The subjects you’re addressing are common currency in other art forms, in the visual arts and certainly in cinema. They get away with making these sorts of observations or comments. It seems pretty unfair you don’t appear to…
LB: It’s a bit frustrating for me personally, I can’t speak for anyone else in the band but its a bit frustrating when people want to limit you, or talk about you as though you’re an idiot for not seeing the limits that they’re trying to place around you. A lot of people are getting in touch and coming to the gigs and are loving what were doing exactly because we are doing that. That there’s a sense of emotional release, or an investigation, not an academic investigation but rather an awareness of the power of certain emotions and certain issues in peoples lives. It’s not like we sit there and think this is what were going to do, were going to be a meaningful band. There was always going to be emotion in it. That was one thing we always said to each other, there was always a sense that we wanted to move people in some way. And if you’re going to move people you have to be the sort of person that is open to being moved themselves. Otherwise you’re just being disingenuous and trying to get an effect out of people which is not what its about. Tricking people into thinking that they should feel something that you don’t feel yourself.
People bang on about influences, which of course aren’t the be all and end all, but certainly your influences are quite refreshing. You’ve spoken about Brel, about Scott Walker. These are artists that absolutely share these characteristics that you’ve been talking about, so it doesn’t seem much of a leap. I was thrilled to read that you like John Jacob Niles.
Oh god yeah! I’ve only just discovered him. Little Black Star, (excited exhalation) that’s my favourite. We’ve just put it on a mix tape for NME but don’t know if it’s too weird for them to put on their website. But that’s the music we love the most, this bare bones folk music when they barely had the technology to be able to record it. And that’s another reason I’m interested in imagery or religious language, not because I’m religious but because the artists that I’m most attached to are people who are trying to capture something of their experience of life. There’s some kind of sense that they are appealing to, or are in communication with something beyond themselves, whether it comes from nature or their spiritual beliefs or whatever. I think it’s lacking in the world around us.
I wasn’t brought up religious but in my everyday life I feel there is a distinct lack of magic or whatever you want to call it. I think that you don’t have to invent fantastical unrealistic things like gods or dragons or whatever, what you can do is look around you, and see that there is magic in the world, nature is a big thing for me and there’s lots of natural imagery in the lyrics because I’m constantly thinking in those terms.I think its a shame really that people don’t think there’s a place for bands to be dealing in that kind of imagery or those kind of thoughts because I. I think society, I dunno, society is going down the plughole and I think it would probably help if people were a little bit more aware of the beauty that is out there.
(Clearly enthused) And music is the best way to do it I think. Because the music hits you at that sort of intuitive level, no-one has to sit there and explain to themselves why they feel this way because of a song, it just takes you away and in a sense that’s what nature itself can do. Or there are other things besides nature, you could say human relationships and stuff. But I’m the kind of person who’ll be on the tube and see a man with his little son sharing a moment and I feel like , whoa, I’m observing something here. And I know people think ‘who is this cunt…he needs to calm down a bit’ but I’m just very alert to those things. Maybe I’m just making it all up in my head or exaggerating the importance of these moments but they’re the moments I’m going to remember when I look back on my life and because things like that have guided my development, creatively or otherwise, I think its important to take note of them.
How refreshing…you obviously have a very clear idea of how you want to sound musically and also lyrically. Do you then find it difficult (I know you’ve worked with Paul Epworth as the producer on this album) to let go of the reigns when it comes to other people being involved in what you’re doing?
MH: I think so, I think more so over the course since we’ve been signed. We’ve been busy because of the tour and stuff but we made some decisions that maybe we regret or whatever because we dropped the ball for a brief period. But certainly from now on in it’ll be about us controlling as much as possible.
Do you think you’ll go down the road of self production eventually?
MH: I’m not sure about self production but certainly working with someone we feel comfortable enough with in order to express our ideas. We’re interested in co-production definitely.
LB: It’s hard to describe to someone who not in the band, even the management and people who surround the band. It’s quite hard to describe but you’ve got 5 people together whose psychologies dictate not just what they create but how it’s created and whatever. We are five people who are genuinely (and this isn’t blowing our own trumpet) but were generally pretty polite, willing to defer to each other and others, we don’t want to make trouble a lot of the time but over the course of he last year we realise this is not the industry in which to defer out of courtesy. If you’re doing something creative there has to be a moment when you need to be like ‘back up, fuck off, it’s us and at the end of the day we’re the ones that are going to get judged for everything. We’re gonna judge ourselves. And it took us a while to realise that.
As Mike said, its not so much about being in complete control and not respecting what other people can bring to the table but going forward all five of us have to have a coherent agreed vision. We didn’t have to do that when we were first signed because the songs had been written over a long period of time before and we’d never had to have a game plan because we thought we wouldn’t be signed anytime soon and it happened so quickly. So in a way so it’s been a really good year for that, all the processes we’ve been involved in whilst making the first album. And Paul’s an amazing guy, he really helped those songs sound as bold and emotionally striking as the content seemed to require. But I think going forward we’re in a much better position to kind of say we can take more control and we can shape things. Basically we’ve said if we’re gonna die we’re gonna die by our own sword.
I don’t think some people realise how difficult the collaborative process can be when its out with your peers in the band, how you’re produced, how you’re ultimately presented…people may not appreciate the pressure you’re under?
Especially for a guitar band and especially now with the internet thing, everything that’s changed or is still changing in the industry. It’s very difficult to weigh everything up but at the same time everyone is expecting you to be like ‘oh we’re having the time of our lives’ but it’s actually a real minefield and half the time you don’t even know what you’re looking for never mind what’s traps youre supposed to be keeping an eye out for. But I suppose that’s why we feel very strong at the moment, all five of us feel like we know who we are as a group, we know know the creative process has to be changed going forward so that we can improve and so that the next stuff is a step up from the first. We’re lucky that we’ve managed to negotiate without realiisng that we were doing so. It’s a wild thing man, that first year in a band when you’ve had that hype and its not been quite as gradual as some people may take it. Very, very strange and dangerous waters to navigate I think.