In part one, Tom Smith, front man of Editors discussed the making of their forthcoming album In This Light And On This Evening, in part two he delves deeper into the songs, the lyrics and the reactions to the band.
Dom Gourlay, DiS: For me, the new record definitely feels more sound, as opposed to song-based.
Tom Smith: I’m not sure about that to be honest, as we probably had more songs and ideas to pull from while making this record than on either of its predecessors. I’d like to think our songwriting has improved over the years, and hope it shines through on the new record from beginning to end.
DiS: Did you ever feel under any pressure that you have to maintain the sales you’ve achieved with those first two records?
TS: I guess we are, but its one thing I try not to think about when I’m making a record. The moment you start to worry about whether or not a song is capable of shifting enough units you begin to lose focus, and on a personal level I could never envisage having to work like that. However, record sales are falling through the floor and that makes it tougher for bands, particularly those on major labels where the emphasis is on profit but from our point of view, I’m not worried about it because I honestly think we’ve created the best record we’ve ever made, and even though at the back of our minds we do sometimes wonder if other people will like it, I know its something we’re proud of regardless of how well it does commercially.
DiS: I guess for a band who are seen as part of the mainstream yet in an alternative kind of way, this is by far your least commercial sounding record to date. Are you worried that some of your long-term fans may not get what In This Light… is about and desert the band?
TS: I’m not worried because I fully expect some people who’ve liked what we’ve done so far to not be as fond of this record, whereas by the same token this album might appeal to some people that weren’t fans before. Its swings and roundabouts and you would go insane if you tried to worry about it too much. I think we’ve always been non-commercial in the sense that a lot of our lyrics are dark, nasty even, and I love the fact that through the music we make we’ve been able to get that kind of message into people’s homes. That’s another thing Flood taught us; he’s not about making art for left-field’s sake, he actually likes making dark, interesting music and doesn’t want it to be inaccessible and I think there’s a beauty in that. Its like with the song on the album called ‘Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool’. I’m not being entirely serious with the lyrics in that – its my rubbish, sick sense of humour I guess – yet that image on face value is pretty gross, despite being wrapped up in possibly the most ludicrously full-on pop song we’ve ever written.
DiS: There’ve also been several references made to the ‘Terminator’ theme being influential to the album.
TS: Yeah, those references came directly from us. You sometimes read things about yourself and think ”Hang on…I never said that” but in this case it’s all true. As we started to work on the songs and a more electronic feel filtered in, I saw a correlation between the music we were making and watching films like ‘Blade Runner’. By saying that, I mean both the Vangelis score and the way the film paints a beautiful if bleak depiction of the future. Our songs also began to remind me of that feeling in a way and then having those images in your head when you’re writing gave me the impetus to create music to images rather than words. It was quite nice being able to work in that way, and then as soon as Chris started writing on keyboards as well it reminded me of ‘The Terminator’ theme in that a bleak, almost sci-fi theme was creeping in, and I think we all saw a link between that kind of world and the record we were making.
DiS: I guess that’s the beauty of ambiguity in that every person has their own interpretation of what a song means to them.
TS: Precisely, and that can be traced back to the way we write in that both the song structures and the words come together at the same time. Sometimes I might get a line or a chorus in my head and I’ll go away and try and create a melody around it first and then I’ll try and write some words around it and then in the meantime one of the other guys will come up with another melody or some music to fit alongside it. That’s where the last record probably differed from the other two in that was mostly inspired by things that happened to me or around me, and it felt very personal, whereas this one feels like I’m observing other people or imagining characters. It was hard work doing interviews towards the end of the last record, very draining in fact, so I’m not sure whether or not some of those thought processes cept into the initial songwriting stages with this record.
DiS: Does it irritate you that people literally dissect and analyse your every lyric?
TS: Oh God yeah, it’s like some people just want to pull it apart, pull it apart until there’s nothing left. Everyone is different, same as you were saying earlier, so everyone wants to take different meanings from different lyrics, but you know, I wouldn’t want my heroes like Thom Yorke or Michael Stipe to sit down and give me a detailed explanation of every single thought that was going through their heads when they wrote a particular song. Personally, I’d find that boring. I think being in a band almost gives you a creative licence to be ridiculous or get carried away, but that’s not to say that certain moments in songs aren’t inspired by events that are very real to you or have a personal meaning behind them.
DiS: I think it’s a shame in a way, because when people are in that kind of analytical mood they tend to miss the humorous elements within the songs, particularly where the two artists you’ve just named are concerned.
