I had the privilege of chatting with Blues Pills guitarist Dorian Sorriaux on their tour bus, prior to their show in Glasgow. I wanted to hear about his influences, guitars, and recording their latest release “Lady In Gold”. The soft spoken French guitarist even revealed his love of a certain instrument that’s popular in Scotland…
Hi Dorian, thanks for your time. Listening to “Lady In Gold”, it has more of a soul vibe to it. Was that decided prior to writing or did it come about naturally?
“It was just kind of a natural way of developing. We have been influenced by soul music, and even from recording the first album, we were talking about not going more heavy but going more groovy, and mixing it with our style. We started to listen to more soul records.”
Were there any artists or records, in particular, that inspired the direction you went in?
“Yes, The Undisputed Truth, “Cosmic Truth”. There were a lot of records, but that one in particular, because they mix the soul with a lot of psychedelic influences too. Tony Joe White “…Continued” too. We saw him, actually, a couple of nights ago in London. It was great, and it’s amazing that he’s still touring.”
Some of the comments on social media have been a bit negative to the new direction on this album. Would you say one album in is too early to have a definitive sound and style?
“There are different ways of doing it. I mean, there are bands that try to sound the same, record after record, and we chose to evolve. We expanded our influences. We worked with the same producers, in the same studio, but it’s not really exciting to do the same record.”
There have been comparisons between the songs on this album and Adele. What would you say to that?
“I love Adele! I saw her this year in Berlin.”
There seems to be fewer solo sections on the new album. Have you been extending these songs on stage at all?
“Yeah, that’s what we do still, even with the new songs.”
Why was it important for you to record the album completely analogue?
“It’s the sound. It’s sounds different, and it’s the approach. With a computer, you can edit things, see all the frequencies, and see what isn’t right, but with tape, you just have to trust your ears. It’s much more fitting to us, because it’s more of a live way of recording.”
You’ve been called a ‘retro’ band. Do you feel it’s more important to stick to using retro ways to record?
“It’s not really because of that. We’ve been labelled retro, blues, rock, even heavy metal, because we’re on a metal label. Analogue just sounds better to us.”
Did you record any of it live, or did you record your parts separately?
“We used a lot of overdubs, but the main tracks were recorded live. We wrote the songs in the studio and recorded them straight away, so it felt live because it was more spontaneous.”
Two years ago you acquired a new guitar, the Corsa Les Paul (a guitar wired to sound like Peter Green’s legendary Gibson Les Paul guitar). Was that your main guitar in the studio, or were there any surprises?
“It was actually my main guitar. I also have an SG that has a really particular sound. I’m playing an SG tonight. It’s not the one I used on the record though. I also used a guitar made by Leo Fender after he sold the Fender Company. It sounded great, so we used it.”
There are a lot of guitar textures on ‘Lady In Gold’. Has your pedal board grown since the last album?
“A little bit. Now I use delay, and fuzz is much more present on these new songs like ‘Lady In Gold’, and ‘Little Boy Preacher”.
With the news that Graveyard have sadly split up, do you feel more responsibility for keeping this style of retro blues rock alive?
“Hmmm… I feel responsible to play the best music that I can play. Not really comparing to other bands. I really like Graveyard, so it’s too bad that they spit up.”
There definitely seems to be more of a British blues influence on your sound… bands like Free, Cream, Fleetwood Mac. Would you say that that was what primarily inspired you?
“Yeah, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, and the 60s, early 70s era of British bands.”
One of the things that first attracted me to Blues Pills was your love for Peter Green. What is it about him?
“Everything! The sound, the songs. What he plays means something. It’s not just notes. The same with Paul Kossoff. You hear a note and that makes me feel really something. Some people need to hear a hundred notes in a second to feel something, I’d rather hear one note that makes me really feel something.”
You’re not that old, so how did you discover these players?
“I discovered ZZ Top first, when I was 4 or 5 years old. My dad had cassette tapes in the car. Right away, I got hooked. I just wanted to hear more blues guitar. I discovered Rory Gallagher, another one that was a big influence on me.”
Any plans to tour with ZZ Top soon, or is that just a dream?
“That’s the dream. I would definitely like that.”
Is there anyone you’d really like to work with, either in a studio or in a live setting?
“That’s really hard because you never know what people are like to work with until you work with them. I really like working with Don Alsterberg (Blues Pills producer). There is this guy his name is Blake Mills. He co-produced the Alabama Shakes record ‘Sound And Colour’. He has solo records out, and he is a really great guitar player.”
Are there any techniques you would like to improve on?
“Maybe one technique, fingerpicking on acoustic guitar… and we’re in Scotland, I love Donovan, Bert Jansch, and John Renbourn.”
I thought you were going to say you wanted to learn the bagpipes then!
“My Dad plays the bagpipes! I grew up in Brittany, it’s a Celtic part of France, so I actually feel really connected to the bagpipes.”
Is there one song you’re particularly pleased with so far? If somebody had never heard of Blues Pills, what song would you play them?
“Burned Out’, from the new record.”
It was two years between albums. Are you planning to return to the studio anytime soon?
“Well, actually, we got into the studio to record ‘Lady In Gold’ a few months after the first record. It took a while in the studio. We’re definitely gonna have a different approach, we don’t know what yet, but it will be different. We’re talking about it now. Last time we wrote in the studio, but we want to have the songs more prepared next time.”
Do you write on the road, or do you like to take time off to write?
“A combination of the two. We jam sometimes at sound checks, and come up with ideas.”
Do you have any pre-show routines or rituals?
“I practice fingerpicking. I have an acoustic guitar on the bus. I like to take a moment and listen to music to get mentally ready, so either of those things. Yesterday, it was drinking a glass of wine and listening to music.”
Do you get much time to see the cities you visit on tour?
“I try to get out of the venue. It feels good. We’ve been on tour for seven months this year, so it’s refreshing to go outside and see something else.”
You have a day off tomorrow. Will you get time to explore Glasgow?
“We will be driving to Ireland tomorrow morning. I love Scotland, and I love Ireland, because it kind of feels like home. I’m excited that we have a day off in Dublin, because there is Celtic music and this feeling that I grew up with.”
Interviewer: Colin Plumb