, 'Blue Suitcase'... this is kind of harder to grasp, but 'Blue Suitcase' was written whilst we were in the studio - it was the only track done completely from scratch in the studio - and we kind of based the lyrics on a film we'd watched the night before called Coherence. It's about a group of friends who enter a parallel universe and they see another version of themselves, and then they keep passing through the universe, so towards the end of the film you're not sure if it's the real character that you saw in the beginning of the film, or the other version. In the film it touches upon Schrodinger's Cat theory, where before you open something the possibilities of what it could be are endless. We really like the idea, and we already had the scenario of finding a blue suitcase on a platform - that was a real life scenario - but then we came up with the concept that we didn't know anything about what was inside it, but at that time there could have been anything inside it until you open it and reveal what it actually is.
What was your most memorable idea of what could be in the suitcase?
Well we've got a video being released for the song, and it features a suitcase. So the answer is revealed of what's in the suitcase, but you'll have to wait and see.
On 'The Sound Of Liminal Spaces' you're all credited with “ASMR sounds,” what's your relationship with ASMR?
I don't know, we just thought it would be really funny. We just arrived at the studio, and the studio is kind of cluttered, but in the best way possible. There's just loads of instruments around. So when we arrived we just thought "why don't we all get really stoned and then run around and find our favourite sounds, and then just stand in front of the microphone for half an hour just rattling the objects around and stuff.” So that's exactly what we did! Then Marta [Solongi] the producer cut it down to 20 seconds or whatever it is now, but it was originally like 20 minutes!
Do you remember what kinds of things you used?
We used stuff like scissors, a wooden bead necklace thing - which is the main sound you can hear, the rattling sound - I think there was a bell in there. And then we used some weird things that don't really make sounds, like feathers, but when they were up close to the microphone they make the sort of noise that you probably can't hear, but it adds a bit extra I guess.
They had feathers in the studio?
Oh yeah they have all sorts in the studio! Except a vibraslap!
Which studio is this and why did you record there?
It's called EVE Studios in Manchester. We recorded 'Sugar Tastes Like Salt' there with Marta, the producer, and we just loved it straight away. It's such a great place, it's a residential studio that allows you to stay over. Then the engineers there, Henry and Joel, we get on with super well now, they're really good mates. So we didn't want to use anywhere else really.
On the title 'Henry's Pocket' - why Henry's pocket?
So Henry, when he gets back to wherever we're staying after a gig or a night out, he spends at least 20 minutes emptying all of his pockets and laying everything out on the table. I think it's a little bit of an OCD thing. And it's just, the stuff that comes out of his pockets, it's like "how long have you had that in there?" He's just mad, he'll get out so many filters and loose change and lighters and tickets, bubbles, everything, it's crazy.
'Snaps' is one of my favourite songs on here, it sounds like you guys doing a version of Sonic Youth, who I know you're fans of. Was that your intention?
I guess it was our intention a little bit, because as you say we've always been inspired by them and we did this one as a a chance for Henry to go crazy a little bit with the sounds of the guitar and make it as Thurston Moore-y as possible.
We talked about 'Blue Suitcase' a little bit, but I want to know why you decided to put it last on the album?
We put it last because it was the last song that we wrote, and therefore we thought that it was perhaps the most telling in terms of the direction that we're gonna go after the release of this album. We kind of want to go a little bit more disco-y, but still guitar-y. Not super disco-y, but with a more dancey vibe to it.
Have you already started working on more stuff?
We have a few songs written... well not written really, just a few ideas. We have lyrics and stuff, but we haven't any fully written. Just a few little ideas up our sleeves.
Were there any other books or articles or TV or films that you were reading or watching while making the album that might have had an influence on it?
While we were in the studio we were watching a lot of Limmy. I don't know if he had an influence, he probably didn't, but people should definitely check out The Limmy Show on Netflix if they've not watched it already. It's dead good.
What new bands are you excited about?
There's tons really, like our friends Trudy and the Romans in Liverpool, they're really cool. Sports Team down in London are sick, and our first ever headline tour was with them, so obviously we're really close with them and everything they do is great. They're going on a tour soon with Pip Blom from The Netherlands, she's ace as well. So yeah there's tons of great stuff happening at the moment.
What excites you the most about releasing your debut album?
I think just because it's been such a long time coming, and we've got so many people to thank for it. And yeah we're also super super proud of the songs and the artwork and everything that Heavenly that everyone in our team has done to help us out. So we're just excited for everyone to hear it really.
The Orielles’ debut album Silver Dollar Moment is out now on Heavenly.
This article was originally published on The 405 - 16th February 2018.