‘Gush’, the short film shot by Sam Joyce that accompanies perhaps the most unreserved of moments of an unequivocally candid, honest record – captures the most exuberant and human of moments from the group as they discuss just what getting to do what they do together means to them. It’s stark, warm and utterly ingenuous – it’s evident just how much they live and breathe into this group – and just quite how much it does the same for them. They burst with pride just at the opportunity to be able to share something like this with one another, and having embodied this into their music, they’ve crafted a stunning album of evisceration, growth and union.
‘Bedroom’, the debut album of Joe Vickers (guitar), Danny Hull (synth), Ryan Smith (guitar and vocals), Jordan Smith (bass) and Luke Irvin (drums) – has been the consequence of three years of living and learning – the breaking and healing of relationships, the vices we seek to escape that end up bruising us further – and the great relief you can take from simply eliciting such hurt and experience in sound and narrative. It’s no surprise movie soundtracks informed the listening process as they’ve wrote over the process – it plays out much the same – except this is no fiction – this is human and starkly affecting.
As five of us. get in touch, both chief writer Ryan Smith and myself just a little hungover – himself bedecked in a Scarface revere shirt, having just watched early 90s dark comedy The King Fisher and regretting not just drinking again instead – the mood is perhaps surprisingly jovial. As we all discuss whether the current heatwave feels like being covered in glue, Joe’s new found affection for nine minute fiestas and how much you can really evoke in a song from playing ten hours of FIFA – BDRMM once again show that sheer, resonant openness – that collective penchant that has informed one of the best records of the year.
Have you been able to stay creative during this time or has it been comforting to simply exist?
Jordan: It’s been a bit crazy to be fair, it started out a bit weird because we couldn’t really do anything. But then as it’s gone on, me and Ryan were still able to shoot across and work on stuff even though we weren’t together. It was a new way of working really, because we haven’t ever really not sat in a room and worked on something. It was nice to take a different creative viewpoint from it. But at the same time I’ve been sitting around doing nothing, and it got to the point where it felt like it’s just been a bit draining, like what can you write about playing FIFA for ten hours, “Salford City are in the Premier League”.
Joe: To be fair I think the album coming out was a bit of a blessing in disguise during lockdown, because it felt like there was stuff going on still, even though we weren’t leaving the house, it kept us alive a bit.
Ryan: I moved into a new house, so i’ve been converting my shed into a place to write, so that’s been nice to have that project to do, even having a brand new environment in your house to write, getting out the bedroom.
It must’ve been quite interesting releasing your debut album within this current state?
Ryan: Yeah it was, I suppose as it was our debut we didn’t know anything different. I guess when the next one comes out and we’re actually allowed to play, it’ll be even better. But with this one we’re still finding stuff to do, even between doing daft sessions, we’re just trying to keep the momentum going as much as you can. There’s no point in getting bummed out more about the situation because you’re going to lose optimism, it’s not good for yourself. It was nice to have that reinforcement of engagement from people as it were.
Jordan: On the release day we had a full day of different shows that never got to go ahead, that would’ve been really fun. But in other ways, in ways that other creatives have been able to be creative and get the same amount of, if not more, praise. We did a Rough Trade session, and that got so much positive feedback, probably more than if we’d played a show. It’s good in some ways, but I’d really rather play a show.
I think things like that are much more highlighted than perhaps than a live show, in that respect it’s quite a balance of it being quite handy in getting the word across but then it doesn’t have the same release for you guys that a live show has?
Joe: Yeah totally, I don’t know about everyone else but I think these last few months have made me appreciate that what we have as friends, and also as a band, is a really special thing to be involved with. That’s been quite cool really, to take a step back and appreciate it, it’s been good.
I think it can be quite a whirlwind can’t it, where most of the time you don’t get the chance to stop and reflect upon it and work out what’s been going on. So to be able to do it in a very forced way like this, must actually be quite a nice thing?
Jordan: Totally, we’ve just started practicing again properly because we’re able to now. We’ve only practiced three times but even mentally I’m in such a better mindset because I can go and spend a few hours a week doing this. It’s so cathartic and the weeks aren’t as long now, it’s easier.
Ryan: Yeah man it’s always looking forward to practice, having something to look forward to again, that’s definitely something positive that’s happening again.
Let’s talk about the record – a stunning personal album- it finds such beauty in sheer lucid openness of not only the lyricism but the music itself. I imagine getting the record out was quite a cathartic release in itself for that reason, almost a necessity?
