Artist: The Diomedes
Release Date: 17 March 2017
Based in north east London, The Diomedes began as a studio project; two friends aiming to create an album of soaring indie melodies with punk energy, soundscapes, riffs and howling synths.
After they completed recording their debut album Traps in mid 2016, they decided to try and transform their music into a live act with the ambition of performing as a two piece while still incorporating the levels of detail found on the record. Armed with a sampler, a custom built synth rig, a laptop and a whole lot of energy, they hit the London circuit in September 2016. Finally, Traps was released in March this year, and they are now playing live as much as possible.
Traps – tracklist
1. Open Arms
2. No Sleepwalking
5. Tension Head
6. Part 2
7. Our Dying Glow
8. The Tower
11. This Place Is Electric
12. Wishing Games
The album starts with Open Arms, which is an instrumental track. The whole tune almost feels like an electronic, modern version of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s music. Of course, Sakamoto started his professional music career as a member of an electro band in the 80’s. I wonder if he would agree with me.
The second track, No Sleepwalking, begins with a heavy sound, then transforms into uplifting edgy pop with the vocals soaring on top. I imagine this track would work great during their live performance for everyone to dance and sing along too.
With the third track, Masquerade, The Diomedes bring an even more pop feel. This is a great electro pop dance tune. Then the next track Gasp has strong indie vibes.
The eleventh track This Place Is Electric is the first song by the band I ever listened to, probably back in December. I think they uploaded 3 tracks onto Soundcloud and this track was one of them. I liked it immediately; it’s a tune that makes you feel like you’re flying.
The twelfth and the final track is Wishing Games. It’s 6 and a half minutes long and a carefully crafted emotional song. The sound brings you back to the mood you had when you started listening to the opening tune Open Arms. It is beautiful.
Traps is a large-scale production for a newly formed band. As their influences are from a large range of musicians, this album contains so much elements. It is well crafted and very enjoyable to listen to.
Recently I had a chance to interview The Diomedes. They talk about the band, the album and life.
Hello, The Diomedes! Finally, we are here!
First of all, could you introduce yourselves? Your names and your roles in the band?
Mark: Hello! Very nice to be here at last. My names Mark Champion and I sing, play guitar and do some programming.
Dave: Hello!! I’m Dave Myers. I play the drums, do some synths with Mark and a wee bit of programming too.
Could you tell us how you all met up and became a band?
Mark: We used to work together at a London University dealing with students; we used to hang out and behave badly sort of thing. When I found out I was getting the chop I decided to make a record with the bit of time off I had whilst looking for a job and I knew Dave was (and still is) a drummer in a really good indie band called Vici (check them out, they’re on the interwebs) because I’d been to see them play a few times….. as I was after a real drum sound for the record I wanted to make I asked would he come record with me and so luckily managed to rope him in that way.
Dave: Yeah, I saw this scruffy fella at work and thought I am definitely not going to be in a band with him! No, he clearly was into his music, so I thought, yeah I could get along with this guy, but at that time Mark was kind of quiet. Eventually we got chatting properly and I said to him then that I would love to play the drums if he was ever doing a recording.
Mark: Anyway we ended up making the record as a studio project and then kind of thought it had worked out well so wanted to go play it live, hence ‘The Diomedes’.
Who are your influences? Does everyone listen to similar music and bands?
Dave: When I was growing up, from the age of about five or six, first and foremost came The Beatles, then REM, early U2, INXS, then got into Nirvana and the grunge scene. It was almost a rite of passage to drum to Smells Like Teen Spirit. If you couldn’t do THAT intro, you were nothing. NOTHING! Then along came Britpop. So the obvious really, Blur, Pulp, Oasis etc. Then I got into the Dance, mainly Progressive Trance (Sasha and Digweed and The Global Underground label); not so much the charty stuff of the time but definitely The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers though, class acts like that. After that I got into a bit of Northern Soul then got really into eighties stuff like The Pixies, Talking Heads and New Order as well as all Bowie. I came very late to these for some reason but would say they are my main influences.
Mark: I’m very much into anything noisey and clever – tons of distortion or noises you which you can’t quite figure out how they were made and clever chord sequences are usually what grab me. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of NIN as people keep telling me there are similarities to what we do which is interesting and also a massive compliment – until recently I’ve only had Reznors soundtracks and the Ghosts long player so it’s been nice to hear some of his older stuff which is really really good. Crushingly heavy but really melodic and smart too. And amazing synth sounds. The Beatles and Bowie are getting a lot of earphone time too at the moment but that’s a fairly constant thing with me anyway.
