It's been a long time in the wilderness for Leeds four-piece The Music but if the reception they've received on their recent UK tour is anything to go by, you'd never know they'd been away.
When DiS caught them last month at the Leadmill in Sheffield, initial reports suggested all was not going well, as poor ticket sales on some of the far southernly dates and rumours of spats between their sound crew and those of support band Exit Calm gave the impression they were a band fighting for their very future in the last chance saloon. An hour and a half later, having witnessed their live show (not to mention the frenzied response of several hundred of their hardcore following) one thing seemingly clear is that The Music are as hungry and vitalic as they were when they first burst onto the scene at the turn of the decade.
Nevertheless, we're still intrigued as to what they've been up to between 2004's Welcome To The North and their most recent long player Strength In Numbers (review) and whether their next record will take so long in the making.
Singer Robert Harvey and guitarist Adam Nutter take up the story...
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It’s been almost four years between Welcome To The North and Strength In Numbers. What have you been up to in between times?
AN: We had become jaded by playing the same songs all over the world for a fair few years. We needed to go away and make music that excited us again.
RH: We also had a lot of things to sort out in our own heads and with our relationships as a band. That takes time.
Were you not worried that because of such a lengthy timelaspe some people may have forgotten who you were?
RH: At first maybe. Since the shows, though, I'm convinced that we offer something no other band does. Our music matters.
AN: It was always going to be an issue, but I think that we have a loyal fanbase that meant that whenever we came back we would have some fans to support us. Hopefully we can build on the momentum now.
Do you see the new record as almost like starting the band from afresh?
RH: Of course. We have changed and grown a lot as have the people who bought our first and second records. We have lots of work to do.
AN: It does feel like a different band now too. We are all better at what we do, and we get on a lot more as a band. We are excited about playing music again, and that was one of the main things that we had to rediscover.
A lot of the songs on the record seem to be coming from a very personal perspective? What were the main conspirators behind the likes of 'The Spike', 'Drugs', 'Inconceivable Odds' and 'Get Through It'?
RH: They’re about survival and beating self doubt and depression. Addiction is something that is mentioned a lot on the record, metaphorically and literally. I'm intrigued by the world’s dependencies.
AN: A lot of it is also about survival, especially 'Inconceivable Odds'. That song is basically us realising how important what we have together really is and how we felt like we still had a large obstacle to overcome.
Paul Hartnoll from Orbital was involved in the production of the record. How did this come about?
RH: We went into the studio with the songs complete. Adam had spent lots of time crafting and building the structures of the songs and I helped him by bringing most of the melodies and lyrics. We then needed someone who could help us further our vision and we felt Paul could do that.
AN: Our love of dance music and beats led us to him. We knew that he would be on the same page as us musically which is very important.
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Have the record label been supportive during your hiatus and do you feel under any pressure with Strength In Numbers in terms of hitting specific sales targets?
RH: At first I did set targets, but not anymore. All we can do is tour hard and create great music. The rest is out of our hands. Music and expression are my number one targets.
AN: The industry is a strange and lonely place sometimes.
In terms of your three albums to date, how would you rate Strength In Numbers compared to its predecessors?
AN: It is our finest work...
Welcome To The North received some harsh criticism from certain sections of the music press when it first came out. In hindsight, is there anything you'd do differently if the opportunity came around to re-record that album?
RH: We were rushed a little. I would have taken time to rest after loads of touring and more time with the songs. Maybe even with a different producer who understood our culture a little more.
AN: We would have taken more time to write more songs. We were definitely too rushed.
When 'Take The Long Road And Walk It' came out in 2001, you were seen as a breath of fresh air and hyped as "the new Led Zeppelin" among other things. Do you feel this kind of expectation ultimately caused the breakdown between Welcome To The North and Strength In Numbers?
AN: Not really.
RH: Ha Ha! No. It didn't help though...
One of the most consistent and thrilling aspects of The Music has been your live show. Do you prefer playing in front of an audience as opposed to working in the studio?
RH: They’re both very different but I enjoy both, with playing live just edging it.
AN: I prefer working in the studio personally, because there’s much more control and room for expression.
On your recent tour you chose to play smaller, more intimate venues. What was the key factor in choosing such places to play?
RH: We had been away so long that we felt it was right to start small and play to our closest fans, and then go from there.
AN: Exactly, we wanted to try and build up the live side of things slowly and not just jump in at the deep end.
Video:'Take The Long Road And Walk It'
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The Music have since been tagged, quite unfairly in my opinion, by some sections of the press as "lad-rock", probably due to the fact that you are a northern band and also because during your absence several bands (The Enemy, The Pigeon Detectives, The View to name but three) with similar influences have since broken through. How do you feel about being labelled and what are your opinions on those other bands?
RH: What we do is different to them. That's how I feel.
Having taken four years between your last and most recent albums, can we expect a similar time delay until the next record?
RH: We will not be away as long this time.
For more information on The Music visit their MySpace