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In Conversation: The Indelicates
The Indelicates are an English indie rock band based in Sussex. Their first album, American Demo, came out in 2008, and was followed by Songs for Swinging Lovers in 2010, and most recently by David Koresh Superstar. They have toured extensively in Europe and the UK, supported Art Brut, Amanda Palmer and The Vaselines, and headlined the second stage at Austria’s Frequency Festival.
The ORbits editor spoke to Simon and Julia Indelicate about music, money, and looking westward.
When your songs address America, they seem caught between repulsion and enchantment. Will you keep looking across the Atlantic?
Simon Indelicate: I think that this is one of those fluid loci of meaning that only exist at the centre of the dialogue between us and our audience – we, on the whole, are just enchanted (though we probably wouldn’t use that word, as it implies a subsummation of the will that we don’t believe we’re party to) and our European audience is just repulsed – the catching happens between the two positions. We love America; we love Disney World. We’d far rather have been born into a culture that sells the experience of royalty to the mass market than into one that still uses its parks with the permission of a Queen. Britain is a truly repulsive, class-ridden, pseudo-meritocracy that offers nothing but rigged trials and smothering gauntlets that enable the quite clever children of quite clever parents to exercise dominion over museums about themselves. We’ll keep looking west for as long as looking backwards remains so dispiriting.
One of your earlier projects was The Book of Job: The Musical, and your sound is consistently eclectic. Do taxonomies of musical genre seem restrictive to you – and would you ever do an opera?
Simon Indelicate: How are we defining opera these days? We think of our last record (David Koresh Superstar – an album entirely about the siege at Waco) as a concept album, but in the seventies they used to call concept albums ‘rock operas’. Some people suggest it comes down to having spoken dialogue between songs – which our Job show does – but now that I think of it, Joseph and the Amazing Etc. doesn’t, and that’s definitely a musical. The best definition I can find says that opera is first about the music and musicals are first (contrarily) about the lyrics. If we go with that then: no, we won’t ever do an opera, because the lyrics are always going to be the thing we care about most. We are, however, working on a lowbrow rock and roll musical at the moment which definitely isn’t an opera but which is amazing.
As for taxonomies of genre, it is one of the great luxuries of abstaining from being a critic in any public sense that one can completely ignore the urge to think about them; and we do. In that sense, we are unrestrained by them.
Your songs are brutally bouncy on the subject of rape culture. Do you consider them acts of protest, witness, change – or all three?
Julia Indelicate: I think it is more complicated than protest. The songs “Flesh” and “Our Daughters Will Never Be Free” are witnessing a female middle class destroying all the good work done in the name of feminism. I think this happens in academia and trickles through into our media – and suddenly out of nowhere burlesque and pole dancing are things to aspire to, and I think this damages the aspirations of young women who aren’t from the educated middle classes, and is thus massively irresponsible.
I don’t have a problem with people doing those things (although I would never let down my female audience by getting publicly naked and cashing in on the hits, because it’s still a big issue), but I do have a huge problem with those things being held in esteem above being an excellent female political reporter risking death to report on wars. We should be championing women who take jobs that most women don’t, by way of encouraging young women that they can choose to do the same. And if they choose to have babies instead then we shouldn’t be attacking them for letting the side down.
While feminism is having its identity crisis, people are forgetting that equality was always meant to be the main thing. In the job I sometimes do to pay my bills, being homophobic or racist is punishable with suspension, but if a man is malevolently misogynistic towards a woman it is brushed off as a character flaw. The waters are muddied.
I think that a lot of the blame for this can be laid at the doors of female academic stars and at those of their journalistic disciples who apply their theory to anything that comes along – to deadlines and for money. They dilute feminism’s clarity and make access to it a privilege, and I dislike them for it. Rape is the problem. And people who rape people. And people who make it hard for rapists to be punished, caught and prevented from raping people. I don’t know that the academic dissection of a self-referentially defined rape culture does anything much to help.
What does music have to say to money?
Julia Indelicate: Hello money, how’d you fancy a trip to Disney World?
Simon Indelicate: Penn Jillette says an interesting thing: that if you know three things about someone and the third thing isn’t a surprise, you can safely go about your day. If I know that you’re an earnest man, that you have an acoustic guitar, and that, third, you are an anticapitalist vegetarian liberal who uses the phrase ‘illegal war’ in arguments – then that’s fine and good luck, but you aren’t really adding anything to the world except positive reinforcement for beta males. Even if you’re right, you’re boring – which is worse than being wrong.
I think actually that most music tends to oversimplify and spoil the thing you’re trying to say, rather than enhance it. Even if you write an affecting hook to sing your lyric to, you are cheating a little bit – it’s a new classical fallacy: the argument from harmony.
But the effects of harmony and rhythm are easy to create – music isn’t anything special and talent is abundant in the world. For all its pretension and branding hype, the main things music has said to money over the years have been ‘yes’ and ‘thank you’. I’m not against money – if it didn’t exist, it would be stupid not to invent it. I’m not against commerce either, and I agree with economists who know that exchange and specialisation are the things that have raised us from the cave. I am against compromising and I’m very against doing it for money.
I guess that, at its best, music should just try to ignore money as best it can.
It’s six years since “We Hate The Kids”. Do you still hate them?
Julia Indelicate: Nes.
Simon Indelicate: Yo.
Chloe Stopa-Hunt graduated in 2010 with a BA in English from New College, Oxford. She is a senior editor of the Oxonian Review.