Sidonie Hand-Halford, drummer with Halifax trio The Orielles, describes the last four years of her band’s existence as “a bit of a whirlwind” with good reason.
Their journey, from forming the indie pop group while Sidonie, her younger sister Esme and friend Henry Carlyle Wade were at secondary school, to releasing their one of this year’s most talked-about debut albums, Silver Dollar Moment, and selling out gigs across the country, has to all intents and purposes been remarkable.
Sidone admits there have been “ups and downs” along the way. “The album, I guess, kind of seems like a validation of all of our hard work over the years.”
Since signing to Heavenly at the end of 2016 “pretty much everything has been on the up”, she says, adding: “We’ve got them to thank for it all, really.”
Much of the groundwork for The Orielles’ success was done while the three members were in education. Sidone might have finished her media and film degree at Liverpool University last year, but Esme is now busy studying English literature in Manchester and Henry has been completing his A-levels.
Silver Dollar Moment is “a collection of songs that we’ve had over quite a long period”, says Sidonie. “A few of them were written a couple of years ago but then there are ones that were written in the studio. It’s quite varied in terms of when each track was written.”
Film is a major inspiration for Sidonie and Esme. “A lot of our lyrics are about scenes and interesting subjects that we come across in film. We’re really interested in the dialogue in film, particularly European cinema. That really takes our interest and surrealism and that kind of thing. We like to put that into our music.”
The media side of Sidonie’s course came in handy too. “It taught me quite a lot about the behind-the-scenes aspect of being in a band as well, applying for funding. I did a non-music module in the course and that taught me a lot of things which I wasn’t really aware of before.”
The diverse range of musical influences on The Orielles include “Manchester/Hacienda/Factory kind of bands like A Certain Ratio and Happy Mondays, also from the American scene of a similar time, like ESG and Talking Heads – bands that blend guitar indie with dance as well”.
“We’re really interested in that and want to re-start that movement for this century,” says Sidonie.
We like to blend the idea of serious and not into our songs by making the lyrics about a serious subject and the title quite tongue-in-cheek, or vice-versa.Sidonie Hand-Halford
The band’s increasing political consciousness has also started to infiltrate their songs, Sidonie admits. The song 48 Per Cent a subtle allusion to the Remain vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum. “The title is totally that, the lyrics aren’t really,” says Sidonie. “We like to blend the idea of serious and not into our songs by making the lyrics about a serious subject and the title quite tongue-in-cheek, or vice-versa.”
The title of the song I Only Bought It For The Bottle might be satirical yet the lyrics are “much more politically-driven or like a thematic story”.
The band’s decision to sign to Heavenly was heavily influenced by their track record label in fostering such talents as Saint Etienne, Manic Street Preachers, Beth Orton and Doves. “We’ve always respected and appreciated all the bands that they’ve ever put out,” says Sidonie. “The current roster as well is amazing.
“I remember talking to our manager a couple of years ago and he was asking us which label we should aim towards and Heavenly was the main one suggested and one we wanted to target the most.
“To have them come on board and support us felt like a dream, it was so amazing.”
The group has feels a similar debt of gratitude to DJ Marc Riley, who has heavily championed them on his BBC 6 Music programme. “We always listened to his show regardless; for him to play our tunes as well is unbelievably nice,” Sidonie says.
Having gigged substantially during the last couple of years, Sidonie believes the band’s live set has “developed quite a lot in terms of confidence and energy”.
“When we first started out myself and Esme had never played our instruments before so our first gig was obviously very nerve-wracking but it’s just become second nature to us now,” she says. “It’s really easy to play and not have think too much about what we’re doing. I think we’d like to develop the set slightly more, though. On the album there’s quite a few overdubs that as a three-piece we can’t replicate live so there’s talk of maybe getting an additional member in to play keys or if not then maybe a sample pad for the drums where we can trigger certain sounds and little melodies that perhaps might be missed from the album.”
With the band’s home town Halifax in the spotlight for its flourishing music and arts scene, now seems an apposite time for The Orielles to play at the recently redeveloped Piece Hall on a bill headlined by Father John Misty and also including Edwyn Collins and Hookworms. “It’ll be the first time that we’ve played in Halifax for about three years at least, so that’s going to be great,” Sidonie says.
The Orielles play at Brudenell Social Club on April 13 and The Piece Hall, Halifax on May 26.