The Proper Ornaments in interview: “I was imagining what Iggy Pop would do if he had to do ‘Downtown’ “

The Proper Ornaments in interview: “I was imagining what Iggy Pop would do if he had to do ‘Downtown’ “

| Março 21, 2020 9:03 pm

The Proper Ornaments in interview: “I was imagining what Iggy Pop would do if he had to do ‘Downtown’ “

| Março 21, 2020 9:03 pm
© Jeremy Jay
The London group formed by James Hoare (Ultimate Painting/Veronica Falls), Bobby Syme and Max Oscarnold released on February 28th their fifth studio album, Mission Bells, via Tapete Records, ten months after publishing Six Lenins (2019). Mission Bells presents us with a dark but uplifting mood that originated from last year’s tour, in which new ideas appeared in different soundchecks across Europe.

During the last tour, Nathalie Bruno joined The Proper Ornaments as a bass player, and then the four band members started recording the new album in the summer at Hoare’s home studio in Finsbury Park, London, incorporating a Moog sequencer and other electronic instruments into the usual psychedelic sound. But it’s the lyrical maturity that’s the real achievement on this record.

We talked to the band to understand what was their motivation behind Mission Bells, how did they approach the lyrical composition, the introduction of a new member and more. Read below the complete interview with The Proper Ornaments.

Mission Bells is your fifth album. How do you approach the recording process at this point of your career? Did you try anything different this time?

The Proper Ornaments (TPO) – We went about it in a similar way to which we normally do. We get a few tracks together and then formed a rough idea of what we wanted the record to sound like. It normally changes by the time we’ve finished it but at least you have a way of starting, a point of reference. Some direction in which to proceed. Perhaps a certain song by a band or a guitar sound.

What was your motivation before you started making this record, given that the release of Six Lenins was only ten months ago? What is the background of Mission Bells?

TPO – The initial idea to make a new record came about when we were on tour promoting Six Lenins. We decided to use the soundchecks productively and built up a few rough ideas based around simple guitar riffs and recorded them on a phone so we wouldn’t forget them. This gave us something to start with that was more riff based than our previous material. Also it made the normally laborious soundchecks more fun so it was a win win situation.

In this album you have a song called “Downtown”, what is the story behind this track?

TPO – We came up with the music at a soundcheck in Berlin last year. Back at home, I was imagining what Iggy Pop would do if he had to do ‘Downtown’, the famous 60’s Petula Clark song, and came up with the chorus chords. By slowing it down and adding some darker tones the words took another meaning, the opposite of what the original song was about.

When it comes to lyrics, you compare them to an experience by William Burroughs about what it is like to live in these dystopian times. How does your writing process work?

TPO – It’s a collage of little notes we write throughout a period of time, and with musical elements we might be playing with, stick them together and see what happens, sometimes the meaning appears at the end, when the song is recorded.

On the Six Lenins’ Tour, Nathalie Bruno joined you on bass, later participating in the recording of the new album. Do you think adding a new member influenced your sound?

TPO – Yes, it did add a different edge to it, as expected when you have a new personality to the mix. Her addition was a revitalising energy in the band.

James has a home studio in Finsbury Park. How do you feel having complete freedom to record? Do you think that if you had to record in another studio, the result would be the same?

TPO – The way we record is based around having a studio at home to work in at our own pace. If we had to go to normal studios, paying by the day, we would be pushed into making music when we weren’t in the right frame of mind. The way we work suits our personalities and work ethic. Somedays we’d meet up and do 15 minutes of work and call it a day, other times we suddenly become productive and work quite hard (for us at least).

Have any of you ever been to Portugal? Do you know any bands/musicians from here?

TPO – We have been to Portugal, and always enjoy being there. Unfortunately, we aren’t familiar to its music, but know that is home to interesting people like Pete Kember, who has relocated there.

Will we be lucky to have you in Portugal presenting Mission Bells?

TPO – We’re hoping to get there, and are working on it.

Can you tell us which albums have you enjoyed the most this year?

TPO – Been going through the Cleaners From Venus’ records, and been enjoying them a lot.