With three platinum albums and several million record sales to their name, Editors can rightfully claim to be one of the UK's most successful guitar bands of this century. While many of their contemporaries from the early 2000s have since fallen by the wayside, Editors have grown in stature, particularly in mainland Europe where their pulling power is only too evident, especially when it comes to the festival circuit.
Later this evening they'll headline Holland's Best Kept Secret. Beforehand, DiS caught up with the band's rhythm section - bass player and founder member Russell Leetch, and drummer Ed Lay. In just over a week the British public will vote to leave the EU and change the course of history in the process. Here, Leetch and Lay discuss the importance of Europe for a band like Editors, while revealing their plans for album number six.
DiS: Are you looking forward to headlining Best Kept Secret this evening?
Russell Leetch: Very much so. We played a new festival in Madrid a couple of days ago called Mad Cool. It was really great. We had a big crowd. The Spanish know how to party, so we had a really good time.
Ed Lay: Madrid hasn't had a good festival for years, which is a shame as for us, the Madrid crowds have always been among the best show-wise. The Who were on when we drove into the site.
Russell Leetch: It's a good mix between new, current, old, and Spanish acts. They did it well. It wasn't just predominantly American and UK artists, which sometimes doesn't work.
Ed Lay: Tonight's our first headline show of the summer, so I'm really looking forward to it.
Russell Leetch: The Dutch have always been good to us. Even the showers seem bearable. I don't mind the rain that much. I remember watching Spiritualized play at the Eden Project in the pouring rain, and it was just magical.
Do you prefer playing European festivals to UK ones?
Russell Leetch: A little bit. Generally, yes. We have a better time over here. We've spent loads of time in Europe.
Ed Lay: We've toured here a lot.
Russell Leetch: We have a really big fanbase over here.
Ed Lay: In the UK we've got a few festivals lined up. Y Not should be an interesting one because it's quite different in terms of size. Victorious at the end of August too. We're not doing the usual ones on the circuit this year. We've done the likes of Reading and Leeds quite a few times now, and while it's great to play to so many people at those events, they can also get a bit tedious.
The audiences at events like Reading and Leeds aren't always necessarily there to watch bands or listen to music either.
Russell Leetch: I think that's got lost a bit with festivals in the UK since we started. It's become more about going to a festival to have a good time with your friends, and say you were there, rather than go and watch bands. Whereas with somewhere like Best Kept Secret, we heard great things about how the audience are really into their music. We got asked to do it last year but had other commitments.
It's certainly one of the most vibrant festival crowds I've ever witnessed.
Russell Leetch: That's something we've noticed whenever Editors have played over here. We did Pinkpop a few years ago and went on quite early - about 3pm - yet still managed to fill the tent, which felt really great. Whereas if you're a new band going on at a similar time in the UK, chances are very few people would make the effort to come and watch you.
Are European audiences more receptive to your music than those back home?
Russell Leetch: I don't know. It's hard for us to say because our last UK tour was really good. We've established a loyal fanbase, even though the BBC and most of the national media have stopped supporting us. The fanbase has stayed with us which is a good thing. All of the shows ended up selling out so we couldn't really have asked for more.
Do you tailor your setlists specifically towards the audiences at wherever you're playing?
Russell Leetch: A little bit. We played a boutique festival in Denmark recently, so we dropped 'Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool' in favour of something a little more apt. Usually, the setlists follow a similar pattern. There's always a few tunes that will change around, but generally for a tour or particular run of dates they'll stay the same.
Ed Lay: We go to some places like Belgium where they love the third album, or Spain where they love the second record.
Russell Leetch: So before the Madrid show we knew we had to play songs from An End Has A Start rather than primarily focus on the new album. To be fair, most of the new record has gone down great wherever we've played it, but there have been times when we've looked back after a show and thought maybe we shouldn't have done that. The set feels great at the moment. We'll play the main ones off of each record, then maybe three or four from the new one.
Ed Lay: We've created a really good atmosphere on stage. There have been times in the past where that hasn't been the case and we've had to try to create something that just wasn't there.
Is it difficult choosing what to play and what to omit? Are there any songs which are unlikely to feature in the sets any time soon?
Russell Leetch: I get bored of playing 'An End Has A Start'. That's the only one where I'll vociferously say: "No, I don't want to play this tonight."
Ed Lay: We knocked 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors' on the head for the last tour. We'd become really tired of it, but having gone back to it, we've grown to really like it again. Maybe having some time away from it gave us a boost, but it's become one of the focal points of the set again now. 'Bullets' is the one for me that I wouldn't be upset about if we never played it again. We've played that song literally thousands of times.
Russell Leetch: That's been out of the setlist for a while now. It might come back one day, but not for the foreseeable future.
