Recently, I found myself in the midst of a sweaty Berlin Karaoke bar facing the question, what has happened to the British indie favorites The Coral. My friend had put on the classic Dreaming Of You, a song from their self titled debut album. It even charted on place 13 of the Official British charts back in 2002. It hasn’t been so long since I last spoke to The Coral. Actually it was just two years ago, for the release of their psychedelic comeback album Distance Inbetween. This year sees their ninth album release for the more pop inspired Move Through The Dawn. I have the pleasure to speak with 1/3 of the band – singer James Shelly and multiinstrumentalist Nick Power – in Berlin. It’s the day after England lost the day against Croatia, and it’s a rainy day which feels much closer to England than to Germany. But as I found out, the Merseyside born and based musicians, couldn’t care less about England withdrawing from the World Cup. Thank god we’re not supposed to talk about footie but about music.
While I chatted with Nick Power in 2016 about growing up in a band, this time we turn the tables to talk about bands that are growing in a band: Newcomer bands from Britain, which are rumored to be the next saviors of indie music. Just like The Coral back in 2002 with their hit singles Dreaming Of You and In The Morning. I thought: Who could be a better expert than two musicians who’ve been in the same position as today’s young musicians a decade ago? And at first, James and Nick seem to be pleased to talk about other people’s music than they’re own. It has been quite a long interview marathon for them already.
1. Our Girl
First of all, is a song you’ve probably already know. It’s by the Brighton trio Our Girl which will release their debut album Stranger Today in mid August. And there’s one special guest you’re quite familiar with: Your ex-band mate Bill Ryder-Jones (Editiorial note: Bill Ryder-Jones played as a lead guitarist in The Coral before leaving the band in 2008. Since then he’s pursuing a solo career).
James: Its that My Bloody Valentine type thing. It’s become a genre of music, hasn’t it? That Shoegaze-type thing.
Nick: What do you want us to do with this? Rate it out of 10? It’s good I like it, Bill. Good seeing Bill play guitar.
James: I don’t like to rate music. But its good, has Bill in it. Its always good to see him play guitar, great guitarist.
It turns out that the music video was shot in Parr Street Studios in Liverpool, where The Coral have both recorded their latest and last album. As James puts it the band ‘protects itself from ourselves‘ with recording in a studio. Otherwise they would decent ‚into chaos, watch B-movies and drink after two days’. According to James there’s no discipline when they record at residential studios and they need a work ethic to get more done. The last two albums where the first time the band actually recorded in the Liverpool area, with other albums being recorded in London or Wales.
2. Fake Laugh
James: It’s not bad. I don’t mind it. He needs a piercing or something, he needs something, he’s too whitey-ass. He could be in City and Guilds or something (Editioral note: A London based Stockbrocker). He looks like he’s on a apprenticeship, getting your badges football, like coaching badges. I’m not getting the music with the video. I like it but I’m not fully realizing what it is. It’s like where’s the tat. I don’t know, he looks to normal.
Nick: It’s a throwaway but nice on the ears. I think he’s Normcore, isn’t he?
James: Yeah, never underestimate Normcore.
Like so many songs, this tune is about the never-tiring topic of love. The Coral agree that most of their songs are about the basic themes of life as well: love, revenge, anger. James says, that social commentary lyrics sound ugly to his voice. He produces bands like Cabbage though, who put politically commentary into music.
Nick: Are they the posh Fall? Its not really my thing. I wouldn’t listen to it. I don’t hate it, but its not in my world.
James: They’re probably kids who haven’t heard The Fall. I liked them and I stick to them. I’m not gonna tell a kid who likes these that they’re not good.
Nick: If I was starting out in a band I wouldn’t want to sound like somebody else.
James: I dont think we’re supposed to like them. We’re not Shame’s demographic. They’re probably good at what they do. If I want this for a new band, I’d prefer Cabbage. They got more of a sense of humor and originality.
Nick: They look like four really nice boys, y’know what I mean? They’re meant to be dangerous, aren’t they? Four polite boys, don’t get that thing.
Stating that Shame lack originality, I want to know from The Coral how their recipe for originality is. They must know it, having released nine albums which don’t always sound the same. According to Nick it easy: You’re born with originality. While they’re last album was more psychedelic, the newest is more pop-based. Changing their sound constantly is their get-away from getting bored.
