Exclusive Interview With Scottish Psych Pop Rockers: Domiciles

Domiciles are an up-and-coming Scottish band who have fully gripped my attention and will soon grip yours as well. I first heard about them a couple of months ago and when I heard their song, “100 Miles”, I immediately realized that this is a band destined for great things. The vocals are striking, the keyboard and guitar riffs are prominent, their instrumentation is unique, and their melodies are among the catchiest you will ever hear.

According to the band’s press, their sound “is saturated in aural familiarity and unreservedly unique, retro, and futurist in equal measures; a universal representation of the concept of psychedelia that strikes you, consumes you and spits you back out.”

The band has released four singles (“100 Miles”, The Ocean Song”, “Waste Of You”, and “In Indra”) and a self-titled EP and you will quickly discover the difficulty of getting every single one of these tunes out of your head. The band has supported fellow Scottish band, Neon Waltz, and has played their biggest show so far at Scotland’s famous T in the Park festival this year.

Domiciles are a five-piece band consisting of Nick Young (vocals & guitar), Rory Cowieson (guitar), Daniel Wilson (bass), Sean Harkins (drums), and Jamie Wilson (keys). I spoke to the band’s two main songwriters — Nick Young and Rory Cowieson — to get a first-hand account of how the band came together, who their influences are, and what’s planned for the future.

First off, how did the band come together and when was your first show?

Nick Young: The music evolved from Rory and myself writing songs as a means of exercising our engineering ability, which we both graduated in at university. Pretty quickly the songs turned into more songs, and we thought it worthwhile actually perusing it in the form of a band. I knew a few guys from school that I thought would be interested in playing with us, so bit by bit, we added members until we had the right lineup.

Our first show was at this venue in Edinburgh called The Outhouse, and it was an Edinburgh music showcase (Jamie our keys player lives in Edinburgh). It was in a really tiny cramped room above a bar, without a proper PA system. Despite that, it was a really good show, a lot of people came out to see us. We’ve since moved on to venues that are better equipped to deal with our music; we have a lot of instruments on stage…

How did the band’s name come about?

Nick: I can’t speak for how it came about as it was Rory that provided the name, but I’ve always liked one-word band names, I think they make a really great statement. Blur, Slowdive, etc. – it’s no nonsense, really stark, and leaves an impression on the listener before they’ve listened.

Rory Cowieson: As Nick said, we decided on having a one-word band name. I randomly came across the word “domicile” and thought it had a cool meaning as well as how it looks written down. After about a month of trying to come up with a name, we decided on Domiciles.

You guys describe your sound as “retro psych pop”, garage, experimental, and “noisy psychedelic shoegaze”, did you consciously decide that this was the sound or type of music you wanted to make or was it just natural?

Nick: These are all just ways we’ve described the music we were making at that particular time. They don’t really represent the broad range of vibes in our music. Our music (particularly our live set) includes elements of shoegaze, noise rock, it has hypnotic driving motor rhythms, and so on, and it’s not really easy to describe yourself with a three word description. It’s easier for writers to talk about the band if they have something like that though. Stylistically, the music came about purely because it’s the sort of stuff we were listening to at the time – if you see us live these days, the music has grown a considerable bit. The music is an amalgamation of all the sort of stuff we like. There’s no conscious decision to sound a certain way.

Can you describe your songwriting process? Are all the songs and lyrics written by Rory and Nick or is it a completely collaborative process?

Rory: We actually have quite an unusual way of writing music. Instead of the usual sitting around with acoustic guitars, writing the song and later adding other instruments, it’s more of an experimental approach. Nick and I write the songs. We typically write songs while recording demos for them rather than as a band in a rehearsal space. For instance, when I first came up with the idea for “100 Miles”, I actually started with the drum beat, then added the bassline and the guitar riff. Nick and I then spent a couple of days writing and recording other ideas for the song.

Many of your songs are centered on guitar riffs and keyboards (“100 Miles”, “Hate The Sinner”). Does the music usually come before the lyrics?

Nick: It’s a pretty organic approach for us. The music conveys certain emotions, and the lyrics are then written to go hand in hand with whatever vibe the song is trying to convey. Personally, I connect more easily with the sound of music, rather than what message the lyrics is conveying (not that it isn’t important).

Rory: I find riffs and hooks really important in songwriting. It’s usually the part that gets stuck in your head. I think we decided from the start that keyboards were going to be a big part of our sound. I collect instruments, mainly old, battered, interesting ones. I have over 10 organs, keyboards, and synths in my home studio, so we’ve always had quite a few sounds to pick from. Building layers with different synths and keyboards is by far my favourite part about writing and demoing songs, as you always seem to come out with something completely different than intended.

