London-based indie pop group the Proper Ornaments formed as a by-product of the friendship between musicians James Hoare and Max Claps. Their love of classic psychedelia and West Coast folk-rock led them to craft their own home-cooked version, starting with a batch of singles in the early 2010s. Both were busy in a variety of other bands, but their shared chemistry led them to release a series of intimate and calmly melancholic albums together as the decade progressed. They began rather simple and jangly (2014's Wooden Head) but later featured richer arrangements and a more low-key approach (2019's 6 Lenins) as their collaboration ripened.
Their story started in 2005 when Hoare, then a guitarist in Veronica Falls, met up with Argentina-born Claps in a women's clothing store. The two bonded over a mutual appreciation for the music of the Velvet Underground, Love, the Left Banke, and the Beach Boys. Their sound also gathered elements of classic U.K. indie pop with plenty of languidly jangling guitars. After planning and playing when they could due to Hoare's busy schedule, and adding a full band (drummer Ralph Phillips, bassist Michael Lovett, and Let's Wrestle's Wesley Patrick Gonzalez), they released their first single, "Recalling," for the San Francisco label Make a Mess in 2010. They followed it up with an eponymous five-song EP for No Pain in Pop in 2011 and, in 2013, a single ("Waiting for the Summer") for Lo Recordings, which then released all of their output to date on a collection (also titled Waiting for the Summer) later that year. After signing up with Fortuna POP! in the U.K. and Slumberland in the U.S., the Proper Ornaments returned with their home-recorded debut album, Wooden Head, in the early summer of 2014. The duo added drummer Robert Syme and bassist Daniel Nellis for live shows.
Both Hoare and Claps, who was now going by the name Max Oscarnold, went their separate ways after the album to work on different projects. Oscarnold joined the Brighton psych-pop group TOY as their keyboard player and Hoare worked with Mazes' Jack Cooper on the band Ultimate Painting. When the two got back together to begin work on the second full-length Proper Ornaments album in 2015, they were joined by Nellis and Syme in the studio. Unfortunately, the process proved both a mechanical failure, as the tape machine ended up breaking and ruining their work, and a rather acrimonious experience that tested their friendship. After a cooling-off period, the group decamped to Hoare's home studio and re-recorded the songs in a more relaxed fashion. The resulting album, titled Foxhole, was co-released by Tough Love and Slumberland in early 2017. The band toured throughout the rest of the year, and once back home they repaired to Hoare's home studio, which was now equipped with a 16-track tape machine. Again with the help of Nellis and Syme, the duo recorded their third album in a more peaceful atmosphere. The resulting 6 Lenins reflected this state of mind, both in the songs they wrote and the sounds they recorded. It was released by their new label, the Germany-based Tapete Records, in early 2019. ~ Tim Sendra