4. Sports Team
James: I like it. He looks like Harry Enfield (Editorial note: A British comedian who starred in the BBC Sketch show Harry Enfield’s Television Programme which first aired in 1990). It’s funny, my favourite so far.
Nick: I never heard a voice like this in my life. Like him but not in the way they want you to like them. He’s boss. They’ve at least got a good sense of humor. He’s a brilliant dickhead and hilarious. He’s committed to being a frontman.
James: He’s committed to whatever he’s doing, whatever the cause is. I’m having him. Is that the worst guitar solo of all time? He’s trying so hard to not do a guitar solo. Why did he do this? It’s an eyeopener to me, I would have never seen this. I want more of him, I want to read his interviews.
5. Boy Azooga
Nick: I like these. I know this lad. He used to be in a band called The Keys, and I used to DJ for them. He’s done it for his boy. The have this song called Loner Boogie, its like The Stooges with this amazing riff. Its not my favorite one. It’s a bit like The Bees.
James: Its cool, its nice but I’m bored of this tune now. Can we flick it?
6. Dream Wife
James: Good name. Like the intro. It’s like Arctic Monkeys but with girls. it doesn’t offend me.
Nick: I never listen to this again.
The Coral have been touring with the Arctic Monkeys already. I ask them what they thought of the new record. Liam likes it, but more the fact ‘that they did it‘. According to him, the best moments on it are great’.
Suddenly, the interview shifts. Even though the boys seemed to like everything I’ve so far showed them, James drifts into an – for me – unexpected torrent of hate on today’s indie music.
James: It’s all of in the same thing for me. All of this music isn’t my thing really. I’m not an authority in it. Thats probably my least favorite genre. My favorite genre would be proper songs. I prefer a bit more ambition. I’d rather listen to the new Florence And The Machine track than any of it. Or the new Arcade Fire song.
Nick: There’s nothing in this.
James: Its almost a subgenre where they all sound like Pavement . Its an echo chamber. If a young band, no wonder no ones buying guitar music. No wonder Grime is wiping the floor with it. I appreciate Grime, I prefer the attitude. Its almost like they’re so self-aware. To me, I much prefer the Arctic Monkeys than this, where I would think all these bands would hate the Arctic Monkeys . I rather listen to With or Without You by the U2 , thats a proper tune. They’re all not reaching out of their subgenre. It seems like to me, like a lot of kids who have a lot of inheritance or gap year money are making tunes and they don’t have to breakthrough, because they already have money. They could be something else. That’s what I see, but maybe I’m wrong. To me, Blossoms are better than all of this. At least they’re trying to get out of a subgenre. TheArctic Monkeys or Arcade Fire flawed with their albums, but they put themselves out on a ledge. Thats what a proper band does.
For James, it isn’t all about the working class vs. middle class debate. For The Coral – being from a working class background – it was different to start out in a band. But James names The Strokes or The Libertines as bands with non-working class backgrounds who could still surpass they’re ‘echo chamber‘.
7. Goat Girl
James : I’m too old for it. It’s either shit or I’m too old. Theres no way in between. If its that good, then I’m too old.
Nick: It all sounds a bit Camden to me.
James: I’m hearing people whose mum and dads got loads of money. So they look down on people with enthusiasm.
But you sort of were in that genre too, when you started out…
Liam : If you put our first tune Shadows Fall on, its night and day. You cant compare your ninth album…
Nick: We started of so positive, didn’t we?
Liam: We’ve tried. You picked us down.
Nick: You should’ve brought Sean Paul , so we could have a laugh too.
To make up for the indie torture, I present The Coral Austrian’s most successful export since Falco : The German trap rapper Yung Hurn , who charted on Number 2 of the German album charts with his album 1220. They are fascinated by it, not having seen anything like it before. ‚There’s something David Lynch‘ about it, says Nick. At least, after this interview The Coral have a new soundtrack to get smashed on. And I at least come to the conclusion, that just because you were once Indie heroes, you don’t need to necessarily support new guitar bands.
Move Through The Dawn, the new The Coral album arrives on August 10 via Ignition Records / Indigo. You can preorder it right here.