Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

What better way to spend a sunny September afternoon than chatting with two delightfully charming and impossibly articulate British musicians? igDana and imaginary jessica got a chance to do just that when they talked with frontman Greg Gilbert and bassist Colin Fox of Delays.

Delays, who visited Seattle in late July, came back to play the No Vote Left Behind festival. Since NVLB was motivated by the Seattle music community's strong desire to get rid of Bush, the conversation started with politics but soon explored subjects ranging from whiskey to Welsh Elvis impersonators to the very lovely Tegan and Sara.

TIG: What's it been like being in the states during an election year?

Colin: I find it really interesting because my preconception of the whole thing was quite different. Although I knew there was a lot of anti-Bush feeling, it's interesting to see the sort of people…it's not just the young knowledgeable crowd, it's quite a lot of people…

Greg: It's strange being here during an election year because Bush is going to win. He's got that smugness about him that he knows he's going to win.

Being in a band you play venues and tend to meet the more liberal people in every area so I don't know if that's a very good overview. Middle America is what makes the difference to these things and that's not what you get to see when you're touring. It's frustrating. I've had this conversation with so many people about George Bush and what does my head in is that I can't believe he gets away with it. I think it's evil. By virtue of the fact of how motivated they are…it's by money, a lot of what's going on, the division of humanity, that's evil.

Colin: It's the calculatedness of what's going on…

TIG: And that they feel they can totally get away with it.

Greg: And they do! When September 11 happened, it was one of the most terrifying things for everybody to see that happen but there were people, countries coming up and pledging a certain allegiance to America that you never would've thought would've done it. Maybe I'm naïve but I thought there was an opportunity to unite countries in a way that hadn't happened for a long time. But it's just blown out the window. You go around a lot of Europe and people's views of America are completely messed by the government of America. It's sad.

TIG: I know you guys travel all over the place – what is the perception of America outside America and is there anyone who thinks Bush is doing a good job outside of our country?

Greg: There are people who think Bush is doing a good job but it's the same people, it's the British equivalent of the Republicans. I can honestly say hand on heart since I've been in America I haven't met anybody that was an asshole, not at all. But the trouble is it's like anything, you get tied with your government so people do think Americans are gun-toting…

Colin: When we went to Europe I think there is in certain sections that impression that the US is a paranoid nation, almost to sort of a cartoon effect. It's blown out of all proportion.

Greg: I think the young people living in America and Britain at the moment could find ourselves living in the equivalent of the Third Reich to the rest of the world and not actually know it. My problem with Iraq was that the first thing they should've done was the sanctions should've been lifted because they were never hurting Saddam Hussein. If they really did have the people's best interest at heart but right there, you know they haven't. I'd rather be naïve and hope for something good at the end of the day.

TIG: So you guys know what this event tonight is about, right?

Greg: No Vote Left Behind, right?

TIG: Yeah…did you know that before you guys got signed on to it?

Greg: No, we didn't but it makes it sweeter obviously. I think this is the most worthwhile thing going on. The stuff I'm reading, I really can't understand how people are getting away with it. I read the other day that the Senate gave three million dollars to investigate 9-11 and they gave fifty million to investigate why that spaceship crashed. Figures like that, to me, make absolutely no sense but they're freely available, it's not being hidden.

TIG: But if you offer it up to people, you're some kind of pinko liberal.

Colin: Un-American is a word that gets bandied about a lot here. It's a scare tactic.

Greg: It's like Venezuela, with Chavez, I'm not totally up with exactly what's going on but I know that they intervened on him because they said he didn't have America's best interests at heart…I mean, sue the president of Venezuela for not having America's interests at heart!

Colin: They didn't just intervene, they basically engineered the coup…

TIG: Have you seen that film?

Colin Fox of Delays. Colin: "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"? It's one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. It's the only time I've ever been in a cinema and found myself actually sort of on the edge of my seat. When they were in the palace and they weren't sure if the other side was going to bomb them, and they're in there with a camera – it's just incredible to see it actually at work. And then the way the Americans engineered what went on the television, it just wraps it all up.

Greg: That's the thing, isn't it, when you talk about these things, you say "the Americans." That's the inherent problem to people outside of America…because of the nature of the way we talk and everything abbreviated, we just abbreviate everything to "the Americans." But it's not the Americans, it's the American government.

