RGM Introducing – Soup Review

Welcome to the RGM lounge folks, take a seat and grab a brew.

What made you decide to start the band?

C: Soup Review as a performing band came together quite late in the scheme of things after we’d recorded our first album in fact.  Before ‘the band’ we worked on podcasts and bedroom-based recording projects together. We wrote 50 Songs About Pizza and made a podcast called Song Time where we recorded ourselves while writing songs. Around 2016, I had begun playing solo gigs around Sheffield, and off the back of one of those gigs a friend offered me a recording opportunity and I thought ‘aha I’ll get Mario in for this, so the seed for the band was planted then.  

Introduce us all to the members and your musical history?

C: I’m Chris Delamere (3 A Levels and 1 pair of trousers), I play guitar competently and sing too loud. Sat in on drums for exactly 1 practice for a friend’s secondary school band called Faraday circa 2004/5, still waiting on the call back. 

M: I’m Mario D’Agostino – the apostrophe is silent – I play guitar competently and sing too quiet. I was in a demented kind of DIY electro-pop band called Dr. Peabody during and after art school, then spent some time singing in experimental choirs where we got to dress up in fun costumes. 

It’s been a bit of a wild last year, how have you guys managed to pass time and stay sane during lockdown?

C: I’ve been lucky: I’ve still been working. Even with significantly reduced working hours, that’s helped keep my brain ticking over I think. I have to admit though, the lockdown life is my preferred life. No obligation to see anyone, ample time to pursue your own interests? Yes, please. I don’t recall hitting a wall of any kind where I was like ‘no I can’t do this anymore but then like I say, I appreciate I’ve been very lucky. In terms of staying sane though – I recommend running and meditation and really getting into baths. 

M: I’ve also been very lucky having been furloughed for the whole time. I’m with Chris, this year I’ve started jogging, to my own great surprise, and it’s been a lifesaver. I’ve also been enjoying doing a lot of reading, been getting stuck into a lot of Samuel R. Delany’s writing, and spent a cool 109 hours in January absolutely destroying my hard-won sleeping patterns playing Dark Souls Remastered on Nintendo Switch.

How positive are you feeling now we are in 2021?

C: Hmm tentatively. I get the impression that people think 2021 is the year everything goes back to normal. I think we might still have a weird year ahead of us, maybe a weird two years. 2023 though…also going to be shit. 2024 is where it’s at. 

M: I’m holding on to my yearning for a busy Sunday morning at my beloved Cafe 9, bustling about making coffees and biscuits and chatting with the regulars. If that Sunday morning turns out to be in 2024 then so be it.

How has 2020 effected your mental health?

C: 2020 was a lesson in what you can and can’t control and coming to terms with that. As a result, I feel like I’m more resilient actually. 

M: It has felt like an immense challenge at times, but like Chris, I feel like I’ve come out of it stronger, having developed some solid self care strategies and started going to therapy. A constant background of anger, frustration, and grief is more than the odd exfoliating mask can handle.

What’s your favourite song right now from another band currently on the circuit?

C: Chesterfield artist My Pleasure is currently doing a cover album of The Beatles’ Revolver. I would recommend checking out his take on Yellow Submarine. It feels like his take brings new meaning to the song like he’s put on someone else’s jumper and stretched it out. 

M: Rain Song from Sun Drift’s recent album Lucky has been a real earworm for me recently!

What support is out there for new artists in Sheffield ?

C: Hard to say. I mean, when we were playing gigs, we had a reliable set of people around us who would put us on for shows. A set of people that covered comedy and variety nights as well as music nights. I can’t speak for the proper bands playing the Leadmill or whatever, but I felt we were well supported in our small corner of cafes and art spaces. But in terms of this current gigless pandemic era, I have no idea what support is out there. Are venues hosting online gigs? I don’t know. 

What useless talent do you have/ party trick?

C: I can do that high pitch whistle where you press your lips back against your teeth and put your tongue up to the top lip. What do you call that? Like a shepherd’s whistle? Anyway, a very loud attention-grabbing whistle. 

