Society first caught our eye back in 2012, when Girdler released his debut track ‘All That We’ve Become’ as a 7-inch through Roundtable Records. Accompanied by an animated video, the song quickly circulated and resulted with airplay from Huw Stevens on Radio 1.
Society wasn’t Girdler’s first venture into music. He fronted a band called Beggars, alongside his brother Justin. Hailing from Reading, Beggars created extremely raw indie-pop that drew comparisons with early Beatles material, thanks to the range of infectious harmonies on show. Following a couple of years touring with bands such as Babyshambles, The Courteneers and Pete and The Pirates, Beggars took to the stage on their own headline academy tour and played slots at Glastonbury and Reading & Leeds.
The band then boldly decided a new change of direction was necessary, taking more influences from Michael Jackson and creating a darker, more synth driven sound that can be heard in Girdler’s new project.
Following the random release of ‘All That We’ve Become in 2012, it took Girdler over a year to release his second offering, ’14 Hours’ – another example of the gloomy trip-hop inspired beats combined with Girdler’s distinctive, swirling vocal. The track also shed some light on Society, revealing Girdler as the man behind the mystery, and ending all speculation on who was behind this dark, endearing project. We had the opportunity to pick Girdler’s brains to reveal a bit more about the mystery.
How come it’s taken you so long to release your second single?
When we put out the first single we only had one song! We literally wrote it, and then Round Table said “Let’s put it out as a single!”. But we’d only just started and that was our first song, so we just went back into the studio to write some more.
You’ve kept anonymous for a long time. Was this a plan to create a buzz around the project or was it just natural because you just didn’t have any songs?
It wasn’t like I was doing that – it was just how it was. We just went straight back into the studio – it wasn’t us at all. People were writing loads of weird shit that was quite funny. We were up for going with it and writing an unusual press release saying we were something that we weren’t, but my manager said we couldn’t do that…people kept saying we were Dangermouse, which I really loved as I’m a big fan.
Who else is involved in Society? Can you tell us a bit more about the project?
Well, that’s one of the reasons we called it Society. We didn’t want to call it a singer/songwriter project, because it’s not. That was something we were really conscious about at the start. We wanted it to be a collective, but we didn’t really have any friends, so it just ended up being me and my producer Brendan who would play all the instruments. The recording process basically involves just a few musicians who come in and out. It’s not like Kanye West or someone! It’s just Brendan and myself using loads of mad samples. The whole point is to make it sound rough and confusing, whilst incorporating loads of cinematic sounds that we like.
You were part of indie band Beggars. Has this affected your music?
Yeah definitely, it was like my schooling. It’s where I learnt to write songs and play live, and that’s how I met Brendan. It was kind of like I graduated from Heavenly (Recordings) school of rock, then crashed at the other end and started Society. My whole music knowledge came from hanging out with the Heavenly boys and Brendan.
Both songs seem so layered and full of exciting and creative sounds, which was something you mentioned in a press release where you talked about spending nights making drones. Is this what gives you such a distinctive sound?
It’s like a big mixture of sounds. There’s so much random shit in there – if you heard half the stuff on its own, it’s really bad. And if you pulled out any of the instruments alone, they’re out of tune and playing the wrong thing, but it just works when we put it together. It was a conscious effort by us to make records that way, because I think the problem with records now is that they sound so polished, and without character – whereas we tried to make ours sound very rough, full of character.
It seems that when you’re in the studio, anything goes. Is this approach you wanted to take with Society?
Literally we grab whatever we can, and if we ever hit a wall we just do something really random – like playing our own track backwards over another track and see if anything happens. That’s the kind of environment we like – where you’re not limited. I like it when you can listen to a song and every time you listen you hear something else.
There seems to be some hip-hop and a jazz influence, especially on ‘14 Hours’. Is this something that influences your work?
I love all of those trip-hop beats, but we’re not hip hop artists, so they end up sounding a bit weird, so we try and blend it with cinematic melody and strings. I love that old, otherworldly big string sound which is rare these days. If you put that with hip-hop and cut up drones sounds it creates like a weird soundscape. Kind of like Phil Spector and the way they made them big records with loads of stuff going on.
If you could pick anyone, who would you want to collaborate with?
I’d love to collaborate with a hip-hop artist like Jay Electronica or someone like that. But then I also love King Krule. Other than that I’m not really into that much. I’d rather just create with Brendan and if things run dry get a few people in from around the studios. We did a song with Charlotte Marionneau (Le Volumbe Courbe), and then I’ve got my mates involved in stuff, so it has been quite a collaborative thing.
When you put the two tracks you’ve released and the video together it gives off this dark, weird vibe – is that the creative direction you want to go in?
Yeah, definitely, we’re not really bothered about commercial success or it selling so I guess that gives us a bit more to play with. We don’t really have a plan in that sense. We’ve got two videos coming, one for a short film and another a video for ‘14 Hours’. ‘14 Hours’ is also getting a full single release on the 9th through Angular Records.
Society – “14 Hours”
I’ve read a few comparisons between you and Richard Ashcroft is this something you like?
I love that, I love Richard Ashcroft and it’s a big compliment. Most of the comparisons have been really good because it’s the stuff we like and listen to and its good to know that are sound is where we think it is.
What’s to come in the future? A live show? EP/LP?
Well we are just finishing off our record now, that’s always been the main focus for us. We just wanted to make a really cool record that sounded a bit mad and different to anything that’s out at the minute. We’ve ended up with a live band in the studio that we’ve been rehearsing with and we’ve got a gig coming up in October. The record is also nearly finished so we’re just making sure its got a good overall sound and that there is diversity in the tracks. It will definitely be finished before Christmas, and hopefully we’ll release through this a more major label.
Society’s debut live show will take place on 1 October, at London’s Sebright Arms. For tickets, head here.