Conor Jordan and Jess Mollie first met as music students at the University of Leeds, beginning a musical collaboration while studying for a year in Denton, Texas. The City’s Thrift Store providing the inspiration for the name of Denton Thrift. Now based back in Leeds, the experimental duo started to command interest with the release of singles Fear of the Night and a wonderfully stripped back cover of Sade’s Sweetest Taboo. Releasing their debut EP Sight August 17th on Majestic Causal Records, Denton Thrift have marked themselves out as a distinctive and unique talent to keep your eyes and ears on. We spoke to Conor and Jess about the creative process of Denton Thrift.
Conor and Jess, thanks for talking to us. You met while studying music at University of Leeds, what were the specific disciplines you studied and how do you bring that into your sound?
Our musical background is pretty varied; Jess studied classical/world percussion and Conor studied electric guitar primarily blues and jazz. We’ve always been drawn to interesting harmonies and weird rhythms and that’s what first brought us to start jamming together. We have some early demos around somewhere of us just making the weirdest music possible.
You didn’t start making music together until studying abroad in Denton, TX. Known for its vibrant music scene, did your surroundings give you any inspiration beyond the name? Or was it just something to do indoors to escape the humidity?
Jess: I got really into jazz vibraphone whilst studying there, surrounded by amazing musicians and getting immersed in the neo-soul / jazz scene in Dallas.
Conor: I took along time to get used to living so far away from home, probably the whole first semester I just spent sitting in my room making music, which led me to the production side of music and moving away from just playing straight guitar.
The Sight EP took on issues of mental health, previous release Fear In The Night and also the lyrics to Sweetest Taboo that you covered, seem steeped in human insecurity. Is lyric writing a cathartic process for you? Do you have a clear vision of what a track is going to be centred around as you build it? Or does the music guide you to the subject?
We usually start off writing with a few synth chords and sing random melodies over it until something clicks for us. Once we have a clear picture of the melody adding actual lyrics seems to steer the music from there. Making a Denton Thrift tune is incredibly cathartic for us, if we were to pull apart our tracks it would end up being a series of personal events and challenges that we’ve either overcome or failed to.
Watching video of you perform Confessional with a band is amazing. After recording An Awesome Wave, fellow Leeds Uni’ers Alt-J had to almost reverse engineer the tracks in order to play live. Is that something you also have to do, or is playing the tracks live always in your mind when writing?
Thank you! Getting our live set together been a longer and harder process than we initially thought, but now we have our live drummer + bassist on board it’s so much more satisfying to perform. We try not to let the live set up affect the music as we don’t want to sacrifice anything and we want the music to sound exactly how we intend.
You use environmental sounds within your music, looking at your Facebook photos; you recorded a bunch of sounds from the contents of a dumpster. Do you begin with an idea of the sounds you want to capture? Or do often carry a recording device incase you find something inspirational?
Jess: I love the idea of making beats/sounds from the things we find around us. I often carry a little zoom recorder around with me and capture more ambient environment soundscapes or interesting noises e.g forks sliding around in a kitchen drawer… Then I mix them into a strange sounding beat.
Conor: Jess brings me the weirdest sounding stuff, but she always manages to incorporate it into a super interesting rhythm.
What are in the short and long term plans for Denton Thrift? Do you have any plans of touring? Or will you be concentrating on writing/recording music?
We have a few collaborations in the pipe line, most recently we’re working with Ronin getting a super chill track together. We’re continuing to write more tracks as well but we we want to do a few collaborations first. Tour is definitely on the table, and hopefully y’all catch us at some festivals next year! Maybe one day we will do a show in the Denton Thrift Store in Denton TX. I wonder if they’ve heard of us…
Thank you very much for your time. Thanks for giving us the music of Denton Thrift and hope to see you out in the US someday soon. Maybe a glorious homecoming to Denton! Take care.
Denton Thrift’s Sight EP is available now on Majestic Causal Records
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