Pursuing the pop market, living without a plan, covering a U2 song - as 'World Service' is released, DELIRIOUS? spoke at length to Bruce Dennill.
The Furious? Records offices, headquarters for all things Delirious?, are some way off the beaten path. Tucked away in a business park near the village of Ford (a railway siding featuring an oddly bustling model railway emporium and a house or two) in West Sussex, it seems a strange place to meet a couple of fully fledged international Christian rock stars, for such are the two individuals who wander across to the interview room, clutching sandwiches hastily purloined from ever-cheerful band manager Tony Patoto - no jokes, please - he's heard them all before.
Bald-headed Stuart Garrard explains that the day's schedule hasn't allowed time for lunch and that he'll catch up on a snack if I don't mind. The guitarist's perfectly trimmed goatee twitches as he tucks in. Singer Martin Smith appears soon afterward, apologising for a phone call that went on too long (more promotion for new album). He boasts bleached hair styled just so, trendy attire without a single crease and, for a resident of Littlehampton, a deeply suspicious tan. No time to waste. Garrard pulls his chair closer to the tape recorder on the central table, and we begin.
Bruce: Does 'World Service' reflect your lives and experiences in the two and a half years since 'Audio Lessonover?'?
Stuart Garrard: "Yes. We've spent a year of that time creating the new album and it's been a difficult time. Jon's (Jon Thatcher, Delirious? bassist) uncle, who was an elder in our church in Littlehampton, passed away. He was a close friend to all of us, and something like that makes you stop, think and evaluate what's important."
Bruce: There seems to be a kind of secular-to-spiritual cycle with your albums - 'Mezzamorphis' to 'Glo' to 'Audio Lessonover?' and now to 'World Service'. By going back to a more openly Christian approach this time around, are you signaling an end to the strategy of releasing singles in the mainstream pop market?
Martin Smith: "There's no feeling of pulling back. This is the record that God's given us and we're as excited as ever about opening the doors, but we're going about it in a different way this time. Instead of pouring money into putting singles in the High Street and filming videos, we thought we'd rather give away two songs ("Majesty (Here I Am)" and "Rain Down", available for free download and given away in their thousands in CD single form) and see what God does. We're far more relaxed about it this time around, even though we're not quite sure of what the future holds. We're nervous and excited at same time and we can't wait for people to hear the record."
Bruce: How much of that giveaway strategy was ministry and how much of it was marketing?
SG: "It was a bit of both, really. Our primary goal was to give something back to the people who have been so patient for the last couple of years. We've been releasing material, but it's been a DVD, a compilation or a live collection. We were getting a few rumbles coming back via the Internet from people looking for something new. With this album, we wanted to present 12 great new songs that no one has heard before and we wanted to give a couple of tracks away free."
MS: "It's exciting. It's the first time we've released a single that anyone in the world can get hold of. People in South Africa or Germany can get it at the same time as people here in the UK. We've even had a download in Iraq."
SG: ".or three or four!"
Bruce: If 'World Service' was described as a "worship album", how would you respond? So many Christian bands are wary of the term because of the marketing impact, even though, ultimately, it's probably what they're trying to achieve.
SG: "There are definitely worship songs on there. That's what we do - and some would say what we do best. When we were writing, we tried not to be influenced by any outside opinions about writing a worship album specifically or writing songs for radio or whatever. Actually, we wanted to satisfy our own need to write a great album and to please the people that perhaps didn't like 'Audio Lessonover?', as well as to just try and satisfy everyone. Primarily, it was important for us and our egos or our pride to write a really good solid album. We've felt stripped and laid open over the past year and we wanted to get that out and reflect that in the songs."
Bruce: It could be said that you've achieved an ideal sort of middle ground. "God In Heaven" sounds like Michael W Smith covered by Muse.
MS: (laughs) "That's a great quote - I'm going to tell Michael that one."