Ever since he first appeared back in 2017 with the space-folk ambition of his debut album, I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut, there’s been something intriguingly different about Jeremy Tuplin. It was there in 2019’s Pink Mirror, a warts-and-all character study of humanity as a whole, which included the remarkable Humans, surely the only song to reference George Bush, Mo Salah and Melinda Messenger in the same track, and it was there in 2020’s Violet Waves, a record about “love, the ensuing apocalypse of our habitat and all that exists beyond”. With each record, the Somerset songwriter has seemingly dived deeper and deeper into the weirder recesses of his mind, and on his new offering, the synth-drenched concept album Orville’s Discotheque, which he’s premiering here today, he might just have gone further than ever before.
The album is Greek mythology re-imagined in a left-of-reality modern(ish) world, the titular Orville and his potential squeeze Eugenie, offering a night-club-based take on the fateful love of Orpheus and Eurydice. Narcissistic and delusion, Orville brings Hades to the dance floors of the late 1970s. For all his braggadocious ways, Orville is ultimately a character we can both sneer at and sympathise with, as Jeremy explains, “behind all the bravado and bombast there’s a strong sense of fragility to this character”. This is particularly evident in some of the record’s stripped-back home-recorded moments, which Jeremy recalls, “helped stay true to Orville’s personality – a flawed, lonely synth player making music in his bedroom – whilst also helping suggest an interpretation that this record or at least aspects of the narrative are merely figments of his overactive imagination“. And by his imagination, perhaps Jeremy hints, as always, to seeing himself in the character, “I guess having been created by myself there’s that additional meta layer of art imitating life“.
Musically, Orville’s Discotheque dives fully into the world Jeremy created, a folk record this certainly is not, from the almost Blur-like swagger of Dancing On Your Own to the slacker-chug of L.O.V.E, this is an album that delves into the grimier side of devilish disco. That he named his backing band for this record The Sad And Lonely Disco Band, is not just a brilliant name, it’s absolutely fitting, never more evident than on Why’d You Go And Look At Me That Way, a duet meets lover’s tiff about, “being cast off into a life of misery in hell”, set to a pulsing rhythm section and clattering lead-guitars. As the album, and by extension the story of Orville and Eugenie comes to a close, Jeremy lets the darkness roll, with the bleak hopelessness of the Dancer Must Die, only for our (anti)hero to be reborn on the closing number, Dance ON, it sounds almost triumphant with skyward synth ringing out like Angelic trumpets as even when faced with damnation they find a way to see the positives, “you touched every part of my soul no matter where it goes, dance on”.
As intriguing and exciting as he’s ever sounded, with his combination of Greek Myth, self-deprecation and dark dancefloor anthems, Orville’s Discotheque might just be Jeremy Tuplin’s finest moment to date. Read on as Jeremy talks to me about concept albums, Orvillian Disco and why writing in character, “can be a medium to be more truthful about yourself”.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who is Jeremy Tuplin?
I’m an indie singer-songwriter from Somerset, in south-west England with an inclination for the supposedly weird and psychedelic, as well as the lyrical and poetic – I love words, wordplay, the subtleties of language, rhyming schemes, and how all of that can be used within a song.
FTR: You’re premiering your new album, Orville’s Discotheque here today, what can you tell me about recording it?
Thank you first of all for being the first to share this album with the world, I really appreciate it. Recording it, it feels like so long ago now… it started it home – relatively full, built up demos, for me at least, and then going into the studio to recreate and augment all of that with Mark Estall, who I’ve until now always recorded with, and the rest of the band. I tend to have a very specific idea about the sound and direction I’d like the production to go, and come with those ideas, but there’s always a certain magic that the other musicians I work with bring to the room that I could never account for – that’s with Mark of course on co-production and bass, Samuel Nicholson on lead guitar, Jason Ribeiro on drums, and heka/Francesca Brierley who was the guest vocalist all the way across this album.
FTR: I read the album is loosely based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, how did you go about bringing that story into the modern world?
Well, Greek mythology seems to be a theme I keep returning to every now and again in songwriting – on my second album Pink Mirror there was Gaia and Pandora’s Box. And here of course as you say loosely re-telling the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. I think they’re obviously very compelling, time-tested stories and from a metaphorical point of view I just think they’re so easily relatable to the modern world. It’s almost like the history of humankind just cyclically repeats the same thing over and over again. Are not most people’s lives Orphic in some sense – things are going well, then something bad happens and they lose their partner to the realms of Hell for eternity… and then learn from their mistakes? Swap the words Hell for a ‘bad time’ and that’s just a casual day for me.
FTR: Would you say this is a concept album? Do you like the term?
I don’t have any problem with the term concept album, I don’t understand why people take issue with it. Most of the albums I make are in some sense conceptual or have some kind of thematic linkaging which ties it all together. All apart from my last one Violet Waves which was more sporadic in its subject matter. I tend to lean towards the idea that if I’m going to make an entire album of songs then I’d like to try and make it a cohesive piece of work that seems to make sense to be received as such, as opposed to 12 or however many distinct tracks. But yeah this one is definitely a concept album in the truest sense of that term, it has a central narrative that flows from beginning to end and characters whose stories play out across the course of that. I tend to write story heavy songs so this is something that I’ve always wanted to do, or at least thought that I could do across an entire record.
