Sounds Of System Breakdown‘s self-titled debut album, released in 2010, is one of the sounds of my early years in Dublin. Encapsulating the gritty urban-ness of the less-touristy aspects of the city, it was a shining electro-pop record riddled with enthralling beats and whip-smart lyrics.
They’ve been relatively quiet in recent years, being spread as they are between a houseboat outside Dublin and a new home in London, but recently returned with new single ‘Connect With Me’.
How much do I personally rate this band? They were my wedding band, playing exclusively their own material. Here’s what they had to say around the launch of the new single.
Welcome back, lads! It’s been quite a while. How does it feel to be working together again?
I guess we never really stopped, we just had to slow down a bit as other life events took precedence. It’s great to have three pairs of eyes and ears on everything again. Honestly, there’s a great feeling of focus now – I think a bit of distance from the last few records has given us a better understanding of our sound.
It must be quite difficult given your disparate living situations. How do songs like the new single come together in practice?
It was kind of iterative. I’d usually demo something, then Ed would do a rough drum take, Richy would try some vocals on top. Then after a few listens we’d chat about what worked and what didn’t. We avoided preciousness wherever we could so you’ll hear a lot of the demo stuff in there, mixed with better quality recordings. It was about keeping whichever take had the best energy.
Can you tell me a bit about the story behind the single?
It came from the bass line – everything else came from that in a really instinctive way. The lyrics are supposed to be little snapshots of memories all jumbled up together. The words feel secondary to how the meter and sounds elaborate on the rhythm section.
How much of a return is this – can we expect a lot more new music?
We have a number more singles recorded so this year we’re planning a steady stream of new music. We want to make sure we do right by each track and release some nice supporting material. Beyond that, we have some other songs in various states of completion. Enough for an album – but we need to make sure there’s no weak points before we commit to that.
Do you plan to return to live shows as well when that’s an option?
Oh my god we’d love to play some festivals again when that’s all up and running. I (Rob) have done some solo shows in London, but it’s never quite the same without the others. In the meantime, we’re looking at options for some online shows. In the short time that will involve some pre-recorded elements but there are some other interesting possibilities.
You recently made some of your stems publicly available. What’s behind that, and how much has come of it so far?
We’ve had amazing remixes from Mick Keely and The Antlers of Romance which we’ll be sharing this coming week. We thought it was a good time to give some creative resources back to the community.
There’s a lot of social commentary on the album. Is that something that will return in your new music?
It’s not something we ever set out to do but it often pops up. There’s one track in particular that goes that route but on the whole, I think the vocals more personal and local this time round. I’ve always admired the storytellers in music and I consume a lot of fiction so I’m always trying to push that way.
The events of the past few weeks have reinvigorated the case for protest music though. Run The Jewel’s new track Ju$t with Zack de la Rocha really nailed it. There’s a fire in that track I haven’t heard in a long time.
Looking back over the years, what’s been your favourite moment as SOSB so far?
We played last in the tent in Knockanstockan in 2014 – hard to believe it was that long ago. The crowd was on top form! The tent, which was as full as I’ve ever seen a tent before, had sweat running down the roof. Great night, great festival. If it really is goodbye from them, they’ll be sorely missed.
In the same year, I think we played Forbidden Fruit festival and we got to share the stage with Little Dragon and 2manydjs. Another more recent highlight was playing with Danish band WhoMadeWho in Whelans. One of our all-time favourite bands.
I believe Rob’s been doing some other musical explorations in the meantime. What can you tell me about those?
I’ve been DJing and making music solo as Tech Nicholson. The main outlet is my show on Netil Radio in East London. It’s called Angles and I do two hours of music on a single subject every month. I do quite a bit of research for the shows so a really nice way to keep myself listening to new, old and weird music.
I’ve produced quite a few tracks as well but I’m keeping most of them under wraps until I get the sound right. You can check out my Soundcloud for a few choice cuts: https://soundcloud.com/technicholson.
What about Richy and Ed – are there other projects outside of SOSB?
Nothing much happening musically for me, outside of SOSB, unfortunately. My “day job” is sound design for animation so that tends to satisfy a lot of my need for creativity. The great thing about the remote nature of SOSB is that we can all take time when we have it and work around our own projects, work, family, etc. to be able to contribute to the band at our own pace. – Ed
I am making quite a bit other music at the moment. This lockdown has given me plenty of time to play around. Hopefully, some of with will get finished and released. I am trying to do some remote collaborations but that stuff can take even longer. We haven’t released anything as SOSB in such a long time, there’s no real rush. The reset button has been pushed. – Richy
Has the shutdown been a creative time for you?
I think so, although I feel it’s more about taking existing work and pushing it to completion. Especially as an independent band, it really is 90% perspiration. We’re finally at the stage where we’re sharing what we’ve created which is a nice place to be.
What are your hopes for your reincarnation?
Make music, share it, make more music.