Interview The Boxer Rebellion: Doing It For Themselves

The Boxer Rebellion have recently started ‘doing it for themselves’, having secured a HMV deal where they’re essentially helped with marketing and costs but generally allowed to do what they want.

The Boxer Rebellion

have recently started ‘doing it for themselves’, having secured a HMV deal where they’re essentially helped with marketing and costs but generally allowed to do what they want. The product of this partnership - album ‘Union’ - is out now (buy it here), so what better time to catch up with guitarist Todd Howe?

Well, it’s certainly been a busy year for you lot! How have things been going?
It’s been a great year for us. If you asked me this very same question a year ago I’d have avoided it at all costs, we had some pretty dark days even as recently as that. The mayhem pretty much started then when we got a message from Damon Marzano at iTunes saying they wanted to do a promo for us for the new record. Then it came out in January and its been pretty flat out ever since. We’ve done some interesting stuff this year. Becoming the first unsigned band to break the US Billboard Top 100 was an amazing feeling. Being able to help make a change to the UK album chart rules was an achievement too. There seems to be no shortage of people wanting to help boost the band’s popularity. First the iTunes-exclusive release of ‘Union’, and now the wider-scale physical release through HMV. The latter of these ventures has certainly proved a success.

What was your reaction to the response you got from HMV? Releasing with their backing is certainly an interesting route to go down…
It’s never been done before and for us it seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do, and its been a completely transparent relationship as well. HMV have been great to us, as has iTunes. Most record labels here put us in the ‘too hard’ basket because we don’t fit into the usual flavour of the month radio marketing model. Its nice to know there’s people out there like HMV that see the potential of music like ours. For us they’ve completely removed the obstacles for us which means people can make up their own mind. We’re hoping other artists will take this route and understand that there are other ways of doing things rather than the traditional ways.

Are you feeling the pressure to re-coup the funding they have advanced you?
No not at all. There is no advance.

Hmm. Have you had to make any compromises as a result of the deal?
No. HMV have given us as much freedom as we need. That is truth - I certainly don’t kiss ass.

Ok ok, so there aren’t any disadvantages! Anyway, a tour of the U.K. and Ireland begins this month. Have preparations been going well?
We’re really looking forward to it. We’re going to bring out some tracks we haven’t played before and some ‘old’ tunes aswell. We may even play a new track which you’ll see on album three. It will be good for the fans and good for us, something fresh.

That sounds good. Where is the band’s sound headed for album three? Have you had many ideas knocking around?
There are a hell of a lot of ideas. I’m really pumped about the ideas we’ve got. I think sound will change. We’ve done two albums using exactly the same equipment so it’s time for some new equipment. All of our shit is falling apart anyway.

If you got the chance, among the wealth of non-album material The Boxer Rebellion have released, are there any songs in particular you’d like to re-record?
Probably a lot of them. There are always a few that we really liked but the recordings just didn’t work out. It’s mainly because we don’t have the luxury (or money, rather) of re-doing them. I guess ‘The Rescue’ is one. We always wanted to incorporate parts of ‘Palisade’ into another song but it’s just sadly too hard now. We’ve done three versions of ‘Watermelon’ and ‘In Pursuit’.

I see that [in the last fan mailout] some records that the band have been listening to of late were listed. Are there any albums from 2009 that have particularly impressed you?
Doves - ‘Kindom of Rust’. It’s so fucking good it’s not funny. Am eagerly awaiting the new Biffy record. It takes a lot for me to listen to anything usually.

What would you say your favourite moment of band life has been to date?
There’s a few gigs that really stand out. A lot of the London shows, that crowd has ridden the journey with us all the way. The LA Troubadour and Mercury Lounge shows were very much a standout, as was the Warsaw show with Editors in 2007 (proper nuts) and the last shows we did in Cologne, Vienna and Bristol. My favourite moment - it would have to be the vindication I felt after Union was released that first week.

And to finish, what would you say your favourite The Boxer Rebellion song is overall?
It’s still ‘World Without End’ from ‘Exits’. As an artist there’s not a thing in that song that I would change, which is a rare thing.

You can watch a video for the band’s single ‘Flashing Red Light Means Go’ here.

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