Mar 06, 2023
By Dom Gourlay
Meet London-based dreampop duo deary. Their debut single “Fairground” came out on esteemed independent label Sonic Cathedral earlier this year and sold out all physical copies within a couple of hours.
Comprised of multi-instrumentalists Ben and Dottie, who also takes on lead vocals, deary have been compared to the likes of Slowdive, Cocteau Twins and Portishead among others. Which is no mean feat having only got together during lockdown. Although still only in single figures as far as live shows are concerned, deary are already gaining a reputation as one of the hottest new bands in the UK.
So, today (Wednesday 8th March) sees the release of a brand new Saint Etienne reworking of “Fairground” entitled the “Saint Etienne Meet Augustin Bousfield At The Top Of Town Mix”. This new remix is available on all digital platforms and precedes the release of an EP of reworkings on 5th May.
“I got into Foxbase Alpha in a big way while studying at Goldsmiths via the Dusty Springfield sample on “Nothing Can Stop Us””, says Ben. “I love that record; the drum samples and the pop sensibilities were a real inspiration for both “Fairground” and deary as a whole. We absolutely love their reworking of “Fairground”, it’s really trippy and such a joy to have them work on our stuff. A thousand thank yous to them and Augustin.”
In the meantime, Ben and Dottie spoke to Under the Radar about how deary came about, their next single and future aspirations.
Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): When did the project start? I read that you were both sending music to each other over lockdown. Was that the beginning of deary?
Ben: When the first lockdown happened, myself and my girlfriend moved, moved down to my parents’ house in Kent. They live in the sticks basically, and we had no outgoings, so I just had a surplus amount of money to spend on some new gear. I’ve always been a bassist by trade, and I really wanted to write some music to help me through the pandemic. So, I basically wrote some dream poppy, ethereal stuff and there were no vocals on it at the time. I bought myself loads of pedals, bought myself a Jazzmaster, and I was like, “You know what? I’m gonna fucking do this!” with a view that I’d find a female vocalist. So that started in March 2020, and I got chatting to a few people on social media but nothing really came of it, and then I found Dottie. We first started chatting and swapping ideas and stuff towards the end of – I think it was the third lockdown? – where you could go and meet people in the pub. So, we kind met up and everything went from there. Initially it was just me dicking around in a room for about six months, annoying everyone with my headphones on and just slogging away.
Had you both been making music before in other bands or guises?
Dottie: Yeah, I’ve been in a few bands and do a solo project as well. So, it’s something I’ve always done, mostly as a vocalist or guitarist.
You’ve been compared to the likes of Slowdive and the Cocteau Twins. What inspired you to make that kind of music and go in a similar direction?
Ben: I think from an initial music point of view, I’ve always been in bands that are very “laddy” focused, I suppose. When I was younger, it was all about the Arctic Monkeys, and that’s always stayed with me throughout any musical project that I’ve done. At the beginning of lockdown, the band that I was in slowly came to a close, basically. We were making slightly fey indie rock; it had The Smiths in there, it had The Stone Roses in there. But it was all kind of laddy, and I just felt like there was something that I wanted to explore without having anybody else’s opinion around me. So, I just wanted to focus on the music that I loved and the music that I knew I could make, and was kind of more authentic really. Like I said earlier, the main thing was to try and find that ethereal vocal over the top of it that could, could match it. A few people that I worked with initially didn’t really like this kind of music. But then as soon as Dotty and I started chatting, it was like, “Right, who’s your inspiration?” And Dottie said, “Elizabeth Fraser.” So that was it. That’s my muse! So, while it’s quite easy to just look at Cocteau Twins and Slowdive and all the people who’ve really made an influence on that dreampop/shoegaze genre, there’s also so much other stuff that we really dig and I think our music going forward will reflect that. It’s a little bit more trip hoppy and a little bit more Portishead or Massive Attack influenced. There’s a bag called Lotus that I’m really getting into who are fucking amazing. I think it’s just authentic. I think it is. Dottie and I both love that kind of music. It’s just who we are, basically.
