The popular vote had last year down as a wrong ‘un, what with pop stars and legends shuffling off this mortal coil on each of the 366 days, or so it felt (it had to be a leap year, of course, just to prolong the misery). But for surf-pop trio THE ORIELLES it was golden. They ended 2016 in the best way possible, by signing a deal with storied indie label Heavenly Recordings. But the band’s story started much earlier than 2016: the trio of Esme Dee Hand-Halford on bass and vocals, Henry Carlyle Wade on guitar and vocals, and Sidonie B Hand-Halford on drums, fired out of the starting blocks in 2014 with the Hindering Waves EP and single Yawn. In 2015 came Space Doubt, plus cassette release Joey Says We Got It, followed by the Jobin EP flexidisc in 2016. Which isn’t bad work for a group not yet out of their teens.
The Orielles are from Halifax, but have become adopted Liverpudlians since Sidonie started studying at the University of Liverpool. Halifax isn’t the most rock ‘n’ roll of places I suggest when I catch up with the three band members over Skype, or am I wrong? “There are a couple of bands, local ones only playing social clubs, so I don’t think there’s much going on,” says Henry.
“There’s only one or two venues, but just down the road there’s a great venue, The Trades Club [in Hebden Bridge]. There’s more of a scene there, for sure,” adds Sidonie, Sid for short.
And it was at The Trades Club last week that The Orielles became part of the Heavenly Recordings family proper, playing the Heavenly Weekend in Hebden Bridge mini festival alongside fellow artists on the label’s roster, Hooton Tennis Club, Duke Garwood, M. Craft, TOY, Temples, and The Parrots. Indeed, supporting The Parrots on tour last summer clinched The Orielles their record deal. “It’s a label we’ve always been massively interested in,” Esme says. For the trio, it’s been Heavenly for a while in the band’s sights. Esme picks out Saint Etienne and King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard as favourites from the label’s past and current acolytes, but asserts “they’re all really good to be honest. I can’t fault any of them.”
Esme and Sid are siblings, and met Henry at a house party a few years ago. Coming from musical families did help when putting the band together – Esme and Sid’s dad and uncle are keen musicians – and Henry has played guitar from an early age. “I used to go over to my uncle’s house, he has loads of guitars,” recalls Esme. “One day he gave me a guitar as a present, a Fender Telecaster, and after a few months when we met Henry I decided to play it properly.” Esme has since found her natural home on the bass, and with Henry on guitar, “drums were the only things left!” jokes Sid about her place in the band. “My dad plays the drums and I’d never heard him play before, but when I was about 10 or 11 I remember listening to him play and thinking it was cool.” Having picked up the basics from her dad, Sid taught herself the rest from there.
Meeting the sisters also changed the path Henry was following. “I’ve been taught classical since I was six years old but I’d never thought about playing electric or being in a band really. It was all ensembles and taught pieces, although, weirdly enough, I’ve had a hankering to start learning classical pieces again, and I recently restrung my old guitar I used to do my grades on, and I want to get back into reading noted music.”
The tender ages of all three Orielles is the reason for the charming exuberance in their music, but, contrary to what you might think, this hasn’t held them back. “It’s not been too much of a problem for us. I think people find it more endearing than anything else,” says Esme. “We used to face a lot more issues than we do now,” chips in Sid. “But particularly being signed to Heavenly, that’s all gone.”
The three of them are stretched across the vast north of England at present, with Sid studying in Liverpool, the other two still rooted at home in West Yorkshire. How does the band cope with the geographical divide, and Sid balance it with her studies?
“I’m really passionate about the band so I make it work. In terms of practice, thankfully we do a lot of gigs and they’re like practices, I guess. But when I do go back I’ve got to make the most of it.”
Sid shows me a book of short stories she is reading at the moment – Side Effects by Woody Allen – because it’s film and literature that commonly influence the band’s lyrics. They cite Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 film Death Proof and, more recently, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks TV series, still surreal 27 years after its first broadcast. “It’s concepts of films we like and get really into,” says Esme. “We discuss them sometimes and use that as a basis for the song and then brainstorm ideas off that about the different ways we’ve interpreted certain films or sections of books, into our own story.”
One of the songs they have coming out soon is inspired by psychological horror film Neon Demon from last year, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, about a 16-year-old aspiring model succumbing to the temptations of narcissism, the notable and memorable line being “beauty isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
“We found that really inspiring. The idea of narcissism and consumerism and how those two ideas connect together when society judges things on face value, how attractive it is.”
Having worked the festival circuit pretty cannily over the past two summers – Live at Leeds, Festival No. 6, Sŵn, Sound City and Dot To Dot amongst others – when invitation to play Canadian Music Week came last May, it was probably only The Orielles themselves who were surprised, albeit pleasantly.
“We didn’t really accept the fact that we’d be going there. We kind of shunned it off, thought we’re not big enough or done anything like this. When we found out we had got the funding we were really excited to go,” says Esme. The band benefited from a grant from the PRS for Music Foundation, which, in the last couple of years, has given much needed financial assistance to Esco Williams and Heavenly labelmates Stealing Sheep. Money applied for can go towards recording, promotion and touring. “I think they [PRS] are doing a really great thing and more bands should be encouraged to go for it.”
“[Canada] was fun. We’d go back in a heartbeat. They treat you differently abroad,” adds Sid. “Playing in Canada was a bit surreal and different to the UK. Not only in the sense that you’re playing in a different country but promoters seemed to treat the bands with a lot more respect. I’m not saying promoters in the UK don’t do that but they were a lot easier to get on with. A lot more positive about music and things.”
The Orielles have built up an enthusiastic following in the North West, particularly Manchester, and they see headlining the Deaf Institute in December 2015 as a turning point. “We have fond memories. It was our first big gig in Manchester and we said to ourselves afterwards that it sort of meant something. It felt really good to be out of doing the support slot circuit,” says Sid. Last November they curated Late Night with Jimmy Fallow, a special weekend of gigs at the city’s Fallow Café venue featuring Zuzu, Party Hardly and The Roasts, and were the stars of new music conference Off The Record during the same month, performing at the Night And Day Café.
But the band also reserve a fond spot for Liverpool, which they see as kind of second home, with The Shipping Forecast noted as a favoured venue. “It’s got good food, for one,” laughs Sid. “It’s got a DIY ethic to it, a DIY vibe. Like you’re playing a house show which is something we’ve always liked,” Esme reckons. “It’s really different to playing a ‘normal’ show. It’s way more laid back, the audience are so close to you that it feels so different to a gig.”
With sights trained firmly on exporting their winsome, sun-soaked guitar pop much further in 2017, The Orielles reveal that they’ve just finished recording their next single and its B-side, due out at the end of March, and will tour the UK in April. After that, they record an album – already written – for a pencilled in release date of October or November. But they’re not content in resting on that, they’ve more ambitions on top of current recording schedules, and ultimately aim to emulate the success of another labelmate, Hooton Tennis Club.
“It’d be great to play America, and the rest of Europe. We’ve only played in Amsterdam and that was so much fun, but we’d like to discover more places,” says Sid, adding more to her busy list.
2017 and 2018 sorted, then.