About to ascend the stage on the 6th day of a sold out UK tour, Guildford rockers Dörje took the time to speak to us about the ins and outs of their music experience – what drives them, and just what is a dörje? After a round of introductions and pleasantries, Rob, Dave, Ben and Rabea weigh in on just what makes Dörje tick.
I guess one of the first questions to ask is what is a Dörje?
Rob: So this is a dörje [he indicates to a tattoo on his left arm] – it is a ceremonial hammer used by practitioners of Buddhism to sound a meditation bell and what it represents is the lightning bolt of conceptual thought captured to be observed which I thought was a really great analogy for the way I write lyric.
“By ordering a pizza I got an entire band. It was a complete fluke.”
And how did it all begin?
Rob: Essentially I went to a pub in Guildford to order a pizza and behind the bar was Rabea, our guitar player, and he recognised me from YouTube and went, ‘do you want to have a jam?’
And I said, ‘we should definitely jam!’ But cutting a long story short, I said, ‘I don’t suppose you know a drummer or a bassist?’ and Ben, Dave and Bea [Rabea], had all come down from the North to Guildford to study and on the way had lost their vocalist from a previous project. So by ordering a pizza I got an entire band. It was a complete fluke.
Ben: We’d been playing together for years so for us the band we’d been in before had just split up at the time Bea met Rob so it was perfect timing. We wrote ‘Aeromancy’ in our first session.
How did you then go about constructing a setlist? What is the writing process like?
Rabea: It normally starts with – it really depends, sometimes it’ll be a full demo, sometimes it’ll be a series of chord progressions and riffs that either I or Rob’s come up with, and we embellish on that, that’s how it works normally or a full demo of a song.
Rob: yeah, we just like to jam. We get an idea and bring it to the room and it’s just a bunch of guys. Sometimes we leave Rabea on his own if he’s got a kind of thing that he’s working on, and I never write lyrics – they just come out like a kind of dream state… flow. I’m being serious now, not sarcastic by the way. I never try to write a song, I just improvise what comes out my head and write it down and listen to it afterwards.
Ben: Yeah, the chemistry’s great, we’ve been playing together for a while now and we all have enough similarities of influence that we know… what sounds good to one of us, sounds good to all of us. There’s minimal clashes in terms of what we want. So the chemistry’s great.
So bouncing from that – you say you’ve got similarities of influence, what are those influences?
Dave: As musician lovers we all have quite an eclectic taste and palate of music we listen to, so we share influences from early rock bands and early funk and jazz as well, all the way through to sort of modern progressive, djent, metal – a bit of everything really. If it’s good it’s good really and we all seem to enjoy. Even if one of us brings something we’ve not listened to before we’ll hear the musicality in it… so I guess it’s our mind-set we share in common. It allows us to like all of the musics.
Rob: Yeah, if you looked at my phone, I’ve got like Tina Turner, Sear, Nightwish… Yeah, just like everything you could ever think of – I like a lot of female fronted vocalists, blues, soul, Motown stuff. I like Jimi Hendrix but then I like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam. I like, you know, just music really – we listen to all music don’t we? Bea’s got like a huge musical taste library.
Rabea: Yeah, there’s all sorts of random shit in my library. To be fair it’s like, I guess we all revolve around band stuff but then there’s every extension of that whether it’s electronic or orchestral – yeah, or just like, I don’t know, just everything. It’s like if it sounds good, great.
Rob: Like thinking about the band trip we’ve just been on, which was a long trip we listened to Agent Fresco, Philip Sayce, Karnivool, John Mayer, The 1975, and also Meshuggah, Tyco, so it’s a real diverse thing.
What would say to a band that’s just starting out?
Ben: Focus on the songs – it’s easy to get caught up in like social media because I mean that is the new vehicle to promote yourself so strategically hammer social media. Learn what kind of stuff puts you across in the most natural way, is it video, photo, is it written stuff, you know? But don’t get side-tracked from the fact that the music and the performance of that music in your live show is everything, because otherwise it’ll be like polishing a turd, if those things are out of place then it’s gonna be like all the fluff around it, so the music is always gonna be the most important thing.
So you’ve had a YouTube channel for a long time – almost as long as YouTube has existed – do you think that’s helped shape Dörje as well?
Rob: I think the thing is when I was a kid, and I’m 41, was born in 1975, and when I was a really young kid it was all about radio. If you wanted to listen to music you put the radio on, and then when I was a teenager it was all about TV and if you wanted to hear a new tune, you’d go to MTV or Top of the Pops etc. But now it’s YouTube, it’s just moved to a different place and it will continue to do that until it is sent directly to your brain [laughs]. And I don’t think it’s shaped us as a band, it’s just the new platform that people go to, and I jumped on it as fast as I could and really enjoyed the platform and for sure it’s helped us bring it to the forefront but it doesn’t sustain you. So it will get you up but it won’t keep you up there unless your performance and the music is good.
So finally to round it off, how would you define yourselves?
Rabea: I would say we are a heavy alternative band that crossed the wires between old school grunge and bands like Karnivool, Incubus, Tool… Yeah that’s what I’d say, I think.