M: I’m pretty good at anagrams.

What was the most fun you have had on stage?

M: We had this absolutely excellent gig at Theatre Deli where the audience was just totally on board and were really receptive to the changes in tone that we went through. There are times when we’ll go from something pretty silly into a quiet, sad song, and when we pull that off I feel like the wildest exhilaration. We played our song Sandwiches and decided we’d do a ‘sexy’ version of the intro but both kind of cracked up after doing it and had to pause and assess what had happened, and it felt like the loveliest kind of experience, just laughing on stage in front of an audience who are also really enjoying themselves.

What was the worst experience on stage?

C: I don’t know if we’ve had any that have been really terrible. We had one in Bristol at a pub on a Friday night where people were obviously much more interested in getting their lairy weekend started than listening to us sing daft songs about pizza. Which is, you know, fair enough. But our set was for *an hour*, so playing against a sea of disinterest for that long can be pretty dispiriting. Even that wasn’t that bad, to be honest. The only worse thing than that is we’ve done a couple of things where we’ve been asked to improvise and just spontaneously create songs on the spot, which, if you’ve never done it before, is actually quite hard. The level of out-of-our-depth floundering that went on at those gigs was a sweaty performance anxiety nightmare come to life. But again, just a learning experience I think. The lesson was don’t say yes to those types of gigs next time! 

M: We had the Mayor of Barnsley in our audience one time and we asked him what his favourite soup was. He didn’t even look up from his phone, he just said ‘Tomato’ without even looking at us.

Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about? 

C: Mario is running to be a Tory councillor.

M: That is nothing but a vicious rumor being propagated by Lloyd Bent of Bingo Records. It is funny, there’s a Facebook page with a load of crank beliefs attributed to me, but I’m not interacting with it at all cause it already destroyed my algorithm, I’ve got ads for Young Conservatives mixed in with the David Icke ads that I was already getting from being a member of Sheffield UFO Club. The interesting thing about Chris: he’s a very accomplished tap dancer.

Tell us a funny story from backstage?

C: There’s always the need, just before going on stage, for a pre-gig wee. And I always have this complex about potentially dribbling and having a wet patch on the front of my trousers and then trying to perform and be in the moment but also trying to hide an embarrassing wet patch. Anyway, one time at a gig in Newcastle I went for my pre-gig wee (thinking as always ‘Don’t dribble Delamere!’) and the zip of my fly came off in my hands and fell into the toilet bowl. It’s 5 minutes till we’re on and I’m scooping my zip out of the toilet and trying to reattach it. And the bastard thing is not going back on and my fly is *wide* open. The gig, I might add, is The Comedy Show That Passes The Bechdel Test run by our friends Lauren and Liberty, and, as its name might suggest, it is a night mainly for female and queer performers and me, a straight man, am about to get on stage with his fucking fly wide open. So when we got on stage I straight away had to be like ‘look, I don’t want you to think my fly is undone on purpose, but nevertheless, my fly is undone, in fact, it is actually fully broken so it cannot even be done up, so look, that’s just the way it is and we’re going to play some songs now and then we had one of our best gigs ever.  

Best gig you’ve been to that you weren’t playing? 

M: Oh, Richard Dawson doing a whole set of acapella songs about death in a shed as part of Wysing Polyphonic Festival in 2016 springs to mind. He sang into a hairbrush for a little bit as a goof, and was just so incredibly funny and charming. Made me laugh, brought tears to my eyes – legend.

Who would you like to work with on the circuit right now?

M: I think it’d be fun to make something really dancy and out of our comfort zone. Maybe we could collaborate with Sheffield’s international man of mystery Dimitri and make some kind of italo disco-style concept album? I also think it’d be super fun to have a few sit-down writing sessions with our brilliant singer-songwriter pal Rhiannon Scutt!

What makes you stand out as a band?

