Interview: The Orielles

by Marianne Gallagher

Going down swinging: The Orielles on creativity and their fight against the new normal

Creativity hasn’t been easy to come by in lockdown. Do you know many – if any – who wrote the book they’d threatened to, learned the language, or made the definitive creative work they swore they’d realise at the start, with all that ‘extra time’? 

But when life’s been so surreal and stagnant at once, it’s been hard to know what to play (or say) into the blank spaces. For Halifax band The Orielles, the unrealised live potential of 2020’s Disco Volador led them where they needed to go next. 

Still raw from the loss of performing to crowds, and jaded from endless requests for soul-sucking livestreams, they took the forced retreat to lose themselves in old movies and plot their next move. Inspired by avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren’s maxim that ‘one must at least begin with the body feeling,’ so it came: La Vita Olistica (the holistic life).

Squeezing what should’ve been a tour into a score, spread across an immersive performance film designed to conjure a full-body feel that doesn’t translate over The Live-Stream Medium – they reworked their old record to meet these new ends. They kept all the psychedelic swirl and celestial leanings of the original, but repurposed and reframed it for the present they found themselves in.

Inspired by movements like the San Francisco Tape Music Centre and old Krautrock documentaries, they overlap illustrated projections with performance, scenes of communion and shared musical joy. In the liminal space of Manchester’s Unit 3 Regents Trading Estate, the band play in session – overlaid with textures of sound and visuals. 

It’s a retaliation against the not-quite-enoughness of electronic gig-going: a considered and meaningful response by artists carving out new space to perform in. It’s a happening, baby. Screenings are coming up in Leeds and Manchester this August, while the record was released on 26th March. We met drummer Sidonie “Sid” B. Hand-Halford and guitarist, Henry Carlyle-Wade, over Zoom to talk about the hows and whys. 

Where did the idea to take Disco Volador and turn it into something new come from? 

Sid: Initially, we were asked to do live streams and stuff like that – with lockdown and gigs not being able to go ahead. We thought that the concept wouldn’t really be long-lasting, and we didn’t really like the idea of doing an online gig for people to watch – with it just disappearing and that being it. Not getting the reaction and the feedback that an audience would bring. 

We wanted to take it a step further, creating something which was very much in-keeping with livestream, but which was more holistic. Something a bit more long-lasting that audiences could react to in different ways. 

What was the mood you were looking to create with the film? 

S: We were inspired by 60s movements – happenings, and stuff like that. A very immersive, embodied feeling of being at a specific event that might not happen again. 

We wanted to replicate that feeling with the film, and replicating this kind of exhibition space that people could react to in different ways. We quickly found when people were entering the space as we were filming it, that that’s exactly what happened. Audience members and extras all reacting with the space differently, which kind of shaped the way the film is now.

Did you feel like it was important to take a stance against desensitised ‘live stream culture’? And even with that considered, have you done any live-streams anyway? 

Henry: We were pressured to do some live videos, which were very rushed. Because creating content and things that are going to represent us takes time. 

We wanted to take control of what we were doing. The livestream thing’s there for such a small amount of time – half-an-hour or so. You digest it, and you forget about it. We aren’t really like that about any artform. It should have a long life. 

I suppose it’s a reaction to our album being shelved going into the lockdown as well. We wanted to give it a longer life than what we felt were the two weeks that it was around. 

Something more impactful, and representative of you?

S: As Henry said, one of the main ways that bands promote a new record is through touring it – and obviously, we weren’t able to do that fully. We wanted the film to represent a year’s worth of gigging and touring, instead of just one live stream. 

How do you think this’ll bleed into the liveshows in future? 

S: We’d definitely like to bring more of that projection element into it. A friend of ours, Raz Ulla, created some projection art, which we really, really like. It’d be cool to start playing with these behind us again – furthering that ‘embodiment’ for people in the live experience. 

La Vita Olista – the literal translation is ‘holistic life’. What’s that holistic practice to you? 

S: Being in a lockdown, a year without not only human interaction, but being able to go to galleries, experiences, and things like that – that was the main thing going through our minds. 

We wanted to create something that would not only bring people together, but would also create discussions. Something that would make people go to an event, or a gig, or engage with it, whether that’s touching screens or watching them. 

We were very inspired by a film called Meshes of the Afternoon, which very much plays on the idea of tactility and texture. Playing on the idea of bouncing onto different screens to unveil different sorts of art and projection. 

H: For me, the film was quite an incredible bit of escapism in this time. During lockdown, it’s been harder and harder to find these spaces where you can escape. I struggled with it quite a lot in the first one. 

When the space was complete and people started to explore it – the way they went off on a little tangent from their own lives and went on this little journey, looking round it – was holistic in itself. Because they’d found something that they wanted, but couldn’t have. 

As gigging musicians, how was it to lose that reaction from a crowd? And where are you getting creative stimulus from in lockdown now? 

H: Disco Volador was an album that was meant to be played live. It was an album written in soundchecks and on stages – jammed out on stages in parts. That’s another motive behind the film.

