interview by Alexander Laurence
Elbow is a five member band from Manchester. Their debut record
entitled Asleep In The Back was nominated for 2001's
Mercury Prize. Three years ago, they received a recording
contract at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios by winning
a local battle of the bands. Island Records was caught up
in a merger and the album was never released. They went back
to their day jobs. In the meantime they released a few indie
Mark, Jupp, Guy, Pete, Craig
Last year, V2 Records finally took notice and signed them.
They currently have a hit record. The week that I spoke
to them in February 2002, their single was in the top 20
Elbow has frequently been compared to early Genesis and
lead singer Guy Garvey sounds like a young Peter Gabriel.
They also evoke Prog Rock bands of the 1970s. Many people
have compared them to Radiohead as well. Their record is
full of influences and has the weight of waiting ten years
to do a proper record.
I found the band to be very approachable. They look like
regular guys and seem close and friendly. You would hardly
think that they were in a band.
I had a coffee with them recently before a show at the
Virgin Megastore. It was a great turnout for a band that
most of us in the States have only heard about in the past
three months. We huddled around a table and talked about
their new record.
Guy Garvey: vocals
Pete Turner: bass
Mark Potter: guitar
Craig Potter: keyboards
Jupp (don't ask us.... he's a one-namer) drums
You guys are really a band. You have known each other for
a long time.
Guy: It's been the
same band for eleven years. We can't compare this to any
other situation because none of us have worked with anyone
else. Maybe it would be good to work with others but maybe
we were really lucky to find each other.
AL: You have known
each other for a long time and you come from the same neighborhood?
Guy: Mark and Craig
are brothers and Pete and Jupp are practically brothers.
The four of them went to primary and secondary school together.
I met Mark in a class at art college.
AL: Did you guys grow
up listening to Stones Roses and Happy Mondays?
Guy: When we started
that scene had already happened. It was great. The Stone
Roses are still great to listen to.
Craig: We were more
into The Happy Mondays.
Did you go to the Hacienda?
Guy: Yeah. Our tour
manager, Tom, used to do the sound there. We did the last
show there before it closed down.
Pete: Yeah we did.
Nothing to do with us. It was an accident.
Mark: It was a Tuesday
night. It was a club called Stone Love. We just happened
to be the last band on.
AL: Then they ripped
the place apart once you left the stage?
Guy: We started it
didn't we? We took some bad mushrooms and started it all
by tearing a few planks off the main stage. The manager
said let's do the whole thing. Then it closed down. That's
a true story.
AL: Do you guys do
drugs before a show? If you are the drummer it's probably
a bad idea?
Jupp: Yeah. It's very
Craig: We have shots
of vodka and orange, or vodka and coke.
Mark: We drink. We
don't really do drugs and then play.
Guy: Drinks and sleep
deprivation are our drugs of choice. We find it hilarious
when we don't have any sleep. We are dead looking.
AL: I guess that when
you played in LA there was overcrowding and a riot. The
fire marshal came in and kicked out some people. Was the
band that was scheduled to follow you (South) even allowed
Craig: South got to
play but to about a third of the audience. We had to cut
our show down three songs. It was irritating. It works better
AL: You won a battle
of the bands prize to record at Peter Gabriel's Real World
Studios and Guy has been compared to Gabriel vocally. Are
Guy: We recorded the
first record at Real World Studios. I am more into Peter
Gabriel than the others. I like the early Genesis. They
were like storytellers. I read somewhere about a guy who
called himself a music psychologist. He reckoned that the
stuff that you listen to between the ages eight and eleven
has the most influence on you. In my case it's true. I used
to sing along to Peter Gabriel's solo records during that
time. I thought that he was amazing. The first Phil Collins
album has a song that is the musical blueprint for "Newborn."
It's a song called "Entangle." The structure of
the song and the arrangement is taken from a Phil Collins
song. I enjoy that. Many artists who are really shit have
maybe one or two great songs. It's a shock to find. Even
Howard Jones has done a good song. It's called "Don't
always look in the rain." It's a diamond in the dogshit.
AL: What do you think
of people comparing you to Radiohead?
Pete: I love Kid
A and Amnesiac. It's like our music in that it's
late night music. You put it on when you want to feel a
certain way. It's a certain vibe and a certain mood.
AL: Who writes all
the songs in Elbow?
Mark: We all do. We
work at home a lot on multi-tracks. Come up with ideas and
AL: Was the album more
schizophrenic in that way since there was more than one
Guy: Definitely. More
than that because it's very eclectic in the way all our
separate music influences come about. Some songs remind
people of Radiohead. Other songs remind people of DJ Shadow
or Triphop. You are hearing those songs on their own out
of context. It also took six years to write. We only stay
with one style for so long. The album is about where we
are from. It was all about our frustration living in our
hometown. We wanted to do something else.
Craig: It's also the
same thing with the production. We keep it interesting by
not recording it all in one studio at one time. We are used
to that because we were dropped by an earlier label and
we had to go back and record the same songs. We used about
six songs form the Real World sessions on the new album.
Guy: Anything that
we didn't use that was on the first album became a B-side
somewhere else. They were all worthy of being album tracks
at one point. We wanted to make sure that they got out there
at one point. We didn't want to leave Island Records anything
valuable in their vaults.
AL: They could have
released that eventually in spite of your success. Since
there are so many songwriters in the band, you must have
a second album already planned or demoed?
Jupp: We have a lot
of ideas lying around.
Mark: We are looking
forward to recording and getting into it again. We have
a working title "Inventions."
AL: Your single "Asleep
in The Back" is in the Top 20 this week. What was it
like being on Top of The Pops with all those pop stars like
Kylie and Robbie?
Guy: Yeah. We had a
live vocal and the band was miming in the back. Since we
weren't playing live we had four mates from home behind
us playing the brass. We didn't use the musicians on the
record. Everybody has a big grin on their face during the
performance. It was fucking great. I rang up my mate Neil
at work and said: "We have been talking. Do you want
to be on Top of The Pops with us?" I told him to take
a day off. He told the manager to fuck off.
Craig: We were on with
Westlife. Shaggy and Ali G. were also there. Ali G. was
funny about a year ago. Now he's boring.
AL: Who does the Elbow
Craig: We are all involved
Guy: There is a message
board. We reply to all emails. We reply to everyone. We
are all getting our own pages very soon. We are going to
update it all the time and that should be amusing. We are
bound to trade insults for days.
Pete: They'll be a
competition who hits who's page the most.
Mark: Maybe it's not
a good idea.
Guy: Pete, what's your
Pete: Fuck off!
AL: Which bands have
you played with the past year?
Guy: Doves, Trail of
Dead, Mercury Rev, and South. Also Electric Soft Parade.
They just released an album.
AL: Do you have any
Guy: Sleep deprivation.
Jupp: Tea and cigarettes.
I plan to go fishing. Hopefully we will have some time off.
Craig: Watching TV.
Guy: Wanking each other.
AL: You guys are close.
Mark: Skiing. (laughter)
Pete: Naked cycling.
We have stills of the naked cycling.
AL: What drives you
Guy: Money and greed.
AL: Do you like Video
Guy: I am addicted
to Grand Theft Auto 3.
AL: Any messages to
the fans out there?
Guy: Thanks for buying
AL: Any advice to people
who want to make music?
Guy: Do it yourself.
Do it yourself as long as you can. Promote yourself. Make
your own records on your own label. Don't mess around with
record company people.
-- Alexander Laurence