You just released the album “Traps”. How would you describe this album?
Dave: Ur, well. It’s an album. Definitely an album.
Mark: What he said. The strapline is “an album of soaring indie melodies with punk energy, soundscapes, riffs and howling synths” but that’s probably the bollocksy way of putting it. There’s a lot more to it than that. So yeah, what Dave said.
12 tracks in all, it’s a big album, and some tracks are quite long. How long did you take to create this album?
Mark: Well we’d played together maybe three or four times in the year before, no real intentions to do anything with it, just messing around in a practise room sort of thing. We did record a few improvisations on an iphone and playing them back it was a bit like ‘yeah there might be something worth exploring here’. In the end I think we found the ideas for definitely Spoiling, Our Dying Go, parts of The Tower, and No Sleepwalking I think. Probably more than that but I can’t remember.
Dave: Yeah, that sounds about right. Oh, no, we tried stuff with This Place is Electric – but that was mainly you just wanting a disco track, so I did a bit of a New Order beat- but that track completely changed from its original idea to how it finished
Mark: To make the actual record though took maybe about a year in total but that’s because we kind of did things the wrong way round – I put together skeletons of 9 or 10 songs over 3 weeks in February 2015 (so just chord structures and tunes really, it was pretty rough), then we booked a space at Bally Studios for 3 days at the end of the same month, borrowed a ton of recording gear from a very very kind friend and pretty much moved into the rehearsal room for the weekend just recording as many drum tracks as possible onto my laptop. The drums for each song took us maybe about 3-4 hours to do so it was a pretty successful weekend all in all. After that it maybe took us a couple of months to flesh out the songs, come up with the two instrumental tracks, get the guitars sounding right, to finish off the lyrics, record the vocals, program the synth parts, come up with the soundscape elements etc etc etc. Those bits and the mixing took absolutely ages because we were recording and editing back at my flat still on the laptop using cobbled together gear. So I guess you could say the whole thing apart from the mastering (which we decided to have done properly by someone with better ears than us) is homemade if you like. But it took so long because unfortunately you have to pay the rent somehow and having to work kind of eats most of your week.
Dave: Yeah, recording the drums for Part 2 was hilarious. We packed up my electric drum kit to take to Marks flat, but I forgot the spine, so there ended up being drum pads all the shop. Never before have I played a hi-hat that was above my head!! We should have taken a photo of it. Balls! It’s taken so long to come out though because we wanted to be able to do it justice when playing it live so decided to spend a few months rehearsing and getting some gigs in before putting it out.
Mark: Yeah, we wanted to try and build as much of the detail from the record into the set even though there are only two of us. That took us a while to figure out how to do it without looking like we have backing tracks (clue: its analogue synths and a camping table) but I think we managed it pretty well. It’s probably also worth saying that we’re definitely a lot heavier / punk live which is something I want to try and capture for the next record that we’re working on now. But then maybe we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel and just do the same again but better. Not sure yet. We’ll probably finish some songs first before recording them though I imagine….. bit of a foreign concept to me but it might just work. Who knows eh. We’ll see.
How do you go about writing your songs?
Mark: Theft and Disguise.
Dave: Mark usually has something in his head. Sometimes, like in the case of Masquerade, the idea was there in full before we recorded. But usually a song starts with us messing around until we find a good riff or beat and then build on it from there. As you have already heard, we get the structure of the songs sorted so we can get the drums down and then it’s back to Mark’s flat in the evening after work to layer the other tracks. This was a very pain staking process. What was that term we came up with again….?
Mark: Beer Ears.
Dave: Yup, beer ears. Where you have gone way into the wee small hours of the morning working on tracks, perhaps having a drink or two as you work…..and when you go to listen to it the next day you realise you’ve completely ruined the whole thing and have to start again. Beer ears. Happened quite a few times. All part of the process I suppose. But we did get the term added to the Urban Dictionary…..so recognition at last!!
How important are the lyrics to you?
Dave: Yeah lyrics are important to us, definitely. Same sort of thing as the structures – start with a bunch of ideas, refine them into a song then improve them. We also had help from our lyricist friend Luke Morgan who very kindly offered to do work on Spoiling for us.
Mark: ….and promptly came up with the best set on the record, damn him! Well 95% of it anyway – I came up with the last chorus which I believe Luke refers to ‘affectionately’ as the pop bit…. take whatever meaning you like from that I guess! So he came up with all the weird stuff on that one which I think it’s fair to say both Dave and I thought was amazing when he gave it to us. I’m planning to go see him in Liverpool, move in uninvited and refuse to leave until he’s done us another one for the next record.