TS: Yeah definitely, I mean, I sometimes get accused as a lyricist of taking things too seriously, and maybe to an extent that could be true but when all’s said and done, I don’t thinking I take my words seriously enough really! If that is a criticism that’s labelled at Editors then fine…
DiS: You’re off on tour at the beginning of October right the way through to the middle of December. What can fans expect from you and the band this time around?
TS: Well, the plan is to change the set pretty much every night. The live show now will be a lot more varied and split between the new record and a lot of the older songs that people will be more familiar with. I think it’s a good thing that we have enough material to mix it up every night because it not only gives the audience a few unexpected surprises, but it also keeps it fresh for us. We were really inspired by REM when we toured with them. Modt stadium shows can seem really calculated and superfluous but the REM wasn’t enormous production wise, there weren’t any all-guns-blazing hi-tech props or extravagant themes. Instead, it was more about them enjoying being a rock and roll band and delving through different aspects of their amazing back catalogue at every show playing their songs and loving every moment of it.
DiS: The fact the UK leg of the tour was pretty much sold out months in advance of any tracks appearing online or elsewhere shows you’ve got quite a loyal fanbase, not to mention a buzz of anticipation around the new record.
TS: It does yeah. It’s amazing that the tour sold out so soon without anyone hearing ‘Papillon’ or indeed any of the new material, and then if you look at some of the dates in Europe they sold out even quicker. We’re a lot bigger in other parts of Europe than we are in the UK…
TS: Yeah, there’s an element of the media here that like us and another part that doesn’t, and that’s cool, but sometimes those that criticise us are more intent on belittling the band rather than actually offering a critical assessment of our music. It’s almost as if they feel the need to review us based on who they think we are. Compare that to Europe where we still divide opinion but the difference is they’ll explain why they don’t like us in an intelligent manner rather than by way of childish insults.
DiS: You’ve led me onto my final question. It’s fair to say that over the years you’ve enjoyed something of a love/hate relationship with Drowned In Sound. I remember a few years ago you posting on the Music Boards in defence of your band after some particularly negative comments. Do you still get irate about these kind of criticisms and in hindsight, would you go down that route of responding in such a manner again?
TS: I tend to switch off from the forum type comments now. I try not to pay any attention to those any more. The worrying thing is that I see that kind of thing seeping into music journalism in this country especially, that whole moronic, childish, belittling of acts rather than just saying why they don’t like something in an eloquent and professional manner. Some of the worst comments I’ve seen about our band are on You Tube; they’re hateful, really personal and unnecessary. It’s crazy when I think about it as all we’re doing is making music, and I don’t understand how it can provoke such a nasty response. It’s not about whether people like or dislike the band, it’s more about crossing that line where people sometimes take us, and themselves far too seriously. Going back to Drowned In Sound, we’d just flown into L.A., it was five in the morning and I was jetlagged and I read those comments on the forum and I responded which I shouldn’t have done and did it in about five minutes when I was really pissed off and then the next day after I managed to get some sleep regretted doing it but at the same time reading stuff like that does hurt, but I can definitely say I wouldn’t do anything like that again!
DiS: Sometimes the forums here can be like a pack of vultures waiting for their next feed but to be fair, everyone from artists to the writers and even the founder of the site has come under attack at one point or another.
TS: Yeah, there is an elitist attitude at times, but I guess that is the nature of any serious music publication. I still read Drowned In Sound a lot and its one of the few places where I still trust the reviews and agree with generally, but I suppose you can’t please everyone all of the time. If you could, who would you be?
DiS: The Beatles maybe?
TS: My dad hated The Beatles so there you go!
Editors will be playing the following shows in the UK and Ireland throughout October:-
1 London Oxjam Launch Gig (venue tbc)
7 Belfast St George’s Market
8 Dublin Olympia
9 Limerick Dolans
12 Edinburgh Picture House
13 Glasgow Barrowlands
14 Newcastle Academy
16 Manchester Academy
17 Leeds Academy
18 Norwich UEA
19 Bristol Colstan Hall
21 London Hammersmith Apollo
22 Sheffield Academy
23 Nottingham Rock City
25 Wolverhampton Civic Hall
26 Southampton Guildhall
The album In This Light And On This Evening is released through Kitchenware Records on Monday 12th October.
If you missed DiS meets Editors Part 1, click here to read it.
Photo by Holly Erskine from Latitude 2009