Sorry are a quiet, ambient grunge band. Or rather, they’re a quiet band who play grunge loudly, before feeding everything back into an ambient loop (it’s a lot less complicated than it sounds). Everything from their on-stage tendency to stand still, to their lack of inane patter between songs, and even the brevity of their press releases lends itself to this soft mystique. They’re born choppers and changers.
When we sit down to interview Sorry, Asha and Louis (who share vocal and guitar duties) are in a van hightailing it across the country from Bath to Oxford, a relatively unusual couple of stops for a band on the cusp of releasing a hotly-anticipated debut album. “On this tour, we’ve just been playing the “lesser” towns of the UK. Smaller towns, I should say,” says Louis. “It’s good to get out to those places – all the people are super sweet. Tonight’s sold-out too, which is encouraging.” It seems fitting that a band with quieter impulses are enjoying venturing outside the usual major city tour circuit.
That hotly-anticipated debut, ‘925’, follows a slew of singles and mixtapes, and a longstanding collaborative friendship. The songwriting partnership between Asha and Louis is clearly at the heart of the band, and they’ve been playing together for yonks. “Well we’ve known each from school, so about 12 years, and we started playing music together about seven years ago,” says Louis. We ask what’s held them together so long, and there’s a pause before Asha deadpans, “I don’t really know… We just kept playing together.”
It wasn’t until bassist Campbell and drummer Lincoln joined that they became Sorry as you see them today, or almost – at first they were known as Fish. Following a direct dispute with fans of the ageing Scottish singer-songwriter of the same name, the band added a syllable and became Sorry, explains Louis. “When we chose that name, there was the whole “one word” trend… it was just funny and apt in a way – it’s a very English saying.” That tongue-in-cheek urge to self-deprecate is threaded through their work, not least in a loose catalogue of the band’s work on Spotify, entitled ‘A sorry collection of Sorry songs, sorry.’
The band’s profile first began to rise amongst the loose cabal of South London bands (despite being based in the North themselves) who all played The Windmill in 2017, like Shame, HMLTD and Goat Girl, though Asha is quick to dismiss the notions of such a scene. “There was a small period of time where everyone was hanging out quite a lot, and playing shows together all the time, but I think it dispersed quite fast. There was definitely a feeling… it felt like something was happening, but everyone kind of does their own thing now. Everyone was just friends – it wasn’t really a scene.”
Since then the band haven’t so much changed as remixed. “We definitely used to be a bit more rocky, but we’ve got our friend Marco who plays with us now, and he does loads of electronic stuff,” says Asha. “We just listen to quite a lot of varied and different music, and we also make a lot of music at home on the computer.” There’s a pause before Louis picks up her line of thought: “That rocky side of things was ingrained in us from a young age, but me and Asha are both also interested in the production side of things. We were both making songs from an early age on FL Studio or Logic or Ableton.”
When either Asha or Louis speak about the creative evolution their music has gone through, it’s always in shared terms. If technological doomsayers might paint digital interfaces as the death of making music face-to-face, for Sorry, it’s clearly a refreshingly collaborative tool, based right in the bedroom. “Me and Louis usually write it at home that we bring it in, otherwise we write it together,” explains Asha. “We usually decide first, ‘Oh we want to make this kind of song, this kind of genre.'”
“A lot of the production stuff comes from happy mistakes,” Louis carries on. “Just trial and error stuff and then suddenly you get something cool out of it. It’s a weird way of making music because you can just kind of pick stuff up and move it around, and you’re constantly listening back to it, over and over. You end up with kind of a musical collage.” When we mention that it sounds somewhat inorganic, Louis laughs. “It is quite unnatural.”
Recorded over the past four years, ‘925’ sees this cut and paste approach fuse with their traditional four-person rock line-up. As to why some of these songs didn’t make it onto the 7″ singles or mixtapes that the band dropped in the interim, Louis draws a line in the sand. “The mixtapes were less like the band side of things; they were collections of songs that me and Asha pulled from our computers. For the album, we wanted to mix the more live stuff — the older songs that we were playing as a band — with the mixtapes and the more demo-y side of things.” “It’s just a more solid body of work,” adds Asha. “They’re all songs we’ve thought about quite a lot.”
While the 13 songs they’ve put together certainly sound like a grungy set of guitars and drums as strained through the fan of an overworked laptop, there are other moments of sound collage to be found throughout. Lead single ‘Right Around the Clock’ lifts the hook for Tears For Fears – ‘Mad World’ wholesale, recontextualising it in their tale of murky late-night lies and flirtations. “We just kind of wanted to write a Tears For Fears song, and then we just started using that lyric,” says Asha. “I think we just thought it was quite funny to mix it in.”
Perhaps the zenith of this musical bubble and squeak is reached with the album’s final track: a refix of their breakthrough single ‘Lies’. “We always thought that song could be more electronic, and I always kind of wanted to mess with it a bit,” says Louis. “We still wanted that live, anthem-y element but also to make it a bit weirder. We really like that song, so we wanted to put it on the album, but we didn’t want it to stick out so much. If we’d just used the old version, probably it would’ve sounded weird alongside the other songs. We just tried to bring it into the 2020s.”
Their approach to sampling takes a more conceptual presence too, given how dreams permeate the record. “We wanted to write the record from a dreamer’s perspective,” says Louis. “There are different characters running through it, and there are different stylistic influences, but they’re all dreamlike. Some of the songs might be nightmares, then others are more heavenly.” Asha is a little more guarded in her interpretation: “All of the songs have got different characters which head through different phases. I don’t know how to explain it.”
With Asha, you have to read between the lines to an extent, though she’s more upfront about the nuts and bolts aspect of crafting the album. “We co-produced it with James Dring. We did it half at home then brought it in. He was quite chill with that, so it was nice to work with him. We only did like two studio days for recording some drums and stuff, so most of it was done at home. We tried to get a good balance.”
“Yeah, we went to record drums at a studio and just found that they didn’t have the same feel as when I recorded Lincoln playing drums in Asha’s bedroom,” continues Louis. “So we just ended up using the old demo drums because James was more into that. What we liked about him is that he’s just so humble and so down to work from demos, which I found a lot of producers were shy of. No ego involved. He was really easy to work with on that side.”
There’s a modest simplicity to the way Louis and Asha discuss their music, but the kaleidoscopic nature of their bedroom grunge must have roots in their shared eclectic music tastes, right? “I actually don’t think we could all go to a gig together,” answers Louis. “Lincoln, our drummer, listens to a lot of crazy music. Lincoln, what do you listen to?” There’s a pause as someone yells over the hum of the van. “He says he listens to everything that’s got funk, mama… I don’t know, what gig could we all go to? Maybe a Shame gig, but only cause we were supporting them somewhere.”
“We all listen to a lot of different music – maybe we could all go to the cinema together? What would we see, though? The Jungle Book or The Lion King, I think.” Live-action or original? “I actually haven’t seen any of the live-action ones yet. Maybe if they were showing the old ones? They’ve got to be somewhere.” Given the conveyor belt manner in which Sorry sift through their influences and stitch them together, it’s not surprising they’d only come together over some classic childhood cinema.
Taken from the April issue of Dork. Sorry’s debut album ‘925’ is out 27th March.
Words: Blaise Radley