“Oh god, I don’t know why I’ve kept this old thing around”: in the studio with Sorry

We checked out their swimming goggles, rose quartz crystals and other essential items

“It’s a bit of a mess, I’m afraid,” says Sorry guitarist Louis O’Bryen as he stoops to move some discarded laundry away from the door. The band’s practice space cum lock-up really isn’t all that bad, and besides, if you’ve spent almost the entire summer on the road you can forgive them for not getting around to sprucing the place up a bit.

The reason Sorry have been so busy recently is the imminent release of their second album Anywhere But Here. Meeting O’Bryen and bandmate Asha Lorenz on a stormy Friday lunchtime, the slightly flustered-looking North Londoner explains that the pair have only just returned from a European press trip to promote the new record.

Asking how it went, O’Bryen simply smiles and shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know,” he admits eventually. “Everyone asked the same questions, so it ended up feeling a bit whirlwind-like, if I’m being honest.”

A few minutes later, Lorenz arrives, and I get a few minutes to nose around the band’s studio as the pair frantically move things ready for us to photograph. 

A small wooden walled room tucked off the road in one of Hackney’s last overlooked corners, the space seems quite fitting for a band like Sorry. A distinctly North London group, their sound is as experimental as the city they call home, throwing together influences as varied as trip-hop, ’90s alternative rock and early trap.

After a few frantic minutes the pair are ready to start. Looking around the now straightened-out room, I ask what item they’d like to talk about first. This stimulates a spontaneous, almost cartoon-like ‘a-ha’ from Lorenz. She quickly ferrets behind the desk and returns with a rucksack. Seconds later, a random assortment of objects empties onto the studio floor. “I grabbed a bunch of stuff when I was at home,” she declares triumphantly as the last knickknack hits the mat.

With everything now ready, here, then, are the contents of the bag.

The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli

Asha: “This book is about physics. I never really knew anything about physics before I read this book, but now it makes me weirdly happy, mainly because our knowledge of physics is constantly expanding and we’re always discovering new things.

There’s one story which I like. It’s about how we still can’t measure or predict where a balloon will go. We know that there are atoms in the balloon and can guess how they’ll all bounce around and interact with each other, and we know that that will make the balloon fly around a room, but we still can’t predict the exact path of the balloon.

That correlates with our experiences as human beings. We know the parameters of how we move but that explains very little about who we are and what we do. Whenever I’m stuck and thinking, ‘Oh, when will this end?’, I like to think about that. It makes me feel like I have a vivacity for life because things are never over.”

Digital dictaphone

Asha: “I thought it would be cool for all of us to get dictaphones when we went to America. Sometimes when you’re on tour and driving for long periods it can get super boring, so I had the idea of recording the conversations we had with people along the way and listen to them in the van the next day.

It ended up being super interesting. I’d often forget it was in my pocket, so I ended up recording all sorts of random stuff. For example, we were in the smoking area before a show in LA and someone was telling us about the venue we were due to play the following night. I found it the next day and we opened that night’s show by playing this person’s description of the venue over the PA. It was halfway through when I realised that the person was in the front row of the show. So, yeah, you can do quite funny stuff with it.

Currently, the plan is to use some of the recordings in our music. We’ve been making some beats from some of the snippets on it, but it’s actually been more useful as a way of finding little sayings and catchphrases that can kick off song ideas and the like. Basically, it’s a method for stealing good ideas from other people.”

Knock-off FBI baseball hat

Louis: “I don’t know if you know, but America can be quite scary. We were there pretty recently and I have never really experienced culture shock like that. The people there are wacky and insane but also super interesting, and the culture just seems so different. You just can’t submerge yourself in it; we stayed there for a few months and still felt like we were on the outside looking in.

In the back of my head, I bought this hat to blend in a bit. My idea was that people would think I was American if I walked around in this. I’d be hidden in plain sight, so to speak.

Needless to say, it didn’t work. My housemate stole it and took it to Paris a couple of weeks ago, and people over there loved it. It does look really good on him.”

Wool cap with tartan ear flaps

Asha: “This is my favourite hat. I think I found it in a charity shop and fell in love with it. That was about five years ago now, and if I ever lose this hat I’d be devastated. Even though the buttons are falling off these days, I still absolutely love it. I’ve actually had to stop wearing it because I’m too worried about losing it.

I have a strange relationship with hats; I tend to get a bit obsessed. I just can’t take them off. Even in the summer, I’d wear a wooly hat and end up sweating all day every day. I bought this hat to replace another one that I loved too much. I was wearing it on the tube one day and took it off to play some music over some headphones. Just as I got off the train and onto the platform I realised I’d left my hat, and I can remember turning around and seeing it lying on the seat next to the one where I was sitting, right as the train doors began to close. It was gutting but, looking back, I like the sense of closure. It’s like, ‘It’s gone, and I’m never getting it back….’”

