Orlata

by Sarah Morrish

Ahead of PearShaped & Campus Bands' Fundraiser this Wednesday, Sarah Morrish caught up with Orlata's Mathew Gardner to talk creativity, composition and channeling your influences.

Photograph Credit: Dane Ridgway Photography © 2018

How long had you known each other prior to forming in 2017? How did you meet and what compelled you to make music together?

Lizzie and I had been working together, teaching music, for a few years. We’d always talked about ‘having a jam,’ but could never really find the time or right people. We’d both spent years playing in function bands, which whilst fun can get a bit pedestrian after long, so we yearned desperately for a creative outlet. When a mutual friend had recommended Harry as a keyboard player, the ball began rolling, but I was still reluctant to commit to anything. Ten minutes into that first session, I yelled ‘sign me up!’

 

How do you keep yourselves motivated to write and create?

Simply by listening to lots of different music. There are endless ways to be inspired by music, art and life experiences. It’s essentially the constant desire to capture all those experiences (good and bad) and catalogue them, like a musical blog.

 

When did you begin playing your instrument? What drew you to pursue that particular one?

Piano and Violin from aged 7, Drums not long after – but have dabbled in guitar, bass, trumpet and even lead vocals over the past 20+ years. I guess, in answer to your question, I was never satisfied with being tied to just one instrument; and why should you be? Orlata, as a collective is lucky in that regard, as Lizzie is a great pianist and reed player, Joe is an accomplished pianist, and Harry is developing his career as an arranger/composer. Such a diverse set of skills allows for a parity in perspective when we write; we are able to confidently suggest parts for each other and collectively form songs beyond the simple sum of our individual parts.

 

You strike the balance between enchanting instrumentalism and cathartic lyricism. Which do you tend to work on first: your lyrics or your instrumental?

Tough question, it really depends on the mood. Lizzie is our principle songwriter, particularly lyrically. The ‘usual’ way a song is formed starts with Lizzie having a melody or set of chords. The band then improvises over the idea until something cohesive starts to take shape. It’s very spontaneous and rarely forced. Once the skeleton frame is in place, we simply go in and tidy parts up. Lizzie’s lyrics often come directly from her experiences; of which she isn’t shy to share with the group. What our audience hears is genuine; we don’t do or say things for the sake of following a rhyme scheme.

 

Since your music combines several eclectic genres, your influences must be vast. Who do you consider your biggest sources of inspiration? 

You nailed it, as this is where things get eclectic. As individuals, we are all influenced by jazz, heavy metal, video game and movie soundtracks, electronica, soul, hip-hop, reggae, neo-soul, classical music, 80s pop, 90s dance… the list goes on. Spotify and YouTube make it easy for us to share all the stuff we like with each other. Our usual comparisons are Hiatus Kaiyote or Moonchild. Right now, I’m diggin’ on J Dilla, TWRP, the bird and the bee and Raleigh Ritchie.

 

How do you rehearse? Do you have a set schedule or is it more spontaneous? 

We rehearse as and when we need, it’s not a weekly thing; and we only rehearse what we need to (a single song ahead of recording, or the whole set ahead of longer gigs.) We all play in other bands, so often have to fulfil other commitments. I like it, keeps things fresh!

 

I notice that you tend to frequent the Exeter and Bristol areas when performing. Does a particular gig stand out thus far?

Bristol has a great scene that fits well with the styles we perform and is always a blast, but, for us, Firehouse in Exeter is always a killer. The crowd has such good energy, and there is great ‘funk’ in the air! Every show we’ve done has been rammed (despite the small size of the venue.) If I got to do those kinds of gigs every night, I’d be very content. Big festival stages are often fun when lots of people are dancing in the sun (plus it’s fun to hear yourself through a massive rig!)

 

Do you think that an online presence is important in expanding your audience?

It is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you want a decent presence so that people can engage with you outside of gigs etc. but the market is so saturated. I genuinely believe that a lot of people are engaging less and less with social media these days, so we always advocate for quality over quantity when it comes to our own content.

 

If you could give advice to someone looking to form a group, what advice would you have?

At the risk of sounding clichéd, do whatever you want to do because you enjoy doing it. Play the music you want to play, write the lyrics you want to write, and play the gigs you want to play. Don’t follow a particular business model or songwriting structure because someone else has done it before you. Our number one policy in Orlata is that we are friends first, so when things don’t work, we just talk and fix it.

 

Finally, what are your goals as a group for 2019?

To play more gigs, put out more music, and just carry on having more fun exploring our passions and influences.

 

You can hear Orlata’s latest single, ‘Live At Studio 54’, here.