The upstairs room of the Leith Depot resembles any local boozer back room in the British Isles, with maroon walls, dark wood panelling and a dusty disco ball grazing the heads of viewers. The faded charm of the surroundings only serves to offset the vibrancy emanating from the stage as soon as The Orielles pick up their modest three instruments. The Halifax three-piece, consisting of sisters Sidonie and Esmé Hand-Helford on drums and bass & vocals respectively, and Henry Carlyle Wade on guitar, create their own energy with their addictive brand of sunny garage and funk. They seem like the type of band who can’t be fazed, intent on enjoying themselves despite a characteristically reserved Edinburgh crowd.
The opening acts did their best to loosen up the atmosphere, local guitar-driven alternative group Quiet As A Mouse delivering drowsy rhythms interspersed with interludes and drops, before Glasgow indie-rockers The Snuts take over with their cheeky patter and boisterous stage antics.
The Orielles assert themselves easily however, swooping straight into the louche rhythm and singing guitar of ‘Mango’. They have mastered the art of an instantly memorable intro riff, from the beachy twangs of ‘Just Like Glue’ to the echoey fuzz of ‘Joey Says We Got It’s opening chords. The sparkling melody of the former skitters over a bobbing bass line and Esmé’s nonchalantly sassy lyrics, while ‘Joey’ could easily be a petty conversation between two people who have seen too much of each other, steeped in the satire of lines about painting “an abstract picture that explains all our feelings”. The wordplay in the songs strikes a balance between smooth, sweet delivery and the acerbic wit of Glaswegian vocalists such as Stuart Murdoch and Katrina Mitchell. As much as the Glasgow scene echoes through their sound, the pace and unshakeability of ESG’s bouncing rhythms finds its way into the mix, along with Sonic Youth-like distortion in songs like ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’, creating a subtle fusion of influence from both sides of the Atlantic. ‘Sugar’ is the band’s first single since signing with Heavenly Recordings, a ballsy move considering its sprawling length at nigh on 10 minutes, in comparison with earlier cuts like the lovely 2-minute nugget of ‘Jobin’. With this in mind, using it as the final song in the set might seem like a step too far, but they pull it off excellently, exploiting its teasing tempo changes and heady forcefulness for dramatic effect. Morphing and twitching around styles and paces before you can get your bearings in any of them, the piece puts all the power in The Orielles’ hands – just as the room is comfortably bopping along, the music snatches the rug from beneath their feet and demands a completely different movement. A tightly arranged composition, yet it has a sense of abandon about it too, reflected in the band’s easy yet active onstage dynamic.
The performance never seems forced, and the band don’t seem too bothered about vocal perfection – many of the harmonies which flavour their recordings are lost when played live – so there is definitely a sense that they are doing it all for their own enjoyment more than anyone else’s. Nonetheless, it’s nearly impossible not to love them. If their current standards are anything to go by, The Orielles still have some major tricks up their sleeve.
Image: Neelam Khan Vela