The North Londoners discuss some of the inspirations behind their genre-skewering “warped pop.”
North Londoners Sorry aren’t your typical U.K. guitar band. Although songs like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Right Round the Clock” can feel like tragicomic meditations on the lives of washed-up rock stars, their debut album, 925, is more heavily indebted to rap and pop than rock. And Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen—the duo at the heart of the group—have been vocal about how hip-hop has inspired their lo-fi sound.
“I don’t think we are that much of a rock band,” O’Bryen told AdHoc over the phone. “I actually think the music we write is much more free-forming. It doesn’t lend itself to a genre.”
Rounded out by drummer Lincoln Barrett and bassist Campbell Baum, Sorry’s stormy songs tend to feature narrators who teeter between glory and ruin. Lorenz and O’Bryen’s voices alternate between a drawl and a snarl as they sing about excess, scandal, and loneliness. “Right Round the Clock,” for instance, combines lyrics about one-sided love with a riff on Tears for Fears’ “Mad World.” “I’m feeling kinda crazy, I’m feeling kinda mad,” Lorenz sings. “The dreams in which we’re famous are the best I’ve ever had.”
Sampling is prominent on 925 and the band’s previously-released mixtapes, so AdHoc asked Louis O’Bryen to pull together a playlist of all the samples Sorry has used in their music, from The Jungle Book to bands like Ween and Radiohead. O’Bryen discussed the story behind a handful of them with AdHoc, along with their working process and their obsession with rock star archetypes.
925 is out March 27 via Domino Records. Sorry make their New York debut on March 12 at Brooklyn’s Union Pool, with support from Youbet. You can also catch them at AdHoc’s SXSW Showcase in Austin, TX on March 18 at Cheer Up Charlie’s.
I know that in the past you’ve mentioned acts like Pro-Era as being a point of inspiration. Are there any rappers that you’re drawn to at the moment?
Louis O’Bryen: Well, yeah—Pro-Era a lot. We like MF Doom. I like Pharcyde a lot. In terms of new rappers, I don’t know if they’re inspirations, but I find that trap rappers are quite interesting. But I wouldn’t say that we’re inspired by them.
I will say rap is an influence on our sound—definitely with the mixtapes and for some of the production. The way hip-hop uses samples is influential—and the way it has influenced bands like Massive Attack and Burial. Other stuff that we listen to—Micachu and The Shapes, we like a lot. Alex G, we love a lot. And then older stuff like Portishead, Elliott Smith, and Cat Power.
You use samples in your own work as well—along with interpolations of other artists. On “Right Round the Clock,” for example, you put your own spin on the lyrics from Tears for Fears’ “Mad World.” “Snakes,” which originally appeared on the mixtape Home Demo/ns Vol I, samples a scene from the Jungle Book movie. Is there something you look for when it comes to sampling?
Loads of things. Usually, it just stems from an emotion or a lyric in the song that inspires us to use a sample. When we were making “Right Round The Clock,” we kind of jokingly sung that along, then it really fit. We were actually trying to write like a Tears for Fears-type of song, like an ‘80s song, so it was kind of like a happy accident. It’s usually just stuff like that.
The idea of snakes for that song on the mixtape just made me think of the snake in The Jungle Book. We ended sampling the “Trust in Me” song in The Jungle Book, then using that in the song, so it’s usually just something that happens in the writing process which will inspire us to use a sample.
In a previous interview, Asha said that recording at home is a more cathartic experience than performing live. Is that something that you would agree with?
Yeah. Depends on the gig, really. But sometimes gigs can be really cathartic.
We always say that the reason that we’re in music is to write music. So that’s where our heart is, really. The live stuff is equally as important, and we take it seriously, and I really enjoy doing it. I will say I’m more comfortable at home—so in that sense, I would say it’s probably more cathartic. [But] sometimes live gigs can be really cathartic as well—especially when you’ve been on tour for a couple of weeks and [you’re] feeling really tired. Then you play a gig, and it can be quite emotional.
Towards the end of last year, we went on tour with a band called Shame. We’d been on tour with them for ages—there was a little break in between, but for about a month. So our last gig was in France, in this massive venue in Paris which had sold out. We were all really tired and probably quite hungover at this point, but it was an amazing gig and there were so many people. Shame are good friends of ours, so it was nice to be able to share that moment with them.
Your videos tend to evoke this old Hollywood glamor, and Elvis has appeared both in “Rock And Roll Star” and “Right Round The Clock.” What draws you to these themes?
Especially with “Right Round The Clock,” we wanted the video to be quite Hollywood because we thought it would suit the song. Elvis Presley is just a reference to the rock & roll-star thing. We don’t really say this, but the videos are really important to us. I always find that if you really like a song and go to watch the video online, if it doesn’t correlate with the music and the video is bad, then I feel like it takes away from the song a bit. The music is the centerpiece, and we want everything else to add to that.
We were watching Kill Bill: Volume 2 on tour, and I think that was kind of fresh in our minds for the “Right Round The Clock” video. So we did want to make it Hollywood, that one. There are loads of films that definitely inspire the video aspect of it, like Cabaret. But we also like to make the videos lo-fi as well. Just depends on the song.
In previous interviews, both you and Asha have been resistant to being labeled a “rock band.” Can you tell me a little bit more about why that is?
I don’t think we are that much of a rock band. You don’t want to be pigeonholed by genre so early on, and I think it’s easy for people to say they are “this” or they are “that.” I actually think the music we write is much more free-forming, it doesn’t lend itself to a genre.
I can understand why people would say we are post-punk, because it is easy for people to be interested in that. But I think with this album, it’s a lot less genre reliant—a lot of music nowadays isn’t really based on genre.
If you could make up your own genre to describe your music, what would it be called?
I quite like the term “warped pop.”