by Jed Fletcher
“Can you hear me?”
“Hello… We’ve got no sound”
“We can’t hear you.”
“How about now?”
The delightful back and forth I had going with Tom Lenton and Oliver Jack (who together make up the electro act Delmer Darion) continued for quite a while before we sorted out a “system”. They watched a video of me typing questions into the Skype sidebar, while I listened to their frozen image’s response. It’s release day for their latest collection entitled The Emperor of Ice Cream.
I really liked your first release and, judging by other reviewers, plus BBC Devon’s approval, I’m not the only one. How did you feel before it dropped and how do you feel about its reception? TL: Really good, really positive, we went into that release not really expecting a whole lot. We’ve done various projects in the past. I mean, we’ve very informally been writing stuff together for a long time. That was the first time we’d decided to commit to it, and thought about putting together a whole album. We released this single, Paris Street. That went down well and we were obviously happy with that. Then yeah, the album spread really, really well and everybody we spoke to really enjoyed that. We’re still buzzing off that so we had the wonderful idea to extend it with other ideas we had floating around. So we put together an album of remixes and B-sides that we’re releasing today! I guess, judging by the fact we’re releasing this, we were pretty happy about the first one. It was a massive honour to be recognised by the BBC as well. [A strange noise disrupts our conversation] OJ: This chair’s so squeaky.
Have you been gigging much? If so, anywhere in particular and how’s it been going? TL: So far we’ve only got one under our belt and that was just me alone, playing back in June. That was a really cool environment, it went down really well but that’s all we’ve done so far. We’re playing at Cavern on the 14th of September as part of Exeposé’s music showcase. Um, so gigging is really a forward-looking thing – we’re looking to do a lot more of that next year. That’s hopefully what we’re gonna be doing more of – we probably won’t be releasing that much for a while. OJ: I think we’re gonna spend some time thinking exactly how a gig will work and how best we would put songs from both albums forward in a live setting – we’ve never really had the opportunity to do that before. TL: I think that with the music we record, live performance and the recordings are more divorced than they might normally be – because we’re kind of multi-instrumental – it’s the kind of music that, with two of us, is hard to build from scratch playing live. It’s then just about finding the right balance and how you present that. It’s going to be a great learning curve, hopefully. That’s our next focus.
I felt All Over Again, All Over Again was a really versatile piece, how do you feel you’ve developed as a band since? TL: I think that through the production and release of All Over Again, All Over Again we have become more focused on the idea of making cohesive, complete works. Whereas the first album came together from pieces in isolation, later adapted to form a whole, some songs on The Emperor of Ice Cream were actually specifically written to suit a purpose. OJ: And looking forward, we’re trying to take this to its next natural level, and write an album in the kind of way you might write a book, so that each piece was always written to be a particular part of that album. We’ve got more handsome too.
The mandatory question: Where do you get your influence from? Are there any contemporary artists that inspire you? OJ: It’s difficult to say exactly, but I think looking back at these two albums there’s a fair bit of variety. TL: It spans from a more dreamy, pop aesthetic, to experimental electronic music. Individual influences change all the time, but some I’ll always go back to are Dntel, Sleep Party People, and Mint Royal. OJ: People like Baths, Fly Lo and Jon Hopkins are massive ones for me. TL: MF Doom is a favourite for both of us and has actually influenced both releases in the way we approached sampling.
What’s your process in devising a new track? Are you obsessives or serial experimenters? OJ: We tend to write a lot of stuff separately and often in the style of whatever we happen to be listening to, and then eventually we’ll bring all our ideas together and decide which elements work and which don’t. After that it becomes a longer, more gruelling process of fine-tuning and reworking. TL: I think we both write a lot more than will ever surface as well, so in regards to the original question I suppose we’re serial experimenters who then become obsessives with the bits that make the cut.
