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Delphic

Prepped for Success

Aug 05, 2010 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Web Exclusive
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Early blushes of success and all the superlatives that come with it can threaten to topple even the most level-headed of bands. But Delphic—whose debut full-length Acolyte was released earlier this summer in the U.S.—is well studied for their role as “next big thing.” Under the Radar originally interviewed the band in our Winter 2010 Issue in January (when the album came out in the U.K.), but in honor of their U.S. release we sat down with two-thirds of the Manchester trio—James Cook (vocal/guitar) and Rick Boardman (multi-instrumentalist)—before their performance at Dangerbird Records to discuss first musical obsessions, first gigs, and everything that went into their first tastes of success. (The lineup is rounded out by guitarist Matthew Cocksedge.)

Laura Studarus: Where did you grow up?

James Cook: We actually grew up separately, I grew up in southwest near Bristol, then I moved up to Manchester about 6 or 7 years ago. Kinda drawn in by the music scene. Then met Rick. We were in university together. Rick and Matt were old friends from school. So they’d known each other for a long time. Gradually I got introduced as their friendship grew. I kind of joined their band. Their ailing band, and saw its downfall. And then me, Matt, and Rick started a band up together just trying the to do the things we wanted to do—the things that moved us rather than trying to purposely move other people.

So before growing up, what were music your obsessions?

Rick Boardman: For me personally, music came very quickly. Before that it was football. I grew up in Manchester so it’s kinda just two things really that Manchester is famous for: music and football. So I was obsessed with football and when I realized I was never going to make it as a footballer I thought I’d just dedicate myself to music.

Did you play a lot growing up?

Boardman: I tried to but I was always too skinny. The bigger kids would butt me around the park. It was horrible. I used to get bullied. The outskirts of Manchester can be quite rough, and I was a skinny posh kid who went out and tried to play football. They just tore me apart. It was horrendous. But I made myself do it for some reason. And then realized I couldn’t do it so I just stuck with the piano.

Who were some of the earliest musicians that you grew attached to?

Boardman: I’m quite influenced by my mum and dad’s music taste. They were always feeding me. I guess great Manchester bands like The Smiths. And then people like Kraftwerk. They told me that when I was six I was begging them to go to a Kraftwerk show. I was deemed too young to go with them so I couldn’t go. My Dad once told me, “If I catch you listening to Van Morrison I’m going to kick you out of the house.” So as you can imagine I really looked up to his and mum’s record collection. They knew a lot so they’d feed me constantly. Every weekend they’d say, “Rick here’s a new CD,” and give me a New Order CD, or a Kraftwerk CD, or Suzanne Vega or something.

Cook: One memory that sticks in my mind, I was in school and one of my friends called Josh—I was about seven—and he wouldn’t let me pass for some reason. He said “I’m not going to let you pass until you tell me how much you like Michael Jackson.” And I said “Michael Jackson, who’s that?” I’d never heard of him. And I said, “Okay, fine, I like Michael Jackson.” I went home and said, “Mum, I was asked about Michael Jackson today. Who’s that?” And then she told me all about him. I think I first got into Bad. And then Dangerous. I went and saw him on tour and got into Thriller and Off the Wall. All his catalogue was truly inspiring. I had a poster on the back of my wall from the age of eight onwards—a life sized cutout picture of him. I used to measure myself against that picture every single night. Just to see if I could one day be the same size as him.

Boardman: I think he was actually quite small, wasn’t he?

Cook: No I saw that documentary, he was actually quite tall! So yeah, that was one of my earliest memories. Just Michael Jackson being the biggest hero ever.

Did you ever catch up to him in height?

Cook: [Laughs] I think by the time I had gotten to his height I was kind of out of that phase.