Dave: For the rest once we’d come up with the bulk of the ideas we sat in pub one Sunday afternoon to go through it all and added lines to make it more obvious about what it was going on about. Mark didn’t want to be particularly political but with everything that was going on at the time I thought Tension Head would be a great one fit for that kind of idea so there are references to ‘Richard II’ (the motif of ascension/ descension) and that things are really going crazy. Like the track itself really.
“Traps” contains a variety of tunes. Do you have a certain kind of tune that you are most interested in creating? And do you have a favourite type you like to listen to?
Dave: Well the main reason I wanted to the record with Mark is because he is into a lot of heavy stuff, and I’m not so much so, so I thought it could bring something new to the table. I knew he was into programming and synths too and with my history of liking Dance music, again I thought that we could making something a bit different. I don’t really have a favourite though to be honest.
Mark: For me it’s more about having every song on a record sound different but still making sure it sounds like the same band the whole way through. I’ll often get inspiration from other bands or artists and think ‘we haven’t done a track like that before’ then musical magpie-ing a bit of it or working in a similar style sort of thing. But by the time that you’ve written it and re-written it and recorded it and fleshed it out the original idea that you might have pinched is completely lost in the song somewhere; I’d be very surprised if anyone could tell me what the inspiration was for any of the tracks was I’ve completely forgotten myself now. Oh, I do know that Open Arms has a reference to ’99 Problems’ and the Inception soundtrack at the start. That one’s fairly obvious but also short lived on the track itself. As for favourites I don’t have one either – they all have to be as good as each other or they don’t get to go on the record in the first place. But I’m probably most proud of The Tower I guess – that was built out of a little tune Dave emailed to me and it spiralled out of control from there. Tension Head too – completely written in the practise room that we recorded in and structured around all of Dave’s drum flourishes.
What has been the highlight so far?
Mark: I’ve got a couple – the first one was during the drum recordings right back at the start; once we’d got the gear moved in and set up I think we did Open Arms first. The only thing we had for that track was a little drum loop for Dave to play along with, a piano hitting pretty much one note for the first half of the track and then some chords for the second half. But we’d also programmed in this crappy bass sound which we had up on full through the headphones we were using – the second those four BRMMMMMMMMMMMS(!!) kicked and Dave started doing his thing it was amazing – it was like hairs up on the back of my neck thinking ‘oh my god this is actually going to work’. It’d been a month of uncertainty about whether we could pull off doing a record in the way we did (i.e. cobble it together with no real rehearsals), whether we could source the recording gear in the first place and make it sound good enough, whether we could find a space that would work for us…. and whether or not the songs were total crap or not! But the second Dave started up that beat and put those drum rolls in was I like ‘PHEW. THANK FUCK FOR THAT’. I still love that drum break in the middle of it. The second highlight would be the last show at Proud Camden – amazing sound and light, best crowd we’ve had so far and hopefully a sign of things to come.
Dave: That gig was definitely one. Interestingly, an Open Arms moment is it for me too, but not that one. It was our first every practice. All the other songs where a long way off, which is always a bit of let down when you start out, but Open Arms was near perfect first time out. That’s when I realised we could actually do this.
Any plans for more shows?
Mark: Yes! Three more booked at the moment – 12th May we’re going back to the Dublin Castle in Camden (they asked us to come back which we jumped at obviously), 7th July we’re playing 229 on Great Portland St (venue 2 I think they call the room we’re in) and then 12th August we’re off to Liverpool to play Zanzibar there. Hopefully we’ll squeeze a few more in along the way too. We’ll basically play as often as we can or as often as we’re asked. That’s kind of the point of the whole thing surely.
Dave: We have to do your mates Dad pub again at some point!
Mark: Driving hundreds of miles into to the countryside to play to a crowd of offended grannies and toddlers with their hands over their ears……..hmmmmmmm….. NO! Nice pub though.
Is there anything you would like to say?
Dave: Thank you really, for taking the time out after listening to our record and letting us do the interview really. Much appreciated. It’s really quite hard to get people to listen to your music these days without a label so thanks for catching us.
Mark: I’m trying to think of something sage and witty to say. But, at usual, I’m only drawing blanks. Oh! I know! – if there’s anyone out there who’s into video production who wants to get involved please get in touch. We need to make one I think (music videos are a thing, right?) and have 100% none clue about it.
Thank you very much! And good luck!
– Teri Morris
To find out more about The Diomedes, visit their sites using the links below;