Errr, not much.
And although I was tempted, I did not ask one of the UK’s most popular rock bands what a dangling participle was. Because a) they didn’t look like they’d give me a good answer and b) I had to Strunk & White the definition myself.
But nevermind. To the rock at hand.
Editors (there is no THE in front, presumably because the band has issues with definite articles) are on a three-week jaunt round the northern Americas, and bringing with them a new-ish album In This Light and On This Evening, a new sound (synths too accompany their typical hands-aloft edgy rock anthems), new energy and a new batch of herky-jerky on-stage posings from the rather electric singer Tom Smith. There’s nothing particularly challenging about Editors’ music, but they are, without a doubt, a very decent live band.
On day two of the tour, February 6, I cornered them at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver (where they last headlined a triple bill along with Louis XIV and Hot Hot Heat), and pulled up a sofa for a chat with Tom (salty) and drummer Ed Lay (sweet).
A writer at last night’s tour-kick off Seattle show said you seemed genuinely happy to be back on stage.
Tom: Really? Cool.
Ed: After the first three or four songs we felt a little more relaxed. We hadn’t played for three or four weeks so it’s such a long way to fly to just to do a show straight away, but I think we’re all settling in. This is the shortest North American tour we’ve ever done – it’s only three weeks.
Tom: Which is nothing.
British bands always say that touring North America is so profoundly different. Is it a chore, a challenge, a holiday, a lark…
Tom: I don’t let myself get confused by those type of questions. It’s an adventure and it’s hard for English bands to replicate the sort of success they have in Europe but this is still fun for us, and it’s still successful. For us to play to 500-1000 people a night is great. Of course there are people who say: ‘why aren’t you bigger in such and such a market?’ But we don’t worry about it too much.
But the album’s been out for an age in the UK but you come over here and it’s still sort of “all new” for us here…
Ed: It’s been kind of interesting because, obviously, when we released the album in England and Europe, we went on tour there and it was fresh for us. And now we’ve kind of played the album in and the songs have developed slightly so we’re coming into this having a bit more experience with the way the set flows. But obviously people here have – theoretically – just heard the record, so that’s kind of nice, we’re playing a new record to a new set of fans. And every song changes over time. The songs we’ve been playing since album one, like “Munich”, go through a period where we’re not quite enjoying it but then it can change into the best song of the set.
Forgive the broken recordness of this question but one can’t escape that In This Light and On This Evening has a vastly different sound. At what point for you, Tom, did the lyrics require this change. Or was there a different approach to writing on this album?
Tom: It kinda wasn’t different. We had different tools but the words fused with the music and the melodies very early on, really. I’ll write the songs on an acoustic guitar or piano but on this record there were some synths involved as well but they were sort of embryonic versions of the songs. Then I give it to the guys…so I didn’t feel that it was any different this time.
Do you think there’s been an evolution from where you were as a lyricist on the first album to now?
Tom: The first album there was lots of confused stuff, I didn’t really know what I was trying to do really…just kinda…
Throwing it at the wall to see if it sticks?
Tom: Yeah exactly! And the second album was more personal and inspired by things that happened to me and around me. This record is sort of a reaction to that. I looked away from myself and observed other people from the place where I was. I guess you react to what you’ve done previously and you don’t want to go down the same path. We didn’t want to feel that we were treading the same ground so we went somewhere new.
But sometimes, when songwriters have children, new tracks end up sounding more joyful and you end up singing about the apple of daddy’s eye or something. Yet this album doesn’t have that feel. “In this light and on this evening” starts all dark and gothic, though you’re reflecting on a city you love.
Tom: The record’s both, it has the ugly side and the beautiful side of things and I wanted them both to be there.
Is this part of the Editors’ evolution musically or just a test-run?
Ed: I don’t look back and think ‘what were we doing before?’ because that was essential to how we’ve come on and to where are at the minute, absolutely. But, yeah, musically it has changed and it keeps on being enjoyable. We didn’t want to get stuck in a formula. So it’s been a brilliant album to work on.
But there’s always going to be a reaction from fans, like ‘that’s not the anthemic, guitar rock I was expecting…WAHHH!”
