Sorry, the band making ennui sexy

The Londoners’ tales of sex, drugs and mid-20s doldrums have got people talking – but the band themselves are keeping stumm

Most bands form over pints, broken hearts and aspirations of superstardom. Few start with mild bullying. But Asha Lorenz, the frontwoman of London band Sorry, used to torment guitarist Louis O’Bryen at middle school. Teasing and cruel comments were easy for Lorenz when in close proximity to someone as shy and awkward as O’Bryen. “She was a bit mean,” he admits over a lukewarm soup in a Shoreditch pub. During their GCSE years, Lorenz mellowed out, and the pair slowly bonded over his long, blond hair, deemed cool by Lorenz, and a love of playing instruments. After competing to see who could release the better songs on SoundCloud, they realised they were, in fact, better together.

Today, Sorry create an unusual, sexy take on modern indie rock – the febrile sound of city-dwelling, broke 22-year-olds, whose nights are dominated by hook-up culture and casual drug-taking – as evidenced on their debut album for Domino Records, 925. Co-produced by James Dring (Gorillaz, Jamie T), it sees them finally wriggle free of being called a guitar band. Lorenz and O’Bryen describe their sound as pop music, but in early press Sorry saw themselves lumped in with bands in the south London music scene – sludgy art-school outfits such as Shame, Goat Girl and HMLTD. “We’re both from north London and live with our mums but play at [Brixton pub] the Windmill a lot,” says Lorenz. “I don’t feel a strong identity to where I’m from.”

According to O’Bryen, journalists and those within the music industry “just want to give people a reason to listen to something by calling it guitar music”. So what are Sorry? They’re a very 2020 band, in that they build their songs round the mood of whatever they’re singing about. A typical Sorry track is just as likely to be inflected with 90s grunge as with jazz or trip-hop.

Sorry perform in Manchester in 2017.
Sorry perform in Manchester in 2017. Photograph: Visionhaus/Corbis/Getty Images

Before Sorry, they were called Fish (until they realised the ex-lead singer of prog rockers Marillion went by the same name), and before that, Lorenz and O’Bryen were a covers band who played Jimi Hendrix songs. At school, Lorenz was apparently loud in comparison to O’Bryen, but both are people of few words. The pair’s answers serve as cul-de-sacs, revealing little and circling back to face you. Dressed in nondescript jumpers and coats, with no makeup and scruffy hair, they could easily disappear into the background altogether, having never given anything away.

In person, the band have a spaced-out quality, close to the 2000s-internet affliction of being “so random”. At one point, Lorenz removes a hair from the small pot of soup she and O’Bryen are casually sharing, and then puts it back in, to his bewilderment. They profess to being lazy, beholden to very little ambition (“We’re just making some music and seeing how it goes,” shrugs Lorenz). Drummer Lincoln Barrett and bassist Campbell Baum are absent today.

“We don’t let them come to interviews,” says O’Bryen, with a straight face. After a long silence, he adds: “Well, we’re kind of a duo in the way we write songs, but the live thing is more a band.”

Their performances on tour, opening for the likes of Fat White Family and Sunflower Bean, have drawn rave reviews for their technical virtuosity and the impressive, insular world they build. But it is the songwriting that sets Sorry apart, featuring intricate layers of sound and an apparent disregard for genre. What is real, this album asks, when everything socially and politically around us is so questionable?

Across 925, the band vacillate between hell and heaven. There is a reference to Tears for Fears’ Mad World over an ominous sax-line on the jazz-influenced Right Round the Clock, and later a nod to Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World on the prangover ballad As the Sun Sets. On More, a pantomime of rock star swagger proclaims the nihilistic MO of every person of student age in London (“I want drugs and drugs and drugs and drugs, I want love”). Highlight Snakes serves as an analysis of a confusing relationship breakdown: over echoing guitars, Lorenz half-whispers: “Every time I made you cry, I was crying too.” Album closer Lies (Refix) is a deliberately uncomfortable listen, too, with Lorenz’s childlike vocals buried in the mix, emerging to raspily deliver the word “lies”.

It is an intricate record, the product of years’ worth of material. Instead of attending university, the pair spent their spare time in their bedrooms making music together. “We had space to do it, we wrote the songs over four years,” says Lorenz. “We’re happy we took our time. The earlier singles we put out were more rocky, and that’s not what we want to do.”

Before Sorry were signed by Domino, the British indie label that launched the careers of Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand, Lorenz emailed to say they liked its client Alex G; a year later, label reps were at a Sorry show.

“We were gonna put in our contract that we had to play with Alex G,” Lorenz says, grinning. They didn’t, but they ended up supporting him on tour in 2019 regardless. It is clear why they look up to Alex G: he is a prolific songwriter with endless ideas and lo-fi production. He hasn’t crafted a personal brand, and doesn’t post selfies; the music speaks for itself.

As the band prepare to discover who their fanbase is – it has been hard to tell thus far, with so many gigs as a support – they have been told to do more on social media. Their posting has been sporadic at best, half down to laziness, half down to not knowing how to best present themselves. O’Bryen shrugs and says: “It’s hard to come across well. Or funny. Maybe we never will.”

Maybe they won’t have to.

925 is out 27 March; Sorry tour the UK from 26 March


Hannah Ewens

The GuardianTramp

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