Asha Lorenz’s eyeballs roll back into her skull. One half of the songwriting duo behind the band Sorry, she scowls the chorus of ‘Right Round the Clock’, the first single from their forthcoming debut album. It’s an arresting set-opener; jerking guitar riffs and honky-tonk piano laid over an obstinate, clanking beat. Asha’s fellow lyricist, Louis O’Bryen, is stood to her right, the former’s creaky drawl alternating with the latter’s earnest, half-absent vocals. Louis sings from the point of view of a fame-obsessed narrator, intoxicated by the “flash-flash, fuck-me eyes” of a “dolled up” love interest.
If Sorry were keen on fame themselves, you could say they were taking their time to attain it. Having formed in 2014, toured with the likes of Childhood and Pixx, and released a handful of singles all before the end of the decade, they only announced their debut LP, 925, in January 2020. Former secondary school classmates Asha and Louis make up a formidably tight unit alongside Campbell Baum and Lincoln Barrett on bass and drums, and the four are joined on their current UK tour by Marco Pini, who contributes “weird little bleeps and bloops” to their captivating mix of grunge and DIY indie.
Their set is littered with electronic samples and intermissions between songs, harking back to the band’s early ‘scrapbook’ aesthetic. Sorry’s first releases were their ‘Home Demo/ns’ mixtapes, a set of bedroom recordings published on YouTube alongside hand-filmed, crudely edited music videos. Live renditions of their early singles are embellished with glitching synths and droning introductions, which perfectly complement the transfixing, repetitive lyrics on tracks such as ‘Starstruck’.
This movement into more experimental territory might suggest a convergence with the South London music scene that Sorry are often attached to, despite their North London origins. But while groups such as Black Midi tend towards the avant-garde, Asha and Louis’ songwriting has retained a smoother feel, albeit with gritty and sinister undertones. The initial singles from 925 have something of a jazz influence, courtesy of an astute, blues-disposed rhythm section and cameos by Campbell on saxophone (following the trend of other British post-punks such as Drahla and Lice).
The Jericho Tavern crowd are offered a taste of this new, more lavish sound in the form of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’, a standout of the tracks released from the album so far. Campbell swaps bass for sax and the lyrical focus of washed-up, pathetic characters and their dysfunctional attempts at romance continues. Sorry’s world is one of lewd celebrities and reluctant strippers (“you are just a showgirl, but you don’t even blow girl” snorts Asha on ‘Showgirl’). Looking out over Walton Street from the comfort of the Jericho, it’s hard not to think that their music might be better suited to a gloomy underground dive bar.
Their set takes a brighter turn with ‘Ode to Boy’, one of a handful of ‘Home Demo/ns’ tracks re-recorded for 925. Asha and Louis’ near-bored delivery gains a newfound sincerity, their voices uniting in a genuinely touching expression of devotion (“I’d like to still grow old with you, please, hope you’re somewhere safe, baby…say it’s true ’cause you know I love you”). Standing spellbound in the crowd, I begin to understand why this album is being hailed as a breakthrough for Sorry, and I truly hope this will be the case. The band seem proud of their new material; Asha’s eyes seem less cold and, for the first time in the set, she allows herself a tentative smile.
They end the night with 2017 single ‘Lies’, a familiar, brooding set-closer that explodes into a chorus of grunge guitar, warped synth and the return of Louis and Asha’s signature back-and-forth vocals. A re-recorded version will be released as a ‘refix’ on ‘925’; even this, one of their oldest songs, has evolved immeasurably since the band’s early days. Sorry are constantly updating their tracks, adding and removing parts in a manner reminiscent of the ‘Home Demo/ns’ ‘scrapbook’ approach. But their appearance, Asha and Lincoln sporting ushanka hats, Louis in a blue Adidas tracksuit, Campbell looking like a schoolteacher, seems unchanged from their early gigs in the mid-2010s. Despite all the added bleeps and bloops, Sorry are still the same band as ever.