As early as the 12th Century, sterling silver has been documented as a useful material for crafting currency, tools and cutlery (hence the term silverware). Despite its longevity in society, the term sterling silver and pure silver are still sometimes interchangeably used to define the same material. Sterling silver, in fact, is a lower grade of silver and comprised of only 92.5% pure silver, with 7.5% being some metallic impurity. This added impurity is not unwelcome, however. Other metals such as copper are added to silver to make sterling silver more durable than its softer, purer sister.
Sterling silver’s impurity is the namesake for London DIY band Sorry’s debut album, 925, or so they say. With each new press release, Sorry’s character is quickly condensing into one phrase: “whatever”. It has become a thought-provoking challenge for some to interpret meanings from titles and lyrics when its creators are so intriguingly indifferent.
But the similarities between sterling silver and Sorry are hard to ignore. Unlike pure silver, sterling silver quickly loses its shine. In 925, you see this as well. It has a dull brilliance: its songs are happily impure, tarnished with a mismatch of different genres. The album itself is fronted by a nameless woman, her collar exposed and a silver pendant draped around her neck. Engraved on it are the band’s name and the numbers 9, 2 and 5.
Sorry (originally ‘Fish’ before a legal debacle with the Scottish singer-songwriter) began with duo Asha and Louis, later followed by Campbell, Lincoln and Marco. These twenty-somethings have grown to fame with a quintessential aspect of youth culture which we seem to have lost over the years: grungy, 90’s era, “Freaks and Geeks” teenage hormones which don’t bubble to the surface as a short temper, but instead ferment as a general apathy.
With their debut album released in March, Sorry were due to tour across the UK in April and May. This unprecedented pandemic, however, has made other plans for them. Instead, the five sit in their homes, as 925 album tour dates are cancelled. As a substitute for the live review we planned for Sorry at Village Underground, Shoreditch, I spoke with bassist Campbell over the phone.
I was excited to speak to Campbell, especially after learning we both share a similar affinity for Elliott Smith’s dreary 1998 album XO, both pointing out ‘Pitseleh’ as one of its highlights. I was curious to learn whether their music interests were mostly from the 90’s. “We all listen to different types of music”, he tells me, but then adds “I wouldn’t say we’re strictly 90’s. There’s definitely a few artists which we’re all collectively into. Alex G is someone we think of as the Elliott Smith of this generation.”
925 is the accumulation of these interests. It features dives into jazz, trip-hop, pop and grunge, held together by a mutual murky sound. With its release, Sorry have found themselves in a unique situation: being unable to tour the country means their only method of gauging its landing has been online. I asked Campbell about his impression of online responses to the album in the context of this lockdown. “I think our record is something people can get into as much in their bedroom as they can live”, he says. “There’s definitely bands that would have suffered more than us were they to release an album in this climate”, and then jokingly assures me they weren’t being opportunist in this difficult time. “Everything we’ve done, even with the mixtapes, has always felt more of an online thing. We haven’t done the extensive touring that some bands would have done up to the release of a debut album”.
This is certainly true: in the nuance of genre you find online these days, Sorry could thrive. The lo-fi music Sorry released in the form of mixtapes and singles resonated with people listening from their bedrooms, so even in this strange age of social distancing the five have been lucky to see their fans enjoying their music.
Playing music for a living always comes with an associated notoriety. Groups and individuals are sometimes drawn to this career path as a means of attaining a wider adoration, or for deeper pockets. Sorry, however, seem unbothered by either of these. Their press interviews are notorious for their brevity, and their answers for their wanting.
Despite this I was happy to be greeted with an insightful discussion with Campbell. I asked him about these discrepancies between themselves their portrayal in these sorts of interviews. “In many ways you can’t really prevent it. Words and stories will always be twisted”, he says, “We all grew up reading stories of bands we liked. It’s funny when you realise later that half of it was complete nonsense”. He adds “I suppose a lot of the time it serves its purpose, but maybe some bands just aren’t interesting enough, truth be told”.
Following a quote from Jesse Eisenberg, who tells us that he fibs about 90% of what he says in interviews, I ask if there’s an element of that which rings true for them. “Some people definitely go down that avenue, but I don’t think we’re that sort of band, and we try to be honest as much as possible”. This is by far the most “meta” interview I’ve conducted.
London’s DIY world is approaching saturation. It is awash with musically talented “guitar bands”, a label Sorry seemed to want to shake off. “Most of the people we used to hang around with were predominantly guitar bands. They would go into the studio and record live, but we were the complete opposite. Naturally that gave it a different feel”. Their distinctive character also followed through in their live performance. “Once we started introducing more interesting elements like samples, it really became its own thing”.
Back in 2017, Sorry were a part of a scene with similar groups like HMLTD and Shame. But we discuss how the phrase “music scene” has changed throughout the years. “It isn’t quite how it used to be. Scenes used to describe a group of people that were strictly into one genre”, he says. “It’s completely different now. The scenes you have these days have vastly different bands in them.”
With this first album released, I ask Campbell if he ever dwells on what lies ahead for the band. “I try not to think about it too much”. Campbell joined Sorry around the same time as Lincoln, and some songs like ‘Snakes’ and ‘Ode to Boy’ (my personal favourite) from 925 have resided longer with Asha and Louis than they have. “The first record was a mix of these songs from all over, some were written before I had joined”. Campbell tells me he looks forward to the next record. “It’s exciting to go into the next one feeling like we’ve been a unit for a while, and be a part of it from start to finish”.
When projects like these become larger than the sum of its parts, that is when the most interesting products are formed. Originally, Campbell tells me the band was only formed as a supplement to Asha and Louis’ bedroom writing, but then grew as time passed. “It’s not like each of us has one duty to fulfil in the band”. Looking at the credits for their songs is clear evidence of this. “Each of us will simply play what is lacking in the track.” There are no strict roles, and it seems that to say Campbell is just the bassist is not painting the whole picture.
Even on joining the band, his experience playing the bass was limited, having a stronger background on the piano and saxophone. “There was definitely a learning curve”, says Campbell. “You learn it’s more than just a four-string guitar”. I ask whether learning music theory from the piano helped when learning bass. “Music theory is kind of something you have to throw out the window, especially with a band like Sorry. Songs are not thought out that way at all and it’s very instinctive”. He adds: “If you asked us the key of any of the songs on the record, I don’t think anyone would be able to tell you”.
It’s a personal theory of mine that music theory is debilitating when it is used as scripture, and Sorry are evidence of this. Their complete disregard for the study has elicited these moody tunes which swing back and forth between punk, indie, and grunge with critical acclaim.
Sorry are unapologetically full of character, and are still riding on the bedroom release of “925”. Official site here.
Interview by Byron Gamble
Photography by Sam Hiscox