Sorry Are Just Getting Warmed Up

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In March of 2020, Sorry had just released their critically acclaimed debut album 925 and were playing a heavily buzzed-about show in New York. And then the COVID lockdown began and all of a sudden Sorry were stopped right in their tracks.

“Two years ago it was literally like I came home and then it was lockdown for like six months or whatever,” notes singer, songwriter, and guitarist Asha Lorenz.

Lorenz formed the band with her childhood friend Louis O’Bryen, bonding over their love of the Brooklyn rap crew Pro Era, and later discovering Elliott Smith, The Beatles, and Alex G together. And while they released early singles via SoundCloud, over time Sorry has turned into a full-fledged, five-person unit, with the spiky, sometimes chilly post-punk of their debut evolving into a warmer, more cohesive sound on their acclaimed follow-up Anywhere But Here. Produced alongside Portishead’s Adrian Utley, the album is filled with songs that balance tales of longing and heartbreak with an undercurrent of hopeful resistance. Standouts “Let The Lights On” and “Key To The City” feature melodies and guitar tones that nod to several eras of British rock music while never sounding bogged down in the past.

Taking a break from tour rehearsals, we jumped on Zoom with Lorenz, who talked about moving past your early twenties and why Sorry sound more optimistic this time around.

I love the new video for “Key To The City.” It reminds me a lot of classic British music videos from Massive Attack or Catherine Wheel where the band’s playing and there’s all these little dramatic scenes coming in and out. What were you drawing inspiration from?

There’s actually a scene in The Great Gatsby, the newer version, and there’s kind of a scene when you can see all the windows like that. And I just quite liked that, that image and it just fitted with the song. It was quite a fun day. We had like 26 scenes and we only had like 11 hours. So it was just awesome, my friends just making those scenes and trying to make it all work.

So we can back up a little bit. Your first album, 925, comes out in March of 2020, right when the global pandemic hit. I know you’ve been able to do some shows in the US before that, but still, you’re getting great reviews, a lot of buzz and then boom, you have to stop. I imagine that to be really frustrating.

It was frustrating, but I feel like it was just such a mad time in the world. I didn’t really process it that much because it was just kind of so horrible for everyone. So, it was just kind of everyone is in the same boat. I was happy that we could still put it out because I know some people pushed [their albums] back even more. I was happy that people could listen to the music. But yeah, it was frustrating. Also seven months when, you know, you can’t play and you start to go a bit crazy.

I imagine that on one hand, it’s like, “this is supposed to be our time. We were all set to go.” But on the other hand, “you know, it’s just an album. People have much worse going on. I don’t want to complain.”

I just felt like the world was in such a way, so I wasn’t really thinking about the album so much.

For a while the band was basically you and Louis, but this album feels a lot more band-oriented than the last one. Was that how you were approaching it?

Well, we’ve been touring together for like six years and we had a new member, Marco, who kind of came in like two years ago, and he really helped tie together all the production bits and the demo bits into the live show. From the last record, we felt like it was more like we kind of built the songs up from the demos, like we hadn’t really played the finished songs live. And then once we were playing, we were like, “Oh sh*t, sounds actually quite fat, like mixing it together.” We’re like, “Oh, we want to do this album backwards.” So we kind of wrote even the trinkets and like production bits, the electronic bits before, so that we could record them live in the song and so that things didn’t jump out as much. It was kind of conscious, and I think we wanted it to not feel as stagnant, and some of the songs have a different energy. So that’s good for playing live.

When your first single “Starstruck” really started to hit, what was going on in your life at the time?

That is the thing. Like, we haven’t really played mad big shows or anything since the album came out. So it’s kind of hard to tell. I think it happened kind of invisibly because it hasn’t been such a huge jump or an overnight thing or anything. You know, it feels like quite a slow progression of mild success now.

How are you feeling about things now? Where do you think the band is at the moment? And how are you feeling about getting back out there and really giving it a push?