You recently supported the Manic Street Preachers on their Everything Must Go 20th-anniversary tour. How did those shows come about, and how do you feel they went down with the Manics audiences?
Russell Leetch: Pretty well actually. We heard they can be notorious for giving support bands a hard time. Our press guy used to work for them, and said he'd seen some bands treated horrendously by diehard fans at the front. They were really receptive, so hopefully liked us a lot. Maybe they see the same dark strokes in us as they do the Manics? The shows came about because the Manics asked us to do them. It was a bit of an honour, as Everything Must Go was one of those records we were constantly listening to as teenagers when it first came out. Sometimes it's good to play to a different audience that isn't your own. It can open things up a little bit.
Do you see any similarities between the two bands in that there are Editors fans who like the first two records, but might not be as fond of the last three, in the same way the Manics have their pre and post Holy Bible fanbase?
Ed Lay: Possibly, although I think there's more a longevity factor with both bands. The Manics have always been a career band who are fully committed to what they're doing at that time. They like to make different records as they go along, and I'd like to think we've got that same mentality when it comes to writing music.
Russell Leetch: No it's good. We're both just constantly trying to evolve and put out good records. Nothing's ever changed for us in our mentality since we started. I think that's why it puzzled people in the UK when we first came out. A lot of people were unsure of us from the outset.
I don't know. I guess you already had Interpol doing a similar thing at the time, but I also saw similarities between Editors and REM back then.
Russell Leetch: Yeah, we'd definitely take that. When we went on tour with REM in 2008 it was a massive thing for us. For them to like our records, and then invite us out to play shows, was a vindication of sorts in what we were doing. They ended up being REM's last shows and it was a massive learning curve for us. They were just so humble and cool. They'd come out for dinner with us after each show.
Ed Lay: And they were just superb every night.
Russell Leetch: We ended up getting plastered! We'd drunk our rider. All of it. Watch two and a half hours of REM and then try and be sober whilst having a conversation with them. It didn't matter. It's not that often you have the opportunity to get stoned with Mike Mills!
Ed Lay: We've been lucky with supports. They've made a big impact on our careers. Like the Franz Ferdinand one in 2005, when we were just starting out. That really catapulted us into the mainstream. We were lucky at the time as guitar bands were in vogue. We definitely caught that wave. Then the REM shows came about, and we did a couple of dates with Muse as well. We've always accepted opportunities like that whenever they've been offered. It's got a bit of gravitas.
It would be fair to say your sound changed quite dramatically from An End Has A Start to In This Light And On This Evening and then even further with The Weight Of Your Love and more recently In Dream. What influenced those changes in direction?
Russell Leetch: In Dream was just more of a reaction against The Weight Of Your Love I think. With that, we'd gone to Nashville and wanted it to sound like a real band so we recorded it all to tape with real equipment, and we were adamant there'd be very few layers on it. Tom always writes in the same way, so from that aspect the songs themselves are quite similar. But with In Dream we really wanted to experiment more, so we set up and it was quite an open studio. The control room was in the main space and we had this sound tech working with us who's been around for years. He'd worked with New Order from the start, and had a lot of different synths. So he just set up this little world of his and we started playing around. We like using synths and machines, so that's how In Dream came together.
Alan Moulder worked on the record. How did he become involved and what did he bring to the process?
Russell Leetch: We never actually met him! He just basically mixed it. We did everything else ourselves then sent off the tracks to him. We initially sent him three tracks after our first session - 'Forgiveness', 'No Harm', and 'Life Is A Fear' - and they came back sounding exactly how we wanted them to sound. He not only adds that grit, but also a certain pop polish as well, so we thought great, let's keep emailing him the tracks when they're done. The mixes would come back and there'd be hardly any revisions afterwards.
Ed Lay: We didn't want it to get to that stage where there were sixteen revisions down the line. We wanted him to put his stamp on it, and he knew what we were after. He essentially likes the same music as us.
You mention In Dream being an experimental record. Do you see yourselves going back to a more live sound with your next record?
Ed Lay: Our current live set up is a hybrid version of where we are as a band in the studio. For example, there's live drums but also with samples reacting to it, which gives the overall sound a rough edge.
Russell Leetch: Sometimes it can be a bit tricky trying to get certain tunes to work live. 'Ocean Of Night' off the last record took a long time for us to get right from the recording to how we play it live. We knew we had to do it because it was one of the biggest songs on the album.
Ed Lay: It's been re-envisaged for the live set rather than just being a straight take of the recorded version.
Russell Leetch: We like doing that. We like thinking about reinventing the songs for a live audience, especially when Justin (Lockey) and Elliott (Williams) joined the band. Some of those older tunes like 'Munich' really lifted off again. With that song, the keyboards really lift it now. Whereas before it always used to go down a little bit flat. It's an exciting song for people in the audience to hear, so they carry it, but for us on stage it was often quite flat.
