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Editors - Interview

  by Richard Lewis

published: 6 / 11 / 2013

Editors - Interview


Editors bassist Russell Leetch talks to Richard Lewis about the band’s return with new album ‘The Weight of Your Love’, their first in four years which saw the group working with film composer Clint Mansell

"Thirty degrees, sunny." The lot of the successful musician is an enviable one. While the UK is shrouded in gloom with constant news reports of huge energy bill hikes and Doomsday-scenario power blackouts as though a return to the mid 1970's three-day week is imminent, Editors are enjoying a day off in Spain. On the phone is group bassist and founder member Russell Leetch, taking a short breather before gigs in Murcia and Barcelona, a small fragment of a huge pan global haul undertaken by the quintet in support of their impressive recent LP, ‘The Weight of Your Love’. Released in June, four years had elapsed since UK number one album ‘In This Light and On This Evening’, during which time lead guitarist Chris Urbanowicz announced his departure from the group and the band parted company with Kitchenware Records. Any thoughts that the group might be finished, however, were quickly quashed as the group recruited new members Justin Lockey (lead guitar) and Elliott Williams (keys, guitars and backing vocals), signed to PIAS Records and set about recording their fourth album. The first fruits of Editors 2.0 ‘A Ton of Love’ appeared in May, a propulsive post-punk blast that sounded like a dusted down, supercharged reincarnation of Echo and the Bunnymen that announced the band’s re-emergence in superbly dramatic style. None-too-shabby parent album ‘The Weight of Your Love’ followed a month later, catapulting the band back into the Top 10. Taking in the restless tension of ‘The Weight’, the filthy Massive Attack inspired bassline of ‘Sugar’ and the effortless bounce of ‘Formaldehyde’, it became quickly apparent the band were in rude health. While critical notices for the album in the UK ranged from highly positive to coldly dismissive, in mainland Europe the LP has scored the group’s highest chart placings to date. All the more impressive in a year when several returning British bands of the same vintage as Editors were greeted with a somewhat mixed reception to put it mildly. With the reconfigured line up the biggest development in the band since their last LP, first question, how has the band changed since Justin and Elliot joined? "They’re refreshing because they’ve brought a different energy to the band," Russell explains from his hotel room. "They’re their own personalities. They stamp that onto the music which is important. A lot of the songs do feel refreshed and also it sounds bigger. There’s three guitars, so we make quite a racket." Another change, albeit a planned one, was the arrival of a new producer, maintaining the band’s tradition of having a different set of ears behind the recording desk for each album. With former occupants in the role including Flood and Jacknife Lee, figures who possess an exemplary CV featuring some of the best bands of the past twenty years between them, a similarly big-hitting presence was required. Jacquire King, triple Grammy Award winner for his work with Kings of Leon, Tom Waits and blues singer Buddy Guy was, therefore, approached to be fill the vacant seat on the other side of the recording studio glass. "To go to America was something we’d always wanted to do as a band. When Jacquire said he wanted to go to Nashville and record the album, we were more than happy to do that," Russ explains of the sessions Stateside. "It’s not his studio but he likes to work out of Studio G (Blackbird Studios). It’s a brilliant room," the bassist enthuses. After working with a troika of British production talent, Jim Abiss, Jacknife Lee and Flood, what prompted the decision to approach to cast the net wider and approach Jacquire? "The amount of artists that he’s worked with and what the artists bring to it," Russell states. "We didn’t just look at his work with Kings of Leon, although I think the third record he did with them (‘Because of the Times’ 2009 - Ed) was very good, but the other artists like Tom Waits and Modest Mouse," Russell explains. "We knew that he’d worked with bands that liked songs, that liked to record as a group, organically, so we thought that he was going to be quite a good fit. Also he’s somebody who’s a little bit out of the box for Editors. That’s why we chose him." ‘All of it was done in takes. There weren’t too many overdubs afterwards, so it’s quite an organic record," Russell explains of the live feel of the album, a hallmark of King’s productions. "He let us play and he just