When did you first become involved with Sonic Cathedral? What’s it been like working with Nat (Cramp) who runs the label?
Ben: So, I work a nine to five job at BMG and one of the bands that I work with is A Place To Bury Strangers. Just by virtue of working with them, we had these tunes almost ready and were at the demo stage so we thought let’s just farm it out and see who might like it. I managed to get Nat’s contact details off the manager of A Place To Bury Strangers. I knew they had done remixes for him and it was all in Nat’s sort of sphere. So, I just chanced my arm, sent it to him, and a couple of weeks later we were signed! He was just like, “Wow! I love it and need to get involved.” It does stroke the ego quite a lot that no music’s been released and we hadn’t played any live shows by that point, yet a label comes on board straight away.
One thing about Nat/Sonic Cathedral and the shoegaze scene in general is it seems to bring a lot of people together from all around the world.
Ben: It definitely feels like a community. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that kind of community vibe in anything that I’ve done before. Usually people are out to get you or bands are just out for themselves. Whereas it just doesn’t feel like that in this community, which is really fresh and makes us feel really at home. So, yeah, it’s great.
Your debut single “Fairground” sold out in just a few hours after it was released. Did you expect such an overwhelmingly positive? Did you think that that was going to happen?
Dottie: No! I was actually against having the seven-inch. I didn’t think it was going to work and wasn’t on board with the idea. But Nat and Ben were full on believing whereas I never thought it would sell out in two weeks never mind two hours!
Ben: “Fairground” was never intended to be a single. We never thought of it as a single. It was just a kind of ethereal, trip hoppy thing that kept going, looping around and around. I just thought that might be nice to sit on a record somewhere but it’s not a single. Then as we developed “Fairground” it became the main calling card for the kind of music that we make. You always think that a single is going to be the best thing ever, but your best work is often the latest work. So, even though “Fairground”’s been fucking brilliant and everything’s sold out and going really well, it’s all about the next single. The next one’s going to be even better, until it’s not and then you try and reflect and go, “What the fuck have I done?”
What is the next single and when’s it coming out?
Ben: The next single is coming out in May but there’s a few bits coming before. Saint Etienne have remixed “Fairground” which we’re incredibly excited about. The next single represents the other side of the band. “Fairground” was very much sample heavy, and Dottie’s vocals are very featherlight. It’s very light and loops around and everything, whereas the next tune is a lot darker and it’s a lot heavier. When we play it live, it’s the one that people often find themselves headbanging to. It’s probably as much head banging as we can possibly go, just a kind of melancholy nod is probably what it is. But it’s going to be a little bit heavier than “Fairground”.
What’s the single called?
Ben: It’s called “Beauty In All Blue Satin.”
In terms of live shows, I’m guessing you haven’t played that many so far?
Dottie: I think we’ve done five?
Ben: Five or six.
Dottie: It may be six now actually.
Ben: I think Brighton was our sixth live show.
Do you see yourselves as more of a studio project at the moment that’s gradually turning into a live band? Or do you see both as running simultaneously over time?
Ben: I think the way that the music industry is and the way bands are at the moment, you have to be able to play live in order to get yourself out there. Even if you’re a DJ or a producer, if you can go up there and mix tunes for an hour, you’re going to get yourself noticed. I think it’s the same with us. The body of work that we’ve been working on for the last year or so, nothing’s been done in the same place. We’ve recorded at Dottie’s house, at my house, at various studios, and it’s all an amalgamation of a lot of things. The live show is pretty much the same. We definitely need them to run parallel, but so far, it’s just been a mismatch of playing live and wanting to record the next stuff. It’s definitely been worth it doing the live stuff, and it’s something that I was perpetually worried about. Everything was made in rooms and not with a live drummer. Not with a live band, just me and Dottie doing our own thing. Then to take it into a live setting and have people come up to us after the first six shows that and say, “You’re a good live band” or “You’re a tight live band.” It’s alright, we’ll take that!
Will you be collaborating with other musicians in the studio going forwards as well as having them play on stage with you as a live band?