I can hear a bit of an Indian influence in your music. Did that come from listening to some of The Beatles’ stuff like “Within You Without You”?

Rory: The Beatles are a big influence. “Within You Without You” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” are two of my favourite Beatles songs. I love the way they use Indian instruments in their music. I’ve been to India four times and each time I’ve brought back a different instrument. We decided to use my tabla in “Clearing”, the opening song off our EP, and we loved the sound, so we’ve used Indian instrumentation in quite a few songs.

Nick: That’s not to say that we deliberately incorporate those influences because they are considered to be “psychedelic”; it’s quite the opposite. Our music these days incorporates a really diverse range of instrumentation, and is influenced by everything we listen to – world music, old and new stuff, whatever it is. We use guitars and sitars as much as we use modified children’s toys and synths and samples. It’s all psychedelic. It’s better to think of music orchestrally and without boundaries. By not limiting yourself to “OK, so I need to write a song in this style with two guitars a bass and drums”, the music finds its own vibe, irrespective of what that is, influenced by everything that we like. We’re not really interested in sitting around in paisley shirts with Noel Gallagher haircuts, taking acid.

On the subject of those Beatles, isn’t it interesting how a song like “Tomorrow Never Knows” is half a century old, and it’s the exact sound that current “psych” bands are trying to perfectly emulate? It’s a testament to how far ahead of their time The Beatles were with this sort of stuff.

Do most of you guys have shared musical tastes and influences or are you, individually, all over the map?

Nick: Simply put, we just like everything that’s good. Everyone in the band has their own favourite stuff, and influence comes from it all. For example, Jamie and Sean really dig ambient and electronic stuff. Conversely, I’m really into noise music, for example. But it comes back to what I was saying with the instrumentation and our influences; it’s all psychedelic, transportive, and mind-expanding – it doesn’t matter who it is. Sonic Youth can be as psychedelic as Joy Division. I get the same thing from LCD Soundsystem as I do in Brian Jonestown Massacre; it all ties in.

Do you guys, collectively, have any favorite classic albums that you continue to take inspiration from?

Rory: The albums I take most influence from at the moment are Bravery Noise & Repetition by The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Laser Guided Melodies by Spiritualized. I don’t deliberately try and take sounds from albums like those but I’ll find myself demoing a new idea and then seeing a connection in the guitar tone or drum sound.

Nick: That’s always too hard a question to answer. The last truly forward-thinking, progressive album that was released was probably My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless; everything has kind of went backwards from that point and has been revivalist at least to some extent. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s how it’s always been, with only a few exceptions. I have a lot of time for that album. The 60’s garage compilation, Nuggets: Original Artefacts From The First Psychedelic Era, is always a fun one to visit; that was on heavy repeat when we started writing. I’ve been listening to White Light/White Heat by The Velvet Underground recently. It has this strange, cramped, almost boxed-in type vibe that their other stuff doesn’t have.

You guys supported another great Scottish band, Neon Waltz, which is how I found out about Domiciles. How did that tour support come about?

Rory: After the release of our debut single “100 Miles”, I got a message from Jordan of Neon Waltz saying he really liked it. They happened to be playing in Dunfermline soon after that and asked us to support them. From that point on, we kept in contact and they asked us to support them in Wick, which was a great gig for us.

Nick: Yeah, Neon Waltz have been really cool with us. They’re a great band as well; they have this noisy, loud as fuck, sparkly, revolving carousel type sound. It’s great, really well executed.

Scotland has you guys, Neon Waltz, Baby Strange, Catholic Action, Apache Sun, among many others, is there something in the water over there that makes for a Scottish rock scene of great new bands?

Nick: I’m not really sure what it is. There definitely is a lot of great Scottish bands coming up just now. Basically, all the ones you mentioned. There’s definitely a close-knit, community type vibe where we’re from. For example, our music seems to be really well received in Glasgow, and we’ve been kind of accepted into the music scene they have going there, despite any of us not a having a link to the city. In fact, Glasgow is where we have played the most shows, by quite a bit. Anyway, people feed off that kind of environment – it breeds more enthusiasm for the art, more people start bands, more people get involved, tiny subcultures evolve, etc. Scotland has always been capable of producing excellent music though – as far back as you can remember: Orange Juice, the Mary Chain, Primal Scream, The Vaselines. The list goes on and on.

Rory: There’s something about the Scottish music scene that seems different to any other. A lot of our fans seem to be other Scottish bands, which is really cool. We’ll be playing a gig in Glasgow and you’ll notice members from about 5 other bands you’re into in the audience.