recorded it really. Recorded it brilliantly," Russell marvels. Given Jacquire’s preference for analogue and digital recording gear to create a naturalistic sound was it important to try and present the LP as live sounding as possible? "Yeah, I think it was especially because we’d lost an original member and there was now five of us. We wanted people to hear the band and how we were playing," the bassist says. Given the difficult circumstances the band had found themselves in, before the recording light turned red, did Jacquire’s presence help the five piece coalesce in the studio? "Yeah, it was quite a different experience," Russell replies. "He made things happen. He knew that it had been a turbulent time, and he knew we wanted the songs to be completed. That whole experience was a bonding one because we’d only been together for six months, so we had to start work together and establish something." On the subject of new working partners, the band landed a huge coup in securing the services of Clint Mansell, one of the most lauded soundtrack composers of recent times. Forthcoming single, string swept electro-blues ‘Honesty’, the nearest the band has come to an all-out ballad features Mansell’s swooping, filmic string arrangement, a rare occurrence of his work not acting as a visual accompaniment. The first choice for Oscar winning director Darren Aronofsky (‘The Wrestler’, ‘Black Swan’, forthcoming epic ‘Noah’) Mansell was approached by the band, all long time fans of his work. Highly in demand for his dazzling soundtrack skills, Editors and Mansell’s Midlands upbringing played a factor in catching the former’s attention as Mansell’s former band, indie-industrialists Pop Will Itself, like Editors hail from Birmingham. "We asked him. We’d always talked about him for quite a few years. He’s a fellow Brummie so we just really tried to make something happen with him," Russell explains. "He liked the song and he started to do an arrangement for it. He’s very busy, but he made the time to do that and arrange for the orchestration." Switching focus from the recording studio to the sticky floors of live venues the band are remaining on tour beyond festival season, with a lengthy jaunt across the UK later this month to complete the year. Stretching to eighteen dates, the band are heading cross country to take in all of Blighty not just the obvious urban centres. "We could have either decided to do a few dates across the UK, four or five, but we thought we’d go and play more of the regions and try and get out to more people, something we’ve always tried to do," Russell reflects on the tour. "It’s harder for a band like us to get on the radio nowadays, so going out and playing live is important." A recurrent topic for many acts this year, radio support has been bugbear of musicians as disparate as Dizzee Rascal and Noel Gallagher, who have both complained (with some justification) that Radio One cold-shoulders seemingly any artists who had been around for a decade or longer. Russell is sanguine about the developments at ‘The Nation’s Favourite’ however. "It’s always a mixed reception with a band like ours," he ruminates. "The UK is a funny place for bands. Everyone’s so obsessed by the new and also the style of music that’s played on Radio One. It really doesn’t suit us anymore, so for the album to do as well as it did we’re very happy. All you can do is what you think is best and put it out there." While Editors’ profile may have dipped slightly in the UK on the Continent the band’s success continues on an upward curve, something Russell attributes to their live shows. "Europe’s always been pretty good to us," the bassist says. "We’ve enjoyed coming over here and playing. Those shows have got better throughout the years. A lot more fans are willing to stick with you in Europe than the UK. If a band is on their fourth or fifth album in the UK, for people to still pay attention unless you’re Arctic Monkeys it’s hard!" he laughs. Looking ahead to the next album then, after the extended gap between releases, will the wait for LP number five be as long? "It will definitely be sooner," Russell states. "We never wanted a four year gap because that’s obviously been detrimental in other areas, but we kind of knew that would happen if that’s how long it would take." Finally then, is this the opening of a second phase for the group? "It has to be really. It is a different band," Russell replies. "I think when people have been coming to the shows, and watching us they’ve been enjoying it. I think we’re a better live band now than we’ve ever been, so it’s a good thing." The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Darren Aston.

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