“An Artist Is Always Striving To Do More” Static Dress In Conversation

Olli Appleyard offers a deep-dive into their world…

In a world of white-noise, Static Dress want us to tune in to something that matters. Resisting the conventions of genre, Static Dress are a band unlike anything else right now; toying with elements of the past and thrusting them into the here-and-now, this is a band built on innovation. With their striking aesthetic, hands-on music videos and rich worldbuilding, these guys are a sign of just how diverse and layered heavy music has the potential to be. With their debut album, ‘Rouge Carpet Disaster’ out on May 18th, the excitement is in the air; sinking us into the world of ‘life and death in Hollywood’, this release is set to highlight exactly why Static Dress are the band on everyone’s lips right now. We sat down with frontman Olli Appleyard to explore the creative force behind the project, unpicking the painfully intricate fabrics that form Static Dress.

“So – here’s a pencil, right?” Olli says, holding something up in front of him. It does indeed appear to be a pencil. “It looks like a pencil. It sounds like a pencil. It does what a pencil does… It’s just a pencil.” He takes a moment to let the meaning sink in, before explaining: “Static Dress sound heavy, but we don’t look like a rock band.” All one has to do is take a look at Olli’s signature manicure to understand. “If you don’t like how it sounds, you might like how it looks, if you don’t like how it looks, you might still like the artwork. And then, if you don’t like any of that, you might still like the world-building. With some bands, it doesn’t even take a second to know exactly what they are.”

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Static Dress are not a ‘pencil’ – they can’t be understood at face value. This total reluctance to stick in one lane, to bind themselves to a certain sound or aesthetic, is exactly what sets Static Dress apart from the rest. This layered approach makes them unpredictable – and, in turn, ridiculously exciting. With each track dropped thus far they’ve torn up their own rule book, re-shaping the landscape of their sound without second thought.

Obviously the multi-layered approach can have its drawbacks; “with some shows, you know you’re never gonna win the crowd over just because of the way you look… sometimes people will start off being like ‘why the fuck are these guys supporting a hardcore punk band?’,” Olli laughs. “But, again, it’s a big case of not judging a book by its cover.” With an upcoming slot at Manchester’s Outbreak Festival, Olli knows there’ll be a few tough nuts to crack – “on the Friday we’re playing, we’re the only band with singing on the entire day. But, hey, I get to be at a festival and watch my favourite bands, so who’s the real winner!” But, even if you ‘hate’ Static Dress, “throwing up the finger in the front row ”, you’re still adding fuel to their fire – they’re on your radar, whether you like them or not.

The past year has undoubtedly solidified their presence in the heavy scene; taking on 5 tours in 6 month, the band’s progression over the past year has been ferocious and impossible to ignore. Supporting the likes of emo legends Funeral For A Friend and a viscious Knocked Loose/Terror co-headline tour, the group have undergone an absolute baptism of fire. They’ve been thrown headfirst into the heavy consciousness, as well as maturing into sharp performers. The Olli before me is also not the one who took to the stage a year ago at 2021’s Download Pilot in a daze, struggling to perform through asthma, panic and a painfully closed up throat – this Olli is a seasoned performer, able to command hometown crowds in Leeds’ Key Club on a headline run of shows.

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Before embarking on the ‘I Hope You Hate This’ tour, Olli insists they’d “only had one rehearsal”, only further proving the growth Static Dress have seen in a matter of months. Despite not having much time for preparation, the shift from a 25 minute support slot to a 50 minute full set was handled gloriously. That’s why they’ve become such a buzz-word, a hot topic – they’re able to adapt, shifting to match whatever challenge faces them. And that’s why they’re the name that everyone wants to get onto their line-up.

However, this was not always the case. Rewind back to the project’s beginning, and nobody seemed to see the spark waiting to ignite. “No one was interested,” Olli recalls. “We sent off a video to management companies and they’d shrug it off, just saying ‘oh, tell us how it goes…’” The track in question was ‘clean.’ Eventually, the choice was made to drop the track independently – and it, of course, gained immediate attention. “It was exactly the same song I sent off to everyone, but suddenly I had all these managers blowing smoke up my arse. I was just a bit like… you turned your back on us to begin with, and now you care about it because other people care. You’ve proven that you’re the last people I would want to work with.”