Boardman: [Laughs] You’d like to think so, wouldn’t you? I was just saying today that the most exciting time is when I was young and you’re getting into music a bit—maybe not the same level as you are when you’re 16 to 18. That’s the point really, that I liked to play with my dad’s vinyl collection and first really discovered The Beatles, and then The Rolling Stones, and then you go to ‘70s music and found out about Bowie. And then you discover punk music. I guess because we were born in the ‘80s, the music of our youth—Oasis was probably the biggest band and Michael Jackson—we missed out on all those bands, obviously. So it’s such an exciting time from about the age of 16 to 21, when you’re just suddenly discovering all this music out there that you don’t know anything about. And you raid your parent’s vinyl collection and you find all these records. It’s really exciting. I wish I could go back to that time again.

Cook: It would be impossible to inspire yourself with music—to go out and hunt it all down. So you’ve really got to give credit to parents or family or friends. One time I said to my dad, “Dad, who were you into growing up? What bands were you into?” And he said, “Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd.” I just picked the first one that he said and went and bought all of the Led Zeppelin box sets and back catalogue and just really got into them. And then I became obsessed with Led Zeppelin. And then you’ve got another friendship group in school who are getting into the Radiohead scene, and The Smiths and Joy Division. And it’s like, “Wow, okay, what can I take from you?” So you’re constantly taking things from different places and different people. And I was learning piano from the age of 6 or 7. So from that side you’ve got all the classical music that you’re trying to listen to. So you can just take from everywhere. It’s just so important to have those kind of people in your life.

You missed going to Kraftwerk when you were six years old—what was your first experience with live music?

Boardman: I can’t remember…Ahh…the first concert was The Stereophonics I think. Either The Stereophonics or—I don’t want to say it because everyone compares us—New Order was my first concert. They were around the same kind of time. I would have been like 11 or 12. Yeah, I remember, New Order played loads of Joy Division songs and I was like, “What the hell is this one?” “It’s from a band called Joy Division. You’re too young to understand.” Yeah and Bernard Sumner was doing all these Ian Curtis impressions. So either Stereophonics or that. I’d definitely choose the New Order one because it sounds better. It beat Stereophonics by a week or something.

How did you react to the spectacle of seeing music live?

Boardman: I just felt it was the same as watching it on TV. It’s just too big. Those gigs I think aren’t great to see. I’ve seen like, U2 in a stadium and big bands—and it is mind-blowing. But sometimes it can be too big. Sometimes I think it can be more fun for the band to say, “Wow, look at all these people.” But there is something better about seeing a band in a smaller, more intimate venue. I saw Coldplay when I was 16 in a little venue called The Roadhouse in Manchester and there was like 50 people there. And I’ll remember that more than I’ll remember—I haven’t seen them again—but if I saw them a second time in a stadium. It’s the little gig that I would remember.

Cook: I think what sticks in your mind about the big shows is kind of the spirit that goes with the audience. The community feel of the audience. In the front section of the audience anyway. When you get to a big concert you’ve got so many thousands in the front of the audience. I remember seeing Chemical Brothers at Glastonbury and that was just mind-blowing because everywhere you look around you everyone’s having exactly the same good time. No one’s got any negative energy there. They just want to party, they just want to have a great time. You just remember it for having the most amazing time.

How old were you when you went to your first show?

Cook: I was probably about 12 or 13 when I went to that Michael Jackson show. Which is mad. When you’re that young you can’t go to that kind of concert on your own—to watch little up-and-coming bands in your own hometown or whatever. So you’ve got to go to the big ones where they let kids in.

What was that like? He was known for his shows.

Cook: All I remember about it is having a periscope. They were selling periscopes. I was quite small then, so I had to look though it. I spent most of the time looking at his show over people’s heads watching it though a mirror.

Boardman: Really? I’m dead jealous that you saw Michael Jackson because I never did.

Were either of you in bands in elementary school or high school?

Boardman: I think our former years, kinda drew parallels. I’d always played piano. I’d never really wanted to form a band before. But it was when I realized, I was about 15, it was going to be difficult to join a band playing piano. So I started to play the drums, so I could join a band, basically. So at about the age of 16, I started to play the drums, then just formed a band with Matt at school. I’ve been in several bands before Delphic and I’ve been in almost every one with Matt. So yeah, I guess 16. And I guess you must have been at a similar age.

