Brighton based four-piece Orchards were born from a diverse music scene and are fast becoming one of the best-known bands on the circuit. Combining summery pop melodies with math-rock riffs, Orchards create a sound that’s both catchy and compelling, melding pop hooks over an angular rhythm section.
With a sound that isn’t afraid of experimentation yet remains charming and fun, Orchards are already winning plaudits from Huw Stephens of Radio 1, The Line of Best Fit, Noisey and are set for big things in 2020. We sat down with the band to discuss their upcoming tour, all the gear and their big plans for the new year…
Dawsons: Hi guys, how we doing today?
Orchards: Well we’re doing swell. Thanks for asking. We hope your day is going swimmingly.
Dawsons: You’ve recently announced your biggest headline tour yet! How much are you all looking forward to hitting the UK and Europe next year?
Orchards: Definitely! I think we are all itching to get back on the road already, we love meeting people at shows and now we’ve made some pals across the country it’s always good to get out and see them all. This will also be our first Europe headline which is both scary and thrilling. This past year has just been the most incredible journey and we can only speculate where it will take us over the next year. Live shows are maybe the main reason we do this. We LOVE performing live – to feel the crowds energy, it’s honestly the most insane feeling. This year is gonna be a belter and we just want to keep playing and keep meeting a bunch of new pals.
Dawsons: Lucy, the vocal hooks of Orchards are very pop-orientated, juxtaposed with the more progressive, math-y guitars and drums. Do you take any influence from pop music at all?
Lucy: Yeah, I suppose in a way. Growing up my entire record collection was my parents’ hand-me-downs; Eagles, Queen, Thin Lizzy etc. But my school crush lent me 3 CD’s (yes, CDs). A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation by The Wombats, A Weekend in the City by Bloc Party and Nights Out by Metronomy and that was my first introduction into indie-pop. So I guess those classic rock roots combined with 2000’s indie and 10 years of musical theatre training comes out in cute pop. Who knew!
Dawsons: Your vocal range is really impressive, you absolutely killed it on the Dreamland Sessions! How did you go about developing your vocal style and what was your musical background before Orchards?
Lucy: That’s very sweet of you thank you! I was a Musical Theatre kid for 10+ years and the ability to keep stamina and projection for a 2-hour show is imperative. I was used to belting out some Menkin, Bernstein or Sondheim from about age 10. But I never saw myself as a ‘vocalist’, I was a theatre kid but turns out all that training came in damn handy! Which is brilliant though, because it means all those years and money my parents put in was so worth it. I just went with my gut. From the day I started in Orchards, I just decided to not calculate it and to just go with whatever my gut wanted. That way it would be sustainable and truthful.
Dawsons: Some questions for Sam, I’ve noticed you play a Tele, which has become the staple for math-rock aficionados of late. Which Tele are you playing and what do you think it is about the Tele that makes it so prominent in the math-y genres?
Sam: I think it’s an American Special! I was never a fan of Tele’s until I picked this one up off the shelf and it just instantly felt so natural to play. I think it’s so popular in math rock due to it having THE clean tone, like they’re one of the cleanest sounding guitars, in my opinion, they take pedals really well too so I guess it’s down to them creating a pretty neutral playing field for musicians to build a sound around.
Dawsons: Your guitar is heavily effected the majority of the time when you’re playing, creating a really big sound considering you’re the only guitarist in the band. Can you delve a little into how you go about creating such a unique sound? And what effect pedals are you using to get that tone?
Sam: Being the only guitarist, I need to fill out a lot of space whilst also keeping my tone ‘musical’ so that the tonality of the notes is still present! I’m endorsed by the legends over at Earthquaker Devices and their Rainbow Machine is a big part of my tone, it basically never gets switched off! I have it set to this kind of modulating slapback/chorus thing that brings a lot of ‘wobble’ to everything I do! I then usually layer that with some octave effects (EHX POG usually), then some more slapback from a BOSS DD6. I use Delay a lot in Orchards because it really helps bring depth to my sound! Sometimes I’m running three delay pedals at once all set to different timings, it can definitely be a bit of a headache!
Dawsons: Your sound tends to have a clean base on the Losers/Lovers record, what amplifiers do you use live and which were you using in the studio during recording?