Homemade t-shirt from the video for ‘Key To The City’

 Louis: “This is from our latest music video. ‘Key To The City’ is a break-up song so we wanted to wear t-shirts that somehow represented that. There’s really no more mystery than that. It turns out shirts with hearts on them are pretty hard to find, and that’s why we ended up making our own.

Look closely and you’ll notice that this shirt is actually a Kickers t-shirt. I’ve always thought that Kickers are good because they look cool and they’re super practical. They literally last forever as well. But, as I found out recently, sometimes they can mark you out as a target for 14-year-olds on buses. I was wearing some earlier this year and a kid made fun of me; he was like, ‘Why are you wearing those? You’re not going to school?’”

Rose quartz

Asha: “This is a bit of a weird story. It used to be my sister’s but somehow I’ve ended up with it. I was having a mad mushroom trip where I thought I was dying, and her friend handed it to me, and it brought me back to life. As soon as I felt it in my hand I felt like my body had weight again. I still like to hold it in my sleep; it just makes me feel super happy. 

I’m not into crystals and I have no idea what rose quartz is supposed to do; I just know that this has a good weight to it and a pleasing shape. Honestly, having it has measurably improved my life, even if I can’t quite explain why.”

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

 Louis: “I like this book mainly because of the guy’s backstory. My dad recommended it a couple of summers ago and I still flick through it from time to time. The actual, real-life story of the writer’s life touched me at the time, and that’s stuck with me for some reason.

John Kennedy Toole wrote this book back in the ’60s and spent the rest of his life trying to get it published and ended up committing suicide because of it. His mum loved the book and lobbied companies to get it published, and eventually, after getting turned down again and again, got it made. It ended up winning a Pulitzer prize twenty years after the guy died.

The weird thing is that the actual plot of the book is kind of about this weird relationship between a son and his mother. It’s a really funny book, and even if the author’s story is super tragic, you don’t read it feeling sorry for the guy.”

Atlanta Braves Cap

 Asha: “I’m not sure why I own this. I think I got it because it had an A for Asha on it, and it had horns on it. Sorry was going through a devil phase at the time, but then we found out that Liz Truss was doing it, so we can’t go there. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but there’s a picture of her on Instagram dressed as the devil with a really odd caption underneath it. She’s written something like, ‘The weirdest thing about the devil is that you never know when it’s behind you.’ [Her actual caption is even worse: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist… #devilyouknow #theusualsuspect #happyhalloween] It’s random. 

Anyway, I don’t wear this much these days, mostly because of Liz Truss and because I reckon it makes my ears stick out too much. Still, I suppose it’s a good hat to have around.”

Swimming goggles

Asha: “I just love swimming. I mean, who doesn’t? I’ve been a regular swimmer since I was small. My mum told me recently that the two times she saw a real change in me were when she took me to see School of Rock at the cinema and when I first went underwater. I mean, I still make music and I still go swimming a couple of times a week, so maybe she’s on to something.

For me, swimming helps me to let go of things. As I’ve gotten a bit older, I’ve learnt the importance of self-care; it’s just so important to look after yourself. Whenever I can’t get out to a pool for a protracted period I find myself going a bit unhinged. I tend to stick to local pools around London mostly. I like swimming in the sea, but you can’t really do that around the UK at the moment so I tend only to do that when I’m abroad or on tour.”

‘Customised’ Fender Telecaster

Louis: “Oh god, I don’t know why I’ve kept this old thing around. This is my first… well, no… second electric guitar, and as a 16- or 17-year-old I thought it would be sick to graffiti ‘Help’ on it. This was the guitar I used at some of the first Sorry gigs, which is pretty embarrassing.

As you can see, I used gaffa tape to create a stencil and then spray painted over it, which made it sound quite bad. I was probably at that stage when I thought that Green Day and graffiti were really cool, but it hasn’t lasted; in fact, I remember immediately regretting it. I don’t even remember why I wrote the word ‘Help’; I was either referencing the Beatles or trying to say ‘Help! I’m depressed!’ Whatever the reason, it clearly didn’t work – no one has ever asked me about it or even brought it up after a gig.

Annoyingly, I can’t get it off either. Then again, maybe it’s good to have a reminder of your mistakes, if only to make sure not to do anything like this again. I still use this guitar on stage sometimes, but these days I make sure that my arm covers it when I’m playing.”