The Orielles: How the band turned their album into a film score

By Paul Glynn
Entertainment reporter

The OriellesImage source, The Orielles
Image caption,
Sisters Esmé Dee and Sidonie B Hand-Halford met bandmate Henry Carlyle Wade at a party 10 years ago

One of The Orielles' first gigs back last month was surreal, to say the least, as they ended up "inadvertently headlining" a three-quarters-empty Old Trafford Cricket Ground.

The empty seats, mind you, had nothing to do with the abilities of the Halifax band, and everything to do with the Manchester skies, which ultimately drowned out the entire evening's play at The Hundred.

The new format has seen the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) hook up with BBC Music Introducing to help provide top musical performances before, during and after the men's and women's games.

However, with only a hardcore contingent of cricket fans holding on in the vain hope of seeing some action, sisters Esmé Dee and Sidonie B Hand-Halford, alongside bandmate Henry Carlyle Wade, played on.

"We still did our sets in the allocated times but there was no cricket in between," explains percussionist Sidonie.

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"We were sitting in a windowless room, and the producer would just come in and be like, 'Actually, do you want to do a couple more tunes?', in between the thunderstorms," adds guitarist Henry.

While the real match day atmosphere was missing, what essentially turned into "a filmed practice" in front of a much smaller crowd was still a lot of fun, The Orielles say.

And having all moved to Manchester in recent years, they didn't have too far to go home.

'Live interpretation'

Taking a break from working on new music, the band have half an eye on another sport, the Olympic gymnastics, as they chat to us over Zoom about their directorial debut. La Vita Olistica, the band's new short film, was borne out of their third album of the same name, which was released in March.

That album, Esmé explains, was initially intended as "a live interpretation" of its predecessor Disco Volador, which arrived in March 2020. The band never got to perform that album on tour due to the coronavirus outbreak, so decided to instead make a record of what it would have sounded like live.

Image source, The Orielles
Image caption,
Sidonie cites Stereolab and The Durutti Column as musical influences on the band, and Krzysztof Kieślowski and Agnes Varda as inspiring film directors

"It was more us getting out of our system how we've missed playing it live, and how the songs would eventually adapt in a natural way in a live setting," says the band's frontwoman and bass player.

"And we wrote it with live in mind so it was nice to go and elaborate on the ideas that we had," Henry continues.

However, once they started working on it, the band realised it sounded more like a great movie soundtrack, and began adding new elements to it. Having initially recorded the album in one take, over-dubs and some more ambient sounds were added later.

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New versions of Disco Volador tracks like Come Down on Jupiter, 7th Dynamic Goo and Memoirs of Miso were given room to move and groove; and radio-friendly singles like Bobbi's Second World - an exploration into the mind of a cat - and Space Samba (Disco Volador Theme) were given a rest in favour of some more cinematic-sounding fragments of music and extended jams.

"Musically, [album two] has got a narrative, rather than lyrically where it's tension and release points," says Esmé. "So I guess it was kind of already readily adapted to being a film score."

The titular closing track constituted a spoken word piece, delivered in English and Italian by Esme and producer Marta Salogni respectively.

'Ever-changing and expanding'

In 2018, also under Salogni's wing, The Orielles impressed with the baggy indie dance vibes of their critically-acclaimed debut LP Silver Dollar Moment, then expanded their sound on the follow-up - adding layers inspired by Italian film scores, dance-punk and astronomy. Now their avant-garde new film is the latest evolution of that process.

La Vita Olistica plays with the viewer's perception of space, time and place, by projecting artwork, flashing images and scenes over the top of the band performing live. Esmé, and former film student Sidonie came up with the screenplay and directed it, while Henry is listed as one of the project filmmakers.

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The band performed at the BBC Radio 6 Music Festival in Camden in March 2020, just before lockdown one

But the band required the collaborative help of some talented real-life friends - producer Jessica Wheeler, cameraman Yohan Reitan and a raft of budding young actors and artists - in order to pull it all together in a Covid-secure warehouse over three days in December.

The singer feels that making films or art is part of "an ongoing process" that works "in tandem with the way we write music". She predicts there will be more to come in the near future.

The next incarnation of La Vita Olistica, they hope, will be a sensory multi-screen visual installation, that plays out as they soundtrack it live in loops for hours, as audiences dip in and out.

They haven't figured out precisely how to do that yet though, Henry laughs. "It would be very freeing, without a setlist or anything," he says.

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"We're massively inspired by happenings," notes Sidonie, referring to the forerunners of performance art in late-1950s and 1960s. "The idea of being able to witness something just this one time, and it being ever-changing and expanding."

Anyone who stayed to watch The Orielles battle the elements with their guitars at the cricket in July will have a sense of what they mean, having witnessed something special that those who headed for the exits will have missed.

The band say they are ready for a second innings soon if selected, and are excited to hopefully see some sixes and wickets for themselves next time out.

The Orielles' film La Vita Olistica will be shown at Yes! in Manchester on Thursday 12 August, Leaf in Liverpool on Friday 13 August, and Sea Change in Totnes, Devon on 28 August, with other screenings TBC. The album is out now, and the band will play a series of UK gigs and festivals this summer.

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