Published on November 12th, 2010 | Jonny Abrams
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Silvery might just be one of the best new bands out there, if two albums into a music career still counts as ‘new’. While 2008 debut Thunder & Excelsior had critics in raptures with its loopy and energetic melding of early Supergrass and early Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – amongst myriad other delightful whiffs and nudges – follow-up effort Railway Architecture has yielded even greater acclaim since its August release. Rocksucker called up lead singer/songwriter James Orman to discuss the new album, as well as his twin loves of over-the-top music and early extinct diesel locomotives…
A few months on from the release of Railway Architecture, how do you feel about it now in relation to your debut? Do you see it as a big leap forwards?
Yeah, although they were conceived as two parts of the same sort of whole because a lot of the material came from stuff that we were playing around that time. It was meant to be split up later – some songs just seemed to be more of a ‘second album’ sort of song. But as it was being recorded, there were new songs coming in so, when it first came out, I saw it as picking up the baton. Looking back though, it’s definitely its own thing and hopefully a good link on to what will be next, which would follow the trajectory perfectly through the albums. I think I prefer the second album and I think a lot of other people do as well. It’s more eclectic. We got great reviews for the first album and I was concerned that it wouldn’t match up to that but the reviews for this new one have been so much better which I think surprised everyone, especially me. I don’t know if that’s an answer. What was the question? (Laughs)
You answered it, in a roundabout sort of way. It was a pretty vague question.
Well, there’s a vague answer for you as well!
Silvery shine like a beacon after what has been a largely dry and colourless decade of new British bands. Do you think your eccentricities were honed in any way as a reaction to this, or is that just how you are?
At some point I realised that there’s no point trying to please anyone but yourself so I drew up a list in my head of things that I wanted to be. One of those things was to present the band a bit better, dress it up. A lot of the songs just come from stuff that I’m into, like Victoriana and nostalgia for stuff that didn’t actually happen. I’ve always set out to do something a bit different and there were an awkward first few gigs where we doing this sort of stuff – you know, we’d play to eight people in a pub but we’d have a bubble machine going, we’d be dressed up with swords and stuff, and that was kind of like, “What the f*** are we doing?” That sort of thing tends to work a lot better when there’s a lot more people there and they know what to expect, as opposed to whoever happens to be in the pub at that time, so it was quite awkward. But yeah, the band’s influences aren’t coming from a musical thing so much as things that we’re into, like the whole railway architecture concept. I happen to be into trains. So it’s a celebration of that.
There’s no shame in it.
It can work against us – we’ve done a couple of radio sessions where we’ve been asked, “So, are you actually into railways and stuff?” What do you think? Of course! If I’d called the album An Airport, or something, then that would be terrible because I don’t know anything about that. You have to be true to what you’re singing about.
I should have readied some historical railways questions to test you on.
I have failed in my journalistic duty.
Ah, good. A lot of people just assume it’s all sort of steam, the Flying Scotsman and all that, but I’ve got a very specialist knowledge of early extinct diesel locomotives…
(Interrupting) What are your top three early extinct diesel locomotives?
Erm…right – my favourite is the old Warship Class, which used to run on the Western Region. They used to haul express trains but they were deemed surplus to requirements and were all scrapped. There’s none of them in existence any more. Oh…the question was a joke, wasn’t it?
No. You must now name two more.
Oh, f***. Erm…there’s another type called Class 23, which were nicknamed the Baby Deltics. They’re a mixed-traffic locomotive and their bodywork was like some of the more exciting types that came later, so they look like really powerful, high-speed locomotives but they’re actually really small and quite clumsy-looking. None of them exist anymore. My third choice is Class 28. There’s one that exists still but they had a very weird wheel arrangement for diesels. I’m walking down the street at the moment and people are just hearing snippets of what I’m saying! (Laughs)
Finally, what would be – right this second and in no particular order – your top three albums of all time?
(After much um’ing and ah’ing) The second album by Tindersticks, which is just called Tindersticks.
That’s somewhat more morose than Silvery’s stuff…
Yeah but it’s kind of ridiculously so. It’s only recently I sussed it but it might be tongue-in-cheek. I don’t think they’re that depressive. But yeah, I just think that’s a wonderful record. I’d have to pick a Bowie one, which is tough on its own – probably Diamond Dogs, purely because on side one there’s nine minutes of music called ‘Sweet Thing’ which has got every single emotion in it. And it’s excellent for doing Bowie impressions in front of a mirror. It’s pretty over the top. Erm…I’m going to feel like I’m letting down other artists that I like. I’ll go with Queen II – the total opposite of Tindersticks’ second album. Again, it’s just ridiculous music, and maybe knowingly so. Who knows? That album includes the first song of theirs that I ever really liked, which is ‘Seven Seas of Rye’. It’s the first one I heard when I was really little. It’s bonkers and brilliant.