News Reading & Leeds Festival 2009: Manchester Orchestra

With Reading & Leeds Festival just days away, we caught up with a few of the bands playing to see how they’re getting on, what they’re currently up to, and what we can expect from them over the festival season.

Following their appearance on Friday (Reading) and Sunday (Leeds), Manchester Orchestra will be heading off on tour with Biffy Clyro. They’re also releasing anew single, ‘I’ve Got Friends’, on 31st August.

So, how have the last few months been for you? I mean, the second album’s out, and you seem to have been touring non-stop in support of it. Have you been enjoying life on the road?

The last few months have been great. After such a long break making the record, being back on the road has been kind of nice. Touring is definitely more difficult than sitting on our butts in the suburbs, but we’re finally seeing some of the fruits of our hard work. We’ve been able to sell out shows all over the U.S. and the U.K. and Australia, which is something we never thought we’d be able to do as a headlining band. It should be a fun year, for sure.

Speaking of touring, a quick scan of the tour itinerary over the rest of the summer and into the autumn shows that you’re supporting bands as diverse as Silversun Pickups and Brand New. How do you feel about that?

We’re really excited about being able to hang out with the Brand New crew again. They took us out years ago and it’s finally come together that we can tour with each other again and we’re pumped. We’re out with Silversun and Cage the Elephant right now and we’re having a nice time, for sure. Everybody’s really nice and that’s the most important thing on a tour. No matter how diverse the music is, as long as everybody respects each other and treats each person with kindness, it’s easy to have a good time. Plus, the change in scenery of bands makes it easier to step out and watch everybody else’s set every night. You get to pull from so many different genres of music.

Another band you’re due to support is Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro on their Oct/Nov UK tour. What was the reaction in the Manchester Orchestra camp when you got the slot? The Biff, as they’re referred to by their fans, aren’t all that well known in the States, did this have any bearing on how you felt?

We’re so excited about seeing the Biffy guys again. We got to tour with them in the states a year or so ago in support of Say Anything. They were second of four bands and we were direct support. When we found out how huge they were overseas we were just blown away. We were stoked to hear that they wanted us to come out with them again. We really really respect those guys and what they do, and as it turns out, they’re the sweetest group of guys in the world. My mom checked out their website and simply described them as ‘wild’. I love that cause they’re so chill offstage. We definitely feel blessed that they thought of us for this tour and we can’t wait.

Certainly you’ll have Biffy fans attending the shows not knowing who you are. So, to aid the uninitiated, could you describe the band’s sound, as best you can?

Like Biffy, but it takes us adding two more members to get anywhere near as loud as they are. But we’re trying.

I’m particularly interested in the band’s writing process. How do your songs usually come about?

The songwriting process for us is pretty simple: Andy comes into the practice space with a song on guitar, and then we all sort of sit around and change it a bunch. We all just sort of bleed into the song and write our own parts. After about an hour of that, we all just sort of say, ‘Well that sounds badass. Let’s have a beer and catch up on each others’ lives.’ Once we’re in the studio we just try and add a bunch of harmonies and ambient noises to fill out the space and get the right sounds and that’s about it. I think if we tried to write in the studio we’d end up taking five times as long and getting frustrated and lost. I never understand how people do it in pieces, my brain just isn’t that big to do something like that.

Has the third record been started, in any shape or form, or are you waiting to get a little more touring out of the way before thoughts turn to new material?

Andy’s always writing, so yeah I guess it has. We just started renting out our own studio space in Atlanta and we’ve demo-ed stuff. It’s great to have a space that we can all come to and just sort of mess around. Hopefully after this crazy touring cycle we can come home and pump out some new stuff because I think that’s where we really thrive. We’re all really creative people and we definitely love creating new things. I think we’d all melt if we couldn’t write new material by the beginning of next year.

Could you say who your favourite new bands at the moment are?

I’ve been getting more and more into Grizzly Bear. They were a band that I sort of wrote off a long time ago, but I couldn’t really ignore the beauty of this newer record. J (our bass player) got me into the new Phoenix record and I’m excited to see what those kids in Paramore come up with for their new stuff. Oh, and the new Eels record.

What albums have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been working on a mix for my friend who’s moving to Idaho, so I’ve been going back through old nostalgic records like Modest Mouse’s The Moon and Antarctica, and The Rolling Stone’s Exile on Main Street and stuff like that to put on there. Dr. Dog will always have a place in my heart as great and Ponytail is a fun band to wake up to. Not so many new records, I think our band tends to go backwards and listen to records that everybody else already knows is great. It feels like we’re always trying to play catch-up with stuff like that because we weren’t allowed to listen to non-Christian records growing up. I didn’t hear Radiohead until I was, like, 15. Damn shame, it is. Damn shame.

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