News Embers: ‘There Is No Smoke, And Definitely No Mirrors’

Alex Lynham speaks to the emerging Manchester band about their grand sound and equally huge ambitions.

Crashing into the alternative vanguard’s consciousness with this week’s unstoppable ‘Hollow Cage’ video, (stream below our interview) Manchester’s Embers have been making substantial waves in their hometown since their recent formation. Having captured the imagination of the music press so completely with this first release, DIY caught up with the band to find out more about what’s driving Embers ever onward.

First off, how did Embers get started and how did you settle on that moniker? I understand this isn’t your first trip around the Manchester scene in a band… how come you decided to have another crack at it?
Three of us knew each other already from a previous band. It was never a big thing - we did a few gigs locally before it all eventually fizzled out. Same for most bands really, most of them often have other ideas and other ventures before finally settling on something they have the utmost conviction in and finally pushing onwards. So one day we started working on something new. This led us to form Embers around 18 months ago after meeting Nathan, our drummer. With regards to the name - there’s nothing clever or overly interesting - we just saw the word ‘Embers’ somewhere, liked it, and decided it was fitting for what we were doing.

What would you say are the main influences on what Embers do (musical or otherwise)?
We’re very much into anything with a sense of grandeur - or anything cinematic sounding and challenging. The works of Brian Eno, John Murphy and Hans Zimmer for example. Stunning composers of beautiful music. The power and beauty of bands like Sigur Ros and Arcade Fire too will always strike a chord with us.

Because I’m from around the city I’ve seen perhaps more of the band than a new listener – but for somebody who’s being introduced to you now your image may be a little bit more ‘smoke and mirrors’. Is this intentional, and do you think there’s the danger of a Wu Lyf backlash from that sort of thing?
That has never been our intention, and if we’re being honest, the complete opposite of how we see ourselves.
We’d argue that recording a video like this for the world to see - a video as emotionally draining and personal as a performance like this could be, with every nuance viewable, and every element of who we are and what we do captured on film, is actually very much a case of us laying ourselves bare for everyone to see.
There is no smoke, and there are definitely no mirrors.

There’s a strong visual element to the band – is this normally left to others or is it kept within the band? Is it spontaneous or calculated?
It’s kept within the band. We create all the visuals ourselves. We feel they add context to our music and its a big part of what we do. We try to create videos and visuals, both in our live performances and for our recorded songs to recreate how we feel about our music. We feel the visual element gives our music another dimension and adds even more weight and depth to the songs. It’s no more calculated than writing one of our songs would be. We plan it, but it more than often does completely just fall into place. Planned spontaneity, if you like.

What’s the songwriting process like? How do you tie it in (if you do) to the other creative activities surrounding the band?
We all write whenever we can. An idea can come from anywhere. Be it from Nathan, who is usually our drummer, having a vocal idea, or from Will, who usually plays bass, having an idea he’d written on the piano - ‘Hollow Cage’ being a good example of that. There can be cases when one of us will write a whole song more or less fully formed and we’ll piece it together as a band. Regardless of how it comes about, all we know is that we’ll inevitably spend a whole lot of time painstakingly scrutinising every single part until we’re wholly happy!
With regards to finding time for the other creative activities - well, we just do it really. Late nights - sadly we’re all far too used to them.

For your first few tracks, you put up videos rather than releasing tracks – why was this, and how has it worked for you?
As I said earlier, we just wanted to express our music visually. We’re very much interested in film scores and so on, and how someone like John Murphy, or Hans Zimmer, or any other talented composer, can enhance a film immeasurably with their work.
The idea of putting together a video that we feel would be the a fitting visual representation of our music very much appeals to us, so we do that. And yes, we feel we’ve had an excellent reaction to the videos.

So far there’s been a strong lo-fi element to what you do – is this an intentional aesthetic choice or has it just stemmed from the way you’ve recorded things?
I guess any hints of a lo-fi mentality may have has just come from the way we’ve had to record things really, cos we’re not really intentionally lo-fi in any aspect - quite the opposite. We want to make our music sound as big as as ambitious as possible.
We’ve often had to compromise when recording sadly, and sometimes lost a bit of the clarity we would have hoped for. But that’s just how it is - It was never intentionally that way, more just a necessity. We’d love to be able to work on our songs for days on end in the studio, but we have to be realistic.

How important is Manchester to you? What’s the state of the ‘scene’ like?
Manchester is our home. It’s where the band formed - so it will always mean something to us. It’s in a good place at the moment, but then again there is great music appearing everywhere these days. I can’t say that we feel particularly attached to the Manchester scene or anything, as we’ve never been fully at the heart of it, so it is what it is for us - just a mere coincidence.

Are there any bands you’re particularly excited about at the moment?
We played with Halls recently, and they were wonderful.

Do you have a plan, and if so, what is it? What’s the ambition that drives Embers’ music?
We just want to write music. Lots of it. We want to take our music wherever we can, constantly challenging ourselves to push onto bigger and better things. We have pretty grand designs, but they all stem from the same place - just feeling the urge to create bold, challenging music that excites us emotionally. The performance of ‘Hollow Cage’ in the monastery is something that we’d wanted to do from day one. To play with choir singers and a string section was a surreal but wonderful experience. We want to build on that though and we see it as something we can top and go beyond.

How do you recreate the music live?
With great intensity…the vast majority of the parts of our songs are completely playable using keys and so on. We often have a violinist join us live too.

What’s been your favourite moment of the band so far? Have you had a favourite gig?
Recording the video in the monastery was pretty special. Something we’d always wanted to do. It’s definitely up there…
We supported Halls recently in Manchester. That was wonderful. The reaction we had to our set was fantastic. It was a joy to play.

Does something like illegal downloading bother you? Does it even effect you?
Well, we can’t say we’ve been directly affected. We’ve only put out one extremely limited 7’ single. Who knows though? I guess we may well be one day, and we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

Finally, what do you love about music?
The way it can influence and manipulate your every thought. A mood can swing either way, within seconds, because of something as simple as a song a few people wrote together through nothing more than a nagging urge to pick up an instrument and create something.

Tags: Embers, Neu

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