So what made you want to join a band rather than being a solo piano player?

Boardman: I’m not the singer in the band; I do little bits of vocals. James has a much better voice so he does lead vocals. I never imagined myself as a singer. I never imagined myself as that kind of person. I just imagined myself as someone who would be in a band and help write songs. So I was always going to have to join with other people. I don’t know, it’s just new for me to be this engaged—you’re going to get much more excitement working with other people because that’s just the most creative time. When you bounce ideas off someone, there’s a spark in the middle that you can’t really quantify. It just became obvious at a young age that that’s what’s exciting. You have those moments talking to people of “Oh we can do this” with your mates and you’re like “Wow! Yeah yeah!” That becomes exciting and then you just make it reality.

Cook: I think what it all boils down to is when you’re at an age that’s so impressionable and you’re exposed to all these new experiences and all these new bands and you’re like, “Wow! Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, Coldplay, all these big bands, it’s inspiring!” You watch all their videos, you watch the concerts, and you want to be them. So the only way to be them, or to be like them, is to join a band.

Boardman: All our favorite musicians are bands—apart from Michael Jackson.

Cook: Yeah, there’s very few—Michael Jackson, Björk, and Beck—people like that who have done it on their own. But still they’ve got that whole band-like [thing], playing with other musicians. I think that was the problem with our first bands. You are so overwhelmed listening to all these different types of music and all these different types of styles that there’s no focus. You want to be a rock band with some subtleties of say, Radiohead, and vocals of Jeff Buckley or something. Not everything fits together. Nothing feels right; it doesn’t feel like it’s got a definitive vision. So when Delphic formed we kinda knew we had gotten that out of our system. And we knew what we wanted to make.

Rick: I think everyone goes though it. This is the thing when you discover loads of music from the age of 16 to 21. You don’t really know what you’re doing. You just take everything in. Everything is an influence, but you don’t really understand how it can be used—whether it’s going to be used. Or if you’re going to go to law school or something. So you’re taking in all this culture all this music and it gets to a point where we obviously decided we’re old enough, we’re mature enough to kind of channel it into something. So all that pre-period was really useful in terms of amassing all that knowledge, learning about things, making mistakes. The first gig we ever played—me and Matt in our old band—was 16. We turned up to this little venue outside of Manchester. It was the day of a petrol strike so the only people there were my mum and dad. It was really depressing. We turned up with the band and the guitars. And they said, “Where are your amps?” And we said, “Amps? What do you mean amps?” They said, “You need some guitar amps.” And we said “What? We just plug our guitars into the PA.” And they just completely too took piss out of us! They laughed at us! So we bought some amps for 150 quid that were knocking around in the backroom that we then used for the next five years of our lives. So you’re making mistakes along the way. So then you’ve got to make sure you do it right when you’ve found the right ingredients.

It sounds like Delphic is your grownup band now.

Boardman: I guess it is in a way. When you listen to Bowie’s early stuff, I was listening to the “Laughing Gnome” the other day, and it’s such a random track! It took him three or four albums to get going. So although this is our first breakthrough band in terms of producing an album, those five years are like albums worth of forgotten material.

Cook: It’s just impossible to strike gold with your first toe in the water with music.

Boardman: I think the bands that do most of the time will struggle to repeat it if they’re just hitting something randomly—which isn’t always the case. But I imagine the people who say, “I’m just going to join a band” and then whoa, “this just worked”—can it work seven albums down the line?

Did you always want to be a musician or was there a time you were exploring other career goals?