That initial rejection has also led to a mindset of innovation; If people aren’t going to pay attention, Static Dress will find a way around that. Not only do they do it all themselves, Olli explaining “we do the merch, the entire campaign, write an entire story around the tracks, for ‘Prologue…’ we did the comic work with an artist, record and edit the music videos, remix everything…”, but their approach to releasing music is also entirely unpredictable. The guys are always finding marvelously fresh ways to present their work; from the 100 demo CDs they brought to sell at Slam Dunk (without their manager’s knowledge), to the single VHS tape shipped out in a merch bundle that would play the yet unreleased ‘sweet.’ if played through til the end, Static Dress are always thinking outside of the box.

Static Dress’ approach twists conventional marketing on its head – the process feels more like an experience, something you actively want to involve yourself in. The height of this was perhaps a mysterious site inviting fans to work out three codes in order to get through to the next page… a page that would have allowed them to pre-order ‘Rouge Carpet Disaster’ three months before it was even announced.  

“I had to look people in the eyes and tell them nothing was coming,” Olli says, “but it was all right there.” And when he says that, he means it. “I’ve been putting ‘RCD’ on merch in the background, and the first website code hint was on a t-shirt: ‘five was five letters for a delicate read (‘Rouge’). ‘Carpet’ was hidden throughout the ‘Prologue…’ comic book. And, for the final code, I put a telephone number at the end of the ‘Di-sinTer’ video – if you called it, the voice would tell you that the last line was ‘Disaster’.”

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Even now, they’re still dropping extra content to rouse the crowds. Last week, exactly a week before ‘Rouge Carpet Disaster’ drops, another website made a surprise appearance. Currently the site allows you to peek through a ‘fleahouse’-esque hole in the wall, voyeuristically reading an ominous, handwritten note, and it’s set to shift and change even more as we get even closer to the 18th May. We also had the drop of ‘fleahouse’s stems, encouraging fans to create their own mixes and reimaginings of the track. All the extra easter eggs surrounding the band ooze creative freedom, welcoming fans into the world of Static Dress but also pushing them to engage with it actively. In Olli’s words, the approach encourages their fans to express themselves alongside them; “the thing we strive for – Inspiration, not admiration… we want people to see our videos, or leave a show thinking ‘hey, I could do that’.”

The level of depth and consideration put into the project undoubtedly comes from Olli’s roots behind the scenes. “I was in local bands, and just nothing really stuck. Where I found my feet was in photography and brand building for the bands,” Olli tells us. “It got to a point of where I had all these ideas… And I was like, there’s a gap in music right now, I really want to push this one idea that I’ve got – and neither of the two bands I was working with at the time really wanted to do it. So I was just like, “fuck it, I’ll go do it then.””

Many have labeled Static Dress as a revival band – and while their sound taps into elements of nostalgia, to simply Static Dress a ‘revival’ band feels like a disservice. “You listen to the bands that we get compared to, and there are moments… but to say that we sound entirely like another band entirely is completely wrong,” Olli notes. “We’re not a throwback band; I just wanted to write music that I feel is missing right now. I wanted to make a new sound that could have been played on a 2012 Kerrang! Top 100 special… I used to listen to that every weekend, I’d know all the songs, love all the music videos. The tracks weren’t too heavy, they weren’t too soft. When people say we feel nostalgic, I know we’ve hit the nail on the head with it. But we’re not a ‘revival’ band.” The distinction is important, and obvious when listening to ‘Rouge Carpet Disaster’ – something familiar lingers within the sound, yet every song is fresh. The balancing of nostalgia and innovation feels like much more of a metamorphic renaissance than a ‘throwback’.

The goal is to show just how well-crafted rock music has the potential to be – at times, modern radio-friendly rockstars can leave much to be desired. “I want it to be able to reach a new wave of ‘rock kids’, and teach them that a lot of mainstream rock is very Mickey Mouse’s Club House,” Olli says. “I want to be that striking chord – make someone think ‘I’ve never heard something like this before’. There’s a whole generation under me who don’t hear guitar music because it’s not on the radio. I wanna be the artist that gets in front of them and is like ‘LOOK, here’s this whole world you don’t know about yet’… I’ll be the Yellow Pages,” he laughs.

In terms of the band’s upcoming debut, it’s anything but squeaky clean. ‘Rouge Carpet Disaster’ is a raw burst of unfiltered emotion – and, of course, a total marvel. Set in a 1940s era Hollywood hotel (the Disdain Hotel), each track only draws you further into the rich, nuanced world that Static Dress have crafted. “The entire concept of this record is basically death on the red carpet – a murder hotel in the era of the ‘James Deans’ and everyone like that. It’s in a time where big band music would be huge; you’d walk into casinos, and there’d be all the lights, and the people smoking inside…” Olli explains, setting the scene.

