Interview: Greg Gilbert

The Delays frontman talks isolation, introspection and indulgence - oh, and the importance of conditioner.

Greg Gilbert is the small statured, big voiced singer of ethereal indie rock band Delays, who have four critically acclaimed albums under their belt to date. Greg has recently been writing and performing with his side project The Lunar Fields, who performed their first gig last month. UnderSong caught up with him to find out about this new musical direction and to try and pry out some information about fresh Delays material…

Greg. How the devil are you?

I’m dandy, thanks. We’re currently in demoing mode for the next Delays album, so I feel quite useful. I get quite solitary between records, so I’m enjoying being in a room with the band again.

You've also been writing tracks for your side project The Lunar Fields. You recently played your first gig in that guise at Liverpool's Sound City (which, by the way, was wonderful). How did you find the experience?

Thank you, glad you enjoyed it. But it was fleeting! All that build up and it felt like it lasted about two seconds. I’ve only ever been in a band with Col, Rowly and Aaron, so it took a lot to get on stage with new players. I knew for a while I wanted to do something outside of Delays – there’s just too much material for one band. But, psychologically, I had a lot to get over before I could commit to it. It took a while to get it straight in my head that I wasn’t betraying anyone, and I’m so grateful at how supportive the lads have been (Aaron even came to the gig, he’s a good bellower of encouragement).

Do you find that festival crowds, such as at Sound City, differ from audiences at smaller gigs who have come specifically to see you?

Obviously, with our own gigs, the crowd brings a familiarity. There’s a defiant euphoria, and they’re on our side. On the whole, festival crowds can be really generous, it’s a holiday and there’s not a lot of cynicism. Probably the most difficult gigs have been support slots, because fans of the headliner sometimes show their allegiance by showing the support act very little response.

How would you describe the similarities and/or differences between Delays and The Lunar Fields?

The Delays albums have become much more of a co-write between Aaron and me than it was on the first album. Because of the keys and strings, Delays are broader sonically, and grander in scale. Lunar Fields are more intimate, more introspective. I think Aaron brings a lot of buoyancy to Delays, so Lunar Fields are a darker proposition.

I think part of the success and appeal of Delays is based on your distinctive vocals - that impressive range and extraordinary falsetto. Do you think this unique style is something that might prevent The Lunar Fields from being judged as distinct from Delays and in their own right?

You’re very kind, thanks. I’m stuck with my voice, so I have to accept there’s only so much I can do without willfully contriving something. I’m enjoying singing in a deeper register. As with a lot of things, it’s just a matter of confidence. I love Scott Walkers’ later records, and write in a low octave at home. This is finding its way into Lunar Fields. How it’ll be judged in its own right, I’ve no idea. It feels very different.

Greg performing with The Lunar Fields at Liverpool Sound City

So, let's get the obvious question out of the way. It's been two years since the release of the fourth Delays album Star Tiger, Star Ariel. When can we expect to part with our hard-earned cash in exchange for some new songs?

It’s been an interesting couple of years in terms of offers being presented and evaporating, so I don’t want to say exactly when we can get the record out. We’ve been doing this long enough now to know to keep quiet until things are signed off!

Keeping us in suspense, eh? Star Tiger, Star Ariel seemed more personal and introspective than previous Delays releases. What direction is the new material taking?

I find it difficult to gauge the overall mood of an album as we’re writing it as we try to work instinctively and not contrive anything. I don’t think, lyrically, we’ve ever been overtly joyful; there’s always a melancholy despite the joy in the music. Star Tiger was written immediately after promoting Everything's The Rush, which was a very frustrating time. A lot of the introspection came from the isolation we felt, which was actually liberating and helped us strip everything back again. I think it’s our best album so far.

Has the writing process for The Lunar Fields been the same as with Delays, or have you made a conscious effort to take a different approach and try to cover new ground lyrically and musically?

With Lunar Fields, I’m a lot more indulgent. I write stories and poems that I’ve never shown anyone, but some of that is finding its way into the words for The Lunar Fields. I’m quite self conscious of my lyrics, but allowing these private scribblings into the music creates a more complete statement. Musically, it’s more ambiguous. Atmospherically, Delays doesn’t necessarily suggest those kind of words.

You have quite a few older musical influences, but are there any new bands you've been particularly enjoying recently?

The Horrors last album is worthy of the praise it’s received, I’ve played it to death. I love M83, 'Steve McQueen' is on repeat. Also, I’m a big fan of Stars Of The Lid. I’ve probably listened to 'The Tired Sounds Of…' more than any other record over the past couple of years.

As well as being a musician I believe you're also a bit of an artist in your spare time. Does your art influence your music at all, or vice-versa?

My earliest memory is of drawing, it’s what I do to wind down. I went to Winchester School of Art for a year, but left to form the band. I bounce between the two - I tend to write more freely after drawing or painting. I’ve got a couple of pieces going into Space gallery in Folkestone over the next month or so, my first time ever in an exhibition. I’m buzzing about it, and I’m working on a series of pieces. There are a bunch of acoustic songs related to these pieces, maybe they will see the light of day at some point.

It's a little off-topic but on behalf of UnderSong's Editor-in-Chief, Charlie (who has severe hair envy) - how DO you keep your locks in such great condition?!

Upon closer inspection, my hair is dry and unkempt and in desperate need of Pantene Pro V.

Yeah, yeah… you're obviously keeping your beauty secrets close to your chest! Why don't you tell us a secret about yourself instead?

I’ve got a signed, framed photo of the wrestler Ric Flair on my wall at home. I’m a massive fan and it was a birthday gift from Colin and Rowly.

That's better.


Find out more about Delays and The Lunar Fields.