TIG: Do you think Tony Blair's going to get the boot?

Greg: I don't think he'll get the boot because there's a lot of scared people who want to cling on to that old imperial thing. In Britain and America, we've got an older generation that doesn't want to let go of their stranglehold in the world.

Colin: I think there's a possibility that they might change the leader but it'll still be a Labour government.

Greg: When you have a democratically elected prime minister who says "I don't ever reverse gear," what that essentially means is that he won't be swayed by public opinion. That's worrying in a democratic country. Blair set himself up as a really liberal rock and roll prime minister and he's let everybody down. He's Maggie Thatcher in different clothing.

Colin: Especially in Britain, everything's gone that way since the war. It just seems in the past few years to have gathered pace and it's all very right wing.

Greg Gilbert of DelaysGreg: This is why young people are so important. I think there are a lot of older people in politics making decisions who can remember a time when multiculturalism wasn't so prevalent. We've grown up with it and it's not even something you've ever considered, that's the way the world is, your best friend's black or your best friend's Asian. But the guys in power still feel like they've had it thrust upon them or something, these old guys. It is a scary time. But I think I've never known my generation to be so politically aware as they are right now.

TIG: I feel like it's the artists that are going to save this election. If Kerry pulls it off it'll be because of all this momentum that's going on, because it does feel so hopeless, because the Republicans own the whole media reverb right now.

Colin: When we were in New York earlier, I was in a little café and overheard a conversation between these two guys sitting next to me. It stuck in my head because one of them said something like "I always make sure I watch CNN because I want to know what's going on." That stuck in my head because you can't be more wrong but it just seemed apt considering exactly what's going on.

TIG: How's the media in the UK? Do you feel like you get unbiased news there?

Greg: No but it's more obvious there. There are definitely Tory papers and definitely Labour papers so you know where they stand with these things.

Colin: The TV news isn't as slanted.

Greg: It doesn't feel like it's as slanted but then again TV in general isn't as slanted. There are adverts in America that you wouldn't get away with in England. Just generally, it's quite blatant here.

Colin: The adverts in America are something to behold. It's like an adrenaline rush, you're just bombarded with images.

Greg Gilbert and Colin Fox of DelaysGreg: You don't get time to consider what you're being shown. You just have to react on a primal basis, you know, thinner, good, go! Low carbs!

I think naivete is a really good thing to have when you're passionate about things like politics. You're always going to reach for the unattainable which means even if you get halfway there it's a good thing. I don't like personally being too considered about it. If I was just going to be realistic about everything then I wouldn't be in a band. But especially in terms of politics, I think you need to be really naïve and believe in utopia…

TIG: Let's change gears off the whole political thing here and lighten it up a little bit. What's it been like playing with Franz Ferdinand?

Greg: Political. (laughter) It's been interesting because the kind of band that we are, we're completely outside of what I'd say, I don't want to sound like an old man but, "the scene." We're completely outside of the scene right now and Franz Ferdinand are very much a band spearheading the scene and it's been interesting to see that working from the inside. The mania…It's great for us.

TIG: I thought it was a great match-up because they are so different, your sound and their sound.

Greg: It's positive and negative. Have you seen Franz Ferdinand? They're fantastic live. They really kick. But you've got the percentage of their fans who will kind of watch us and cross their arms…

TIG: They're getting popular enough now in the states that you've probably got a big meathead contingency there, people who are like "play that Take Me Out song again." You know, baseball cap on backwards…we apologize.

Greg: We have the equivalent in England, the football fans. I didn't know what to expect really. We're so far away from what they're doing and what The Futureheads are doing.

Colin: It's kind of an odd sandwich.

Greg Gilbert of DelaysGreg: It is a very odd sandwich. But it's healthy, to put yourself out there. It's a healthy sandwich, a low carb sandwich. And it's good to put yourself out there, scare yourself, challenge yourself because we're playing to the kind of people who normally wouldn't seek us out by virtue of how we'd probably be described. How would Delays be described? I've seen us described as the Cocteau Twins meets the Las meets…If you were to describe Franz Ferdinand and the Futureheads, your reference points wouldn't be that delicate sort of sound.

TIG: How was your last show here at the Crocodile?

