For Society, the brainchild of artist/producer James Girdler, the project’s only ever been about making music—it’s simple as that. The enigmatic soul singer has spent the last two years making a name for himself and pouring his heart and soul into seeing his passion project become a reality.
Although my interview with Girdler is scheduled for a Wednesday afternoon—evening time for the London-based musician, I get a text from Girdler as I’m preparing to call: Hi Eric, So sorry! Someone I’m with just went into labour. No Joke! Puzzled, I tell him we’ll reschedule. But even though Girdler’s been strictly about music so far, naturally it’s the first thing I want to discuss once he’s finally on the phone.
“Some bird started giving birth in the taxi that I was in!” Girdler explains. “She was like, ‘I’m going into labor,’ and I’m sitting there like ‘What do you want me to do about it!? Should we go to the hospital?’ Turns out she was only having some minor contractions or something. I don’t really know, I just got out of the car [laughs].”
So, after losing his taxi to a woman in false labor, Girdler regrouped and (albeit, a few days later) made it to the phone. When I call Girdler, he’s walking the streets of London (we assume he’s sworn off taxis for now) near Soho as the sun’s going down and the temperature is dropping. And with impending newborns behind us, we get right down to it. He tells me about his early days with his first band, Beggars, and the path that led him to release one of the most hyped and adored singles of 2012.
“I was in a band before, which was like four guys, just kind of a beat-band called Beggars,” he says. “It was actually how I met Brendan [Lynch], who’s the other member of Society. He’s actually a producer and he produced with me very early on when I was like 17. We’ve formed quite a close bond over the years. It was all very organic. We started writing and the first song that we wrote together was “All That We’ve Become,” which we then subsequently put out.”
In 2012, the aforementioned single, “All That We’ve Become” was released as a super-limited 7”, vinyl-only single that made massive waves in the London underground scene. Released under the moniker of Society, “All That We’ve Become” had countless music blogs all asking the same question: “Where did this mystifying, soul-seizing track come from?” After blogs stamped the track as a side-project of numerous big-name producers, most notably Danger Mouse, Girdler eventually revealed himself to be the mastermind behind the mysterious track that seemed to appear out of nowhere.
So, what happens when an artist steps out as creator of one of the most fawned-over singles of the year? If you’re Girdler, you wait an entire year before releasing your next single. “14 Hours,” the follow-up to “All That We’ve Become,” was finally released back in August 2013, with a music video following in September. Although the recordings from Society only include Girdler and Lynch, Girdler has since put together a band for upcoming live shows. With so much mystery surrounding the band’s initial emergence into the London scene, Girdler said he wanted to use the video to really showcase the band and allow fans to finally put a face to the name.
“Obviously we had to start playing gigs,” Girdler said. “Everyone started saying ‘You have to play a gig if you’re in a band.’ So, we had to get a band together. They’re all a bunch of guys who were hanging out in the studio that I knew, who were working on other things. We started playing live and it was actually very exciting to hear the songs live because me and Brendan did them all. We’d never really heard them back in that way, and it was like ‘Oh fuck! They actually sound really good!’ So the live thing has actually really come together. I think that’s going to be a very exciting thing for 2014.”
After releasing another track and ultimately revealing their true identities, Girdler said that he and Lynch felt the initial pressure from the label bigwigs to hurry up and release a full-length LP. The duo ultimately decided to take things slow and work on their own before finding a home at the smaller, independent Angular Recording Company.
“We had to go and meet all these dickheads from record labels and have all these really boring conversations [about plans to release a full-length record],” he says. “There was a little bit of pressure in the sense that people kind of expected us to do something. But a lot of that pressure came from people that obviously liked it [our music], which is actually a nice thing. And we don’t feel any pressure at all. I mean we released two songs in like a year and a half or something, so we’re not exactly in a rush.”
For the tracks on the currently untitled album, Girdler says that he and Lynch were aiming to produce a “classic-sounding album with contemporary influences.” Both coming in with heavy soul backgrounds, something that the duo bonded over in Society’s early days, Girdler feels that there are quite a lot of elements of soul in their music—“as much as some skinny little white boy can sound soul-y,” Girdler jokes. With their debut full-length almost complete, Girdler says that he and Lynch are currently “filling in the gaps” and sorting through nearly 40 demo tracks, making sure the album comes out perfectly reflecting their vision for what the album should sound like. The two take a very relaxed approach to their writing, simply “writing things as they come.” Their music comes together much in the same way that Society did—starting as a blank canvas and naturally evolving into something special. Unplanned, organic, unexpected.
“We really didn’t plan on doing anything with it at all, we were just making music. It’s never been anything other than that.”