With every band member change their comes new challenges and opportunities for every group that has to go through such a difficult period. British wave rockers EDITORS might know a thing or two about it. After founding member Chris Urbanowicz left the successful indie formation in early 2012 the remaining musicians around frontman Tom Smith had to find a new path for the band to carry on.
Their just released fourth longplayer The Weight Of Your Love might be a testament of the difficult times the band has gone through but it also works as a fresh start after being in the music business for ten years. They found new spirit with the help of new members Justin Lockey and Elliot Williams and during last year’s festival spots which were already booked when Urbanowicz and the rest of the group parted ways. EDITORS were forced to walk on and explore new musical territories. Just before the band’s slot at this year’s HURRICANE FESTIVAL NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION had the chance to talk with drummer Ed and newly joined Justin about the difficult progress of recording the new record, democratic processes in the band and how you can balance cynicism out by the power of passion.
First question goes to the new one. Justin, how does it feel to join a long time existing band like EDITORS on such a high level?
Justin: Well, it’s actually quite cool. I came into it by a mutual friend, their last producer Flood since I’ve worked with him before. I mean the first shows with them were a bit difficult but apart from this it was absolutely fun. It’s fucking brilliant actually. (both laugh)
Sounds like it was quite easy.
Ed: Honestly we were so lucky with them. It all happened very quick. We got rid of our old guitarist and than we thought: ‘Shit, we’ve got these gigs to play over the summer’ And we had to it was quite a big deal, especially Rock Werchter last year. And we thought we just need to be really good on this. And Flood introduced us to Justin while Elliot is in a band called AIRSHIP with which we toured a while ago and became friends. And we all share the same management if you know what I mean. We basically got the first people we could find, got together in a room and it just worked immediately.
When Chris left the band last spring you guys already existed for almost ten years which is a long time. Was there ever a thought of breaking the band up at that point?
Ed: I think the band was coming to a whole with or without him. The reason we carried on was that we thought the three of us could carry on as EDITORS - as we were all pulling into one direction.
And he obviously wasn’t?
Ed: Yeah, a little bit. But I don’t wanna sound to harsh on this ’cause this wouldn’t be fair. He didn’t really do a lot wrong. But if you got differences about music which are so strong that it is quite tricky to carry on – I mean what’s the point in going on if you’re not happy about it? It was kind of stressful to go through the whole process I must say. But right now I’m really confident about the band. But playing last summer’s shows and putting the record together in the rehearsal room were easily my favourite experiences in being in EDITORS so far. And that’s some good stuff after ten years.
Did the new guys and Chris’ departure changed the plan of the new album? I thought originally you planned recording another record with Flood.
Ed: The problem while recording with Flood again was that nobody really knew in which particular direction we should go. And we put him through some really tough times back then. We made him listen to some songs in three different versions. We couldn’t move on – so for the sake of him and us we stopped the process but we would love to work with him again ’cause he’s an amazing guy.
… with a quite a reputation.
Ed: Yes, absolutely. I mean, Jesus, look at his back catalogue. There’s nothing wrong in there.
Justin: Its ridiculous. (laughs)
EDITORS: “It somehow feels like we are more of a unit right now”
Was there a certain reason why you choose two new guys instead of just replacing Chris?
Ed: Originally it was the fact that we didn’t just want a simple replacement of him. We didn’t just want to put a new guy out there and don’t talk about it – like BLOC PARTY are just doing. ‘Please, just don’t mention it.’ (laughs)
[Note that while we're chatting with the guys indie rock colleques BLOC PARTY are playing outside on the stage. They showed up with a new female drummer as a replacement for Matt Tong without giving any explanation for it. This fires up new rumours of recent break-up speculations as Ed also pointed out earlier.]
But they are sounding good with her anyway. We wanted to make a bit more of a statement while returning to the stage. Bringing more expertise and musicality to our fans and within the band.
You went to Nashville to record “The Weight Of Your Love.” Although prior to the recording sessions Tom stated that he wanted a bit more American sounding album the record doesn’t sound that much like the USA.
Ed: Nah, not really.
Justin: It was more about recording in the US than sounding like it.
Or did the original plan changed during the recording process?
Ed: Hmm, not really. I guess we just assumed we would sound more American when we record with a producer from over there. (laughs) It just sounds a bit less English I think.
You’ve been playing a lot of these songs – f.e. “Two Hearted Spider” or “Nothing” – live for almost two years now. If you look through old YouTube bootleg videos you can already see the progress in the songs. Was it healthy to play them in front of the people and having their immediate reactions?
Ed: Definitely. I mean you can really make a record forever. For this record we set ourselves certain deadlines for the process, we arranged various festivals last year and thought ‘We got to have this record out.’ We did it in a really compact time.
Justin: It was indeed a quite fast recording process. It already took us too long to get these songs before the recording even started.
Ed: Usually it means that if you’re going through a song multiple times you tend to give up after the fifth or sixth time. But there was something about it this time, everybody was feeling very positive about it – it was total creativity. I don’t know if it necessarily was Chris leaving but it somehow feels like we are more of a unit right now.
Despite the difficult times it was recorded in the record feels like the most harmonic and light album you’ve guys ever done.
Ed: Yeah, I mean all the songs pretty much touch on the theme of love, I think. Not necessarily about fluffy-puffy love but in a way love can take on so many different facets and touch you on so many different emotions.
Justin: But it actually starts quite dark with tracks like The Weight and Sugar.
Ed: And even the content of some songs is wrapped up in slightly different way. I mean Formaldehyde is a really dark love song but it’s probably the poppiest track on the whole record, very playful.
EDITORS: “We’ve always enjoyed exploring the dark side of life”
You felt a certain pressure while recording the album?
Justin: The only pressure I felt was when I first came in and started playing. I don’t play like Chris and never wanted to. It’s nice playing the old songs although I tend to play them a little different whenever I can. The pressure was maybe to not fall for the way the band used to write songs before. But that didn’t happen anyway so it’s okay.
I don’t know if you can speak for Tom but to me it feels a bit like his Christmas record with ANDY BURROWS from 2011, “Funny Looking Angels”, had a certain impact on the music – would you agree?
Ed: I think he learned a lot when he was writing music with another person. I really love the SMITHS AND BURROWS record, especially some of the songs Andy has written back then. Andy is used to write a lot with other people and this fact really opened a door for Tom and helped him working with other artists as well. It’s a good thing.
Justin: It always is when you got the chance to work with other people.
Ed: And although Tom came up with all the songs written for this record we now got more people in the band who also wrote songs before like Justin and Elliott did in other bands. And this experienced helped him and us as well.
But does Tom remain in a leading position or is it quite diplomatic? I mean a leader is not the worst thing to keep a band on track …
Ed: It’s a very democratic process. But still, I mean, he’s the singer of the band and the frontman and he’s got more responsibility in transporting the songs. And if he doesn’t like something it’s not happening either. (laughs)
Justin: Sometimes it’s quite a process.
Ed: But all in all it’s very fair. Even if it might take a bit time to convince him about some things.
Finally we also want to know from you guys what hope and passion mean to you? Are you a hopeful person?
Justin: Me? I’m probably the most cynical person this whole festival. (both laugh) Apart from that I’m really passionate about what I’m doing so I’m balancing this out.
Ed: And you’re a workaholic as well.
Justin: I am, indeed.
What I always enjoyed about listening to your songs is the way how you discover hope through darkness as well.
Ed: We’ve always enjoyed exploring the dark side of life. Essentially, I love playing drums in a rock band I must say. I don’t wanna play ‘pussy songs’ for the rest of my life, I wanna play interesting songs – especially live. So you can say that my passion is playing live.