Interview: A conversation with The Orielles

Backstage in Larmer Tree Gardens before their EOTR set and The Orielles are deep in playful chat. Our conversation has turned to one of the band’s favourite pastimes – giving new names to pre-existing nouns. For example, I’m informed that Morrisons is “Morridogs”, mushrooms are “mushgarms” and nice trousers are nice “trout”. Sid tells me that the same goes for their pluralisation of words too, before the band start listing off rapid-fire examples. “One cow, two kee”, she starts. Henry and Alex enthusiastically take their turns with “one lamb, two lemb” and “one human, two humi” respectively, before Sid’s sister Esmé Dee takes the cake with “one baby, two booboo”.

One thing is obvious within about five minutes of our time together, The Orielles’ union and friendship is natural and real. Esmé and Sid share the same blood, but the whole band are close friends. Meeting at a party as kids in their hometown of Halifax, Henry became friends with Esmé and Sid as the trio bonded over music, whereas recent addition Alex met Sid whilst studying in Liverpool. Unlike a lot of bands, the music feels like a product of their friendship.

The band are currently enjoying a whirlwind year. Since releasing the album in February, they have entered into a storm of sold out gigs, festivals and media attention. But whilst the external forces around them develop rapidly, The Orielles remain unaffected. “People want our time more, which is nice”, says Henry, “in the past on tour we’d wake up in some randomer’s living room. Now we tend to wake up in a Travelodge, which is a lot fucking better.” “Yeah”, agrees Esmé, “but obviously there are ups and downs… in the past we’d always have time for a big brunch to start the day, but now it’s like: get up, press, soundcheck.”

The mention of brunch stirs something in the group and we get onto the topic of food. “Esmé has mastered the breakfast”, says Alex, “her scrambled tofu is legendary.” Following my own personal request, Esmé goes on to list her recipes for both her staple scrambled tofu and a special beans-on-toast twist dish (which we have very usefully presented for you via the image link below).

Click above to check out Esmé’s smoky-spicy brunch recipes.

We all sip tins of Beavertown whilst chatting and, with reference to the band’s ‘What’s In Our Rider’ Instagram series, discuss the best and worst mainstream beers out there. “Our manager has actually banned tins in press shots”, Henry laughs, “we’ve always got cans in our hand in our pictures. We have to fit in time for drinking before playing because we obviously can’t stand our own music.”

An album of spirited eccentricities, The Orielles’ debut album Silver Dollar Moment is a vibrant display of baggy dance-punk. A shining example of how music is most alluring when it’s raw and organically spirited, the idiosyncrasy that characterises the band is as present in their interaction as it is in their music. Their chat, much like their tunes, is quirky, thoughtful and spontaneous.

A good half of our time spent together revolves around making up names for things, discussing country music and chatting about Halifax’s independent brewery scene. At one point, the five of us are quoting Summer Heights High and singing Mr G’s “Naughty Girl”. But whilst The Orielles, like any group of mates, spend a lot of their time messing around and making frivolous jokes, they are also strikingly inquisitive and enthusiastic when a topic springs their interest.

We talk about their origins as a band and how their journey differs to many current bands who meet at arts universities or middle-class music colleges. “One of our favourite bands are Khruangbin”, notes Esmé, “like us, they were all mates before they started playing music together. I think that’s a shout. It’s really important to know you’re all on the same vibe.” Sid expands, “yeah, it’s important to know you’re not going to piss each other off after a while. I feel like, with a lot of bands who meet at arty music colleges, it can be a bit forced and it’s probably more likely to unravel”. The band even try to be selective with their crew and management, such is their desire to ensure they’re surrounded by good people. Even tour manager James, who joins us for our chat, was hired after the band took a shine to him after a chance stand-in job.

It might seem rudimentary, but the value of surrounding yourself with like-minded people can’t be underestimated. Band, crew and management, the group feels like a touring family – and it shows. Whereas some artists often appear jaded by months of touring, The Orielles couldn’t seem more content. I ask them where they’re at their happiest. “Here”, replies Sid instantly, “festivals are like a liminal space. You kind of don’t exist in this space. You’re just here to enjoy music, art and the moment – you don’t worry about anything else. Plus, that 30 minutes or so on stage, you just don’t feel real.” Henry continues her point, “that’s why I love touring so much and playing music. It’s complete escapism”.

They get onto discussing a new, unreleased song and how much it means to them. “When we’re playing that I honestly feel so emotional”, says Esmé, “whether the next album ends up as popular or not, I’m honestly not going to give a shit, because when I played that song for the first time it honestly nearly made me cry. That’s a beautiful thing.”

Totally comfortable in their wider group, enjoying touring and genuinely passionate about their art, The Orielles are clearly in a very good place. Another vital facet to any great band, it’s also striking how broad their influences are beyond just music. Philosophical and conceptual musings come naturally to them and feed richly into their sound and lyrics. “Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)” came as a result of questioning the contents of an abandoned suitcase at a train platform, whereas the majestic “Liminal Spaces” considers the abstract transitional spaces between time, place and existence.


“We’ve had experiences in the past where we feel like we’ve slipped through parallel universes”


We get onto the topic of dreams and Sid ends up telling me of the strangest one she’s ever had. “I was walking through some kind of foreign land”, she recalls, “and, to put it simply, my head got bitten off by Bob Dylan. So I carried my head to the hospital and once they sewed by head back one, it wasn’t in fact my head anymore. It was Steve Carell’s head… and he had my head.” Everyone goes quiet for a minute before, naturally, the topic moves onto parallel universes. “We’ve had experiences in the past where we feel like we’ve slipped through parallel universes”, Esmé explains, “Henry had this crazy experience at Liverpool Sound City…”

“I saw this woman in the street and I instantly felt inclined to stop and speak to her as if I knew her like a sister”, explains Henry, “she stopped as well and said she felt exactly the same thing – that she felt inclined to speak to me as if I was her brother. We both just laughed and walked off, but I honestly still wonder about that”.

We talk for nearly an hour but it seems to flash by in minutes. It’s easy to see why their music is so rich with vivid colour and quirks, such is the effervescently imaginative and jolting spark in their conversation. The natural and authentic creativity at the centre of the band is palpable. It’s contagious and it’s present in everything they create. This is obviously great, but what’s most refreshing is that it’s fuelled by their friendship and comfort with one another.

The Orielles have the world at their feet. At the very beginnings of unlocking their full potential as a band, a superb debut album is only the start for them. More great new music will undoubtedly come with ease. Why? Because they have what many bands can’t replicate: a natural union conducive for spontaneity and inspiration. Lessons to take away from The Orielles? Stay loose, stay thoughtful, never get too serious and keep your best mates close.