Several dates into a sold out UK tour and Editors appear, on the outside at least, to be buzzing with confidence, all despite an indifferent media response to their latest album. John Skibeat caught up with bassist Russell Leetch, backstage at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, to find out how the new songs are sounding live.
How has your day been going so far?
Good. We got in from Manchester last night and it was one of those gigs that starts a bit slowly. By the end of it, though, everyone really got going and they were one of those crowds that has really impressed me. It was good so we got a bit shit-faced afterwards.
Tough getting up this morning then?
A little bit, yeah. I had every intention on going for a run, but it was just a bacon sandwich and lots of tea. And a game of cards!
The score at the moment… Tom is in the lead, then me and then Ed. Ed, our drummer, is shit! [Laughs].
This tour is going well isn’t it – it’s sold out, I believe?
Yeah, apart from Bradford. We couldn’t sell the tickets in the balcony. Apart from that, yeah.
The new album must be going down quite well with the fans. How’s the new material sounding live?
All good. We rehearsed it before we played it so we knew what we were doing. It was exciting for us in the studio so I think that translates across live. With songs like ‘Papillon’ and ‘Bricks And Mortar’ they’re like total live moments now and people are really enjoying them, more than the older tracks. It all fits in well. We play for an hour and a half. We’ve got three records. It feels like we’re in a really good place. The amount of bands that came out when we did in 2005, with the rollercoasters that people go on, it’s nice to have a bit of consistency and a good fanbase that are really into each of the records. So, yeah, it’s good.
For the new album, In This Light And On This Evening, you’ve changed your sound slightly. Have you had any negative reaction to it?
Yeah, we got lots of bad reviews and then some good reviews. It just happens with every band. You release your debut album and you’re critically acclaimed up to a point, but then once you’re played on the radio and you’re heard by lots and lots of people and you start getting fans coming to your shows, you always lose that critical acclaim. That just happens. Every band that has success will have that happen. [Wry smile] Then there’s bands like Animal Collective who get consistent praise and it’s fine…
That’s being modest. Haven’t you picked up some awards here and there?
We have, yeah. Nominated for the Mercury [Music Prize] on the first record, Brits on the second – not that I give a shit about the Brits but it’s nice for the people that work it label-wise, so I do understand it. It would be nice to get another Mercury nomination – that would be cool. We’re doing really well in mainland Europe as well. That’s where we’re doing well with this record.
I spotted that you’d recently won an award for the ‘Papillon’ single in Belgium.
Yeah, that won their equivalent of the Brits, so that was cool. It was their number one single so we’re doing really well over there.
Did you write much of the album with the tour in mind or was it purely designed as a recorded work?
Recorded work, totally. You just can’t think of it live. What is the point? You can’t even road test new material now because people put it on YouTube. They’re going to hear a different version of it. It’s like we put out a song called ‘No Sound But The Wind’, then we played it at Glastonbury 2008 – it was recorded on iPlayer so everyone could watch it – and the hardcore fanbase have watched at it and gone “Oh, we don’t like just the piano version’. We’ve been going round different versions for two years and we’ve just finished it and it sounds completely different to both. But that’s another problem with internet.
So, as you wrote it, you didn’t think of how the songs might sound to a live audience?
No. I mean, we’ve always been well-known for our live show. Say, if we made an acoustic record we most probably wouldn’t tour it. It’d be too different from what we’ve done. No, you’ve just got to think of recorded work as recorded. That’s the art that you’re making.
It feels darker, the synthesizers have given it real menace. Were you in a bad place when you wrote it?
No, we were the happiest we’d been for a long time. What is hard is trying to make sounds that are hard and angry and mix them into a song. We’ve still got songs. I think people sometimes don’t like that about Editors. We just try and mess them up and put interesting sounds in there. We were making a lot of noise in the studio, making our own samples – shouting, which would be taped and then speeded up really quickly. Yeah, it was just fun.
No pressure from outside the band?
No, the pressure was from us really. We didn’t want it to sound the same – we’ve always wanted to do different things. We worked with Flood on this one and we’re going to work with him on the next record. I think we’re going to do a trilogy of records with him. They’ll come from a similar place but I think we’ve got a lot better work to do with him.
You’ve referenced ‘The Terminator’ theme quite a bit when describing what you were going for. Are you fans of the movie as well as the music?
Of course. It was just ‘Bricks And Mortar’, the first three notes are identical to it, and the first interview we did it was like “Yeah, it sounds just like The Terminator”. It was one of those passing comments and it stuck. But, I hate describing music anyway. It’s not for me to do. We were just writing on [Roland] Junos and those synths were widely used in that [80s] era, basically. If you buy the soundtrack the first half is all synth and moodiness and the other half is really shit, terrible – all the background music they hear in the clubs.
You’re not secret Arnie fans then?
What? The governor of California? Only in America could something like that happen. Yeah.
Which new tracks are you own favourites?
I always like the reaction [to] ‘Papillon’. I like ’The Big Exit’. I like the opening track on the record. That opening track is more important as a direction thing, because that’s one of the first tracks we did and we liked the way it was going. Flood heard it and wanted to work with us, so that stays positive in my mind.
Do you still get a buzz when you see your record in the music shops?
Yeah! I mean, I check for it. It’s nice when it’s wrapped up. If I’m in a cool town, I try and go record shopping and see what they recommend, see if I can get some vinyl. It’s always nice to see your album artwork in there along with all the other records. I went into Piccadilly Records in Manchester and they had all three on vinyl and it was quite nice.
Well, your album art, in particular, always looks pretty decent.
We’ve always tried to have good album art. It’s one thing that we really enjoy doing and are pretty good at.
Out of interest, where did the new album art come from?
Go on Liliane Lijn’s website – www.lilianelijn.com – she’s an artist from the 70’s. She does interpretations and you can see the original that she did and that was of a city, and she kind of adjusted it, just to put in the buildings and that. There’s an explanation on her website. Tom Hingston, who put it together, gave us a load of ideas and that was one that really stuck out. We wanted to move away from photos as well to have something art-related.
What particular bands are currently inspiring you the most?
The National. Just ‘cos I really love their music. I’m really excited about going in and getting it in the first week of release. We took them out three years ago on tour. I buy records all the time. I bought Dâm-Funk yesterday which is a pretty good record. I’d recommend that to anybody.
Worst band experience to date?
Playing Benicassim because it was shit. That festival was rubbish. Didn’t enjoy that day. So that would most probably be it.
Photo by Rich E