Touring here for the first time, have you noticed whether or not people know the songs, whether they're singing along?
There's been a little bit of that. I don't think we expected much, but all the gigs we've done there's been people up front that know the words, which is just great. This is kind of step one, and hopefully we can come out again in a few months and really build it up. It is a shock to the system how vast America is, but we're eager to get into it a bit more.
Acolyte came out in the U.K. nearly a year ago -- are you able to listen to it or look back on it a little more objectively now with time removed from making it?
Very much, yeah. It's a strange thing to look back on it now. We don't really listen to it or anything like that because we hear the tunes all the time playing them live. We're still very proud of the record, but we're real eager to learn from the mistakes we made on it. It was finished toward the end of last year, and we'd written the songs maybe a year before that, so we've had these songs for a long time. But yeah, you learn from what you've done before, and we look back on how we wrote the first record, and the way we did that was much more building up the songs in the studio and then working out how to play them live, and I think that this time we've been really aware of not building things up too much. When we get an idea now, we put it away for a little while, and when we get into the studio we want to make it sound good live and then work out how to put in on record.
Is it a strange position to be in where you're already looking ahead to the next record, but since Acolyte just got released here in America, you're sort of pulled back into thinking or talking about something that's kind of old news?
Yeah, it's bizarre, you get to a certain level in one place and then you go to another place and you're back at the beginning, it varies all over the place. But I think we understand the way it is and that's what you've gotta go through. When we're doing interviews over here we've gotta go back to what we were thinking when it was released in the U.K. But we've got lots of ideas for the second record, and when we get back from this tour we're gonna get into the rehearsal space and work on some songs. I think we're gonna rent out Doves' place just outside of Manchester -- they've converted an old barn, so we're gonna go live out in the country for a bit and have a jam, which is something that was very alien to us before. I don't know if the next record will be 12-minute proggy, boring, self-indulgent crap, but we'll take that risk.
When you first got together as a band, in a room, did you have a good sense of what you wanted to sound like, or did it take a while to develop your sound?
We had a long time before writing stuff where we just kinda talked to each other. We went away together to the Lake District. We rented this little cottage, and we brought a few synths and guitars, and we mainly just spent a long time talking about the kind of music we wanted to make and the kind of album we wanted to make. The album was always the key. It was always the thing we were focused on, how each song fit into place. We'd all been in bands for a while before, since we were 14 or so -- so nine, 10 years ago -- and we learned from all that experience. We got to a point where it was like, 'This is our chance to really do something here.' It was pretty intuitive, we all knew what we wanted to make, and we set about trying to achieve that as best we could.
A lot of people, especially when they're kids, they dream of being in a band, but so few of them actually make it happen -- much less become successful or get to tour other countries. How did you make the leap from simply wanting to be in a band to getting to where you are now?
Wow, I mean, people always say you need that lucky break as a band, or you just need the right person to see you, but to be honest with you I think that's a load of rubbish. We just worked really hard on it for a long time. When we were in bands when we were 14 or 15 we were like, 'Right, let's get signed, let's make records,' and all of that. I think we needed that time to develop and really to work out the songwriting and other things that go along with it, image and that kind of thing. I think when you start out you have these dreams, and for some bands it just works out. Some bands just hit the nail on the head in their first incarnation, but [for] many others I think it's a learning process and the result of a lot of hard work. We played so many shit gigs in Manchester, we'd turn up at venues where there was blood on the floor from fights, and we're just four skinny little guys so, you know, it can be a bit scary. But you do these things and eventually, hopefully, you find the right formula. That's where the luck is -- the people you work with and the songs you write just kinda clicking and it all kinda working out.
Do you think the timing is particularly right at the moment for the kind of music you're making? Do you sense there's a hunger for your style of music that maybe didn't exist even a couple of years ago?
That's an interesting question. I think audiences are much more open now to the idea of synth music and electronic music co-existing with guitar music. If you look at the charts or the general music scene around the world, audiences are really open to much wider ranges of music and of bands, and so I think to a degree, yeah, it's a good time for that reason. But for us we just try to write songs -- what we're trying to do as a band is we admire great songwriters, and when you try and write songs it doesn't really matter what the rest of the music industry is doing. A good song is a good song and that's what's gonna connect with people, no matter what the zeitgeist.
You've been compared to a lot of the old Madchester bands of twenty-some years ago, and also New Order. Do you think those comparisons are valid, or are they lazy?
[Laughs] Well, people hear what they hear, I suppose. I think bands and musicians always look to ways of making things sound new and not like what's come before, and it's really a question of musicians looking at genres and sounds and trying to put disparate things together and create something new. It's an interesting time right now, and a difficult time. It's getting harder to sound fresh and to sound like something people haven't heard before, but I think it's still possible.
As a band, are you open to altering your sound and approach, maybe even radically, or are you more interesting in continuing to work in the musical framework you've established for yourselves?
We're definitely open to change, we love to experiment and see, you know, if you shut your eyes and let go, where you end up. It's only by testing your boundaries that you can find out where they are. Going really experimental and doing super-minimal stuff, and pushing it to Godspeed-y, Sigur Ros-type soundscapes and everything in between is fun. One of the most fun parts of being in a band is having the freedom to do whatever we want to do. With electronic music you can do anything you want.
Is there a band you look to as a model for how you want to do things, not necessarily musically but just the way they've gone about their career and the decisions they've made?
Definitely. Radiohead are a real inspiration to me personally, the way they developed with each record and constantly tried to change and challenge themselves. I think that shift from OK Computer to Kid A, where it would have been so easy to make another OK Computer, to have the balls to leave all that behind and shed that skin I think is really amazing. The other artist would be Bjork. We've got huge admiration for Bjork, and the way she's always created worlds around her records. It can embolden you to see how she challenges herself. Things like that are what we really get excited about.
So you don't necessarily worry about alienating fans that might be drawn to you based on the sound of this first album?
I mean, it's a risk, but we just wanna write music that excites us and challenges us, where we feel like we're not retreading old ground. It's always a risk with any sort of fanbase, especially since we're trying to build that up over here in the States right now, but it's something as artists we feel like we have to do. Sometimes as a band you have to be selfish and trust that your fanbase will follow you.