More about: Editors
Editors’ frontman Tom Smith is sitting in his record label’s offices in central London discussing his band’s dark reputation. “Well, we are a dark band,” he says, edgily rolling up the sleeves on his t-shirt. “We enjoy being a dark band, we like expressing ourselves in things that are scary. That, for us, is interesting, that, for us…there’s more legs in that world than something that’s shiny and about nothing.”
Along with frequent musical comparisons to Joy Division (certain sections of the British music press have been known to call them “Boy Division”) and Interpol, dark is the label that’s been most-commonly associated with Editors – and particularly Smith – since their breakthrough album ‘The Back Room’ was released in 2005. And, as acknowledged by Editors themselves, it’s certainly a tag that can be used to describe the Birmingham band’s forthcoming third album ‘In This Light And On This Evening’.
Recorded alongside producer Flood, the album marks Editors’ biggest step into the world of electronic music - which, in a letter to journalists earlier this year, Smith said he wasn’t concerned if it alienated some of the band’s fans. Here the singer and Editors drummer Edward Lay talk about their new release, the media's expectations of their sound and their appearance on soundtrack to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
In your letter to journalists there was a line when you said 'In This Light...' might alienate some of you fans. Are you not worried about that?
Tom Smith: “No, you can’t worry about those types of concerns when you’ve in the middle of making a record really. We don’t get anything from just doing the same thing over and over again. There was a song we wrote called ‘No Sound But The Wind’ and we played it at festivals when we were between records and it was a kind of work in progress. And it was fine, it was good, it was ok, it was like more traditional, Chris [Urbanowicz, guitarist] was on guitar and…it was fine and that was like the very early beginning writing sessions but it wasn’t giving us that kind of buzz, that excitement that making music should have when you’re doing it.
“From that, it was like ‘This is OK guys but we’re not going anywhere different’. To make something different, to move forward is purely selfish because we get more from it – and I think making music has to be selfish to start with, you know.”
Did you not feel a certain pressure to repeat the success of your second album and first UK number one ‘An End Has A Start’?
Edward Lay: “Commercially? No, not at all.”
T: “We don’t wanna, like, sell no records and get dropped – but that’s it.”
E: “We worked on the songs and we had a lot of fun experimenting in the studio but we were very aware that we wanted to make an album that people wanted to listen to, not necessarily that would sell millions and millions of units, of course, why would you care about that. But as Tom says, you wanna vary on your career; what you’ve got. You’ve gotta keep people interested and by writing what we think are different songs and interesting good songs you’ll keep people interested.”
What was it like to work with Flood?
T: “It’s like, our world and his world, albeit he’s more experienced and been doing it for longer. The way we were moving with this record it was a perfect fit, a perfect fit in many ways. Not that all the band wanted to work with Flood to start with. It wasn’t until we met him that we were all kind of like this is the right man for the job. We just wanted to make the record really quickly and not agonise over drum sounds for days and not agonise over anything for days – just try and get some spontaneity into proceedings and just try and catch the band doing what they do and not just spending hours and hours and hours making sure everything was perfectly in tune and in time.”
All of your albums have shown progression – fair to say you’ve always aspired to have that in your music?
T: “Just to try and...yeah, do something different. It’s not like we want to do something different with every record, it’s just a slight shift in focus. There was quite a lot of electronic background to the first record and a couple of songs…I do think this record is linked stronger to the first record than to the second record – but that’s just the way it’s gone, you just do what feels right at the time.”
Do you think the media has accepted you as a band that want to experiment?
T: “Nah, not in this country. Some of them have, some of them haven’t, but that’s fine, you know. (Tuts and laughs) What can you say, you know? I think that in this country, especially, the media, some of it feels more cynical in general. Cynical whatever you do.”
Was it intentional to make ‘In This Light…’ an album fans should listen to in one sitting?
T: “Yeah it was. For people like us it seems the percentage of the music buying public – and I don’t mean people that read your website – the idea of sitting down and listening to an album is an old fashioned concept. It’s a format that is dying and I’m really sad about that, really sad about that. I think that’s terrible. We were in a position with this album because…contrary to the last record, we were more productive, more prolific song writing, we had twenty song so we were in a situation where we could pick what we believed to be the best album. An album that takes you on some kind of journey and all those cheesy things – different moods, different corners of the record – but only if you listen to it from start to finish do you get the most from it. I think it’s important.”
‘An End Has A Start’s’ lyrics were greatly influenced by what had happened to you personally and privately at the time of writing the record. ‘In This Light…’ seems to have gone in a more political way. Was that a conscious decision?
T: “It just creeps in, you know. Whenever it starts to feel forced and unnatural or you’re giving it too much thought I kind of get a bit scared – but you just write what comes naturally. And you’re right, there are two songs on the record that are more politically charged than Editors songs have been before, definitely directed at those in power any way. And the whole of the record, compared to the last record, I do feel like it’s more observational, again going back to looking at the world around you but also looking at people and singing about other people rather than myself.
"Talking about those songs off the last record for two years was hard work, draining. Even though I look back at those lyrics and they’re confused and they contradicted themselves in places but they did definitely deal with something that was very personal, very private.”
How did you come to be involved in the Twilight soundtrack?
T: “They asked us. They’d heard the song. I got an email from the director and he liked it. It’s a funny one, because the song was directly inspired by [2006 novel] The Road by Cormac McCarthy - and there were lots of very obvious references to the The Road. And the director came to us and just said, you know, I absolutely love it, but if you could tone down the references to The Road in some way? At first I was like fuck off, there’s no way. But I went back and I thought about the lyrics and I recorded it slightly differently and I actually think the lyrics flow better now than they ever did and it will now be on the film.
“Yeah, the soundtrack looks great to me. The films aren’t aimed at people our age but I look at the bands that we’re next to on that soundtrack and it’s just a good thing. It’s not selling out, it’s not putting your song on an advert or selling a product it’s just being part of something that, to me, as collective seems like a pretty attractive thing.”
'In This Light And On This Evening' is released on October 12.
More about: Editors