We thought it was time to get to know Leeds’ Department M, who are a collaborative duo not to be reckoned with!
Department M is the latest project from Grammatics’ Owen Brinley and Tommy Davidson (Pulled Apart By Horses). ‘Bleak Technique’ is the second track to be lifted from the forthcoming album.
The latest single from Leeds based duo Department M, is an alluring slice of moody synth pop with touches of post-punk. Lyrically this is a song about 21st century paranoia and a lack of identity in a post-industrial world. Owen Brinley, lead vocalist, explains; “The song is an expression of wanting to immunise yourself from the perceived threats of a post-internet world”. Snow Fox provides a sultry guest vocal, a beautiful contrast to the doom and gloom. We caught up with the boys to find out more.
Give us an insight into your journey – how did the collaboration between the both of you come about?
After our first release, an eponymous mini-album on Fierce Panda, I wanted more of a live feel for our debut LP. Tommy (who also drums in Pulled Apart By Horses and These Monsters) and I pulled the songs through various incarnations at the disused office block we rent in Leeds then took them to our long-term producer and collaborator James Kenosha in Bridlington. The feel of the sessions was very relaxed and fun, creativity always seems to flow easily at JK’s studio, The Lodge. We call going to record there ‘going on holiday’.
How do you think a city like Leeds has shaped you as musicians and creative?
Leeds is a great facilitator for bands, it has the venues, cheap spaces to rent and above all great people who are open to collaboration…these are just a few of the reasons the music scene continues to thrive here.
Do you think London has changed the way that you approach making music? Has it inspired you in any particular way or had the opposite effect and absorbed your creativeness?
In honesty I’m a dyed in the wool Northerner and have no affinity for the place. It certainly hasn’t had any bearing on creatively.
Tell us more about what you’re working on currently – how has the summer shaped up for you?
I’ve been working on a set of paired down, Elliot Smith style acoustic songs. I’ve always threatened to make a singer-songwriter style record so maybe that’s next on the agenda. I’ll probably take a break from Department M after our first LP, ‘Deep Control’, is released. As we have such a complex live setup and an arsenal of analogue synths to cart around, the idea of jumping on a train with a guitar has its appeal.
Tell us more about ‘Bleak Technique’? How do you approach a track like this and do you ever feel fully happy with the outcome of a track, or are you complete perfectionists?
With Dept.M, I usually start with a repetitive loop of some kind and then try and surprise the listener with what occurs around that loop as the song progresses. I suppose what defines DM is that although we’re dealing in synth based electronic music, there’s always a song lurking within the collage of sound. In terms of being satisfied with results, I normally get there…I’ll keep working on something until it feels right. If there’s no anxiety to keep tinkering then I know it’s finished. Usually once the vocals are done we’re pretty much there…they’re normally the last piece of the puzzle.
Are there ever any in-house bust-ups over the way you want to direct a particular track? Is the recording process a complete compromise?
No, not at all. We always find a way to keep everyone happy. Usually we don’t know how a track is going to end up…a lot is improvised in the studio. If it feels good we stay on that path.
If you had to pull any other artists into Department M, who would you love to get on-board?
We collaborated with a great singer called Snow Fox on this album, she sings on nearly every track on the record and has a great pure-pop voice. In terms of local acts, I’m a fan of our label mates Post War Glamour Girls and also Big Love from Bradford. I also love the new Unknown Mortal Orchestra album, Sleaford Mods and Ben Khan’s stuff.
Are there any songs that you wish you had written? If you had written any track by another musician, which one would you claim?
‘Everything Means Nothing To Me’ by Elliot Smith to me is the most perfect piece of music I can envision.
How do you think social media has affected the music industry? Do you think it’s more of a help or hindrance for both emerging and established artists?
I’d say a bit of both, they’re a necessary evil. Sure it’s easier than ever before for the young bedroom producer to get their stuff out there but at the same time they take a lot of maintenance…time that would be better spent creatively. In the 80s and 90s bands were expected to be musicians and songwriters, now they’re expected to be PR people, graphic designers, video directors and producers, road managers etc. Somewhere in the midst of all that you’re expected to make music.
Which social platform do you use the most, and which ones are you best at?
Well, irritatingly, Facebook is still a big platform for bands…I spend many an hour going grey trying to make sense of their evil algorithms. The thing bloody DESTROYS artwork.
If you could have one person removed from Twitter, who would it be?
I’d have Piers Morgan removed full stop.
Tell us more about your plans for the remainder of the year?
Just to get the album out by hook or crook. Oh, and we play a free entry gig at Birthdays in Dalston on Sat Oct 10th.