Perhaps the thing that’s most striking about Delphic’s second album isn’t that it’s a quantum leap forward from their debut. It is – produced by former DFA man Tim Goldsworthy and Ben Allen, whose previous work takes in everything from Animal Collective to Bombay Bicycle Club, it forsakes the very Mancunian, rain-spattered dance-rock of Acolyte in favour of a whole new raft of influences and sounds. Indeed, there are moments when you might be forgiven for mistaking it for the work of an entirely different band were it not for the fact that the keen melodic sense that powered Acolyte is still present and correct. But perhaps the most striking thing about Collections is that it got made at all.
Delphic’s rise was famously instantaneous: although the band are keen to point out that they previously spent “seven years being in crap bands”, they were signed after their first gig, and ended up on Later With Jools Holland and indeed the BBC’s influential Sound Of 2010 list after putting out two singles. Acolyte was greeted with critical praise – “on kissing terms with greatness” etc –landed in the Top Ten and was nominated for awards. But the ensuing world tour rinsed the band out. “We’d been touring for two years,” says Rick Boardman. “We were just exhausted.”
Furthermore, they had no new material. They’d written and recorded their entire debut album before they were signed. Other bands, they note dolefully, can write on tour, using their sound-checks as impromptu rehearsals, something Delphic’s love of technology – they are confirmed “ studioheads” – precludes. “We need about three weeks planning before we can do anything in rehearsal,” says James Cook. “To work out how to plug stuff in properly,” nods Matt Cocksedge.
But even when they came back from tour, the trio were still suffering from writer’s block – “dreadful, like being impotent,” offers Rick, “this is my job and I can’t do it” – a state of affairs apparently compounded by their unorthodox living arrangements. Having spent two years on tour together, Delphic made the perhaps rash decision to move in together, in a barn outside of Manchester. “We immediately went from being in each other’s hair on tour to being in each other’s hair all the time again,” frowns Rick. “He sighs. “This happened on the first record as well. I don’t know why we didn’t learn from it. We were surrounded by each other all time. It was just very tense. We’re not related, but brothers doesn’t even do it Justice. It just gets beyond that.”Was there a time when they thought “this is it, we’re never making another album?” All three nod quietly. “Yeah.”
There was, as it turned out, a simple solution to the impending demise of Delphic. All it took was two members of the band to go on holiday without the third. “Then these two went on holiday,” says James, “and I was bitter that I didn’t go on holiday with them. I was sat at home and Good Life just sort of… came out. Rick came back, had a look at it, Matt got involved and it was just like: right, thisis it, this is how we do it. We literally wrote an album in nine months, which after 18 months of struggling…”
The end result balances euphoria and despair in equal measure. It ended up being picked as one of the five official songs of Summer 2012, which came as news to Delphic, who didn’t even know that their management had submitted it for consideration. Meanwhile, the band took their new songs to two producers. One was Ben Allen, the Atlanta-based producer known for both his implausibly varied CV – he’s presumably the only person who’s worked with both the Notorious BIG and Animal Collective – and Stakhanovite methods: “he’ll be up at seven, do a triathalon, turn up to the studio, then work there until two in the morning.” The other was Tim Goldsworthy. “He’s like a mad scientist. He brings a lot of taste to the record. You can play him something and within a split second he knows whether it’s right or wrong” says James.
Perhaps understandably, given how strong the end results are, the mood in Delphic has shifted to bullish. They “don’t understand” why other artists don’t take the opportunity to make a different-sounding album every time. An album they once feared would never get made has turned into a kind of challenge to the ongoing state of rock and pop. “We just want to fight all the shit,” says Rick. “Like, occasionally you stop to have a listen to what’s out there and just to see what’s going on, and every time I do, it’s so depressing. But you can either lie down and accept that and become part of it, or you can write something that’s going to challenge that. We have to find something that’s strong and challenge it, to try and change it, because it’s not good enough. Even the alternative stuff is just as middle of the road as the middle of the road stuff. If that’s the alternative, well fuck you, we can beat that too. I want to beat the pop music and the alternative music and challenge it and say ‘there’s something more out there than you’re used to’. Because people out there think that’s it. You know, with kids, it’s like: this is what they’re presented with; that’s music. And there’s more out there.” He smiles. “So the aim is to do that really.”
It’s a big task. You sound quite fired-up about it.
“I don’t mind. I mean, maybe on the first record we would have been quite scared, you know, oh, we don’t want to offend anyone. But you know what? It’s the truth. We get very angry about the state of popular music and we want to bloody change it. And why shouldn’t we? It’s rock and roll, isn’t it?”