The nine-piece live outfit from Sam Genders unexpectedly combines programmed drumbeats with woodwind and brass
Beginning as Streatham Hill-based Sam Genders' bedroom project, Diagrams have since come a long way, making leftfield pop drawing on influences from Arthur Ruseell and Steve Mason to Hot Chip. Their debut album, 'Black Light' on Full Time Hobby is brimming with off-beat electronic effects, synth-heavy bass, and programmed beats. The history of Diagrams has seen Genders hook up with a rolling cast of collaborators (including Fever Ray co-producer Subliminal Kid, Micachu, and Hannah Peel) - whilst for live shows, the outfit extends to a nine-piece group that mixes electronic instruments with brass and woodwind. Art director Chrissie Abbott (who also works with Patrick Wolf and Little Boots), oversees the aesthetics of the whole project, influenced by patterns in nature - reflected in the lyrics of the music. Here we speak to Genders alongside the final instalment of his video series, 'Peninsula'...
Dazed Digital: How would you describe your work?
Diagrams: I'm having a crack at making pop music that's enjoyable, interesting, intelligent and doesn't take itself too seriously.
...your secret talent?
Swedish Viking Kubb. I discovered it at End of the Road festival last year and have been playing it with my girlfriend and mates ever since. As talents go I'm not actually that good at it but I'm quite evangelical about it. It's sort of like bowling meets darts...with sticks. And it'll make you feel like a Norse God!
...your worst vice?
Good strong coffee. I love it, even the smell is divine. And it really helps me write songs. But it stops me sleeping. I can have a cup at 9 in the morning and not get to sleep until 4am. And it makes me talk non stop.
…the story behind your name?
It's quite hard to find a one word band name these days. All the good ones have gone so I was really surprised that Diagrams hadn't been taken. I love the fact that it could bring up so many different images in different people's minds. It's nicely ambiguous.
... your favourite sound?
A nice low humming note. Either from a voice, a cello, a synth or a piece of good solid industrial machinery.
...your worst fashion secret?
Long Johns. These I actually discovered in Sweden in minus 14 temperatures and I've not looked back. It's like having your legs hugged by a small troll. Lovely. Seriously recommended for end of season festivals.
...your favourite website?
I really like this bloke called Ben Goldacre... He seeks out false claims made by people such as the big pharmaceutical companies and anyone anywhere who is selling things or making claims that are actually unfounded. Then he gathers all the best research together and makes a case for what our best knowledge on that subject is. He's currently trying to get all drugs companies to release all their trial data from the past and going forward into the future so that people can see exactly how effective the treatments we all use really are. It seems so incredible that this isn't the case already that I think most people assume it is.
...your favourite label?
Static Caravan for championing the alternative and just putting out whatever they like regardless of fashion. Full Time Hobby for doing much the same and for allowing bands time to develop and make their own choices. I'm biased as I've worked with them both and they are both populated by really lovely down to earth music lovers, which isn't always the case in the music industry.
...at the top of your hit/shit list?
I wouldn't really want to mention anyone here because I think most people are doing the best they can with what they've got but if there's an attitude I'm not keen on it's the attitude that your taste defines you and that it's cool to like a certain type of brand (or absence of one) or music and not cool to like another. Live and let live and don't be a git.
...are you listening to now?
Today I've had on the Fever Ray album, Graceland by Paul Simon and The Notorious Byrd Brothers by The Byrds. Also the Laura J Martin album (The Hangman Tree) just arrived with the post and is sounding great.
... are you most excited about next?
I'm really excited about the possibility that things could go well enough this year to be able to play some gigs, pay my band and my rent and take the time to make another record. We're touring Europe and the UK in March and are visiting some of my favourite venues so thats going to be a lot of fun.
Black Light: Debut album released 16th January 2012 on Full Time Hobby, pre-order here
January 2012 Tour Dates:
18th London, UK - The Lexington (album launch party)
6th Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
7th Brussels, BE – AB
8th Paris, FR - La Fleche D’Or – PIAS night
9th Heidleberg, DE – Karlstorbahnhof
10th Berlin, DE – Magnet
11th Hamburg, DE – Kampnagel
14th Bristol, UK – The Cooler
15th Manchester, UK – Ruby Lounge
16th Liverpool, UK – Static Gallery
17th Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club
18th Glasgow, UK – King Tuts