Telegram are as special as a message from the one you love. Their music whips up an all-new gumbo out of glam and Kraut influences. At times, they’ll remind you of Eno’s weird pop, at others they’ll trance out on a Can-ish locked groove, other times again they’ll channel the baroque splendour of Floyd with Syd – all topped off with the coolest Welsh accent since John Cale spun VU’s yarn of Waldo’s tragic parcel of love.
The band formed after an all-night party round at their singer/guitarist Matt Saunders’ flat. No skeletons in his closet, Matt’d been writing stuff on his own for a few years, but had given up, he says, because “I didn’t like not being in a band”. That night he and bassist Oli Paget-Moon, and guitarist Matt Wood ended up “jumping up and down to Brian Eno’s ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’,” recalls Matt.
Their shared interest, they say, is in the way Eno intriguingly straddled pop and the avant-garde. Let them natter away on this subject for a minute or two, and they’ll drop in names from other media, like Kurt Vonnegut, JG Ballard, and Edoardo Paolozzi. They’re very much into the British art-rock tradition.
Matt Wood furthermore, served an enviable apprenticeship in the German avant-garde, working for 18 months at the HQ in Germany of Krautrock legends, Faust. “It was in a disused paper factory on a hydro-electric concrete island in the middle of the Danube, down near Lake Constance. I’d wake up, and Hans Joachim Irmler, this really stout German man in his 70s, would be hacking down all these trees outside, then come in and go, So, do you want to build a synth? It was quite an education.”
Initially, Telegram were just a three-piece, without a keyboard player or drummer. They’d play around with the songs they’d variously written in Matt’s back room, “sitting in a line, in this very confined space, in close proximity.”
They were battery-farming songs, honing their melodies with only distant ambitions of adding beats to them, until February ’13, when they acquired Jordan Cook, a powerful sticksman, who took their music in an unexpectedly tough direction. “We wanted him to be the fourth element,” says Saunders, “to play around with the backbeat, but not play to it.” Because Jordan filled the vacancy in their music so totally, they decided against getting a keyboard player. Plus, swerving synths would take them away from sounding too like Eno – and indeed too like everyone at the moment.
Playing their first gigs around East London, Telegram sound a world away from all the other aspiring combos starting out there. A very good sign. Matt Saunders talks excitedly of bringing pop flavours from his native South Wales – he was raised in Caerphilly, and thus grew up surrounded by skewed pop genii like the Super Furries, Gorkys and, more recently, Cate Le Bon.
Having tested the waters on Saunders’ home studio, Telegram made a terrific fist of their first public recording, a session for 6Music’s Marc Riley – they’re his new favourite band. After numerous big labels thereafter tabled offers for their signatures, the band decided to resist the big bucks for now. They’re self-releasing a single, ‘Follow’, in September, and have been invited to tour with Temples in November, and Palma Violets in December.
Telegram are coming through at their own pace, in beautiful colours. Keep reading…