North London band's guitarist weighs up the power of production as an indie artist against that feeling that something's still bound to go wrong
Despite the name, genre-juggling bunch Sorry really have nothing to be apologetic about. A more accurate name might be humble or bashful but then that doesn't really quite have the same ring to it, does it? When I speak to guitarist Louis O'Bryen from his home in North London about the release of the band's long-awaited debut this spring, he's still fairly modest about the hype so far. 'I don't even really believe it's coming out yet,' he admits, letting out a nervous laugh. 'Once I see the vinyl then I'll be like "Oh yeah, the album is actually coming out" but until then I'm still so sure that something's going to go wrong.'
Of course, the band's career trajectory so far has done nothing of the sort. Childhood pals since their school days, vocalist Asha Lorenz and O'Bryen formed Sorry in its first incarnation – then called Fish – back in 2014. Although O'Bryen admits their first forays into songwriting weren't exactly off the bat hits. 'We wrote this kind of Christmassy song. It wasn't very good, and now it's lost on a computer somewhere,' he jokes. But then that's the thing about a band like Sorry. They're constantly defying conventions when it comes to crafting 'traditional' guitar music. In fact, O'Bryen admits that's exactly what they were thinking when the foursome first formed.
'When we made the band and we were figuring it all out, we never wanted it to be a straight down the middle guitar band,' he states, matter of factly. Thrust in alongside fellow rising stars Shame and Goat Girl, Sorry quickly became labelled as the fresh blood set to bring new life to the indie scene, and in a way they did. Sticklers for an old-school format, Lorenz and O'Bryen released their first material as a mixtape, Home Demo/ns I in 2017. The straight, laced two-minute party punk you might expect from a bunch of twenty-year-olds was nowhere to be seen and instead, Home Demo/ns I artfully melded together scraps of songs and sprawling interludes under a collaged shop front. Likewise, the mixtapes (the band would release follow up Home Demo/ns II six months later) were all accompanied by a lo-fi video short like some kind of multimedia art experience. Admittedly, this might sound a bit bit pretentious but actually just finds the group hanging out singing nonchalantly into the camera.
Between the mixtape grind, the band strayed back to more traditional releases unveiling singles 'Wished', disorientating grunge great 'Lies' and '2 Down 2 Dance', a track that explores the realities of depression and almost certainly helped to bag them a support slot with US rockers, Sunflower Bean. In late 2018, the band shared their biggest step forward to date in the form of 'Starstruck', their signature flange fretwork framing a suckerpunch drawl from Lorenz that even Brody Dalle would be proud of. More recently, 'Right Round The Clock' spurred the band's ranking from BBC 6 Music's B playlist into the A list and with very good reason. No doubt a teaser for the impending full-length, the single is dense in dual vocals and a squawking horn refrain that's as jittery as the production techniques. Something O'Bryen is quick to accredit to the merits of modern-day technology.
'All that stuff, the computer side of stuff,' he adds, 'was interesting to us because it was a way of manipulating the sound and making it sound a bit more original.' This thread of originality weaves throughout their back-catalogue to date and has been both a muse and a menace for the band. On one hand, it's a sound and styling that's helped Sorry carve out their own space against a backdrop of budding DIY bands. But it's also found Lorenz and O'Bryen quite protective when it comes to production. Even with such a steady output of singles to date, Sorry have kept us waiting for their debut. 'I don't feel like a lot of bands spend that much time recording before they go to a studio but we spent hours that we were a bit precious about it. We knew how we wanted it to sound and stuff and then in the early stages of going to the studio, we didn't really find anyone where we could translate that.'
O'Bryen recalls a time back before the band had even played a gig where a certain producer's approach already didn't seem to align with their own. 'He and I were talking and he was saying you can't get the magic of a desk in a computer and I just remember thinking "That so can't be true". Look at all the people like Frank Ocean. It's all basically from a laptop, isn't it?' he protests. 'You know Steve Lacey, he just records it all into his phone? That's maybe a bit too far…'
Thankfully, now with the right team behind them (the band signed to Domino in late 2017) and that big decade energy in tow, the wait is almost over. To mark the occasion, Sorry will head back out on the road including their first time to the States for this year's SXSW. Surely a moment that O'Bryen can admit cements the band as something special? 'The American stuff? Yeah, that will be really fun but I still don't really think that's going to happen. Maybe once the album comes out and people respond to that,' he reasons. 'You just get lost in it. It's hard to take a step back.'
Even in the face of O'Bryen's reticence though, Sorry's rise from lo-fi Londoners to international wonk wanderers looks fairly certain. And there's really no reason to feel bad about that at all.
Sorry, Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, Sun 9 Feb, and touring. 925 is out via Domino this spring.
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