On new, John Leckie produced album 'Butterfly House'
The Coral

On a wet Monday afternoon in a frayed sort of practice studio in Liverpool city centre, The Coral are rehearsing some songs from their new album ‘Butterfly House’ ahead of a summer season of festival appearances.

The album itself, a technicolour expanse of shimmering guitars and luscious harmonies, will undoubtedly be better suited to being played on a stage beneath blue skies in August rather than the drab surroundings it is presently being rehearsed in. It’s a collection of songs that retains The Coral’s distinctive melodiousness, but pushes it on into new, more impressive territory.

Having put the guitar down for the day, lead singer James Skelly explains exactly where much of the inspiration for this innovation came from. “We started on the album and we had nothing at the time. No-one was coming down, we didn’t know what record label we were on, and [The Lightning Seeds’] Ian Broudie came down and said, ‘Your tunes are great, you’re going to do it, keep going’,” says Skelly in his distinctive Scouse tones. “We started working on a few tunes and he was helping us. Then he said we should work with Sean O’Hagan from The High Llamas who came down. We started doing a bit of stuff with him. He was teaching us all different chord shapes and stuff and we were applying them to the tunes. Then John Leckie came in. He knows how to capture a performance. All that stuff just makes it magic and he knows how to capture the magic. We had great experience helping us all the way, probably more than we’ve ever had.”

John Leckie is to many a production god, having turned out classic albums such as ‘The Bends’ for Radiohead and The Stone Roses’ debut, and Skelly and co. are clearly impressed by the way he managed to get the best out of them whilst also helping to draw out a harder edge than may have previously been present.

“He lets you do it, he takes a picture of you if you know what I mean,” explains Skelly. “We didn’t have that much money to fuck around with, so we realised ‘this is it’. We probably would fuck around but that’s not the way Leckie works. We did the demo for ‘More Than A Lover’ with guitars all over it and then we just stripped it and put these weird guitars on it and all this reverb on the toms. Then we did ‘Walking In The Winter’, we went on from strength to strength and everyone got confident so those two songs pushed us on in a way. They gave us a bit more of an idea of a sound. They were a bit more wide-screen and had more space in them. Less parts. More stuff playing each part but less parts! Rather than putting loads of different parts on, put a few parts on and layer them so that each part sounds great. That was the kind of idea we got from those two demos. Leckie came in and he liked them so he just wanted to enhance what we were and get a bit of oomph into them. We had to be able to perform it live to a really high standard before he was happy. He’s old school. It needs to be bang on before you go in. He worked us. We were fucking knackered at the end.”

The end results are impressive and Skelly is confident they’ll find a receptive audience. “I think once people hear it and live with it, it’ll grow. I think it’s the best album we’ve done, it’s the easiest to listen to all the way through.” Half-jokingly he looks me in the eyes and says, “It’s got a magic if you let it in and make it a part of your life.”

Where ‘Butterfly House’ will sit in a rather faddish musical market is anyone’s guess but Skelly is comfortable being on the outside looking in.

“They wouldn’t want to invite us to the party and we wouldn’t want to go. I’m into music, I’m into life. There’s too much fear and negativity in that clinical, cynical world. You have to have ‘this’ in a single and a feature with him, and you never fucking go on holiday. Does Beyonce ever fucking go on holiday? I mean she’s talented but isn’t everyone sick of her? Fucking hell. Go on holiday, have a kip! Get a life! There should be more bowl-heads with psychedelic pop tunes, that’s what I’m saying. I’d like to see it.” Wouldn’t you too?

Words by Karl O'Keeffe


Clash Magazine Issue 52

This article appears in the 52nd issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from July 1st.

Find out more about the issue HERE. Subscribe to Clash Magazine HERE.



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