Ryan: Definitely, we had the date and there was talk of pushing it back but that was never going to be a thing. To have that to look forward to, even with the current situation, was such a nice thing to look forward to and it’s been such a long time coming, or it felt like it has been anyway. At the same time as well, it feels like it’s happened really quickly that I want to do it again. But like Jordan said, there’s only so much I can write about, like “oh, that kettle was really hot”. But i’ve felt like writing more recently, so now it’s about doing stuff towards the next thing.
Obviously your music is quite introspective, do you feel like writing within this constraint makes it even more so, because you haven’t got something else to focus on apart from looking in?
Ryan: Yeah literally, when you are just stuck with yourself all the time you’ve got nothing to do but think, which isn’t necessarily the best thing, so when you’re writing music like we do it does help in the most bleak but bittersweet way possible.
In that sense it is quite handy isn’t it, because it does give you a real release – it does feel like you are shedding everything across the record – what I really liked was that the album plays out to me as if you are playing with the very temperament of dissonance and tranquility – it captures the extreme ups and downs of life and finding yourself in that sense. Do you feel you are able to express yourselves as much in the music as the lyricism? Is it a different type of release?
Jordan: It feels weird for me, obviously it helps being Ryan’s brother, I’ve been around him quite a lot and I know about him. But to go through in parallel a series of experiences with a person, and then seeing them write something about it is powerful to see them do it but then it also means something to myself that probably gets put into the music. I think a lot of time in the studio was spent being together, and that was nice because it felt like we were all recording something rather than recording separate parts and then smashing it together. I think the record gets our collective consciousness and puts it out to some people, which is nice because a lot of people can resonate with that, because it’s different viewpoints from different musical or lyrical ways, or maybe not – it might be really shit.
Joe: I just like to play match the girlfriend to the song really, I’ve known Ryan for a few years so there’s four years worth of relationships so you can pick the lyrics out and work out who it’s about. But in a nice way.
Ryan: I’m never going to see anyone ever again.
Then there’ll be no music.
Ryan: Exactly, and everyone will be smiling again.
The lyrics themselves lie very much within their laconic state, but are so forthright and unfaltering. Was it difficult to shed yourself in such a way in the sense of the music doesn’t stay with you permanently? Or did it actually help you to come to terms with things through something so expressive?
Ryan: Definitely, because the tracks have been written over three years, so I was just writing for therapy for myself more than anything else, like when you talk to somebody you already feel a little bit better, so writing it down does. I like being open but also in a way that isn’t just to me, it can be interpreted in so many different ways. People can hear it and not necessarily think it’s about whatever the track is about, people will be able to resonate in something that’s happened to them, or even in just being honest, it might make people think that if you can do this then maybe I can.
Exactly, and obviously that must be quite a gratifying thing, for you to be able to release it and also for people to be able to hear and think that?
Ryan: It’s nice that it’s been received that way. Obviously it’s difficult to be so open, but it’s a quick way for me to be able to do that, it’s almost like a confidence thing, to be able to feel like you can say it – if it’s not to one person then hundreds. I was going to say thousands but I’m not that big headed.
I personally took a great deal of comfort from the way the record plays out – it sounds almost as if it’s embracing you while urging you to unfurl and be explorative for your own sake. Do you feel the natural way your sound has developed is as much informed by your experiences as a group as each of your own personal growth?
Joe: The only thing I was thinking is that it’s almost like a narrow collective of the music we’re into, and maybe in future releases it’ll be a wider range of sounds that we might want to experience with and play. I know from the playlists in the van, whether it’s Jazz or Egpytian Funk, there’s a lot more we can do. It was wanting to create an album that had a sound that continued all the way through, and it made sense that we pushed it in that direction.
Jordan: It sort of categorises a small frame of time, in the fact that it’s always been us and we’ve all seen it develop from the beginning, so it was nice. Even in the studio towards the beginning we could probably nearly all agree that doing the tracklist was harder than doing some of it, because it took us so long to create this world that we had actually tried to set out to do. In the end it was really gratifying to get to a place where it does encompass us as people but it does just encompass us in a place or time, in a few years we could be doing something else. I think it portrays us as people and who we are quite well.
It’s an album of growth isn’t it – in many respects?
Ryan: Yeah definitely, I mean when we started I don’t think we really knew. People would ask us what genre we were, and honestly I really wish I could just watch ourselves live as an audience member to be able to say, because still to this day I don’t know. Obviously shoegaze is what we get put down as, which is great, I love it, but still to an extent not just sticking to that one genre makes it a lot more interesting and I think, especially when we’re in the studio or practice space, the stuff we’ve been writing has been a lot less distortion, get rid of that for a bit and let’s actually focus on the songwriting rather than the noise, not that we do that, we’re trying to be better.
