Atlanta-based indie rock outfit Manchester Orchestra released their fourth studio album, Cope, earlier this year. The band will return to Australia for a run of east coast dates in November, supported by longtime friend and Bad Books bandmate Kevin Devine. Killyourstereo.com spoke with frontman Andy Hull about the upcoming tour, the latest record, and being on David Letterman’s iPod.
So, now that Cope has been out for a few months and everyone’s voiced their opinions and everything, how are you feeling about it all?
I feel great about it. I feel really great. It’s a record that I took time off of it for a while before I listened to it, and just recently listened to it again for the however many hundredth time, but after taking a break, it’s exactly what I was hoping for.
And how do the new songs go down live?
Really loud, and really well. It was a record that was written live in a room with the idea of these things being played that way. So yeah, it’s going great.
Building your own studio and recording the album the way you guys did, what were some of the main positives – and negatives, if there were any?
Oh yeah, plenty of both. I’d say positives would be, there’s a really great feeling that comes along with building your own place, and then making something that wouldn’t have been there if it weren’t for your effort. It was just an incredible feeling to kind of finish this record and go, “Yeah, we did it. We did exactly what we wanted to do, and we did it on our schedule, without anybody telling us what to do.” Negatives, or maybe just struggling aspects – doing something on your own without people asking you when you’re going to be done, or even without any set timetable for completion, forced us to kind of dig a little deeper than we were used to to make sure that we could complete it, and just kind of staying focused.
Besides running the merch store out of it, is the house or studio being used for anything or by anyone else?
No, it’s just sort of the brain. It’s where we go every day to work on all the stuff we’ve got going on. So it’s a place for all of us to continue writing and working as well, you know, it being so close to our houses. We found with the old studio that we had, it’s kind of a commitment to drive 20, 25 minutes somewhere during your day, where this kind of gives us the ability to – when anybody wants to get any kind of artistic work done – they can go there. And then we’re also kind of running business operations out of there as well.
Was the overall sound of the album a decision you made consciously in the beginning, or did it just naturally go in that direction?
Yeah, definitely a conscious decision. We’re a band that believes in albums, and I guess we consider ourselves a career band, so at this point in our career, we thought this is the time we need to make this really sort of short, loud, rock record, and dedicate ourselves to it, and hope that it achieves what we were going for. And it did. It was a really cool process.
The acoustic versions of the songs from Cope you’ve posted are really lovely too.
Thank you. Yeah, you know, today we actually just finished an entire album called Hope, that’s coming out later this year. That’s the entire album recorded really beautifully and stripped down and stuff like that. When we were writing Cope, we were writing so many songs and so many versions of songs, it’s like the really aggressive rock versions of the songs that made it to Cope were also really pretty solo songs, or stripped down songs, you know, piano songs, or whatever it is. So it was sort of in the back of our brains the entire time that it would sort of be an album that would have two pieces.
You’ve got your side projects as well. Is there anything happening with them or are they sort of on the back burner?
They are definitely on the back burner. I just had my first child, a little girl, two weeks ago, so that’s my main focus, and then doing some Manchester touring this year. Bad Books will make another record for sure, and the other stuff is sort of up in the air until I can figure out something to write about.
How do you write for each individual project?
Well I think each project needs to have a focal point, or some place that you can aim for. So with the Manchester thing, we’ll be in the vibe of a Manchester album. Generally with that we’ll try and go as big and grand and epic as we can. But as far as where the songs come from or melodies or lyrics and stuff like that, that’s just sort of what I do – I don’t know, it’s weird – as a person. I’ll have a few lyrics written down, or record voice memos on the phone and stuff like that. They’re all sort of coming from the same place; it just depends on where my focus is at the time, and what feels right for the project.
So what are the chances of Bad Books doing some shows in Australia?
Well, I’m pretty sure Kevin is going to come open for us on this next tour, so I’d imagine there would be a few Bad Books tunes going down. But I don’t know, as far as when we’ll be coming over as a band. That band’s really awesome and fun to play in, because it just sort of surprised all of us, people really had a reaction to it. I think by the next record we’ll probably be at a size where we could come and do it ourselves… not yet though.
What have your experiences of Australia been like the other times you’ve been here?
I’d call it A+ across the board every time. It’s always really really fun. We’ve made really great friends there – the labels we’ve worked with, the promotion and booking company we work with… yeah, we have a blast. We wish we could come more.
I’ve noticed the band’s been featured on a lot of soundtracks, like recently you had Opposite Sides on the Earth To Echo soundtrack. How did that come about?
They called us, or someone called us or emailed us, and said, “We wanted this one song in the movie but it cost too much. Do you guys want to try and write a song?” And we were like “Yeah,” and we did it and they liked it. We had an idea of the demo, and they sent the movie and we thought about what kind of tune we could write for the scene. We’re all really big movie heads, so, it doesn’t matter if the movie’s horrible – which, Earth To Echo I actually enjoyed – but it doesn’t matter to us, we just think it’s cool to be in a movie (laughs).
Yeah, I’ve seen your Manly Movie Reviews, I found them pretty informative. What would be your review of Earth To Echo?
I mean, if it’s a Manly Movie Review I’d make up something ridiculous, but yeah, I would say, it’s a great movie about a dog who could fly through space… no, that’s not true (laughs).
(laughs) I’ve also noticed your songs have been on a lot of teen shows like One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl etc… do you like those shows?
Yeah… no, I mean, who really likes ’em? I mean people really like ’em… we really like ’em, kinda. For us, it’s really fun; I think it’s really fun that they would ask for a song to be on The Vampire Diaries or whatever. I don’t give a shit, it’s great! I was a teenager as well at one point and heard songs on TV shows and I’d go, “What is that? I kinda like that,” and I ended up finding bands through that. So, you know, our pride is not above that stuff. It’s like, sure, we’d love it if Quentin Tarantino was asking for our songs in his movies, but it doesn’t really matter to us. It’s kinda just cool to be outside of your own space in the media. Unless it’s something we just don’t agree with.
You’ve also been on Letterman a bunch of times, he must love you guys.
I don’t know, we found out last time we played, which was our fourth time, that he asked for Cope, the song, to be put on his iPod for his jogging playlist. So that was pretty cool. That made us feel pretty good. I mean, I have nothing but amazing things to say about that show. They’ve allowed us to continue to play there forever and ever, and somebody there likes us.
So what’s Dave like?
The last time we played was the first time I actually grabbed him and said, “Hey, thank you for having us so many times,” and yeah, his crew is really kind too, and the band always remembers you. So it’s a great place to be, and it feels comfortable now. Far more comfortable than the first time we played, which was terrifying.
Now just to finish up – you’ve been doing this for about ten years and you’ve achieved a lot, but is there anything in particular you’re still hoping to achieve?
Yeah, for sure. All of it, hopefully (laughs). We just kind of want to continue to get bigger with each record, and make better records, and I’m really grateful for where we’ve been, and the fact that I started it so young, and have been able to do it, and it’s remained relevant and kinda cool, is amazing. But it also really opens up our eyes about where we want to take it, and how we still have a lot of stuff we want to do.
Manchester Orchestra tour this November with Kevin Devine and Apes. Dates and details here.