Greg: Seattle's a really good place for us, or it has been so far. The gig was really cool, cramped and busy. Region by region, going from state to state is like going from England to Scotland. It's kind of weird. I actually like Seattle as a place, you know. I went for a walk and ended up sitting down by the docks because the heat wave was going on and it was cool.

The one thing I want more of at our gigs is I want more people dancing.

TIG: Seattle crowds notoriously don't dance. They're head nodders. If you get that, that's pretty good. We're very aloof. Except for Franz Ferdinand – people went apeshit.

I bet you're asked a lot of questions about your voice because it's so unusual.

Greg: Yeah I do. The thing is that, you guys don't think about the way that you walk or the way that you talk, nobody does, so I've never really analyzed the way that I sing. You don't analyze. I've got favorite singers but I certainly haven't analyzed it. I think you do things like that when you're 70 years old and you write your memoirs and you try and decide where you started. The only thing I can think of is that I was really into Prince when I was a kid, Stevie Nicks…singers like that were the people I really loved when I was first getting into music. I do remember my dad taking me aside and saying "you know, son, this falsetto thing just really doesn't work." (laughter)

TIG: Did you have training?

Greg: No. I don't think anybody should. Personality is the most vital thing you can have – in music or in art or in anything – because that's the one thing you've got that you can guarantee nobody else is going to have. And training would just refine it and push you where everybody else is going. When you hear bands and they all sound alike, you know there's a lack of honesty going on.

Colin: There's so many bands that sound the same. You've got four people in a band, everybody's got their own personality, everybody puts their own personality into it. So how do those bands come out sounding exactly the same as each other?

Greg: It amazes me how all these people can independently develop a sound exactly li
ke The Strokes. (laughter) It must be a phenomenon sweeping the globe.

TIG: Do you have a ritual? Can you drink before you sing? Some singers have to eat certain things before they go out in order to hit an extraordinary range?

Greg: I like to have a room to myself and just walk up and down for an hour, humming and yawning. And I do a lot of yodeling because you do a lot of leaps in your vocals. Nothing really outlandish. I like whiskey. Whiskey's good.

TIG: Whiskey's always good.

Colin: Whiskey's just good.

Greg: Whiskey's just good.

TIG: Any way you look at it.

Greg: There are a few records I like to listen to…I like a Judy Garland album.

TIG: Really?

Greg: Only because she's a freaking powerhouse and it's quite an inspiration to hear somebody like that. Not vocally, just that energy coming through. What else have we been listening to? R and B, Outkast, Jay-Z, stuff like that because it's so vibrant.

TIG: I was really upset when the Republican National Convention co-opted "Hey Ya." The Bush twins got up and were like "my dad has been known to shake it like a Polaroid," I was like, you know what, fuck all of you. That song could save the world.

Greg: The greatest thing was when Reagan used "Born in the USA" as his running song and didn't realize it was an anti-Vietnam song. They had a comparison between the American and the British generals talking to the troops just before Iraq, giving rousing speeches and the British guy was very "we're going to go in and we're going to give these people back their democracy and remember this is their country, we are the visitors." And the general, this American, was like "we're going to go in there, we're going to kick ass" and then it kicks into "We Will Rock You." (laughter)

TIG: What else have you guys been listening to while you've been on tour?

Greg: I bought a Psychedelic Furs album yesterday. I haven't quite checked it out yet. The last two records I bought were the Black Album and Outkast.

TIG: What was the first album you both bought? That's a telling sign.

Colin: Oh, I hope it's not. Mine was a band called Wet Wet Wet. I don't know if you've ever heard of them. They were massive in England. And they're awful. Just bad. Bad music. But I was about 12 at the time.

Greg: My first album I bought was Electro 9 because these older kids, my cousins used to breakdance when I was really little and I loved to go with them. It was this electro compilation. I'm quite lucky. Because after that I bought a complete load of shit for years. Bryan Adams "Reckless," The Muppet Christmas Album…

TIG: I love the Muppets! That's totally respectable.

Greg: Shakin' Stevens.

Colin: He's a Welsh Elvis impersonator and he was massive.

TIG: Did he have TV specials or anything?

Greg: Yeah, he was always on TV.

Colin: He was everywhere.

Greg: When I started really getting into music was when I first got into Prince. My first CDs were all Prince CDs.

TIG: Are you a Magnetic Fields fan? Because Stephin Merritt reviewed your album in the New York Times!

