Memories of Norwich: George Orton of Gladboy talks to LIFC

In December, the highly acclaimed Leeds-based Junkedelic band Gladboy headline Norwich Arts Centre – the very same venue they played their first ever gig, after forming at the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich, some years ago. 

LIFC caught up with lead singer/guitarist George Orton to discuss all things Gladboy and his deep love and connection with the fine city of Norwich. 

Nice to catch up George. How’s life in the world of Gladboy? 

Hello, things are good over at Gladboy HQ. Some of us have got a house together (rented, of course) which has saved a lot of money on practice spaces, for the small price of our neighbours’ sanity. It’s allowed us to iron out a few creases in the live shows and get some unfinished drafts tidied up. We’ve also seen a lot of new cities which is nice! In November, we’ve got a show in Leeds with a couple of cowboy bands (Midnight Rodeo and Black Lagoons) followed by the party for the end of the world at Norwich Arts Centre. 

We love listening to Gladboy at LIFC HQ. Any new releases on the horizon?

We’re constantly working, but not always on the same projects, so we’ve been a bit slow on new releases and find ourselves in a perpetual state of tinkering and faffing. Alex plays in another band, Fuzz Lightyear, and Janani’s solo project has been popping off, so we’ve all got fingers in many proverbial pies, but there is new Gladboy bubbling away. Our most recent single Karloff was my favourite piece of recorded music, so you can expect more groovy, tape-hissy, plunderphonic audio experiments in the new year…

We’ve also got some vinyl coming out, courtesy of Lowell Records! You can pre-order it here: https://www.lowellrecords.com/ – it’s featuring a host of other Norwich musical exports. Woo!

It’s very difficult to explain your sound to others as there appears to be influences spanning several decades. Can you give us a sentence that best describes your songs?  

Lynchian barnyard boogies. Music to fry to.

So, as well as a successful 4 year spell at the UEA, you also have a deeper connection with the city and the venue itself. Can you tell us something about that? 

I’m not sure where I was conceived and I’m not going to ask, but I know that I grew up in London. I then moved to Essex when I was 10, followed by 5 years in Norwich for university and, as of a year ago, a fresh start in Leeds. Norwich is the homeliest though. It’s where I hit round two of puberty and it’s where my roots are. Most of the reason I moved to Norfolk is because I’ve got an extended network of family friends and family members in the city and most of the nearby ale-houses. Thankfully, this hasn’t changed. 

My grandma Christine Orton, who I sadly never met, lived in Norwich and raised my dad, Adam, as well as my auntie Beth and Uncle Rupert. She was a radical figure for her time; a writer, journalist and a vegetarian. She was also part of a group that were responsible for opening Norwich’s greatest cultural institution, Norwich Arts Centre. She passed away before I was born, but I know I would’ve really liked her.

Beth is a great folk singer and still seems to be very popular. And Rupert played in the loudest band I’ve ever seen, the Jim Jones Revue. I’ve definitely found inspiration from both of them, Beth’s poetry and Rupert’s appetite for sonic oblivion, but it’s my dad where most of my influence comes from. He’s just loves his music. The master plan is that when he dies, I’ll inherit his record collection. And then, when I die, my offspring will inherit both our combined record collections, and then their offspring will do the same, and so forth ad infinitum. My great-great-grandson will never have a spare room. It’s an endless cycle of music loving that will one day be known as the Orton Library of Recorded Music.

As we mentioned before, the first ever Gladboy gig was at Norwich Arts Centre back in the day as part of the brilliant Sonic Youths scheme. 3 band members, about the same amount of songs and a crowd of maybe  20 in the bar. Tell us how the band has progressed and changed? 

The starting lineup changes but I think our largest ensemble was a seven-piece with a full brass section. It varies from night to night, but we’ve got a strong starting five at the moment. 

When we supported her, Brix Smith Start from The Fall used a really kind analogy about Gladboy’s music. She said that, musically, we’ve always used the same ingredients, but we’ve been trying some new recipes. Or something along those lines. Our new stuff is a little darker and a bit groovier. We started out super melodic, then got super freaky, and now I’m trying to land it somewhere in the middle.

We hear the excellent Bug Teeth will be supporting you at the NAC. Tell us a bit about them too? 

Bug Teeth has a few common members and showcases a more controlled side to our playing. Gladboy relies on a lot of improvisation and is all a bit frantic, whereas Bug Teeth is dreamier and feels like you’re being held up in the air by a pair of very soft hands. It started out as PJ’s solo project before we were kindly invited to infect it with our nonsense. It’s been a great experience for all of us. PJ’s better at writing lyrics, can sing actual harmonies, and they’re my partner. A real triple threat.

And to add to the seasonal activities, you have a few of the MLC-agogo DJ Collective spinning tunes in the bar on the night. Do you the line up yet? 

Well, guesting on the decks will be my music loving father, Adam Orton, Mayor of the Lanes Jonty Young and last but not least, international music distributer – Pete Keeley. Bound to be an excellent and interesting mix. 

Gladboy headline Norwich Arts Centre on Thursday 15th November 2022. For more information and tickets visit PONY UP presents Gladboy – Norwich Arts Centre