Selim Bulut is a music writer who lives in Manchester. He has the most meticulously organized iTunes folder in the land. He’ll be writing about some of the excellent music coming out of the UK every other week.
It’s raining in Manchester city centre and I have a hole in my shoe. As I hurry through the puddled streets, a woman emerges from a Chinese takeaway and stops me in my tracks. She’s physically present but mentally absent, with a mirrorlike stare. She asks for a place in the area where it's good to sit down—I have no idea why she’d stop a perfect stranger to ask this question, and as she speaks I can feel the damp soak through to my socks. The strange atmosphere continues even once I’ve met Oliver Cooper and David De Lacy, the duo that make up G R E A T W A V E S.
Neither are the most conversational people you’ll meet. Sometimes Cooper seems even more distant than the glassy-eyed woman who stopped me in the street, yet in some moments he’s a total joker, appending dry, hilarious comments to De Lacy's sentences. De Lacy is the more talkative of the two, although he only refers to Cooper as “he,” not by his name. They live together in a house about a half-hour’s bus ride away, but they wanted to come into town for a change of scenery. “We don’t leave the house that much,” Cooper tells me once I eventually arrive at our meeting spot. It’s a shame that they picked such a grim day to emerge.
By the end of our interview, I haven’t really come away with a complete sense of who these people are. The same feeling is reflected in their music—a feeling of mystery, or incompleteness, or displacement. Their live shows are all smoke, lights and low-end: really physical stuff. At a recent gig in Sheffield, they played behind a screen for the entirety of their set. Still, I managed to coax a few words out of the reclusive duo, and we talked about their “laboratory,” being a part of a gypsy band and the feeling of infinity.
Stream: G R E A T W A V E S, "Into the Blue"
How did you guys first meet? DE LACY: We bumped into each other a few years back and decided that we wanted to make music. We used to go practice at [Oliver’s] house and just play in his room—make sounds and mess around, really. COOPER: In the laboratory. DE LACY: The laboratory. That’s what we called it.
What’s in there that makes it a laboratory? COOPER: That’d be telling.
Are you from the same area? COOPER: Planet Earth?
Obviously. COOPER: Sorry. DE LACY: We met through a friend. It was pretty accidental how we met, really.
When did you decide to start making music together? COOPER: Probably before we knew each other. We started spending more time with each other and it became evident that this was a natural thing for us to do. It happened pretty quickly.
How did the name come about? And what was the decision to put spaces between every letter? It’s like a trick for Google: If you just search without the spaces it comes up with a different band. DE LACY: The name just appealed to us quite a lot. I think of nature, I suppose. The power of nature, and the unpredictable elements of nature, and the way in which nature is inconceivable and immeasurable and, and…
Great? DE LACY: Yeah. Grand.
I read a review of one of your singles, “The Shore”/“Into The Blue,” which said that you travelled with a gypsy blues band. COOPER: A gypsy Jew band?
A gypsy blues band! And that you lived in Hamburg and Amsterdam. I didn’t know if that was the truth or deliberate image-making. DE LACY: It certainly was true. I think that was probably one of the main things which set off this new approach to making music. There were seven or eight of us—it was kind of old school, pretty traditional. We made cash by busking and that was used to just keep us afloat. It was really exciting just to be away and not to know what was going to happen.
When was that? DE LACY: I think that was in late 2010. We got a seven-hour ferry to the top of Holland and went to a campsite there. We stayed in Amsterdam for like, three weeks. We were gonna go to Paris but we liked Amsterdam so much. We were having a great time busking there and had a great reception, so we stayed a bit longer than we intended.
Did you guys see that as a beginning of the band, even if it’s not necessarily part of the G R E A T W A V E S project? DE LACY: It was a pretty powerful moment, I guess. Things changed after that. COOPER: It was more than just a new way of making music, it was just a new way.
Could you describe your live show? COOPER: The wider thing that people will feel is infinity. DE LACY: The concept of boundlessness. I like the idea of just music vibrating in someone’s body.
It’s a relatively simple setup on stage, but it’s quite encompassing with all the lights and smoke. You can feel it, it’s very much about sensations. COOPER: That’s always been something we spoke about quite a lot—a full performance that involves more senses than just watching and listening. Over time, we’ve been achieving that, in a way. DE LACY: We’ve played some really cool venues, like the Union Chapel in London. There’s something about playing in venues with a real high ceiling, it feels eerie, amazing. It was really cool. There was this sheet about four or five meters above us that had visuals on.
And you played at the Bunker for SWAYS records. What do you think of the Bunker as a space? DE LACY: We played some pretty exciting shows at the Bunker. It used to be a hat factory, I think? It’s kind of on an abandoned industrial estate, near Strangeways prison. It’s a warehouse that’s the home of the record label, and about a year ago a group of us began putting on exhibitions and shows.
There’s a lot of lights and visuals with your shows. How do you try and recapture that feeling on record for someone just listening at home, or on an iPod? DE LACY: A lot of the ideas tend to be made up really late at night. After 12.
Is that the golden hour for writing music? DE LACY: It really does depend. Some moments are captured at a certain time in the night when there’s no one else around, when it’s absolutely silent. A lot of the magic is stemmed from times like those.