Meet the Peckham electropop anarchists about to change your life
It’s our routine checkout question, a polite way of drawing an interview to a close without brusquely declaring it over.
So when we gently ask “is there anything else we need to talk about?” we don’t expect an answer, nor do we normally get one.
But then, The Umlauts are not a band that operate by the normal rules.
“Yeah, there is,” says Oliver Offord, synth player and one of the sprawling collective’s founding members, before demanding that we “tell people to come to our shows!”
So there it is. Go and see The Umaluts. Not only because they told us to tell you, but because you’ll be catching one of the most exciting young bands currently treading the boards in the UK. Because the best songs in their current arsenal of tunes – we’d suggest checking ‘Boiler Suits and Combat Boots’ for further evidence – will wrap themselves around your psyche and not let go. Because as a live act, their numbers swell to eight or nine, encompassing not only the stone cold twin vocals and ice-coated synths of their recordings, but live drums – both of the organic and electronic type – violins and, well, who quite knows…
And finally, because Umlauts, despite their relative youth and the fact their first physical release – the audacious and bold Slags is only just hitting the shelves, are already a finely honed touring machine partly thanks to a baptism of fire via a lengthy stint on the road back in 2021 with Shame and The Goa Express.
“We’re getting to know a few places pretty well,” Oliver tells us, “like Glasgow, I think this tour will be the third time we’ve played there.”
How was their experience on the road? Were Shame party animals? “They’re nice boys, Shame” says Freya Tate, who has joined our Zoom chat along with singer Annabelle Mödlinger and the mysterious Alf, who, we’re informed, rarely joins interviews and, very much in keeping with that low key status, sits in silently, his three letter name on the screen the only clue to his presence.
“To be honest, we partied more with The Goa Express,” Tate continues, “They’re a party band.”
There are, also, advantages to living life as an enlarged posse – which sadly, says Offord, has had to be cut to a mere eight members for this tour “because of the sheer economics of being a band on the road”. “No-one fucks with you when there’s nine of you,” laughs Tate, a situation that’s unlikely to change, we’d suggest, by the slight slimming down of the line up.
The band started life in Stroud, Gloucestershire, as an alliance between the group’s song writing duo Alfred Lear (aka Alf) and Oliver Offord, drawn together by a love of The Fall, X-Ray Spex, Bjork and The Knife. But having moved down to art college in Wimbledon, South London, it was the addition of lyricists and vocalists Annabelle Mödlinger and Maria Vittoria Faldini that moulded the band into the shape that we’ve come to know.
Mödlinger – from the German Alps – and Faldini, from Monaco, added lyrics sung in French, German, Italian and English, all delivered with a nonchalant cool that borders on disdain and matched by an earworm inducingly simple, Spartan electropop sound.
“When we started out it was a bit of a pisstake,” admits Offord, designed as a deliberate two fingers up the ‘little Englishness’ that had overtaken certain quarters of the UK in the era immediately after Brexit and the so-called ‘hostile environment’ of Theresa May’s reign in the Foreign Office, “but It’s turned into something different now.”
Certainly, the likes of new singles ‘Prédateur’ and ‘Dance & Go’ seem to have taken on quite serious concerns and themes relevant to a post-‘me too’ generation. “Everything in the lyrics relates to things that have happened to us in real life,” Mödlinger admits, candidly.
The tracks are the final pieces in the puzzle that is Slags, the band’s just-released first album, although technically it’s a collection of highlights from previous digital-only EPs ’Ü’ (2021) and ‘Another Fact’ (2022) with a handful of new tracks, created in the band’s new studio, thrown in.
Which just leaves us with the, erm, potentially controversial title chosen by the band. Nothing, it transpires, to do with loose morals whatsoever, but more a bastardisation of the animals on the cover art – two slugs.
“We were led by the artwork,” Offord says, “and once someone suggested the name it was surprising how quickly it become normal. Although I do still occasionally wake up in the middle of the night thinking ’what the hell have we done?!’”
20.10 – Dareshack, Bristol
24.10 – The White Hotel, Manchester
25.10 – Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds
26.10 – Zerox, Newcastle
27.10- Edinburgh, Summerhall, Microsteria
28.10 – Glasgow, Platform, Easterhouse, Lost Map x
PRAH Hallowe’en All-Dayer