This is it, because for me the album is much more about the mood and atmosphere it creates outside of the whole pigeonholing idea that we have to label ourselves in this landscape. In the hyper rushed nature of modern music consumption and – it feels very revitalising to stop and allow this record to wash over you or delve in deep and explore its many facets. Where do you feel the record sits in such times?
Ryan: I don’t know, I really don’t know. It’s a guitar album but I’m very influenced by film scores – so maybe that’s where all the interludes and atmosphere comes from it. That’s why the last track is called ‘Forget The Credits’ because it’s the last long, but forget them cause it’s not the end. Try not to look at it and focus on what the album is and where it stands, I think that’s the best way to look at it – not to try to find yourself somewhere to be, but carry on not knowing.
Joe: I think what has been nice is that people seem to listen to it as a whole – obviously you hear a lot of people saying the appeal of an album doesn’t exist as much anymore, but I think people seemed to of appreciated each track and listen to it as one flowing thing, so it seems to make sense as a concept of an album, so I think that’s been quite nice.
Now that the record is out, what have you guys taken personally from making the record?
Ryan: Probably the fact that we could do it. When you come from Hull you don’t expect to get to the point of releasing an album – let alone getting to release it on such a great label and potentially being able to do it again. So it’s almost like what I was trying to say actually mattered? But no, it’s been such a big passion of mine to make music that, as cliche as it is, it feels like it’s all you’ve got, so when you start to kind of start to do well or starts to be well received, it meant something to me. It’s nice to be able to do what you wanted to do and we’ll probably continue it as long as we can.
Jordan: It’s kind of an addictive thing really – because we started the record having no idea how it was going to go, finished it, and then you had the set date of releasing it which is like eight months after you’ve finished it. So you’ve got that eight months listening to it and thinking “god this is the best thing I’ve ever heard”, and then the next day you think “fucking hell are we actually going to release this”. Then it came out, and all this good stuff has happened and it’s unbelievable and I couldn’t be prouder – but there’s no sense of pride or anything actually hit me yet, it’s a sense of relief that people have enjoyed it. But like we said we’re already pushing to do the second album, we’re already writing for that – I can’t wait to start recording again because it’s this process of making something, then hoping people don’t hate it, and then doing the same thing over again.
Ryan: Album two’s going to be bad init.
Jordan: It’s going to be our Ska record. I’m taking this music to crazy new places man.
Obviously the first record is out and you’ve already said about being excited about pushing on – it was quite interesting you saying about having to approach writing in this way during this time – so how are you finding navigating that? Because instead of being in the room together developing these ideas, it’s now very stop and go I suppose?
Ryan: It’s still kind of the same, I’m just writing words and then the music will just come with it. But before I’d write the songs and then take them to practice, whereas now I feel like moving forward it should be the collective of five different ideas rather than one person – that’s the way I’d like it to develop, because there’s only so much I can say – and I myself want to know what everyone else has to say.
Jordan: Practicing has been us working it out together rather than Ryan bringing this demo and let’s learn all the parts. It’s nice to approach it in an improvisational way and going off that, rather than a set routine. Both ways is amazing, but to test out the new stuff in a different way is always nice and that’s the way we are heading.
Joe: I think we’ve all said, it’s quite overwhelming the idea of putting together a new record, and how many years in building up to it, we don’t have four years to do the next one, so it feels like not massive pressure – it’s not like being a nurse is it – but there’s a little bit of pressure to achieve it in less time.
I suppose, as you say, because it’ll be done in less time – do you think that will develop more of an intense sound, perhaps more primal?
Ryan: Potentially, the stuff we’re writing at the moment is a lot rawer, and I think the fact that we’ll feel like we need to release something will definitely change the way we write, especially the style, it’s just exciting to have the prospect of doing it again. So being able to constant change that sound you have is an experimentation anyway, making our sound as accessible as possible. Give us less time.
Joe: I think it’s constantly a battle though isn’t it, I know with the demos Ryan sends, one day it’s making a two minute emotional song, and then the next it’s wanting to make a nine minute fiesta.
Ryan: Is that an ice cream? That’s the name of album two, Nine Minute Fiesta. What was it you said yesterday, you can’t say boo to a ghost anymore? That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard anyone say.
Joe: I’m done.
‘Bedroom’ is out now via Sonic Cathedral. ‘Gush: A Short Film’ can be watched below here at Wax Music
Words: Ross Jones Photography: Sam Joyce