C: I hope what we cultivated at our shows we used to do at Cafe 9 was less of a band/audience thing and more of a ‘ringleaders of a chill hang’ thing. We tell stories and jokes and chat. Plugging in and sound checking is such a pain in the arse, we would much rather play acoustic in a small room to a maximum of like 40 people, so it’s intimate and fun and real. Someone introduced us at a gig once as ‘The Mighty Smile Machine that is Soup Review’ and I like that. I think we want people to feel joy and go away carrying one of our silly lines in their heads. 

Right now, whats pissing you of the most? (Cant say the virus 🙂 

M: I’ve managed to somehow destroy all of my pairs of everyday jeans at the same time. I’ve had to stay with my family recently to attend a funeral, so I didn’t bring my best pair, my pink and blue Lucy and Yak jeans, cause I’d have had to acknowledge their brightness and outlandishness to various family members and honestly who has the energy for that at the same time as mourning. I’ve just bought two pairs of jeans with me, the fit of both pairs being noticeably unsatisfactory, so cutting through all the everyday sadness and grief has been the fact that my legs haven’t been comfortable for weeks. 

Tell us about a time when you had a proper reyt laugh while you were all together?

C: like all the time. Every practice. There’s been a few times where we have been crying laughing at some terrible pun the other said. Can’t think of specifics though. Maybe mario will remember? I remember absolutely h o w l I n g together watching Mr. Fruit Salad at a Square Hole comedy gig a few years ago. 

M: Oh my god that Mr. Fruit Salad gig, yeah I was fully hyperventilating at that. Joz Norris is a treasure. For a while we were thinking of rebranding as Brain Squad – getting two other band members to join us, changing our names to the names of each lobe of the brain, and then only singing songs about how it’s really good to hydrate, and sort of chatting in between songs about how amazing the human brain is without really knowing anything about it. When we went off on one about that I remember my face was aching from laughing so much.

I hear you have a new single brewing, what can you tell us about it?

M: ‘Stars in their Eyes on SSRIs’ is a phrase we came up with when we were writing a press release for our first album, which made us do big giddy teary laughing, then pause and go: ‘that’s very good!’, so we decided we’d sit down and make it into a song. We were chatting about the potential connections between mental health advice we’d received and 90’s tv institution Stars in their Eyes, and a thing that really rang true was the similarity between trying to ‘fake it to make it’, pretend to be feeling ok in order to start genuinely feeling better (which is such miserable advice when framed that way), and stepping out onto Matthew Kelly’s stage dressed as Cher or Freddie Mercury. Y’know – ‘Tonight Matthew, I’m gonna be… fine!’ We kind of just ran with that had a lot of fun rhyming things with Dolly Parton and Engelbert Humperdinck, and this is what we came up with! We like to describe it as a self-care anthem, full of little winks to the everyday rituals and self-care practices so many of us do to manage our mental health. 

How was the recording process given the various restrictions the UK has been under of late?

C: We were lucky that most of the recording for our second album was done before the restrictions came in. So then the process of mixing and mastering and artwork and all that could continue remotely throughout last year. It’s amazing how much you can do remotely nowadays. 

M: Yeah! We also made a tape by just recording things in our bedrooms and sending them back and forth, which was a lot of fun! It was a real return to our DIY roots.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

M: Almost every day I think about the fact that, before he was a sci-fi and fantasy writer, Gene Wolfe was an engineer, and worked on designing the machinery that extrudes potato pulp in the process of making Pringles. A cursory google will convince you – unshakably, forever – that the man on the Pringles tube is based on him. 

Finally and perhaps optimistically, what are your plans for the year ahead

M: We’ve been working a bit on a new little clutch of songs, they might appear as a home-recorded tape or maybe later on as something more finished, we haven’t really talked about it yet. I have really been enjoying standing in my kitchen with my phone recording on the top of my fridge and squeezing into the space between it and the kettle to sing to it. It’s easy to get a good sound in our kitchen, so maybe that’ll shape how it turns out, I don’t know.