Rahi Rezvani has been working with you on a lot of the visuals for In Dream. How did he become involved? Do you see yourselves working with him again in the future?
Ed Lay: We met him here (in Holland), in Utrecht. He was introduced to us through a friend who did some choreography for one of our videos, so he came and photographed us at one of our shows. And I've never seen a live photographer do what he did. He just came on stage, stood right in front of Tom (Smith) and started clicking. I could see the looks on the faces of people in the front row, as if they were saying: "What the fuck is going on here?!?" He just didn't give a shit. It was amazing, and we just knew from that moment on he was someone we wanted to work with. He has a really clear vision about what he wants, and actually writes stories around our songs about what he thinks they mean to him.
Russell Leetch: We've been looking to work with someone like that for ages as well. We've not enjoyed working with a lot of photographers, as they tend to turn up with their own agendas and come across all Johnny Big Balls, whereas Rahi is really humble. It's just great hanging out with him. It's rare to find someone in that field who shares the same aesthetic.
Rachel Goswell from Slowdive sings on the album. How did that come about?
Russell Leetch: Right from after we made In This Light And On This Evening, we'd looked into working with a female vocalist. We had a few ideas, and then it turned out one of our managers was also looking after Slowdive and Rachel also happened to be a big fan of Editors. She had all of our records so it made sense.
Are there any plans in place for album number six?
Ed Lay: We've just booked some studio time for a number of weeks after the summer. It's basically a rehearsal space just outside of Oxford. We're going to finish these festival dates first. We've literally got tonnes to do - it's probably our busiest summer ever - which is good because last year we didn't do any. We're playing a lot of weird and wonderful places this year; tomorrow we play a festival in Russia with Rammstein.
Russell Leetch: We need to get back in the studio and be creative. Our last record was such a big step for us. Doing everything off our own backs and making our own decisions. There are about twelve songs that are roughly in some type of format, so we're going to get working on those as soon as the festival dates come to an end. Then we'll see where we are before Christmas as to whether some of these songs will make it onto a record, or whether we would like to bring in a producer.
Will any of the new songs make it into the live set before the end of the year?
Russell Leetch: Actually there's one called 'Pulse' we're playing tonight. It's quite long at the moment so I expect it will be shortened by the time we come to record it.
Ed Lay: I was thinking exactly the same thing! We have always had a slight tendency to over elongate our songs.
Russell Leetch: I remember the first demo of 'Munich' being six minutes and twenty seconds long.
Ed Lay: It's just our natural vibe!
Russell Leetch: We'd get in the studio and the engineer would ask us to cut out little instrumental bits. We've never been ones to rush anything!
Last year was the 10th anniversary of your debut album The Back Room and next year is also the 10th anniversary of its successor An End Has A Start. Will you be doing anything to commemorate either of them?
Russell Leetch: No, not really. We had a new record out last year, so wanted to support that rather than focus on a record that's ten years old. It's great that people do want to celebrate those records though. They've soundtracked a lot of people's lives. We just bumped into Kele from Bloc Party, and were just saying there are only a couple of those bands from 2004/5 that are still actively touring and putting out new stuff. Trying to create new things. We recently did a signing session for the new album, and this lady came along and told us she gave birth to her son while listening to An End Has A Start. I wonder what the pop out moment was?
"You came on your own..."?
Russell Leetch: Ha Ha, who knows!
Are there any new bands you're particularly excited about at the moment?
Russell Leetch Ulrika Spacek are one of the best new bands I've seen recently. I'm expecting really good things to come from them. And I've just bought the new Samaris record which I really like. They're an Icelandic trio.
What advice would you give to new bands just starting out?
Russell Leetch: Stand by your guns, play a lot, and believe in yourselves.
Ed Lay: Always keep writing.
Russell Leetch: Just try and better yourselves and enjoy it. Also, don't tend to think of it as a living. Ed Lay: Also, come over to Europe. Especially if you're a British band. Don't just confine yourselves to playing in the UK.
Next week, the UK votes whether to remain or leave the European Union. What impact will that on bands like yourselves if they decide to leave?
Russell Leetch: It will have a massive impact.
Ed Lay: I cannot honestly imagine it not having a massive impact.
Russell Leetch: Just around things like obtaining visas and work permits for a start. The UK is thoroughly depressing at the moment. It feels so backwards, a lot of the things that are happening. Even in the football, with all the hooliganism in France. It's 2016 and we're all separating and fighting against each other. Not good.
For more information on Editors, including forthcoming releases and tour dates, visit their official website.