Alter The Press!


Interview: Manchester Orchestra

Whilst in the UK on their biggest headline tour to date, following the release of their third album ‘Simple Math.’ Alter The Press caught up with Atlanta's own, Manchester Orchestra prior to the band's sold out show at London's KOKO.

ATP discussed the recording process and the UK’s reaction to ‘Simple Math’, a wealth of unreleased material, future plans which fans will be pleased to hear involves the recording of a second Bad Books album and the potential for a truck load of b-sides.

Alter The Press: How has the tour been going?
Andy Hull (vocals/guitar): Great, really great! That’s really all I can say about it. It’s been really cool to finally come over here and play some proper headlining shows in more than just London and Manchester and the crowds have been really cool, it’s been awesome.

ATP: It feels like you really make an effort to get over to the UK, especially London and unsurprisingly Manchester. Do you feel like your audience is constantly growing?
Andy: Yeah, it’s been a steady run. It’s out 11th time over here so it’s definitely taken a few trips but I don’t feel like we have ever gone back. It’s been a steady movement forward.

Alter The Press: You’ve played big venues in the UK previously with Biffy Clyro and Kings of Leon but is are there any nerves going into headline shows like KOKO?
Andy: There are always nerves but it’s just part of the job. There aren’t any more nerves for this show than there has been for any of the other shows we have played here.

Robert McDowell (lead guitar): It becomes a job you like, but you can’t get nervous about it every day. You’ve just got to be excited.

ATP: How did the support from The Xcerts come about?
Andy: We just had a few people show us their music and a few mutual friends said they were really nice people and that is really what we look for. A good band that are easy to get along with and their awesome.

ATP: It’s been 4-5 months since the release of 'Simple Math', how have you found the reaction to the album on tour?
Andy: The reaction has been awesome.

Robert: Yeah, especially because we were worried because it’s a guitar heavy record. It doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of the music over here right now. But our fans here like the record and we seem to have made new fans from it so that’s all we can really ask for.

Andy: It’s weird because we don’t have any hits, and we have never like, caught a break over here. But it’s all word of mouth, and that’s the coolest part. We have just been slowly getting bigger and bigger and the people who like us over here really get it. It’s cool, there is a mutual respect that everybody has for our band and for people who dig us and that’s just a really cool thing, for fans to understand what we are going for.

ATP: Do you feel like there has been a weight lifted off your shoulders, after the hype and build up to the release?
Andy: I think so, in the States it’s probably the same way you know.

Robert: We are constantly making new weights though, to strive for bigger and be better.

Andy: It’s just really nice to know people like it. That’s your biggest fear, that people potentially won’t dig it. And the reaction has been really great to the new songs over here.

ATP: Because it’s such a personal album for you Andy, do you get anything out of the performances in terms of a release?
Andy: Kind of, but the making of the album was really the cathartic process. But this is just the fun part playing these shows and people digging it. I don’t get as wrapped up in it live, I get more wrapped up in other intimate stuff between the crowd and us, with a connection between us and the crowd. I think it’s more just the fact that people like the record that is really cool for me but its not super weird or anything.

ATP: You came away from the strictly live recording that you chose to do on ‘Mean Everything To Nothing’ for ‘Simple Math’, in favor of using a certain amount of layering. Is this you as a band trying to search for perfection within your recording process?
Andy: No, because it wasn’t that different of a recording process. We just spent more time, and spent our time better than we did on ‘Mean Everything To Nothing’. That was almost like trying to beat a dead horse trying to get a perfect take. Whereas ‘Simple Math’ was more spur of the moment get it right. We layered just as much on ‘Mean Everything...’ as we did on ‘Simple Math’. We just did it better on ‘Simple Math’, and did it more effectively. I don’t think ‘Simple Math’ sets a bar for what a great record has to be, I don’t think it has to be layered but for us I think it was about making the most grand thing we could make.

ATP: The album is conceptual both lyrically and in many ways musically, however with songs like ‘Mighty’ and its huge riffs was there a particular aim during recording to produce tracks aimed at a live audience?
Andy: I don’t think we thought about that as much this record as we have in the past. Definitely for most songs on ‘Mean Everything...’ we were like, yeah we can play these live. But for ‘Simple Math’ it was more like, oh shit, we’ve got to play this live.

Robert: We had like 30 songs for the record and then cut that down. So as we were cutting it down it was more about what are the best songs that we can put on the record and what makes sense for the record the most.