Dottie: So, for our first ever show, we found an amazing drummer in Ben’s brother Sam. He also played the drums and the keys on a lot of the recordings that we have at the moment, so he played with us for our first show and it was incredible. But after that, Sam unfortunately lives in Manchester so he couldn’t be a permanent member. So, we managed to find another Ben who plays drums and he’s a sweetheart and also very talented. We’ve been playing with him ever since and so far, it’s just great. We’re just good friends now and we just love doing it, travelling everywhere.
Ben: Some of those elements that we like to put on our music are quite layered. There’s lots of stuff we can do without having the boundaries of this is how many players we have, so therefore, we don’t feel restricted by how many people we need to play live. We like to just chuck it all on as if it were a twenty-piece band. So, I think slowly it’s all coming together. We’d love to get a bassist in. There’s a lot of keys on as well, so it’ll be good to get that in too but the budget’s quite tight. It’s better just to keep it realistic and natural for the time being. But I definitely want to get a bassist in, just to make it a bit more visceral.
What are your plans for the rest of the year? Obviously, you’ve mentioned the next single coming out in May, but will there be any more releases? Will there be a tour or any festival shows?
Ben: At the moment we’re chatting to some booking agents, which is again, really amazing as we’re not used to people latching on. Usually, you put music out in the world and then no one ever replies to you. So, it’s nice that we’ve got a few people wanting to get on board and join the team and help us out. Hopefully that’ll breed some good support shows and maybe a tour later on in the year. Which is all leading up to a larger body of work by the end of the year. We want to go and play the – I loosely call it “the record” – that larger body of work which we’re working on at the minute. We did our first shows outside of London a few weeks ago in Coventry and Brighton, albeit slightly pissed on the train home, but we did all say this is what we want to do. We want to do this all the time. We love playing shows, just hanging out with each other, and playing music. So, I hope we get to do that more.
Whereabouts did you play in Coventry?
Dottie: A place called Just Dropped In. It’s also a record store. I don’t really know Coventry very well but it’s in this kind of brewery section where they have lots of off cuts and things. It’s really lovely. It’s like a little indoor market. So, in the daytime Just Dropped In is a record store than they change to a live venue in the evening. It was amazing. It’s quite intimate, but the whole thing was sold out and it was just such a nice atmosphere. There’s all these records around you, so you’ve just got these icons everywhere. There was a Mazzy Star record that I was just staring at for the whole performance, which is great.
What advice would you give to any new bands or artists that are just starting out? What would you tell them to do? What would you tell them to avoid?
Ben: I think it’s all about consistency. Even if you’ve been playing and releasing music and nothing’s happening for you, just never give up and always do whatever the fuck you want to do. It’s really important. One of the things that I struggled with for probably three or four years before “Fairground” came out was releasing music. Music was never finished in my head. It’s constantly being tweaked. It’s not mixed yet. It’s not the right take. The guitars weren’t recorded on an amazing amp. It was recorded digitally, you know, all that shit. So, my advice to a young person or someone starting out is you’ve just got to put yourself out there and keep putting yourself out there over a course of however many years it takes until you either get some sort of validation from it or you just feel like it’s run its course, there’s no point in giving up. Which is what basically what I’ve been doing for the last ten years.
Dottie: I think that is obviously a good thing, but also, as Ben was saying, it makes you very prone to this has only gone through my ears and it’s hard to get that out of the headphones and actually play to other people. So yeah, I think it’s important to start playing to other people and not just be in your own head.
Are there any other new artists that you’d recommend Under the Radar and its readers should be checking out?
Ben: There’s a band that we’re playing with in a couple of weeks’ time called Preen. They’re really good. It’s gives me very Carpenters vibes, which I’m really into. So that’s really cool.
Dottie: There’s a band called Pushpin that I really like at the moment. They play a lot at the George in London and I’ve caught them a few times. They’re one of those bands that you just kind of like. I went to a gig and I wasn’t really sure of their music but then it just blows you out the water and you can’t take your eyes off them.