WHEN OBLONG’S song-writing machine, Steve Genn, 47, wrote the pop number String, the singer of the band was only two years-old.
That was 1988. Oblong’s front woman, Tracy Deakin, has grown up a bit since then though the band is still dipping into Steve Genn’s 20-odd year-old bank of songs.
“He’s constantly writing songs. He’s been writing songs for years and with String he just said: ‘I wrote that song in 1988,” says Deakin. “He’s got a lot of time on his hands and is always coming up with ideas, which he then brings to rehearsals, me, Hugh Ruiz (bass) and the drummer bash it out and that’s that. We don’t really know what’s behind his lyrics, either, though I can guess sometimes. But if you were to ask him he’d probably say ‘because it rhymes. But we’re a good team and we all just get on really well.”
And the system, according to the band, runs like clockwork. Oblong’s audience wouldn’t disagree with that either. The group formed in a Meersbrook terrace three years ago and its following has been growing ever since. “We seem to be getting more and more people at the gigs and different people are coming along as well,” says Deakin.
Along with driving bass lines, big guitar licks and tight pop song structures, one of the attractions of Oblong are Deakin’s ballsy vocals, which belie her demure stature. “I don’t know what it is really but I have always been able to sing. I don’t train though – it just comes out quite easily. But I know I should because I’ve started getting sore throats.”
Deakin admits that her vocal style has changed over the past few years: “I listen to old recordings and I sound totally different. I’m trying more and more new things now. “
But while confident screaming, shouting and singing down the microphone, Deakin admits she’s less talented at stage banter: “I never know what to say, apart from saying what’s on next. I’m fine when it comes to singing and moving about but the minute the song ends I’m lost.”
The band is expanding too. Next moth Oblong releases its Club 60 Singles club single, In Remission, which was mixed at the Club 60 Studios on Shalesmoor. “It’s great recording there because Paul Blakeman creates a really grungy sound, which suits what we do.” Though given the choice between live gigs and being in the studio, Deakin would opt for the live show every time, a choice that’s self-evident in the singer’s possessed stage presence.
But Oblong’s not just out for itself. The band hosts The Oblong Club at the Washington on a regular basis, putting on some of Sheffield’s finest unsigned acts. “I don’t even go to big gigs anymore,” says Tracy. “The Sheffield bands are so good. I ‘m a huge fan of Wet Nuns, The Violet May, Death Rays of Ardilla and Cuckoo Clocks – the live scene here is brilliant. It really feels like this is something that will be looked back on in years to come as a really exciting time.”
And at no event is Sheffield’s live music scene more vibrant than at Tramlines, when Oblong play a live set at the Washington. But there is one set back – the hunt is on for a drummer. The band has been auditioning people but is still trying to find a beats man – quickly.
l Oblong plays on Friday July 22 at the Washington, Fitzwilliam Street as part of the Tramlines festival.