Greg: Stephin Merritt reviewed our…did he like it?

TIG: Yeah!

Greg: Oh good! I've been giving "69 Love Songs" to loads of my friends, lending them the album. What did he say? I'm intrigued. I hope he liked it.

TIG: He did. It was very positive. I can't believe you didn't know that!

Greg: That's fucking great!

TIG: What direction are you going with your next album?

Delays and ImaginariesGreg: We're trying to reach a point where you can listen to us and don't have to be told it's us. Like Nirvana, the best band I can think of for that, you can just hear it and you know it's them, you don't have to be told it's them. We were talking earlier about that personality thing, that's what we're striving for, to get more and more to that point where you don't even need to be told it's us. The writing now is much more 50-50 between Aaron {Greg's brother and Delays' keyboardist} and myself so there's much more keyboard-driven than the first album.

TIG: Do you have any idea when your next album will be out?

Greg: March or April, that's the hope. We've already recorded the single and we'll be playing it tonight. "Lost In A Melody." That's coming out in November. It's not on the album but it's a sign of where the stuff's going. It's kind of like, how would you describe it?

Colin: Grunge disco.

Greg: It's grisco! We listen to stuff like New Order and we're trying to keep the melodic side and the harmonies.

Colin: It's been a very natural evolution. We made half of the first album before Aaron joined the band so the second half was trying to incorporate Aaron into it. Now it's very much a four-way thing. It has changed the way the music goes very much for the better.

Greg: We were trying to find our sound in the studio on the first album. Most bands, take a band like the Strokes, they've got a really cool live defined sound and they very much captured that with their record. We didn't have a clue when we went into the studio. The guy that produced us, he was tearing his hair out because we were actually changing what we were as we were recording. He went in with a band he thought was like the Las and then Aaron brought in these loops and stuff. It was very hard. I lost my mind for an hour.

TIG: Only an hour?

Greg: For an hour yeah.

Colin: It took ninety days in the studio to actually get it done and there were weeks where you wouldn't want to be around any of us. We didn't want to be around any of us.

Greg: I can empathize about being a control freak. You end up thinking that the way you stood when you played your guitar is going to affect the outcome of how good the song is. You get really really uptight.

Colin: You analyze it so much, you think the littlest thing will mean it will be the performance or not so you think, if I don't do that like I did last time, it's not going to work. It's almost like obsessive compulsive disorder. You tap your guitar five taps before you do the take…

TIG: Speaking of obsessive compulsive,
do you care about Delays versus The Delays?

Colin: It was kind of a reaction at the time because when we came up with the name, when we came out, every bands was "the." But we're not precious about it.

TIG: So it's just Delays

Colin: It's Delays

Greg: I like The Delays. To me, in my head, it's The Delays but, just like you said, on the Magical Mystery Tour is just says Beatles.

Colin: Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, everyone says "the."

Greg: I'm not precious about it. When you're a new band, people need an angle and that was pretty much the angle people had on us. That's the one thing they knew…a big controversy about the name.

TIG: Are there any random bands you think we should know about that we might not know about?

Greg: Do you know Shack? They used to be called Pale Fountains in the 80s. Then they started making records under the name of Shack and they made an album called "Water Pistol," which is probably my favorite record ever. They're kind of, you know the Las, they're like that but much less finessed and more soulful. Really thick Liverpool accents. It's just haunting, it's beautiful. Also, our friends from Southampton have an acoustic duo, they're called Pellum Air. They just signed to Rough Trade and they're coming on tour with us. They're great, imagine Simon and Garfunkel doing mega ethereal. They're really good.

Colin: There's a band Aaron got me into called Last Days of April. They're really good.

Greg: I don't know what anyone thinks of this band but I saw the cover and I bought the CD and it's complete pop but really good pop. It's Tegan and Sara.

TIG: I just interviewed Tegan last night.

Greg: What are they like? Are they nice people?

TIG: SO nice. And adorable.

Colin: We wanted them to support us in the UK but they couldn't because they're busy. But I think they're coming to Montreal.

Greg: What we're really hoping for when we come back is to play with those guys because actually that is the best album I've heard. Song for song, it's great pop songs. When we were here on the last tour 6 weeks ago, that's when we got a copy of the album. We were down by a swimming pool in LA just playing Tegan and Sara.