I think I’m kind of happy. It’s “come, come now,” when we have the opportunity to go on tour, because we feel way more grateful to be able to go. And I think as friends, we all kind of feel a bit more mature and kind of just got through the second coming of age of our early twenties. Now we kind of can be a bit more mature and put the music first of it and like just be excited to play, and make the show like, really good.

So, I swear I’m not going to ask you about the Queen. But how is the general vibe in England/London over there? Because, you know, it seems like it’s been a mess ever since Brexit, and then Boris Johnson beat Jeremy Corbyn. And people really don’t like Prime Minister Liz Truss.

I think it’s a very weird vibe a little bit over here, I think London feels quite scared and divided more than it’s felt like from the time that I’ve been, like, conscious politically. I’ve grown up my whole life and had a sense of community and the sense of sort of just knowing your neighbor, not even like literal neighbor, but just knowing the people who walk down the street. I think people feel scared of each other and don’t really know who they are, and I think the media kind of represents people in a weird way, in ways that aren’t true. But because we’ve all become a bit shut off from actually going to meet people, you kind of just make people like into… you create characters from them just from what’s been fed to you. I think it’s a bit darker, but I don’t know, I can only speak from my perspective, but I’m sure there’s lots of pockets of greatness and new hope as well.

Here in America we have Fox News, like always pushing the right-wing fear machine. But I know Rupert Murdoch, like, owns like all the tabloids in the UK and it’s just like nonstop racism and propaganda.

I think that is such a scary thing. Like you don’t really know who to trust or what the f*ck’s going on.

Do you find that kind of paranoia seeped its way into your lyric process and or even just the way the music feels?

I don’t really know. I think it’s more about relationships. It’s not really too political. Well, in some ways, but not within the lyrics. It’s not necessarily saying things are bad, but you can’t help but react to your circumstances.

I really love the song “So Many People Want To Be Loved” and it’s really unabashedly romantic and very sweet. I think it’s the most open-hearted song we’ve heard from Sorry. Where did that song come from?

The title kind of came to me and I knew that I wanted to write the song around it and I had the verses and then I played it with Louis and I kind of demoed it, and then all the lyrics just kind of spilled out like that. I kind of heard it like a Lou Reed or Daniel Johnston song. I just kind of thought that I could see myself in all those people in the choruses.

And it kind of seems like it all ties back to what you were saying about like young heartbreak and learning, like, you’re going to be okay.

I think it’s more just like trying to put a bit of humor with the sadness. My mom always told me, if I felt sad, to just imagine that I was like, in a story or something or like, take myself out of it. So I think if you can kind of see things like taking yourself out of them, then you can kind of see it for something else and for what it really is.

It’s kind of hard to Google your band name and to find it in the first results page or to find it on Wikipedia. Do you ever feel like it’s limited you in a way, or do you like the fact it’s something of that nature?

I do, yeah. I think it’s funny. It’s just music at the end of the day.

Are you personally an apologetic person?

I think it’s just a British thing. I mean, I do say so. I think I’m always the first to say sorry, because I just can’t be bothered.

Women are generally socialized to apologize more and British people apologize in order to avoid awkwardness or faux pas.

I think it’s funny. And then, like, if the band ever got famous or something, then people will say, “Oh, sorry, Sorry.”

The album title and a lot of themes are about people that don’t necessarily love their surroundings, for whatever reason, but they also don’t want to give up on ever finding something better. Was that intentional?

I think a lot of these songs were kind of like written about feeling quite helpless, that “I don’t want to be here” kind of vibe, but then you put the song into something else.

Whenever you feel helpless, do you sometimes have to force yourself to not feel that way? Does writing songs help?

If I can’t make sense of what’s really going on or people’s thoughts and stuff, then I flip it into a song and I can kind of put it away because I can see it for something else.

Anywhere But Here is out now via Domino. Get it here.