More about: Hurts
"We get to live what people perceive as quite an enigmatic life, and we have a lot of fun all over the world," smiles one half of Hurts Adam Anderson, as he turns to frontman Theo Hutchcraft to give a wide-eyed reflection over how far they've come since being on the dole in a Manchester shithole flat. "We do things that most musicians from the North of England never can, who else is doing the things that we are?
"It's exciting to live on the edge of what people know and what they don't know. What's the truth and what's not the truth?"
With Hurts, it is indeed a tricky one - they are a four-legged mystery. The last time we spoke to the band was as they were wrapping up the world tour for their huge second album, Exile - which in itself was a shizophrenic waltz being dark and light, between pop and goth, between the realms of Calvin Harris and Nine Inch Nails.
It's no wonder that, as they put it, they're 'a different band in every country'. Their image is of a dramatically sombre pop-noir militia, but as they sip coffee hear in West London and joke about Gareth Gates, breakfast cereal and 'sloppy seconds' with us, they're just two warm and human Northerners. Despite the toing and froing, everything they do is so 'Hurts' at its core. They've created their own universe - and we just live in it.
"That's perhaps the strangest thing about us," admits Hutchcraft. "People like to make stories and create - they have good imaginations. To let them run with it is a fairly fun thing. Perhaps it's better for people to create an identity that isn't real, than to give them every single bit of yourself. I'd rather people think I'm something that I'm not, good or bad."
Watch our interview with Hurts below
It's that mystery that makes Hurts all the more alluring - inspiring Beatlemania whenever they touch down in many parts of Europe and Asia. Make no mistake, a Hurts fan has a devotion like no other. They're not a pop band, but the hysteria that surrounds them may convince you of otherwise.
But if they want their true lives to remain under a thick black veil, how would they descibe their relationship with their followers?
"I'd like to think that they expect us to be true, and not dishonest in the music we make," says Theo. "We always have been. The first album all came out naturally, we never tried to hide anything and we wore our heart on our sleeve. That's what resonates with me as a music fan, honesty.
"Perhaps they like that they're their own little community of people. They're their own world, where they can welcome in who they like and kick out who they like. They're a gang. We've got fans in very interesting parts of the world where bands don't normally see reactions - that creates a reaction, whether they're in Siberia or South America. They're all a very similar kind of person, really. They're passionate people."
And what else do find kindred in their adoring masses?
"The type of person they are... they're like us, which is a great thing. It could be the other way around - you can't really choose who your fans are. We're lucky that we find a kinship in them."
Photo: Gigwise/Justine Trickett
And now we find ourselves at album No.3. Debut Happiness was a bold encapsulation of pop bravado and shameless melodrama, before Exile turned the band's most extreme elements up to 11 - opening up so many potential pathways whilst still sounding very much like Hurts.
Where does Surrender take them? Well, it seems like its a very literal title, which should give us quite a few clues.
"To me, it's about letting go of resisting things and approaching music with a bit of freedom," Anderson tells us. "With the last album, we ended up typically confined to a bedroom in Manchester. It got quite intense and we ended up writing music for a year. This time we wrote in different environments and different countries and only made music when we felt like it, instead of grinding it to the bone. That was a big thing.
"Ignoring anyone's expectations, and this is the most free we've sounded. There are songs we never thought we'd have written."
Indeed, despite the fact that Hurts are forever shifting shapes, more than a few eyebrows were raised when the dropped the Euro-pop banger of 'Some Kind Of Heaven'. They then went on to tease Surrender with the Depeche Mode menace of 'Rolling Stone', the disco shimmer of 'Lights' and the heart-wrenching piano ballad of 'Wish'. Few other bands would fit these onto the same record - but that's all part of Hurts grand design. Well, if you can call it that.
"When we started the band, we never had a plan," admits Hutchcraft. "We just set out to be a pop band and try to never be constrained by a genre or an identity. That was quite important to us. That was how we knew we'd be able to grow. We might have got to our third album, then been like 'what the hell do we do now?'
"We've always tried to put a few songs on each record that go far in one direction, like 'The Road' or 'The Crow' on the last record - very different to this record but they all come from us but it means that this record can sound like it sounds and still be a Hurts record."
Theo continues: : Essentially if it comes from us two, it's a Hurts song. They'll always sound the way they do and it's interesting from the outside because you're often a moving target for people. We navigate our way around this musical world and then people say 'oh, it doesn't sound like Hurts' or 'oh it does' and every time we put music out, there's always a strange reaction like that. It's been like that every time. When we put 'Wonderful Life' out, we put 'Blood, Tears And Gold' out as the next song and again 'it doesn't sound like them'. Then 'Better Than Love' - 'it doesn't sound like them'. Then eventually, the pieces connected. This time, it's exciting."
Photo: Gigwise/Justine Trickett
St Vincent said that her 2014 game-changing album was self-titled as she was inspired by Miles Davies who did the same when he finally made a record that sounded 'truly like himself'. If that's always the goal for an artist, have Hurts finally found their 'true sound' on Surrender?
"I don't think so," shrugs Hutchcraft. "I think our sense of adventure is as strong as ever. We always will try and keep it exciting for ourselves, but three albums in we at least know what the core of the band is. We've worked together for 10 years now so we can't really change, but we can navigate around that."
Adam interjects: "It's your entitlement as a pop band to be able to play with different genres. We've done that really from the start. That's why pop music is exciting, and it's also quite liberating for us to wake up and go 'today we can write any song we want and it can still sound like us'."
But Hutchcraft does admit that they have found a sense of closure on Surrender to open up the future: "Each album needs to be a coherent idea. Happiness is, Exile isn't but Surrender is. It's got an intent. It's got bookends so we can move on."
Adam sums up the band's current ethos in the most succint way he can: "The DNA of the band will always be the same. We have a system that works together, we know what a Hurts song is, and when you have those foundations, you can be a bit freer with it."
And here we are with Hurts in 2015 - their boundaries have been established, tried, tested and destroyed. The road is open, and seemingly never-ending. Where will it take them next? Well, that's all part of the mystery.
Surrender by Hurts is out on Friday 2 October. See Hurts' UK tour dates below. For tickets and more information, click here.
11 February - O2 Academy, Brixton
12 February - Academy, Manchester
13 February - O2 Academy Brixton, London
15 February - Den Atelier, Luxembourgh
17 February - A8, Brussels
18 February - Paradiso, Amsterdam
19 February - Palladium, Cologne
21 February - Kesselhaus, Munich
22 February - Maag Halle, Zurich
23 February - Alcatraz, Milan
25 February - Incheba Arena, Prague
26 February - Gasometer, Vienna
28 February - MTP2, Poznan
01 March - Riga Arena, Riga
03 March - Stereo Plaza, Kyiv
05 March - Crocus City Hall, Moscow
06 March - A2, St Petersburg
08 March - Hartwall Arena, Helsinki
10 March - Saku Arena, Tallinn
11 March - Compensa Concert Hall, Vilnius
12 March - Sport Palace, Minsk
14 March - Torwar, Warsaw
15 March - Tempodrom, Berlin
16 March - Schlachthof, Wiesbaden
More about: Hurts