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'It Feels Like A Landmark Album For Us': Delta Sleep Discuss The Expansive 'Ghost City'

Friday, 10 August 2018 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

Photo: Paola Baltazar​

Much like prog before it, math-rock hasn't always appeared the most accessible of genres. As a form, it's designed to keep listeners on their toes, directing and misdirecting with syncopated rhythms, jagged melodic progressions and non-standard time signatures. That might not seem like a recipe for commercial success, but if there's one thing Brits can get behind it's art that's awkward, intelligent and self aware.

Slowly but surely, this corner of alternative scene has developed a significant underground following in the UK and now has a bespoke festival in the form of ArcTanGent, which sells out every year. Brighton four-piece Delta Sleep can testify to the growth better than most: they had the opportunity to record their latest record in a luxurious Italian studio, have received play from mainstream DJs on Radio 1 and soundtracked everything from the Tour de France to ITV's World Cup highlights.

“You can feel that it's growing,” says frontman Devin Yüceil, who has previously jokingly declared he preferred to describe the band's style as 'Irish goodwill music' but acknowledges that a movement of like-minded acts are on the rise. “It really feels exciting now, like it's continuously growing. Looking back to the mid-2000s and earlier incarnations of the scene, I think there's more momentum this time.

“The math-rock sound is incredibly varied and diverse. We never really set out to make math-rock but it so happens because we use odd time signatures and song structures we get thrown into that category. The style has a lot of melody and so much intelligence, which just appeals to us basically. It's about making the music that feels right for us.”

Alongside acts like Tangled Hair, who recently released their debut and are set to go on tour with them next month, Delta Sleep are writing the latest chapter in math-rock's development. The band's first album, 'Twin Galaxies', established them as a technical guitar-led act with a taste for adventure – tracks would often spiral out of control over the course of five or six minutes. But the singles from its follow-up, 'Ghost City', are a different beast entirely: tightly structured, fiercely melodic and guided by rousing gang vocals.

“We didn't intend for that,” Yüceil says. “For example, we wanted to make this big epic ending for the track Sans Soleil and it just kind of happened. We've definitely started doing more of that – verse, chorus, verse structures on some of the songs.  In Twin Galaxies, the song would start and it would go through a journey and end somewhere completely different. This time, a lot of the songs do have a chorus or hook that repeat.

“I guess that was a conscious decision – simplifying the writing process and making it more accessible, but mainly for us rather than anyone else. It's about writing fully rounded songs, and they were so natural. And this album feels like our first in a way. The last album was written with an old line-up. This one reflects our personality as a group so much. I'm so excited, really.”

For all 'Ghost City' is a leaner beast than its predecessor, Yüceil still stresses that the concept isn't. He describes the record as “Blade Runner meets something out of a Black Mirror episode”, a tech-noir illustration of the near future in which the world operates as one city in a collective consciousness under the rule of corporate giants. Organic nature and wildlife are described as a thing of the past – ironic, given the band recorded the entire record at a picturesque town near the Italian Alps.

“That played a part in how we implemented it I suppose,” Yüceil says. “We were invited there to do a live session when we toured Italy a couple of years ago. It was incredible – you could see the Alps from the garden. So when to figure it out to record 'Ghost City', that was the number one choice. We checked out the prices – it was surprisingly cheap, more so than the UK – so we drove all the way down.

“Lyrically, the album itself is a concept. When I write lyrics, I like to visualise a world or certain objects or certain situations and write about that. What I did with ‘Ghost City’ is with each song define a specific scene in a bigger story and write about a specific moment in the main character's journey. The whole world is just one massive city. Everything is grey, concrete – imagine Tokyo but every piece of land is covered by a city."

In a way, it's jarring to envision such a bleak world given their warm vocals and colourful instrumental style. But it would also be fair to describe Delta Sleep as a band of contrasts, typified by their emphasis on dynamics. The press releases dropped ahead of the album's release extensively referred to the band “pushing boundaries”, “tweaking and perfecting their sound” and drawing as much from “punk, indie and electronic music” as math-rock or Midwest emo influences. So is this the album that catapults the band, and the whole scene by extension, into the limelight?

“It wasn't a deliberate decision to veer away,” Yüceil says. “Going forward, we're indifferent about a math-rock 'genre'. It's a really incredible scene, but there are so many bands that sound nothing like each other and something gets lost along the way if you lump every band in the same category.

“Toe [the Japanese band] are so different to Don Caballero or something like that – they're polar opposites in emotion and feel. But we're not necessarily inspired by anyone in particular. It's about common interests. When we mess about with riffs in practices, we instinctively know the way we want to do this now. It's been crazy exciting for the past month and we just can't wait to get the album out. It feels like a landmark album for us. We've discovered what our sound is and what we like.”

'Ghost City' is out now on Big Scary Monsters.

Delta Sleep Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri September 14 2018 - OXFORD Wheatsheaf
Sat September 15 2018 - GLASGOW Hug And Pint
Sun September 16 2018 - BRISTOL Exchange
Thu September 20 2018 - BRIGHTON Castle Snooker Club
Fri September 21 2018 - LONDON Bush Hall
Sat September 22 2018 - LEEDS Temple Of Boom
Sun September 23 2018 - SOUTHAMPTON Joiners

Click here to compare & buy Delta Sleep Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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