Our stimulus kind of changed – the way we’re talking about process and how the next record is going to sound has definitely come from inside. The size of the speakers have gone from big festival PAs to little earphones. It’s a lot more introspective: about a personal journey rather than a communal shared experience. All the music is very detailed instead of big impactful brushstrokes. 

In terms of the process of going over something you’d already made – was there an element of rediscovering or refining your own sound? 

S: Yeah, definitely. We recorded it all live at the studio, so we were obviously forced into this way of working it out as how we wanted it ourselves to be. And through doing that we definitely discovered the best parts of how we jam and how we write together. 

Funny enough, because the record’s been out for a while now, people have been commenting on how they see more nuances in it, and more of our influences in it. It’s something we’ll try to take forward into the music that we write going forward. 

H: The whole process of recording and listening back to that live session was informative for me, personally, and I’m sure the rest of the band. The first bit of recording that I did after the session, I was like – ‘it’s all got to be perfect, it’s all got to be one-take.’ But that completely changed.

I suppose we’d always gone for the big productions. Sometimes, it could be the downfall of certain songs or sections. Putting out a live album, and people loving it loads has definitely informed us that we can be minimal or atmospheric, or without rhythm, and it works. 

You’ve got screenings coming up soon in Manchester and Liverpool… are you putting it on anywhere else? I know that some of your video was filmed in Glasgow…

S: We don’t have anyone confirmed. We’re talking to a few different people – working a few different connections. 

H: I wanna say his name! I wanna say his name! We might be in conversation with Steven Pastel. 

S: Our biggest hero! 

H: I have a photo with him. I used to have a bowl cut – and we look like father and son. It’s really nice. 

How do you see this experience bleeding into the live shows in the future? 

H: We’ve had a lot of discussions as to what the film could be used in. The film was about fighting back against livestreams, and how they had no longevity. But when we saw the climate of socially distanced gigs and stuff, we sort of saw what could be. Not just in projecting live shows, but in making the film a space that we perform within, while also being filmed. It’s just a continuing, growing thing that can still be done. I think Sid suggested a garden centre – Dobbies! 

Any Dobbies in particular? 

S: Marple! We don’t want this idea of limitations. As Henry’s alluded to, as a project, with it kind of expanding and changing and stuff.. .even having projections playing while we play, but also having spectators walking around like almost there, in themselves, creating personas. 

H: I really like the idea. We jam an awful lot. Everytime we meet up, we kind of ‘warm-up’ jam. But it’s not a formal thing, it’s just something that always happens. And I kind of like the idea of breaking down the structure of the film and making it less chronological – but us, just like free-bomb jamming, Krautrock-style over the top. I’ve been watching loads of Krautrock documentaries and thinking about that a lot. We should get on that soon, y’know…

You’ve mentioned that you’re writing just now. What’s it going to be? 

H: We’re working on a new album. The third installment. Due to the economy, and us all having much more time on our hands, the process has changed quite a lot. 

It’s kind of nice though, because we’ve got more control. 

And how has it changed? 

S:  Obviously we write all the songs, record the songs, and then present the demos to the label, taking them to the studio and changing them. Now, we’re going in and doing one song every few months. Rarely have we had the chance to hone into all the little nuances and all the tiny aspects that we want to work on. 

H: During lockdown one, we all had a little think to ourselves individually. And it turns out we were all thinking the same things about this one. It was really refreshing looking back. Because before, it was so rushed. We’d always kind of gathered songs together, gone in and recorded it over a three week period. And then it was done, and you couldn’t change it. 

I remember, after the first one, feeling a bit annoyed about it. Because there were bits we could change, but it was too late. Doing it this way, I think the songs will be at their ‘full potential’. It was nice to forget your own name, and forget what the outside looks like, and truly escape. 

What influences are you working with for this new record? 

S: I’ve been listening to more ambient, soundscape stuff than ever. Movie soundtracks, a lot more jazz. A lot of Krautrock stuff as well. We like the idea of collaborating with more musicians, and it being much more of a free thing – with the three of us at the core of it, always. But other people coming on, chipping in and out with ideas. 

Obviously, doing it for an extended period of time gives us more of an opportunity to do that. 

H: We’ve always been quite excited about getting musicians into the studio, and taking that a step further –  working more with different textures and musical ideas, and being more open. I think the way our songs are going will fit that. 

Before, it was more modular. Repeating A/B patterns, repetition and variation. But now, the only way that I can describe it is as linear. When an idea is developed – it’ll repeat, but not in the same way it was done before. And then, it kind of ends. 

So, it sort of evolves and works itself out on its own? 

H: Yeah, we’ve always been a super-jammy band. And ‘cause we’ve known each other for so long, the jams change. Simultaneously, and without speaking about it. The way they evolve, it’s kind of interesting. I’m trying to capture more of that. 

Do you think you’d work in this cross-medium way again? 

S: Yeah, definitely. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while to be honest. We’re artists as well. We love literature and film, and bringing as much of those influences to our music and The Orielles’ project has been one of the aims from the start. Now that we’ve done this, and seen that it’s had a positive reaction, I’m excited to see where we can go with the visual aspect as well. 

Screenings and Q&As forLa Vita Olistica :

12.08.21 – YES – MANCHESTER

13.08.21 – Leaf – LIVERPOOL

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