Soundspheremag scribe Edward Lewis catches up with Manchester Orchestra keyboardist Chris Freeman while the band tour the UK in advance of their stop in the North West to talk about recording the new album, ‘Simple Math’, Neil Young and funny songs.
“It was very relaxing writing this new album, almost therapeutic”
S] Regarding the band Manchester Orchestra; had you ever been to Manchester (in the UK) before you decided on the name?
C] “We hadn’t, the idea behind the name was that it was this weird town we had never been to but we admired. It was this middle class town that was coming out with these great records and great bands. It was very inspiring to us because we are a middle class group, we weren’t surrounded by an amazing art scene, they were records we found and we loved. We had a connection to this town and felt it was similar to where we were.”
S] How does it feel to be back in England?
C] “Great. We are only here for a week! It’s a short little run but it is nice to dip our toes in the water. We haven’t been on tour for a very long time, we’ve just been in the studio; it’s good to do these shows and warm up to a major tour. When we found out these shows sold out in an hour it was amazing. This is a different country that is so far away, and we are so grateful and thankful that people give a damn. The fact that it sold out is overwhelming.”
S] What’s it like being in the studio then for ‘Simple Math’? How long do you usually spend recording?
C] “We were in the studio for a month at a time; we have our own place in Atlanta. We just go there all the time anyway. We spent about two and a half months on this record; we tracked bass and drums and then meticulously went over everything. We have been cooped up in a black box for the past six months [laughs].”
S] Tell me about the new record then… does it all sound similar to what we have heard so far from the singles?
C] “The thing about this record is that every song sounds so different. It was a little frightening at the beginning knowing that we had to release something before the album came out; ‘Simple Math’ and ‘April Fool’ are very different songs, and the whole album is that way. ‘Simple Math’ though, is definitely a standout track for us; it was the one that got stuck in our heads the most, so it made sense to release that as a single, especially being a title track.”
S] How did you go about writing this album? Seeing as this is quite a personal album for vocalist Andy (Hull)?
C] “For this album we had so many songs that we loved. It went from whittling down 100 songs to 30 and then the final ten. It was difficult because we loved so many of the tracks. It was easy to write because it was so natural; we have played together so long and we know each other’s cues and what’s happening. It was very relaxing writing this new album, almost therapeutic.”
S] What about recording? Was that as relaxing?
C] “This was great! We did it with Dan Hannon who has done all of our records. We know him so well; we know the studio and what we can do. It was very relaxing and very chilled.”
S] Tim Very is the new drummer for you guys – how is he fitting in?
C] “We have known Tim for years, even before I was in the band. He was the standout drummer out of the three guys who played with us on the album, he was the one who wrote the most songs with us and added the most as far as carrying the songs with his rhythm. He adds a new dynamic to the band with different grooves. We wouldn’t have been able to do some of the stuff that we have done with Jeremiah (Edmond, ex-drummer), no offence to Jeremiah though, I love him, but he’s just a different type of drummer.”
S] What is the highlight of your career so far?
C] “One of my favourite moments was being able to play with the Kings Of Leon at our home town in Atlanta, at the Fox Theatre. I saw ‘The Nutcracker’ there as a kid, it is a beautiful venue built by masons in the seventies. It is one of those places that we always wished we could play, and we finally got the chance to. It was such a beautiful moment, and it was so fun.”
S] If you could go back in a time machine ten years and tell yourself one thing what would it be?
C] “I would say have more confidence. That is a big part of growing up; I would tell myself to have more confidence in the talents that God has given me. I would make sure I knew that from an early age, it took too long for me to figure that out.”
S] If you could put on a fantasy show with another band, who would you have playing with you?
C] “I would like to see The Band play, or early Neil Young! Being able to see Neil Young play On The Beach in its entirety live would be amazing. I’ll hold out for The Band though.”
S] You play a song at live gigs which is about 50 Cent. Do you have any other songs like this – any chance of a comedy songs album?
C] [laughs] “We have so many funny songs. That song [appropriately titled ’50 Cent’] came out of Andy making it up on the spot and then it kind of stuck. We have a ton of songs like that, but unfortunately they will probably never see the light of day. There is just so much material! We love writing so we are always in the studio whenever we can be.”
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