Interview Manchester Orchestra: ‘We Really Worked Our Asses Off’

What do you think when you hear the word cope? Ask Manchester Orchestra.

“Some people would say drugs,” begins Andy Hull, the frontman of Manchester Orchestra, who have brandished that very same word across their forthcoming album. “Some say trying to be happy, some are trying not to be sad. It’s all different things, and that was so cool to me, that word is so interesting to me.

“I wanted to call the record ‘The Way That We Cope’,” he further explains, ahead of their fourth record’s release, “from the last track on the record, but that just never sat right. Then I had this idea to have a t-shirt that just said ‘Cope’ on it, in black, bold letters on white. Once we saw what that looked like we saw the power of this sort of propaganda. Then, we asked people what the word means and every single person gave a different answer.”

Manchester Orchestra are no strangers to bold sentiments. With their debut album ‘Like A Virgin Losing A Child’, the young Atlanta group delved into issues of mortality and religion; with ‘Mean Everything To Nothing’, their lyricist attempted to deal with the troubles of responsibility, and becoming a man. Their last offering ‘Simple Math’ was, in his own words, “cut the chest open and see what’s inside.” With their newest full-length, he decided to make things a little more universal, but just as bold as ever. “The lyrics are based on much bigger, larger thoughts; bigger life things and relationships. With ‘Simple Math’, there was way more detail, but this is far more broad strokes. With these lyrics, I wanted them to mean a bunch of different things to a bunch of different people.” Just like the title emblazoned on the album’s sleeve.

Making a record more universal wasn’t the only challenge that the band set themselves. Following on from their last effort, a meandering journey through intricate soundscapes which showcased their skills above and beyond their rock and roll gusto, this time they were going to go big; they were going to go loud.

“We’ve always really prided ourselves on making the exact record that we want to make without compromises. ‘Simple Math’ was a record that was exactly how we wanted it to sound. We were really specific with trying to broaden the palette of instruments and movements that we hadn’t really done before, and it felt really fulfilling. I think it was a kinda confusing record for some folks at beginning - it’s certainly a growing album and we knew that. So, when it came time for this new record, we felt that the thing we really hadn’t done was create something that was incredibly aggressive and straight forward, but that was still complicated. This record is almost the anti-‘Simple Math’.

“Our second record ‘Mean Everything To Nothing’ was certainly an aggressive record, but it still sounded very crisp. The drums were loud but the guitars were really never where they are when we play them live. It really had a lot to do with our live show, and the fact that we would listen to our old records and say, ‘Oh, this is what people think that we sound like’, but actually, if you’ve seen us live, we’re far more aggressive, and sort of brutal. People aren’t used to hearing records with guitars turned that loud, and for us, we wanted to push the boundaries and make something that doesn’t sound like anything else.”

Returning to their home of Atlanta, Georgia back in 2012, the band bought themselves a house, gutted it and set about making it into their official headquarters. Taking the reigns on producing the album themselves also allowed for their vision of volume to lie more within their own hands.

“The way we did it was that we recorded four different guitar parts for each part and then blended them all so at any given time, there’s like ten guitars playing on this record!” he laughs. “We tried to use the guitars as much as percussion and as much as the beat as the drums were. We wanted it to be this really moving, syncopated wall of sound.

“When some bands decide that they’re going to go and make a record by themselves, it can kinda get weird and spacey. For us, it was like, ‘Let’s get to the first verse immediately, let’s get to that chorus immediately, let’s make sure that intro, that verse, that chorus are the best that we’ve ever had.’ We really worked our asses off.”

Despite having never fully ventured into territory so loud – so “nasty” - before, Hull was clear upon one thing: he wanted the lyrics to remain just as important as the sonics. That was something he was going to do through the art of subtlety. “For me, one of the wonderful juxtapositions of the album - while recording the vocals and writing the lyrics - is that it would’ve been easy to scream all over these songs. I screamed a lot in ‘Mean Everything To Nothing’ but I really wanted the vocals to have this wonderful volume and performance to them, that sounded like really great singing. We doubled every single vocal on the record to try and give it that crazy feeling.”

And that’s where it comes full circle for ‘Cope’. Named after a word so intricate yet so direct, it’s an album that’s loud on the surface but bears many different elements. Something that provokes so many different reactions and interpretations, but is as simple and instinctual as coping itself.

“We have the luxury as a band to actually enjoy our first three records, so there’s pressure to continue a legacy with a fourth album. I think that there’s some part of us as human beings that, when you’re challenged, or when things don’t seem like they’re going well - especially for this band, when we’ve been kinda stuck in a place where we’re unsure about what the future’s gonna be - I feel like that’s when the best stuff happens because there’s pressure. For us, it was like, we could try and make another ‘Simple Math’, but really, what we should do is make what we want to make, and what gets us excited.”

Manchester Orchestra’s new album ‘Cope’ is out now via Lomo Vista / Favorite Gentlemen.

Taken from the new, free DIY Weekly, available to read online, download on Android via Google Play, or download on iPad now.

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