Elbow just scored their first No. 1 in the U.K. this month, with their sixth studio album "The Take Off And Landing Of Everything," which has also become one of their best-selling sets in the U.S. The music itself contains as much up and down as the title suggests, even with the rock troupe's many successes; it's more about personal failures and regrets, sarcasm and lunacy, and -- sure -- a some triumph and optimism.
Produced by the band keyboardist Craig Potter, "The Take Off" now leaps up from No. 109 to No. 83 on the Billboard 200 this week. The group will be touring the U.S. May 12 through May 28, with several dates already sold out. Having previously interviewed frontman Guy Garvey, it's apparent Elbow are thankful for any success they've seen. With this release, I spoke to Potter, who also feels that shaking things up in the studio still has kept them on an "up" trajectory.
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Below is our abridged Q&A, on their single, their tour, beer and bloody marys, recording at Peter Gabriel's studio and embarking on The Golden Years of Elbow.
I’ve been listening to “Fly Boy Blue/Lunette” a lot since the song came out. Let’s start by talking about that song, can you talk about the making of that song in the studio?
What we did with this album, we sort of split up into different groups, didn’t necessarily all get together. We had one day off a week when we were writing so it meant that different varying groups of the whole band working together at different times trying to get different vibes out of different songs. So “Fly Boy Blue,” the bare bones of it, was written by three of us, musically.
It's so much more of a performance song, sort of band feel. Probably a little bit more like some of our older stuff. We always wanted it to feel quite foggy in a lot of ways, as some of the other tracks on the album do. They came up with this big heavy riff in the middle, this really long riff and it was just guitars and keyboards at first and then we decided to put the sax on to give it a bit of a twist.
It's basically a story of snapshots of Guy’s life in a lot of ways, the first half, and then “Lunette” is more of an honest sort of hit. It’s a sort of admission, just a very honest sort of tale, I think.
I like in particular the treatment of Guy’s voice. Can you talk about the evolution of his voice as you've known him as a producer and bandmate throughout Elbow’s career?
Interesting. Listening back to our old albums and listening back to early stuff that we did, it has changed quite a lot. Obviously his range as he gets older -- he can't quite do the falsetto bits anymore so he used to sing a lot of falsetto and higher sounds when he was younger.
He's always layers his voice in a lot of ways, especially when we first started experimenting with recordings. One of his strengths is harmonies. So I'd give it a little bit of a twist. And more and more it got a bit more gravel. You can push Guy's voice up in the mix a lot and it's just really “wow” having it really loud and in your face. Other than that ,it's just the usual things really, a bit more grit has come in there.
Lyrically this album and the last touch a lot on major big life gestures and a moving through life. Do you feel like this new album says something new or touches on a lot of issues about aging?
Yeah, I think the feel of a lot of the things are definitely about approaching 40. I mean I'm actually a couple years younger than the rest of them, but yeah we’re all at that or around it. When you get to that I think a lot of it's when you get to that stage of life you do a bit of looking back, and you do looking forward, so you're sort of in the middle almost. And I think that comes through. Considering death and then considering your childhood and what was, all at the same time.
Did you imagine that you'd be still with this band and working with this band in this capacity when you started?
If you'd asked 20 years ago if we'd still be together, I would've said no way. I think we're just lucky to get on so well.
And what have you considered to be one of the biggest goals that you guys have achieved or what had you thinking, “Man, we really made it?”
The big moment that is sort of changed everything was winning the Mercury Music Prize over here. That changed a lot of things. But I mean - because of that we got to play with BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and on TV over here…
And you have your own beer, which I feel like is an achievement of its own.
Yeah. The beer thing is crazy. We did it with the last album and it went down so well so we've got to do it again. It is just to promote the album at the end of the day. But if people like it and it sells well it's like why not, it's a bit of fun.
It certainly makes you think a little differently about merchandising. Are you thinking about branching into spirits, perhaps some whiskey?
You never know. Maybe next time. We would think we'd quite like to do a bloody mary mix. I mean it's one of things because we travel around a lot and depending on how hungover you are, sometimes it's nice to have a morning bloody mary in an airport. Maybe next time that's what we'll do.