FTR: Do you find it easier to write with characters in mind? Are you still able to get elements of yourself across in the people you’re writing about?
I actually don’t know if I find it easier or harder to write with characters in mind, it really just depends on the song – some are quite drawn out and occasionally tortuous processes and others come about relatively quickly. I’ve obviously written through a character in the course of this album, and a lot of the Pink Mirror album was written with characters in mind, but a lot of my other stuff is written from a personal perspective. Interestingly, for me at least, is that so far that seems to happen in cycles, alternating between a personal set of songs and then a character-led album, I don’t know why that is but it just seems to be a natural creative sequence. In terms of getting elements of myself across in the characters I write about, I think that happens in numerous ways – in one sense of course when looking for inspiration for characters such as Orville in this album where better or easier to look than close to home, ie myself. Whilst it’s important to stress that he is a completely fictional character, there is a lot of myself in him; not necessarily a true version of myself – it’s all contorted, twisted, pulled and stretched to extremities, but also on the other hand the character provides a vehicle to express certain ideas I have about the world, or be an example of character traits and actions that I would not like to have or do. I’m drawn to writing about highly flawed characters, ridiculing them in a way and holding them as examples of people who the listener would clearly not want to be resemble, like a kind of inverse role model, but then also providing them with certain redeeming qualities so that in the end you’re not entirely sure where you sit with them. So yeah I think writing through characters is a really interesting songwriting approach, it can liberate you to open up all sorts of angles to work with. I’d almost say in a roundabout kind of way it can be a medium to be more truthful about yourself than writing from your own perspective.
FTR: The record is something of a stylistic change for you, was it a conscious decision to explore new genres?
Yeah I think so – as I’d written an album that revolved around the notion of a discotheque, it was pretty much set in stone that musically it was going to have to incorporate elements of disco music in the production. But disco music without actually being disco music, it’s still an indie band at the core with a bit more synth, disco beats and guitar rhythms thrown in. I’ve described it as anything from pseudo disco, dark or dystopian disco, to my current favourite: Orphic Disco. It could cool if Orvillian Disco became a thing too but I very much doubt it will.
FTR: You’ve got a new backing band, The Sad And Lonely Disco Band, what did they bring to the record?
Yep, well it’s more or less the same personnel, just a bit more rotation depending on people’s availability for live shows and so on. They bring the disco magic! But more than that it’s a sensibility and a kind of thoughtfulness to the songs which I think really brings them to life in the best way.
FTR: As with your other records, the album’s coming out with Trapped Animal Records, how did that working relationship come about? Are record labels important to you?
We started talking after one of my songs and one of Kerry Devine from the label’s songs was played on the same radio show. As there’s so much work that goes into releasing music, any help you can get with that is important. If you can find a label that really cares about the music and the artists they work with then that’s also really important too. And that’s definitely the case with Trapped Animal.
FTR: Obviously a change in sound brings about a change in your performance, what can people expect from the Jeremy Tuplin live show?
Well, one key difference on this album is that I relinquish the guitar a bit more, free myself up to go hand held with the microphone here and there. It really depends whether it’s full band, which quite a few of these upcoming gigs will be, or stripped back or even solo. I think the songs and the storytelling aspect to them means that they do hold up even whilst being performed solo, but with the band is where you get the true sense of this psychedelic discotheque world in which they occupy. The ebbs and the flows sonically. So yeah that’s the kind of stuff you can expect.
FTR: What are your expectations for this album? Do you see music as a viable career?
How long do we have? From my own perspective and from an emotional sense, or sense of self, it feels like the actual process of releasing music at this moment in time, there’s a lot more that goes into it than you get out of it. And from a financial point of view it’s even worse. I’m glossing over the surface here, but there’s no point in sugarcoating it either. But then you never, I guess it’s early days with this record. I just hope at least a few people out there enjoy the album, that’s as far as my expectations go. The interesting thing about the industry right now though, and what I see from my day job in music publishing, is that music is most definitely a viable career for a lot of people at the moment. Thousands of artists you’ve never heard of are earning serious money, ironically from streaming. The equivalent of working in the financial sector type salaries. But then probably hundreds of thousands more artists are earning next to nothing. It’s like you’re either earning a hell of a lot of money or no money at all in music at the moment. I’ve come to terms with the fact that whilst I need to have a day job at least I don’t have to care about it at all, because I’ve got this other thing, music, that gives me direction and meaning. The job’s just a means to an end. I hope my employer doesn’t read this.
FTR: What’s next for Jeremy Tuplin?
Well, following the album release on Friday, I’ve got a 9-date UK tour starting next week: Brighton, Cambridge, London, Surbiton, Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Carlisle and Hull. It’s gonna be a lot of fun touring with my Glaswegian counterpart Peter Cat across all the dates. Hope to see you at one of them. Then later in the year in October there’s talk of some European dates in Italy and Germany, maybe elsewhere, fingers crossed. I should also say, despite being downbeat in the previous question about music career viability, I still love writing songs and making music, even performing, with all the nerves that come with playing live. The creative side is a really important part of my life and something that still at the moment is ever present; there would be a massive hole in it if I didn’t have that.
Orvilles Discotheque is out May 19th via Trapped Animal Records. For more information on Jeremy Tuplin visit http://www.jeremytuplin.com/