DELS - aka Kieren Gallear - is back with his second album, ‘Petals Have Fallen’; the follow up to his 2011 debut ‘GOB’. On this release, DELS pulls in a number of names to help craft the full-length - including long-term collaborator Kwes, who acts as Executive Producer and “reducer”, and Bonobo, Micachu, Blue May and Eli-T, amongst others, who all provide beats. There are also guest vocals from Kerry Leatham, Rosie Lowe, Tirzah, Bila and Elan Tamara. It’s a vast cast.
Here, on the day of the album’s release (3rd November), DELS talks through ‘Petals Have Fallen’: from opening track ‘Limbo’, sparked by vocal ideas recorded onto a phone, to a song inspired by a conversation DELS had with his Uncle, and another by dying in dreams and an unusual translation of a Polish chocolate bar name - right the way through to the record’s hidden track, “an autobiographical piece, and it’s a story told in reverse.”
‘Limbo’ was one of the first songs written for this record but it was never intended to be ‘Petals Have Fallen’’s opener. When we finally finished the song I felt like it should either open or close the record. Usually I write my verses to the beat but these words were written prior to the creation of the beat. I think that’s why my voice was delivered in such a slow, drawn out tone during the recording session, because that’s exactly the way I recorded the vocal idea onto my phone. I felt like it was important for me to recapture those original raw feelings and emotions. The instrumental started off as a guitar riff that my friend Andrew Telling sent to me in Spring last year. As soon as I heard those sounds, I could hear a drum pattern and backing vocals echoing in the back of my mind, so I crudely recorded the idea in my bid to explain my intentions with the beat to my old friend and collaborator, Elijah Turay. Kwes. pitched down the final beat slightly and added some distortion and silence. Which is an interesting notion because in my head I always thought of silence as an empty space or subtraction. Not something that you add to create a solid shape sonically. On ‘Limbo’ it became an extra layer of solid “sound” and perfectly completes the piece.
I had fun writing this song. The concept is playful and is about the undead. All the references to being cold and invisible whilst I look in the mirror are all double entendres. It’s just my way of putting a spin on the default verses that rappers usually spit, when they brag about how amazing they are with the flow and wordplay. I’m not poking fun at the art form. I was just having fun with the format, to make the the writing process more interesting for myself. Blue May and Kwes did an incredible job on this beat and the use of silence is prominent on this song too. I can’t wait to play this one live.
House of Commons
I loved writing to this beat. It was produced by Blue May and the instrumental goes so many places which is exciting for me sometimes as a writer. I wrote down a few lines for this song during a drunken night out (and in) with my mates back home. I prefer to write when the thoughts and feelings are fresh, otherwise I might bypass a few of those subtle details that could make my verses stronger. Alcohol had a profound affect on the way that this song turned out lyrically – as you can hear.
When Simon [Bonobo] sent me a few demo beats for my album I picked out this beat. The final instrumental sounds a lot different to the original demo as Kwes did a lot of additional production on this beat. There was something about the demo that really hit me. I was hypnotised by the loop and all these words about me in my teens started to pour out. I think this is one of my favourite tracks on the album because the words always take me back to being in our bedrooms creating music for a laugh. We had albums worth of material so it was a real moment when we managed to capture a piece of that energy with this song. Bonobo is not known for doing many guest production work on other artist’s albums, so I feel incredibly lucky to have him on ‘Petals Have Fallen’.
You Live In My Head
This song was featured on my last EP but it was always intended to be an album track. I wanted to add a few more touches to it. I recorded the original vocals in James Spankie’s [the producer of the beat] living room in North London and kept that same vocal take for the album version. It’s hard to capture the same feeling and emotion as the original take, so I didn’t want to tamper with it. Kwes stripped back the production a little on the album version to allow my vocals to breathe a bit more. Elan Tamara’s backing vocals and Kwes’ additional bass playing complete the track for me.
A lot of people think this song is about me but it’s not. The song was actually inspired by a conversation I had with my Uncle once, where he mentioned that he hadn’t been involved with a woman for a very long time. I thought that was a really sad thought and ended up writing a song about it soon after.
Half way through writing this album I left my flat in Bethnal Green and I moved back to South London. This was one of the first tracks I wrote at my new flat. It took me a while to get used to writing in these surroundings. I never really noticed how physical space and atmosphere can affect the way that you write a song but I have really started notice that since moving here. ‘Burning Beaches’ is a love song about how paranoia can affect your dreams and how those dreams in turn can then affect your reality. The production on this track was actually started by a talented new production duo called CLAVES then Kwes came in and did some additional production with the piano and bass guitar. I wrote the hook for Rosie Lowe after I had directed her music video, ‘Right Thing’, and after I had finished writing the hook, I instantly knew that she had to be on this track.
