An Introduction To Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
They were among the countless and exellent post-punk acts from the 80s. On one hand they were quickly labeled as gothic Joy Division acolytes, and on the other, they were described as a Wire influenced act with a love for Black Sabbath and MC5. Nonetheless, they had a hard, heavy, pulsating, acid-drenched and droning punkrock sound that is still unique to this day. To be honest, I can´t think of a single band which had a sound like they had. Let us briefly discuss their history.
Leeds, 1981 - started by Chris Reed (Guitarist), Mark Sweeney (Vocalist), Steve Smith (Bass) and drummer Mick Brown (Drums). Mick Brown would later be the drummer for The Mission and Chris Reed would be the permanent vocalist as Mark Sweeney would eventually leave the group. Another second guitarist Martin Fagan, was also added to the group.
The first release would be the Beating My Head / I'm Still Waiting 12" single, which would surely tell what the future would bring - thunderous, angst-ridden post punk aggression. It soon gained a lot of positive attention on the NME independent record chart. After this release, Fagan and Smith would leave the band and would be replaced by David Wolfenden from The Expelaires (Guitar) and Paul Southern (Drums). Several band members would come and go, but Chris Reed and David Wolfenden would be the bands primary force and mainstay. In 1983/84 they reached number 9 on the NME indie chart (on the strength of singles "He's Read" and "Monkeys on Juice"), and radio DJ John Peel became a strong supporter. He would of course go on to record two Peel sessions for them (both are exellent!). The band would later re-do "Beating My Head", as they were unhappy with the sound. This version would later on appear the "This Today" EP, with AWESOME Edward Munch cover-art. The same year they would be asked by Xmal Deutschland (who were big fans), if they could support them on their UK tour. This is where the RLYLs breakthrough would really happen. They also shared bill together with The March Violets.
They released their strong debut ´Talk About the Weather´ in 1985. The album received a strong cult following, and is still discussed today as being one of their best albums. Colin Newman of Wire was initially asked to produce it, but ultimately the band decided to produce it themselves. Darker than Joy Division, without mercy like U.S Big Black and as evocative as The Swans. The record even had a decent position in the NME indie charts at number 3.
The band's follow up, ´Paint Your Wagon' also had a strong showing on the NME indie chart (at number 3 again) and although diffrent then the debut, it still contained harsh sludgy guitar psychedelics with a touch of cow-punk. Anyone would have thought that a group like Godflesh, would have worshipped the punishing aesthetics of the track named "Blitz".
In 1987 they released the excellent "Crawling Mantra" EP and called themselves The Lorries. The record was produced by Vic Maile´, who had also worked with Hawkwind and Möterhead. The sound would be described by Melody Maker as "ebullient" (exuberant, buoyant, cheerful, joyful, cheery, merry, sunny, breezy, jaunty, light-hearted, in high spirits, high-spirited, exhilarated, elated). The same year they also released the 12" single "Open Up", which became ´Single of the week´ on NME. Allthough NME hated the band, the band´s success was in the US, which didn't seem to have the same prejudices the UK media had.
In 1988, the bleak and more melodic based "Nothing Wrong" was released. It didn´t enter the charts like the first two, but the quality of the band remained intact. Tracks like "Nothing Wrong", "Hands of Me", "Only Dreaming" and "Open Up" are some of their best tracks in my opinion. To this day, this remains one of the bands most bleak releases.
"Blow" was released in 1989 and produced by Gavin Mckillop (Shriekback, Xmal Deutschland and Luxuria) and Howard Burgon (My Bloody Valentine, Godfathers and Screaming Blue Messiahs). The use of the neo-psychedelic rock aesthetics became utilized more. One of their most downbeat albums, and one of their lesser dark ones as well. Allthough I am a sucker for dark stuff, this is still one of my favorite albums (beside Talk About the Weather). It was a stong step forward in terms of melody and diversity of sound, and has a a lot of personality and warmth.
This leads us to our interview. I had a lot of questions to ask about this album, so I caught up with David Wolfenden to talk about it. For your enjoyment, below please find my chat with Mr. Wolfenden and I give my love and thanks to David for sharing his wisdom.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: Hey David, something came up in my head today while listening to "Blow" by The Lorries. In particular, the track "West Wakes Up" - I have this sense in my head that I´m almost listening to several known tracks at the same time. The intro sounds a bit like "Down in the Park" by Tubeway Army. Then it devolopes into a kind of dub-reggae-rock thing and then later on it almost sounds like "The Model" by Kraftwerk. Is it just me or were you improvising a bit with that song?