Andy: There were two different types of songs on ‘Simple Math’, there were songs that I had which were fully complete thoughts on acoustic guitar and lyrics and the only thing that changed was the music that was underneath it and the way that the song flowed but it was still the same song. And there were songs like ‘Simple Math’, ‘Leave It Alone’ and ‘Pale Black Eye’ that were really spontaneous moments of us just sitting in a room and me writing lyrics as we were going on with all of us calling shots and coming up with different suggestions. There were definitely a few different types of ways that the writing process worked.

ATP: In a past interview you mentioned you had access to a wealth of equipment during the recording process so do you feel in a way this release reflects where you are now as a band, as with the recording of ‘I’m Like A Virgin Losing Child’ you wouldn’t have had access to the type of equipment you have now?

Andy: I think that is the reason why we made ‘Simple Math’, I think that as a whole is the reason why we made something so grand because who knows when we are going to get the chance again, if ever. To make this grand opus of a record, just like this big fucking record you know. And I think it kind of freed us as well to be able to now, really do want we want to be able to do. We can make something dirty and dark or make something super quiet, I definitely needed to make something that sounded like the biggest record of all time. We swung for it you know, I don’t know if we struck out or hit it but it seems to be alright.

ATP: In an interview you mentioned that you demo’d over 20 tracks for ‘Simple Math’, is there any chance of some b-sides seeing the light of day?
Andy: Yeah man, I think one day there is just going to be this mother lode of a fucking box-set, there’s a lot of stuff, we have a lot of material in vault. And I would love to be able to release all that stuff. There are limitations on it...

Robert: At our size as well, we can’t over saturate it...

Andy: Yea you don’t want to give people 100 new songs. And also there is restrictions with our label and being able to just release stuff for free, they don’t love that (laughs). I think as time goes on and the more freedom that we are able to have, because I think that’s our only restriction, being on a label. They have never told us what to do or to ever change anything. So I think we will be releasing probably a combination of all the b-sides from all three records. There is just a tonne of material that has been made over the last few years that nobody has seen.

ATP: So Tim, how has it been for you joining the band for the recording of ‘Simple Math’ and going out on your first tour?
Tim Very (drums: Proud in Camden (London) was my first show and I threw up during it. It’s been awesome, I can talk about it for hours but I’ll just say this is what I’ve always wanted to do and these are guys I’ve known for a long time, it’s the best.

Andy: It’s a nice little set-up Tim’s got here, prospering off all the leg work (laughs).

ATP: You’re moving on the American leg of the tour next. What are your plans after that?
Andy: Yea then we start off Texas. I think we go on a run of 36 shows in 46 days and then we should be done on September 5th. The plan after that is to just chill, I’m going to release another Right Away, Great Captain! record, that will be next year that I’ll get to release that and do some touring off it. One time Robert actually opened up for me at a show doing stand-up.

Robert: I’ve gotten more and more funny as the bands gone on so it’s something I’m happy the
world can be exposed to. We are able to use this platform of the band to show off my humor
(laughs)....Sarcasm doesn’t actually work in print so I’m just going to look like a dick right there...

ATP: Have you considered a Bad Books UK tour?
Andy: I think it’s super easy to do, we can just bring Kevin Devine over, we just need him and Ben (Homola) the drummer. We will be seeing Kevin next week, I guess. That’s the hope, to bring Bad Books into it with Manchester and do a dual set type of thing. Its fun playing in that band, it’s wild and full of energy the whole time. The album only took us five days and we toured on that which was awesome because I don’t have to sing the whole time so I can just relax and rock out.

Robert: And Kevin’s just out of his fucking mind!

ATP: Are you thinking of releasing a second album?
Andy: Yea that’s also going to be in the ‘what’s next plan’. We are going to do another record next year and try to get that out.

Robert: We can turn those around pretty fast...

ATP: The first album seemed to be quite unexpected...?
Andy: Yea man, it was just as unexpected for us, we just thought go for and went for it you know.

ATP: You can’t really go wrong with a Manchester Orchestra and Kevin Devine team-up...?
Robert: Oh you should hear some of the weird ass b-sides we done.

AH: I guess but I’ve seen so many people do stuff like that and it sucks so for us we wanted to make sure it was actually quality music, and Kevin’s such a sick songwriter. It’s cool for us to be the backing engine for his band, instead of his own band because it’s obviously a different thing. He would say Bad Books definitely helped him a lot to make that transition getting more confidence with guitar tones, ripping solos and harmonies. His new record is amazing.

'Simple Math' is out now.

Connor O'Brien

Alter The Press!