Pack Of Wolves
I heard the demo loop for this beat by accident. Eli-T was quickly skimming through files on his computer and I heard the first few seconds of this beat and I was instantly hooked. It was the immediacy of the thumping dub-like bassline that drew me in. I wrote the lyrics for this song really quickly but this song was on the back burner for quite some time as we couldn’t finish it. It wasn’t until the whole album started to take shape that Kwes had the idea to replay the drums live and add some additional production to the beat. This was to enable it to fit cohesively as the demo really stood out sonically in comparison to the rest of the other songs on the record.
I love the way this song came together. I first heard the original demo of this beat when I played Boiler Room with Micachu a while back. I was blown away when I first heard it and I knew straight away that I wanted try writing to it for my new album. The beat was just so powerful and immediate. All these thoughts started coming to me as this was the perfect beat to vent over. After I had finished my verses, I had an idea to add some live drums to the the track instead. GEoRGiA spent the afternoon with myself and Kwes in the studio and smashed it. The live drums really adds to the abrasive nature of the song. I just wanted people’s heads to fall off after they heard this beat for the first time. There’s a focus on colour throughout the chorus because I had a few abstract, brightly coloured illustrations pinned up on my wall for inspiration.
I was dying a lot in my dreams at that point so those visuals naturally filtered into the concepts of a few songs I was writing at that time. ‘Bird Milk’ is the result of those dark and twisted dreams. The song title derived from a conversation I overheard on tour in Poland, where I heard two people talking about a chocolate bar brand, and how that chocolate brand’s name translates into “Bird Milk” in English. I thought that was hilarious and noted it down. Kwes made this beat with my voice in mind, which made it easier for me to write to. I love the way the music breaks down for my third verse, then the beat sort of takes on a life of its own and is ushered along by GEoRGiA’s unexpected drum solo finale.
Lost For Words
I have put off writing this song for years. Death is difficult enough to deal with in your head, let alone writing a song about how it has affected you, to then presenting it to the world for them to digest. The main concern for me was that I wouldn’t do Oscar [Grandad] and Leo [good friend] justice. As soon as I heard the demo beat from Blue May, I knew what time it was. I knew it was time to write that song. I put pressure on myself when I started writing the song but then suddenly the right words came and I wrote the song I really wanted to write. Some people have said after listening to ‘Lost For Words’, they didn’t realise it was about my Grandfather and old friend. I think that’s a good thing that it’s explicit in that sense. I had a lump in my throat during the recording process and I gave it my all during throughout each vocal take.
Petals Have Fallen
Once this song was finished I knew that my second album should be called ‘Petals Have Fallen’. I even started see the album artwork visuals in my mind upon completion of that song. It was such an exciting feeling. It really sums up the concept of the album, which is about having the urge to protect something precious that will ultimately fall apart. When I started making this album I started to see how fragile we really are as humans. Up until that point I was very loose in my approach to life. I was living like I was invincible, like most young people do, but making this record gave me more focus and direction. I also felt like I was finally starting to find my identity as an artist. Kwes.’ younger brother, Coby Sey, actually did the majority of the production on this track as he started it years ago whilst he was studying in Leeds. I love the way the production sounds so dusty – it sounds this way because the guitar sounds are all slowed down, compressed and overdubbed. Tirzah is an artist I am really really excited about, so I was happy that she was down to feature on this song. The recording session for Tirzah’s vocals were done at night and Kwes. wanted to create a calm atmosphere for us three, so he dimmed the lights in the studio. We didn’t have a hook pre-written for this song but Tirzah started singing the track title in such a beautiful tone, we instantly felt that should be the hook. Sometimes a hook doesn’t need to be so over elaborate.
149 (Hidden Song)
The hidden track on the album, an autobiographical piece, and it’s a story told in reverse. The clues are in the growing cigarettes, raindrops being sucked back up into the clouds and the Garage tracks spinning backwards (also the subtle sounds of Limbo that creep in at the end to create a loop). When I first heard that beat I always saw images of various types of unrest in London at night, which became the thread that linked all three verses. The song ends (but the story starts) with me watching a news report on the 2011 UK riots after the shooting of Mark Duggan.
DELS’ new album ‘Petals Have Fallen’ is out now via Big Dada.