David Wolfenden: I was never really happy with the way this song turned out- I'm not a reggae fan at all- the idea was more like AR Kane but somehow it developed it's own life.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: It certainly stands out. Nevertheless, a great album with so many good tracks. I think my 3 favorites would be Heaven, Temptation and In A World.
David Wolfenden: Hopefully Mick Mercer is playing a brand new song this Sunday.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: Was AR Kane a big influence on that album? I always thought it was something like Dream Syndicate.
David Wolfenden: I really liked the first AR Kane album but I was the only one in the band who did. I think the problem was trying to communicate this stuff to everyone else and the producer. I like dub effects just not reggae "songs".
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: I never realy heard them, just know them by name but I will definitely check out their debut now.
David Wolfenden: I've not heard it in ages. It's not really rock....but creates a unique atmosphere.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: Any other bands/albums you could recommend beside that? I´ve read somewhere that you/band were heavily inspired by Wire. I´ve always wondered what bands you were inspired by just because you have such a unique sound. Quite doom´ish and dark, but you didnt have that goth thing which other bands had, such as Sex Gang Children, Southern Death Cult, etc.
David Wolfenden: I never liked goth at all- just good guitar bands like Killing Joke, The Banshees and the only Cure album I like is Pornography (amazing guitar playing). We kind of mixed this up with stuff like The Stooges and MC5. We did like Wire and Patti Smith but also 70's psyche stuff. Loop are still one of my all time faves. Big Black also.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: Ah yes of course. That's the same thing I also came up with. I´ve also thought that you had that Swans-ish kind of guitar heaviness in there as well.
David Wolfenden: I love Gang of Four but just as a fan. They weren't an influence. The only Swans album I have is "Burning World" which I love. It is an acoustic album but great songs. The best band for melodic type guitar parts were The House of Love, but maybe not tough enough for you.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: Actually I think I´ve heard one or two songs by House of Love which I enjoyed, but I haven´t heard an album all the way through. You also have had bits of cowpunk here and there (Paint Your Wagon). The track, "Mescaline Dance" - that is soo good,... Oh, and I also just remembered the track which made me think of Swans - "Blitz" on Paint Your Wagon.
David Wolfenden: I think the problem with punk was that for many people it was ground zero and they refused to accept that anything before '77 was shit. We on the other hand tried to embrace the best bits of 70's rock like Sabbath and be inspired by it.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: Black Sabbath, of course. I always thought your band had a stoner-rock coolness. I think that alot of those dark-punk bands started to look back in time a bit around the mid 80s. It was quite clear that The Mission and Sisters (of Mercy) had similarities with the likes of Neil Young, The Cult had something with Led Zeppelin, The Rose of Avalanche was into The Doors and even Bolshoi did a Jacque Brell cover.
David Wolfenden: I also love Young Gods - just an amazing imagination and the best programming. Love Ministry too.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: Young Gods are grand. Ministry are ok too although my favorite Ministry album is still "Twitch". "Land of Rape and Honey" comes at number 2. The rest of it is fine I have just grown tired of the albums after "Land...". Twitch on the other hand gets better everytime I hear it. Kind of in the same funky style like Cabaret Voltaire´s "Code" album.
David Wolfenden: Yeah Cabs were good. The first Clock DVA album is a classic. Virgin Prunes "If I Die, I Die" produced by Colin Newman as well.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: Yes! "If I Die, I Die" is their best in my opinion. Almost sort of like Sex Gang Children and Coil being mixed up in a bowl. First Clock DVA album? Would that be those obscure cassettes from the 70s, or would that be White Soul in Black Suits (their fist release on LP) I think my favorite Clock DVA would be the Thirst album. Gets under my skin kind of record.
David Wolfenden: Yeah Thirst is the one i meant. Have you heard the "Snakedrill" EP by Wire?
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: No I haven´t but I´ve heard the "Ideal Copy" album tons of times.
David Wolfenden : Snakedrill is amazing.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: I gotta check that one as well. My favorite Wire stuff is in the Ideal Copy era. Also "A Bell is a Cup Until it is Struck".
Finally, myself and fans alike could not be more excited to hear that RLYL has just finished recording a new album, "Strange Kind of Paradise".
David Wolfenden: That is correct. It was recorded at Ding's Studio in Manchester and will be out later this year.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: Excellent! You are more than welcome to post the news and the new song in my group David : https://www.facebook.com/groups/1400654820200131/
David Wolfenden: Ok, thank you Per.