Cook: Learning piano from the age of 7, you get to a certain standard and you’re like, “What am I going to do with my life?” So you go though school. At one point I was going to do archeology, I was actually going to go study that at university. But all the time you’re still kinda playing music. Your first band starts and you take on these choruses and you realize—well this is what happened with me—you realize that you don’t want to do archeology. I was really getting into the guitar at that point and started playing with bands. I didn’t want to go away and leave all of that behind for this career that I wouldn’t’ enjoy. So I think that you kind of develop along with your instruments—playing piano, playing guitar—you just know it’s inside you. You just know you’re going to be in a band one day. I think from a very early age the parallels run through us. We probably both thought the same kind of things. The way that the education works is they always try to get you to do something like lawyer or doctor or teacher or something like that, but if you’ve got a passion for something you’ve just got to follow it. I just tried to follow that and I know you tried to do the same.

Boardman: I got bollocks at school because I was doing my A-levels and everyone was like, “You’re going to go apply for Oxbridge and do Latin,” and I was like “I think I want to go do music so I can meet some people to be in a band with!” They were just like, “You’re kidding.” My grandad sat me down and had a big conversation. My dad’s a lawyer and he was like “Whatever you do, don’t become a lawyer, do what you want to do because I have a miserable life.” He’s a happy person, but he wishes he could do something crazy. So my granddad sat me down and said, “Go study Law at Oxbridge.” And I said, “Fuck you! I’m going to go meet James Cook and join a band!” [Laughs]

So it sounds like you both had very supportive parents.

Boardman: I can’t imagine what it would be like without that support.

Cook: It’s quite heartbreaking actually when I think back at it now. To think what my parents have seen me go though, or had to put up with. And the things they’ve had to buy me, the money they’ve spent to try to get me where I am now. Buying first guitars, buying for amplifiers, paying for all my music lessons, it must be so expensive! I was going to be the first person in the family to go to university to do archeology and they watched me say, “I don’t want to do that, I’m going to stay behind to carry on with the band.” I remember at the time they were pretty gutted. “James you’ve got to be the first person in the family to go to university.” And I was like, “No I just really want to play guitar, I want to be in a band.” And my Mom was really supportive. My dad was a bit more dubious but now they’re great about it. But to think of the heartache it probably put them though over the last 10 years or so, it breaks me.

Boardman: My parents never really mentioned it, they said, “Do what you want to do,” but I felt a lot of pressure just from having all this education and spending all this time on music. Something’s got to happen because I’ve spent so much time on it. By the time we had started Delphic we had finished University in 2005 and James moved in with my Mom and Dad.

Cook: Rick was there as well—

Boardman: —James was having an affair with my mother. [Laughs] So that was in Manchester and we lived there for a bit. We were still in this band that was coming to an end, but we still thought we could push it. We had a couple of dates with Kings of Leon and we thought, “Well maybe something can happen.” It wasn’t happening. Everytime something went wrong we had to find a new band member. We had all these band members. And then it was a couple of years after university when we started Delphic. Everyone’s been really supportive and everyone really wants us to do this, but if we don’t do something with it now, we’re going to find it difficult to stop and start again. We’d probably do it because we’d refuse to give in and we love playing music, but it’s at that point where we’ve really got to do it for ourselves and everyone who has supported us. This is the bit that sounds really X-Factor! [shouts] And then we made it, AMERICA! But it’s true, we really did put everything into it to start Delphic. James’ friendship circle he had adopted over the last 10 years, a really solid group of friends, had a massive fall out—lost our entire social group. The three of us were certainly three reclusives with no friends. We were just living and trying to write this album with nothing else basically. It’s not like we’re just working class heroes. It’s not a story like John Lennnon or the Gallagher brothers or something. It’s all relative. So for what we knew, it was quite a big thing. We’ve lost all our mates, all our relationships certainly break down ‘cause we went so intense.

Cook: It all comes down to how much work it is. It doesn’t mater what social class you’re from or what your background is, really. It depends on how much work you put in and we were working so hard every single day.

(www.delphic.cc)



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led zeppelin lyrics
February 8th 2011
4:43pm

Awesome interview, I love hearing about bands as “real” people, they sound really fun I’m going to have to check out their music now.

Lemon
December 2nd 2011
7:01pm

Delphic id dope-check them out if you have not already-Manchester woot woot

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