The attention to detail is stunning – not even a second in, and you’re reminded of Static Dress’ command of their craft. “At the end of our EP ‘Prologue…’, you hear a sample that leads all the way up saying “don’t scream…” and this then bleeds seamlessly into ‘fleahouse’, the album opener,” Olli says. Even the physical record is intricately designed, hidden with secrets to discover. “On the first 1000 copies, I made a booklet, which was the blueprints of the entire building. It’s got the markings of feet walking around, and it’s kind of like a game of Cluedo. You can see the story of the record mapped out in front of you. And I’ve coded the storyline into the booklet too.”

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While Olli insists that he wants “people making up their own minds” when it comes to the guts of this record, just scratching the surface feels like a treat. Each track has its own purpose, almost existing with its own room within the multi-storey Disdain Hotel. And every track strives to feel unique, toying with unique soundscaping ideas; inspired by the Purity Knight conspiracy, ‘Di-sinTer’ delves into the idea of being buried alive, truly “oxygen deprivation in audio form”, while ‘Push rope’s sonic embodiment of the “intake of substances, moving from positivity to deeply sombre states”, quickly moving into ‘Attempt 8’s “brief, sharp cut off” hoping to emulate the feeling of “being sat with headphones on before someone walks into the room and violently unplugs them.”

We also have some great unexpected tracks thrown in. “’Welcome In’ is short, fun and sweet. It’s the first time I’ve ever not done a serious song. It’s not on our radar at all, it’s like a straight up punk song,” Olli says. Tracks like ‘Marisol’ also defy expectation, Olli labeling it “our big band song – the thing that plays as the credits roll.” It’s a meltingly smooth instrumental daydream, “like a chick flick, a high school romance film where they’re like, dancing at prom room, saying “I love you” – and then the chorus kicks in…” Olli explains, “It’s a desperate lovers kind of song.”

The true crowning jewel of ‘Rouge Carpet Disaster’ is arguably the closing track, however. Olli spews with enthusiasm as he picks out elements of the track; “’the ovel anagram of that four letter phrase’. Spelt O.V.E.L – the anagram being ‘love’. And it ‘it could have changed everything’ So love could have changed everything if it was just there in the first place, but it wasn’t.” The track also ties-in previous Static Dress release ‘safeword’ – “we’ve got ‘twenty third floor past the second story window’… linking with ‘safeword’s ‘second story window’… It’s essentially our protagonist jumping from the 23rd floor, traveling past all these rooms, where our other songs have been placed. It’s breaking the loop… It’s the death in Hollywood, the glitz and the glamour and overindulgence that ultimately ends up being the thing that destroys you.”

The layers of thought put into ‘Rouge Carpet Disaster’ is sure to make this a special, personal release for just about any listener. “I hope people can find something in my lyrics… I hope they make sense. There’s a lot to decode… I am well aware that my love language is Morse code,” Olli laughs. “During the writing process, I literally went insane. I didn’t leave my room for days and stuff like that. So I hope it all makes sense. This album getting out is like letting go of a lot of things. It’s a big release, and I hope it will let me move on from everything that was attached to it now.”

When reflecting on the album, and Static Dress’ hands-on approach, Olli still insists that he’s not entirely satisfied. We, of course, stare blankly at him – knowing the effort put in, it’s crazy to think that he’s still not entirly content. He hints at future projects already in the works, tracks destined to be released way into Static Dress’ future as a more established band. Why can’t he just let himself soak up the satisfaction of the debut for a moment? “I think, honestly, you can tell the difference between an artist and a performer,” he reflects. “An artist is always striving to do more. They’re never, ever content. And I want to always be striving for more.” And, with two waves of pre-order vinyls ‘Rouge Carpet Disaster’ having already sold out, and well on track to sell out a third, it’s obvious that the band’s effort is being appreciated. Static Dress are proving that you get out what you put in – if you put your entire soul into your work, you’re guaranteed to get that commitment back.

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‘Rouge Carpet Disaster’ will be released on May 18th.

Words: Emily Swingle

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Source: https://www.clashmusic.com/features/an-artist-is-always-striving-to-do-more-static-dress-in-conversation