With their unique take on post-punk quickly gathering an army of admirers, South London's Dry Cleaning have been caught in a rapidly accelerating spin cycle of their own making in the second half of 2019. Their debut EP 'Sweet Princess' was the first glimpse of the exciting mix of Florence Shaw's matter-of-fact delivery of often hilariously sarcastic lyrics, alongside the fierce noise generated by a band rooted in a deep love of classic alternative rock.
With the second EP release 'Boundary Road Snacks And Drinks' further realising their potential and raising excitement levels once again, it has been a sensational first six months as a band with a headline gig at Village Underground lined up for early 2020. "Fairly bonkers, yeah," is how the always-understated Flo describes it as Dork catches up with the band right before their so-sold-out-you-couldn't-sneak-a-mouse-in EP launch gig at The Lexington.
So, congrats on being on Dork's Hype List for 2020! 2019's been a bit mad hasn't it, only two EP's and you already have a Village Underworld gig lined up… But catching up quickly, how did you all meet and Form A Band?
Tom: It's all quite organic, really. We'd been chatting for a while. Me and Nick share, erm, not a girlfriend as such. But, they're twins.
Florence: Definitely don't write that…
Tom: We share twins? Is that better?
Florence: You go out with a set of twins, try that.
Tom: Yeah… So anyway, we would be round their mum's house hanging out for Sunday lunch and stuff, showing each other music. We were all doing separate things. And Lewis is a really old friend of Nick's, and I'd met him through my girlfriend. So it all just meshed slowly over time until we actually just got in a room together.
Florence: I already knew these guys. I met the twins when I was eight, it's like a small town where everybody knows everyone. Except it's not, because it was London.
Tom: It can sometimes seem really driven in interviews, but you know what, it's such a mess!
What were those first days like?
Florence: I'd never done music professionally or anything, I had spent my time learning to draw and becoming a visual artist. My dad was in a band when I was a kid, so we would pretend to be in a band and play at playing music.
Nick: When Tom suggested Flo as a singer, it was one of those things where it seemed so obvious even though she'd never done any singing before or been in a band. It's almost too obvious, it's right in front of you. One of the people you've known for the longest.
Tom: It was almost like a textural thing. I showed her the music, and just something about these two worlds meeting, it just seemed like this was the right thing.
Florence: Yeah. They sort of seemed to create a new thing, something that they each aren't on their own.
That mix of a heavier sound and almost poetic lyrics is fascinating. Do you have reams of notes of prospective lyrics?
Florence: It's funny, it's probably only since I had a fancy phone which sounds like a really naff thing to say. I didn't jot them down in a notebook ever, it was just seeing things that made me laugh. I guess it's like how people take photos of things they like, they just come out of nowhere. It's not constant, but it will just happen. Like on a bus when it's quite a daydreamy time anyway, I'll think of something that I imagine someone saying to someone else. I imagine it's maybe what comedians do, just think of something funny when they're watching people out and about. I find people watching really inspiring.
The second EP is a big leap on from the first, had a lot happened to you in between?
Tom: It was a period of change, but we had sat on the first EP for ages before releasing it.
Lewis: It was really different as well because on a lot of the tracks on the first EP, we'd already written our parts before Flo even joined.
Florence: This time, we were all improvising together in the same room, working towards something.
Tom: We had never even played live before the first EP came out either.
Florence: Right. That first EP is, in a way, the first time we played live. We'd not played on a stage at that point.
What do you think it is about the band that has captured everyone's attention so quickly?
Nick: Until recently, I definitely felt slightly removed from contemporary music. I don't listen to a lot of new music a lot of the time, but there seems like there is a scene springing up. But when we started, we definitely felt like we weren't referencing anything.
Florence: We didn't realise there was a scene to be in.
Tom: We sound quite different from a lot of the bands around now, post-punk is such a broad church these days.
Nick: It's very easy to say that there's a lot of new music that is uninspiring, but there are certain acts that are maybe coming to the fore that are really interesting.
Everything's moving so fast, what are your 2020 plans?
Florence: We've got a UK tour with Pozi at the start of the year.
Tom: SXSW, and some European festivals too.
Lewis: Things are moving quickly, but we write quickly as well. The second EP was ready before the first one came out. And if we write three more tracks, the album is ready.
Tom: But it probably won't be out for ages, so we are already having ideas for the next thing.
You're gonna keep us waiting then… What can we expect from the album?
Tom: There are elements from the EP that you hear us taking on further again. It's a bit glam-rocky, and then also like seventies proto-metal. There are flavours in that second EP that we are working more on.
Nick: It's a bigger sound, purely because it's in a bigger room. Perhaps not as jangly as the stuff that we've done in the past.
Tom: Sometimes me and Lewis look at each other, and it's like full-on Black Sabbath, y' know? But it's not changed. Just expanded into a broader palette. We were listening to 'Screamadelica' recently. And that's a great case in point isn't it? Because after 'Screamadelica', Primal Scream went full-on filthy dark techno. Then they did 'XTRMNTR', 'Vanishing Point' which was more dubby, and then they dropped back completely into Nashville-style country. But you always believed it and believed in them.
How far do you think Dry Cleaning can go?
Nick: It's very hard to cast your mind back to what you were thinking at the start of the year.
Lewis: This time last year, we were talking about just making a cassette of the first EP, we were about to let this French record label release it just because they were French! Just because we thought it was classy, haha.
Florence: It was gonna be just fifty cassettes, and we thought, imagine if we could get a show in France. That would be incredible, like what a benchmark if we could play somewhere other than here. And now suddenly, everything feels more likely. We just try to cope with it week-by-week rather than having a really long view of something that's quite unimaginable. But the ceiling of it all is always getting higher and higher.
Taken from the December 2019 / January 2020 issue of Dork.
Featuring Girl in Red, Inhaler, Beabadoobee, Blaenavon and more.