What is your greatest challenge as a band? TL: Writing in quite a wide range of styles poses the dilemma of losing a “sound”, so to speak. So the question is always how can we write music that is distinctly “Delmer Darion” but also has the range we would like it to? OJ: And of course the issue of how exactly we approach playing live, but we’re working on that.
Your video for Maps off the new EP features clips from a classic horror movie, does that mean you’re pretty into film? Is there a Delmer Darion favourite film you could impart to us? OJ: Yeah we are both big movie fans. The name Delmer Darion is taken from one of our favourites, Magnolia, by Paul Thomas Anderson. And actually on this new release you’re going to see even more of that influence, there’s samples from Sleeping Beauty, Jerry Maguire, Spirited Away among others. TL: The focus on The Emperor of Ice Cream is largely pop and mass culture, so our love of film was something we were easily able to find a place for. Delmer Darion watched Paranormal Activity: The Marked One last night and definitely wouldn’t recommend it. Off the top of our heads, Barton Fink is a classic.
You covered the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who are based in glamorous New York. Where would your dream studio be based and why? TL: Well, New York would be pretty amazing; I’d go there maybe. OJ: New York would be good, but Tokyo’s my favourite city, so I’d go there. TL: I guess we’d just email.
There’s not much background on you guys online, how exactly did Delmer Darion come about? OJ: We’ve known each other since we were quite young, and have always made music together. So Delmer Darion was just the natural progression from all of that. TL: We decided to commit to releasing a full album, and that also seemed to coincide with the point at which I became happy with the standard of mixing I could produce. If you’re curious, looking up Rose Connects The Code might find you some less developed Delmer Darion.
What made you collaborate with Emily Burns in your first LP? Who would be the perfect collaborator for your sound? OJ: She’s been a good friend of both of ours for a long time, but more to the point has an incredible voice, so was an obvious choice! Definitely go check her out. TL: The perfect collaborator would depend on the song; we’re looking to collaborate a lot more in future so you might start to see more of our perfect collaborators. Would never say no to Thom Yorke, though.
Have you set yourself any goals for the next year or so? TL: We’ve already set the cogs in motion for the next album, which as we said is going to be built from the ground up. Some of the concepts are falling in place and we’ve got ideas floating around as well, so we’re gonna work slowly at making the next, more perfectly tuned album, and hope to collaborate with plenty more people along the way! OJ: Alongside that we’re hoping to start making local live performances more a part of our routine. Those two things are our priorities.
What’s the story behind the illustrations that brand your work, the floating chunk of land? OJ: The artwork of All Over Again, All Over Again came about by trying to imagine the world in which the narrative of the album takes place. It’s essentially a composite of images from the lyrics of the album, as well as being a reference to Delmer Darion in the form of the fire plane. TL: The first album we think is essentially a melodramatic break up album, and then reflexive because of the kind of exaggeration involved. So the whole thing is a little like a caricature of the emotions within it; the girl on the island is despairing but cartoonish, and the world behind her is burning down, which refers to all the nuclear safety video samples you find at the end of the album. And she’s on an island to reflect the introspection of the album, or worse maybe the solipsism. OJ: We knew that we wanted the new artwork to be a “remix”, so to speak, of the first, and then Tom suggested the name The Emperor of Ice Cream and the new artwork was born! It’s like the mass/popular culture is garishly bleeding into her world. The colour palette is actually taken from a Warhol Painting, another little nod to pop and remix culture.
You say you’re based in Exeter/Bath, how much time do you spend in Exeter? What are your favourite activities? OJ: I go to uni in Bath so don’t spend a huge amount of time in Exeter, but hopefully over the next year can get down a bit more for more. TL: Well I go to uni in Exeter; I’m just about to go into my third year of English. I like going to the Picturehouse, normally alone, occasionally with someone else. The Screen Talks they hold are always amazing. Also like going to the bookshop in Topsham.
Finally, if you had one wish between the two of you…? [sorrynotsorry] OJ: For either of us to be able to sing.