The Proper Ornaments


Formed of a close partnership between Max Clapps and James Hoare (Veronica Falls), The Proper Ornaments formed in 2010, where they met a few years earlier in a vintage women’s clothing shop in Notting Hill. Hoare recalls, “I worked part time in the shop and Max and his girlfriend came in to steal clothes. She made him go and talk to me to create a diversion. We struck up some kind of conversation and then agreed to meet up and play some music—as he had just moved to London and I was looking for some people to start a project with.”

Through a mutual love of the Byrds, the Beatles, Velvet Underground and Sixties psychedelia, Proper Ornaments exude a complimentary pop structure. The listener floats between the vocal interplay between the two frontman coupled with compressed drums and dreamy guitar. Over their years together as a band, Hoare became homeless and Clapps’ wife filed for divorce—all the more frustration and angst to create wonderful things musically.

Drummer Ralph Phillips joined in 2010 as well as bassist Michael Lovett and Wesley Patrick Gonzalez (from Lets Wrestle) to form the live line up. They later went to release a 7” on San Francisco’s Make A Mess Records—which they recorded with producer Charlie Alex March. No Pain in Pop then started to show interest in the band, which got in touch after a gig to request the bad record their debut EP over two days.

They’ve since supported such bands as Toy and Metronomy on recent tours and released a full-length debut called Wooden Head consisting of their trademark lo fi dreamy guitar melancholia. Released in June earlier this year, via Slumberland records, it features a collection of songs spanning from brooding melodies to upbeat fuzz. There’s a methodical energy assigned to each individual track, with “Summer’s Gone” standing out from the rest: “No excuses needed here at all / Now that you’re old enough to lose your own mind.”

To mark the release, a VHS video for track “Magazine”, light and airy with hypnotic harmonies, was premiered on the Vice network. A nice ode to the DIY aesthetic, a yearning for analogue and flickering imagery. SOMA caught up with James Hoare:

What do you want to achieve musically with the band? We want to make some records that will stand the test of time. At least be appreciated by a few people somewhere down the line.

Will your music be taking a different direction in future? In this band we have always made a similar sound and gone in the same direction, referencing the late 60’s. I would like to incorporate synthesizers, drum machines and pianos to move in a slightly more complex direction. Maybe even get a couple of Sitars involved…

Do you feel like you fit in with the emerging music scene in London at present? I’m not sure about the scene. There are some good bands around that we enjoy playing with. Toy, Young Husband, Comet Gain—but it’s not that close knit. Everyone is doing their own thing and that keeps them busy enough.

What are you setting out to do live? We play a bunch of songs—the quality of which depends on how many beers we’ve had before hand. Sometimes we have a projector and a friend of ours makes visual effects and cut ups. We have a fairly old fashioned stage show though.

What can people who’ve never seen you before expect? A raw psychedelic show. High energy with gentle moments of calm.

How would you describe the world around you? I would rather live in a world without the internet and the superficial elements that have grown around it. Currently, music and art seems to be at a low point compared to periods of the past. I’d rather something new was coming out for the first time. Paris in 20’s. London in the mid 60’s. I’m not sure what my perfect world would be. I know if it was 1966 they’d be other unforeseen problems and issues to deal with. I’m not naive to that fact, but it certainly wouldn’t be now.

How did you get into music? Listening to my parent’s record collection at a young age. Five years old maybe. Hearing the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, the Beach Boys.

If it were up to you, what would the music industry be like so that it runs the way you think it ought to? Only good bands would be allowed to make records. The others would have to seek work in luncheon canteens or get jobs on the railroad.

Above photo: James wears Levis Vintage Collection shirt Other clothes, band’s own

First photo: Max wears Levis Vintage Collection jacket Other clothes, band’s own

Second photo: Max wears Levis Vintage Collection shirt Other clothes, band’s own

Text Katia Ganfield
Photography Olivia Beasley
Styling Mark Anthony Bradley