Tom: Yeah, we hear everything. You listen to people and read what they have to say and sometimes you take it on board, and other times you don’t, but we did what we wanted to do. But there were many people who were fans from the start who think this is the best thing we’ve ever done, and many people who got involved at the second record and don’t really like this so much, but it’s… whatever. What can you do?
We knew it would be an electronic record very early on but we didn’t want it to not be a rock record, it still needed to feel like we were a band. Heavy in places and dark and interesting and that was the goal we had. Not too sterile and computerized.
Then at what point do you bring in (famed electronic producer) Flood? Because in the wrong hands, this album could have gone an entirely different way, and been overly slick.
Tom and Ed: Yeah! Exactly! That was the risk.
Tom: Obviously the records he’s made, that was a big factor. But some of the band thought well, maybe because he’s had such a history, maybe that wasn’t a good thing, he’s made so many records and maybe he’s not as hungry as somebody younger, newer. But it wasn’t until we met him that we all decided he was the right man for the job. We agree on the same things: music to us is interesting when it’s melodic and has a pop sensibility but there’s also something dark and twisted about it and trying to marry the two things was what we were trying to do.
It could have ended up too plinky or overproduced, though.
Tom: Yeah, it could have. But on this, there’s still a weight to it. And there’s always a drama to our music and it has to be done in the right way. [With Flood] we think we found someone that we’re almost at the beginning of a relationship with. There’s so much more to do now.
Ed: Even though we were trying to make it more of an industrial, electronic-sounding record, he convinced us that playing it live in a room, the four of us, and working out the parts and nailing it and then doing a take – like, lay the basis by playing it live – that that was really important. Though I think you’re right, it could have sounded light and a bit pussy to be honest.
Tom: We were JUST listening to the new Hot Chip record. But you’ve got two sides of the fence here. Ed’s not much of a fan and I’m liking it quite a lot. They were DJing in a club in Scotland…
Ed: Oh yeah, that was brilliant!
Tom: And they’d just had a breakout record…
Ed: …and it was a place called the Sub Club in Glasgow and it was f*cking awesome. And they were brilliant in there.
Tom: But I think his voice [Alexis Taylor's] is the splitter.
Ed: I like the tunes but my problem is I can’t get past his voice. It’s a kind of love it or hate it thing, and we were just talking about New Order and Bernard Sumner, it’s similar.
Speaking of which, Joe Goddard once told me that in Hot Chip, each of the members are into SUCH different types of music so that’s what comes out on their records. One’s into pop and soul, another’s into hardcore German techno. Do you guys come together on the music you like?
Ed: We’re not too far off, and I think we’ve really bonded over some records. But I’m more of a rock fan and I still like a bit of Deftones and that sort of thing, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
So how do you deal with longer tours? Do you all retreat to corners?
Tom: there are days that you do and days that you don’t, and if you’re doing it all the time, then you know there’s a problem.
Ed: A new discovery for us is that we started playing cards.
Oh, wow, how very rock of you.
Ed: I know, tell me about it.
Ed: …so it’s cards and a nice glass of red, but if you want to kill some time, it’s great [laughs]
Tom: We tour all the time. It doesn’t really stop. Even when it sort of stops, we get like two weeks, then we have do some more recording and rehearsal and then we’re back on the road again and that leads to Ed’s wedding, when we have a little bit of time off, then we’re into festivals…
Ed: And we just got an email today about a festival that we might have to squeeze in the Friday after the wedding in May…
Off-white, or white napkins at the wedding reception?
Ed: Oh shit, yeah, there’s been those kinds of emails too.
Tom: Black napkins [laughs]
Will you be releasing doves? Or the hounds?
Tom: Yeah, yeah, release the dogs!
Finally, what’s on your rider?
Tom: there’s always a stupid answer you can give, but there’s not even beer in there at the moment.
Ed: For this tour we asked specifically for local beer – just a few, mind you, so we can try out what the locals in the area drink…
Tom: …but last night we had some terrible light beer.
Ed: Yeah, uh, it kinda backfired, immediately. \m/
Utterly spectactular Editors photos by Brittney Kwasney at Bright Photography
Editors live in Vancouver at the Commodore Ballroom were presented by Timbre Production Concerts
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