Living the Now
No strangers to Belfast, Francis Jones chats with Dublin's The Immediate
Incorporating everything from the sublime pop sonics of the 60s to the fractious art-rocker chic of the present day, The Immediate’s debut album, In Towers and Clouds, proves to be a well-oiled and versatile all-terrain musical vehicle.
A fully-equipped affair, it boasts gorgeous, mind-kidnapping melodies, tremulous, body shaking rock attitude, and poetic, soul siege lyrics. Indeed, to these ears, the Dublin four-piece have delivered one of the year’s most accomplished debuts.
Check out The Immediate’s MySpace blurb and you’ll discover they’ve dedicated the album to ‘anyone who’s ever felt apart from the crowd’. It’s a mindset the band’s members can sympathise with. The Immediate’s vocalist, guitarist and sometimes drummer, Conor O’Brien, elaborates.
‘That feeling of being outsiders is something we have experience of. Therefore we thought that would be the best grounding on which to base our expression and what we’re trying to do in art, be it visual art, music, anything.
'To some extent I would agree that music and art should be based on personal experience, but it wasn’t that we made a record believing that it would or should appeal to an outsider mentality.'
'It was only after the event, when we had to sit down and prepare something for a press release that we realised that’s what we had created. We always do things in a very instinctive way, without stopping to think about it.’
The sense of being set apart from their contemporaries stems from The Immediate’s innate wariness of being considered part of a scene or of having their music neatly categorised.
‘We’ve always been reluctant to be considered part of any scene. I don’t think anyone should aspire to be part of a scene, it’s so restricting.
'I remember when I was younger I started getting into rock bands and grew my hair. But then someone came up to me and called me a ‘smelly rocker’. I took it so seriously, I felt physically sick, just realising that I’d put myself into this box.
'We grew up in a very superficial, image-based, middle-class environment. The media is everywhere, certain signals and signs, the clothes you wear, you think it’s all so important and you take everything to heart. Thankfully we’ve grown out of all that crap.’
Promiscuous instrument-swapping debauchees that they are, The Immediate can boast no less than four vocalists, three drummers, three guitarists and three bassists. No wonder 'In Towers and Clouds' is such a diverse and eclectic record.
‘As four people, our abilities and our tastes in music are wide-ranging. I suppose that the roots of what we do could be described as indie guitar rock. That was the music we were into when we were 12 and 13.
'We keep an open mind to every possibility, but I think that the early music we loved will always be a part of our sound. I think that’s a positive thing, if you try and make weird music just for the sake of it then you start losing it.
'The new music we’re making is moving a little further outward, but it’s all being done in a very gradual way, we’re wary of forcing it, of being epic or out-there just for the sake of it.’
Given the breadth of sounds and experience on offer, it is little wonder that In Towers and Clouds demands repeated listens, the sort of album that reluctantly yields its treasures.
Twisting and turning, full of sonic intrigue, it has garnered a great deal of positive media feedback. However, for an album so multi-layered and richly textured, the acclaim of the music media may not be enough to ensure commercial success.
‘Well it’s true that the most exciting records are not necessarily those that sell the most. There’s a fine line and we don’t want to be considered just some interesting, kooky, left-field band.
'We were quite surprised at the press we received for the record. In our heads we’d made a pop record and then we heard that people saw this eclecticism to it, that every song sounded different. Maybe we’ve just got a very unusual idea of what pop music is.
'We don’t want to cut ourselves off, to become a marginalized band, or a band just for those obsessed with music. You have to leave doors open, to create that point of access for the non-music obsessive.’
For such multi-skilled, multi-tasking musicians the studio experience was a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of musical delights.
‘It was really exciting, kinda like being back in the playground I guess. We couldn’t believe we were there. It’s weird because we recorded in a place in Surrey, in the middle of nowhere. You had to get a train to even get near to London, so after a while this inertia starts to creep in.
'We started to go a bit loopy, but a good loopy! It was great because we had the opportunity to try out all these new ideas. Also they had all these instruments that we didn’t know were going to be there.
'We put some vibraphone on there, playing the Hammond organ, it was just a really creative environment, to be able to work with all these old instruments. It was a lot of fun.’
Having finished the record it’s time for The Immediate to start road-testing their product. Not for the first time, they’ll be playing Belfast.
‘We’re really relishing playing the songs about the country. We’ve played Belfast three times already. I particularly remember one gig we played at The Bunker in Lavery’s. That was a weird one. I think the soundman was stoned, he’d been smoking joints all day and couldn’t keep the sound under control, and there was feedback everywhere.
'We got angry and it showed in our performance, it just got a bit crazy. I think the ten people who were there enjoyed it though! Before that, we supported the Magic Numbers in the Spring & Airbrake, which was pretty amazing, everyone really dug it and we played a great gig.'
On Record: In Towers and Clouds (Fantastic Plastic), available from September 18