Sam: I play a 1970s Yamaha YTA-95 amplifier. I walked into a guitar shop one day and it was sitting beneath some other old amps and it just looked the coolest so I plugged into it and it seriously blew me away. You want to talk about clean tones and amps that take pedals well? This is THE amp for that. It’s solid-state and (just by hitting it when it’s switched on) it sounds like it’s got real spring reverb in there too. Apparently it was Yamaha’s answer to the Roland Jazz Chorus, but to be honest, it’s far better, it’s got the thickness that I feel the Jazz Chorus lacks & it’s one loud boy. Mine’s definitely got it’s little quirks like I think it believes it’s a tube amp so it’s only really giving you it’s proper tone when you turn it up a bit! I didn’t have this when we recorded some of the Losers/Lovers tracks so it’s not on the whole EP, but it’s definitely on everything else you might hear in the future…
Dawsons: For Dan, you play an important part in the overall live and album sound with your backing vocals – was singing something you were always into or was it adopted specifically for Orchards?
Dan: I have been singing in bands since I started performing really but Orchards was the first time where I took the reins on backing vocals. I found it so much easier strumming a guitar and singing than playing bass and singing though, some of our songs are a real brain twister when playing the lines and trying to belt out the vocals.
Dawsons: Which bass guitar do you prefer and what effects are you using to enhance your bass tone?
Sam: Ah that’s such a hard question! I have a Mexican 50’s Precision and an American Performer Mustang Bass. I think the precision beats the mustang for me slightly on sound, I feel like it’s a fuller tone on that guitar. However I do prefer playing the Mustang, obviously the shorter scale just makes life easier, and it does still sound great! My main sound is my SansAmp Bass Driver really, that thing is never turned off! I also use a Darkglass B3K for some overdrive and then a real old ProCo RAT, which I think was the first-ever guitar pedal I bought, that thing sounds crazy paired with the SansAmp.
Dawsons: The bass sound from the Dreamland Sessions was fat! Are you going to be using a similar backline on next year’s tour?
Sam: Why thank you! Yeah I will be! I recently got myself a Fender Bassman 800 from the lovely people at Fender after my MarkBass blew up on stage a while back. I’m so pleased with how it sounds, that blended with the SansAmp creates my dream tone, no complaints at all! That all topped off with my trusty Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinkys makes for popping tonez. Gonna take that with as many cabs as possible, volume = talent after all.
Dawsons: And finally for Will – you clearly have the chops to play math styles, do you ever find yourself having to reign it in so as not to veer too much towards the math side of things?
Will: I have a fun method that I sometimes employ when writing parts for Orchards; I tend to start off with the choppiest grooves that I can cram into the bar and then begin to strip it back piece by piece until I’m left with something musical that still has some stank on it. Another thing to consider is that one of the key elements of our sound and something we have borrowed from our love of math rock is the way all our instrumentation locks in so hard. If I sat right back in the pocket, I’m not sure it would sound like an Orchards song!
Dawsons: What kit are you playing and what’s gonna be on your cymbal stands for the upcoming tour?
Will: I’ll be taking my trusty birch Tama Superstar EFX. I’ve had it since I was 16 and it’s been my trusty touring kit ever since. They don’t call Tama the strongest name in drums for nothing! Cymbals; I’ve pretty much always used the same Sabian setup with Orchards. 14″ Hand Hammered HI-Hats, 16″ HHX Studio Crash with an upside-down 8″ AAX splash mounted atop, 18″ HHX Studio Crash that takes on both Crash and Ride duties and a gnarly 14″ AAX China which is cracked and chipped to oblivion. As with my kit, I’ve used these Sabian cymbals for about 10 years and they’ve never let me down!
Dawsons: Do you ever use any less usual bits percussion? I noticed in some photos you were rocking some kind of jam block on your kit?
Will: I’ve always used an LP click Hi-Hat Tambourine, and I’ve used my LP jam blocks on and off but I’ve always struggled to fit them in and around my setup, so for now they’re on hiatus!
Dawsons: Thanks for taking the time out to answer these questions for us! Our final question, can we expect some new music from Orchards in the new year?
Orchards: We’ve just announced our DEBUT ALBUM!!! This has been something YEARS in the making and it feels great to finally be getting it out! It’s coming out Friday 13th March (spooky right?!) and y’all are going to love it.
Orchards’ new LP is dropping on the 13th of March, make sure you’re first in line to hear it by following the band on Facebook, Spotify, iTunes etc.
In the meantime you can check out the video for ‘Luv You 2’ from the Dreamlands Sessions below: