2016 was a year resplendent with amazing début records by relatively young bands; among those, For The Oracle managed to stand out with Kind Child, an album meticulously composed and meant to be a single infinitely looping 41-minute song. This six-piece band from the South-West of England merges progressive/alternative rock and a distinct jazz fusion edge into an infectious and unique sound.
The band originally formed around the core of Sam Lawson (vocals) and Karum Cooper (drums) after the dissolution of their earlier band. On the process of finding the other members which would later come to complete the band’s current line-up (with an emphasis on current, but more on that later), Lawson had the following to say:
‘Charlie (the bassist we had been jamming with) decided to sort of kick us into gear and recommend some other people to me that he thought would be a good fit for the group. That’s how we met Lewis, who knew Tyler and so on. We found most of our collaborators (brass players, string section etc) through organisations such as jazz clubs and youth orchestras and stuff in the local area, and we found our keyboard player/alto saxophonist, Emile, through Karum, he dated his sister at one point or something.’
From listening to Kind Child, one can easily gather that the members of For The Oracle draw their influences from a variety of different styles and genres, ranging from experimental 90’s alt-metal, prog rock, modern jazz and even EDM. On this, Lawson stated that:
‘The bands that we were really focusing on and giving a lot of attention to at the time we start writing our first batch of material, were artists like: Deftones, Karnivool, Tool, and Incubus. We never really thought it would go further than being a 5 piece rock band with two guitars, vocals, drums and bass. We couldn’t really neglect our other influences though, by the time we hit the studio we were considering saxophone, keys, piano, synthesizers, percussion and so on. A lot of influence from artists like Snarky Puppy, Hiatus Kaiyote, Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, BADBADNOTGOOD and so on start creeping in as we extended the ensemble. Also, of course bands like Pink Floyd, King Crimson and The Mars Volta all embrace that kind of instrumentation in their writing also so, that must have been in there too.’
While their name might come across as being a bit strange or even nonsensical without knowing its exact origins, the reason behind them coming to be known as For The Oracle is actually a funny story! Apparently, there is a shopping centre in the Reading area called The Oracle. Driving home after a System of a Down concert in Wembley, Lawson came across a road sign which reads ‘For The Oracle, Turn Left’. At first, he planned to use the second part of the sentence as a song title, but that never came to fruition. Now, every time someone drives by that huge sign, it’s a PR opportunity for the band.
Going back to their actual music, you might imagine the process of creating a record as dense and stylized as the band’s début to be a very time-consuming and arduous undertaking. And you’d be right, as lawson himself calls it ‘a mad time for us.’ Further elaborating on that topic, he said:
‘We wrote it as a 5 piece band with none of the added instrumentation really in mind. I had all these ideas for interludes set out in my head where we’d include some saxophone, cause James Farmer (our tenor saxophonist) was friends with the other guys in the band and we’d have some jazzy moments and whatever, but originally it was more of a plot device for the concept than anything else.
Our first ever practice was just [the] 4 of us and we jammed ‘Change (In The House Of Flies)’ by Deftones and then start getting to work on songs. We were writing one song per practice until we eventually we had to move to a new location cause I wasn’t a student there so the college threatened to arrest me. We realised the songs and interludes together would be long enough to cut an album, but we could probably save some cash with the producer cause it was only a 5 track thing (kinda) so we hit the local studio (there’s literally only one for metal bands where we live) and recorded everything over the course of 4 days or something mad like that.
Only after releasing it did we realise that we should probably hire some people to actually play the sax, keys, and percussion parts we included.’
The last sentence should be interesting for our readers already familiar with For The Oracle, as it takes away a bit of the story behind them adding a fix saxophonist to their line-up. For Lawson, the decision to have a saxophone used in the music on Kind Child was ‘just something that we mostly did as a one-off subtlety that we thought would be cool once or twice on the debut album.’ After hearing the results of this experiment, however, they all agreed that ‘we needed to include it into our actual live set as well as our future writing.’
Now, after working hard on their first full-length record, the band will surely take it easy for a while in terms of songwriting etc. Or will they? Not if we are to believe the words of Lawson, who states on their current status:
‘We recently got out of the studio after finishing a brand new track as well. This one is even more ridiculous, we have a real life string section, brass quartet, and loads more on it. It’s like a mini movie taking place in one song. The first half is the heaviest thing we’ve done but the second half is something straight out of the Bon Iver playbook. We have a live album coming, very, very soon also. [We will] Release another brand new song towards the end of this year, then get a new LP out into the public early 2018.’
On the reactions they gathered from audiences in the live setting so far, he said the following:
‘I think a lot of audience members start off kind of confused and at odds with themselves when we’re playing. If they’re our fans or they’re familiar with us at very least, they just tend to shut their eyes and sway a little bit and have a good time. We like it most when people sing the words back to us, that feels like nothing else on this planet, seriously. We have mosh pits very occasionally if we play nearer to our original home town and back before we introduced the ‘jazzier’ elements our shows were a lot more similar to that of a typical metal gig I guess. I think new audiences tend to sort of fall into this trap of seeing the brass section and whatever and tuning out the music itself and just being like ‘oh my god I’m seeing a metal band with horns!’, and they don’t really see past that till they hear the recorded music, that’s just my feeling though. I don’t think we’ve ever played to a bad crowd, we have – on occasion – played to a sparse crowd, but never a bad one.’
So, remember when I called the band a six-piece earlier on in this article? Well, that’s only half true, as there are up to seven other individuals affiliated with For The Oracle outside of the six core members. Those are:
- James Farmer (Tenor Sax/Percussion)
- Adam Wilkin (Trombone/Percussion)
- Alex Pace (Trumpet)
- Gareth Mason (Additional Vocals)
- Dom Hill (Additional Guitars/Fill In Guitar)
- Georgia Ellery (Violin, Studio Only)
- Eva Edgeworth (Cello, Studio Only)
Also, the core membership of For The Oracle won’t be around much longer in its current form, as Tyler Hawksmoor (guitars) and Ryan Arnold (bass) will be stepping down from their positions after finishing the current run of live dates, which will end with a show supporting Kurt Travis at The Unicorn in Camden on July 12. Replacements will be announced eventually, so fret not; these member-changes won’t slow them down! New material will surface around that time, too, so make sure to keep an eye out for that.
To finish things off, Lawson had the following to say to It Djents and our community:
‘I can speak for the whole band when I say thanks very much for giving us this opportunity, also thanks for all the previous coverage in podcasts and articles too! We’ve been included in some cool lists and think pieces by the magazine and it means a lot. I personally have been reading It Djents for a long time now, before FTO started and it’s really cool that this is happening. Thanks, one love ‘n all that.’
– The members of For The Oracle are involved in a myriad of other bands/projects of different genres. Among those are:
- Hypophora (alt rock)
- Knave (emo/alt rock)
- goodname. (stoner rock/improv)
- Big Frank (hip hop)
- Theo Black (folk/experimental)
- Milk And Honey (neo soul)
- Hamartia (alt rock)
- Helvellyn (indie rock)
- Webnoms (electronic)
– A particular high point in their career was when they got to play UK Tech-Fest; the superjam, where Emile Hinton (keyboards and saxophone), Cooper, and Lawson got to share the stage with members of Animals as Leaders, Plini, Disperse was an especially notable moment for them.
– The bands they dream of touring with include the likes of Karnivool, Tesseract, and Thank You Scientist.
For The Oracle is:
Lewis Dunn – Guitar
Tyler Hawksmoor – Guitar
Sam Lawson – Vocals
Karum Cooper – Drums
Ryan Arnold – Bass
Emile Hinton – Keyboards & Alto Sax