You’re from Dunfermline, Scotland. First, how would you describe living there and second, do you think it shapes your music in any way? In other words, would Domiciles have the same sound if you came from London?

Rory: Dunfermline is a small place but it has a surprisingly large number of bands. There aren’t really any other bands from Dunfermline that share our kind of sound, so I think we’d sound the way we do no matter where we came from.

Nick: People always say we are from Dunfermline, but that’s not really true. Rory and Dan are from Dunfermline. Sean and myself are from the East Neuk of Fife, but I currently live in Dundee. Jamie lives in Edinburgh. In the early days, we used to meet up and rehearse in Dunfermline and our first proper gig was there, so it maybe just caught on from there.

I think we’d have sounded like we do regardless of where we’re from. The music we make is the sort of music I’ve been interested in for years. I don’t think your location should really have much to do with how your music sounds, unless you’re consciously trying to sound a certain way or if you’re influenced by whatever cultural music is surrounding you, which we’re not. We just write what we think sounds cool.

You guys played T in the Park this year. Was that your biggest, most important show to date?

Nick: I think T in the Park was our biggest so far. It was the first “proper” festival we’ve played, and it felt good experiencing that as a group together. We had been going to see bands for years at T in the Park whilst growing up, so to play the festival felt great. The T Break stage is an invaluable platform for up & coming bands as well, so it felt nice ticking that one of the list.

I love your music videos, especially “In Indra.” It’s got a nice forest setting and it’s wonderfully trippy (which mirrors the song). First, it starts off simple and then, it gets a bit chaotic with the appearance of a lamp, some smoke, and fireworks, until the video ends in reverse. The rest of your videos have lots of cool imagery, lighting, and effects as well. Do you guys have a say in how your music videos reflect the songs?

Rory: We’ve actually made all our videos ourselves. I’ve been into video editing since my teens and hadn’t done it for a while, so I thought I’d have a bash at making our videos. The music video for “100 Miles” was actually the first music video I ever made and it turned out OK. The “In Indra” video was a bit of a half-baked idea I had, which turned out much better than I expected. Nick had been to the location where we filmed it before and I thought it would be perfect, which it was. We kind of just went to the location, filmed a couple of takes, set off some fireworks, and the video was done.

Does the band have a common ethos that you plan to stay true to throughout your career?

Nick: The main goal is just to write and perform music that we like, without any sort of outside influence. I think that’s probably the main goal for any band. Our band is very self-sufficient in that we record and release all of our own music, we film our own videos, we do our own promotion, as well as write and perform the music. We’re very fortunate to possess those skills between the five of us. It allows us total creative freedom, which is a primary factor for us, and I think this sort of DIY approach is something that we’ll always have for as long as the band exists. It’s important to stay fully invested in all aspects of creativity related to the band, so that, aesthetically, everything is executed exactly as it should be.

What under the radar bands are you guys into at the moment that you think people should check out?

Nick: There are some great bands coming out of Scotland right now. The Van T’s and Lucia Fontaine from Glasgow are great, check them out. There’s this band called The Cherry Wave, also from Glasgow, that are incredible. They’re very loud.

You guys have released several singles and you have an EP out. Is a debut album on the cards or are you putting out more singles and EPs first and waiting to expand your fanbase?

Nick: We haven’t really thought about an album yet, although we would love to record one. Because we spend every spare day of the week recording stuff, adding to current half-finished pieces of music and demos and what not, it’s hard to factor in the idea of an album. There’s definitely a certain headspace you need to be in to produce a finished LP that’s coherent and actually worthwhile, and it’s not our primary concern right now.

As well as that, the equipment we use changes every other week – old synths, new instruments, various noisemaking things – and often our sound ends up changing to incorporate the new gear that we’re excited about using. If we were to record an album, right this second, I reckon it would sound pretty all over the place. Maybe in a good way though, who knows. We have a few singles coming our in the near future, one this year and one at the start of next year. That’s what we’ve been working on most recently.

Any touring plans for the end of this year and the beginning of next year?

Nick: We have a bunch of dates coming up in the next few months; A few shows in Fife in November, and we play King Tuts in December, which is a pretty big deal for us.

Rory: We’re really looking forward to the King Tuts show. We’ve been chosen to headline the 8th of December show as a part of T Break Sessions.

Thanks for your time. I’m looking forward to hearing new music and hope to see you guys live soon!

Nick & Rory: Cheers!

For more on Domiciles, you can connect with them on Facebook here, you can follow them on Twitter here, and you can buy their music from their Bandcamp page here.

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