Elbow: We've never been a bitchy band

Elbow has achieved a lot as a band during their eleven year career. Composing five studio records which have garnered varying levels of critical acclaim, the Lancashire five-piece also have under their belt a BRIT Award, an Ivor Novello Award, as well as the 2008 Mercury Prize, amongst other accolades. But strip all of these things away and you're looking at five guys who've been friends since they were teens. This part of their lives has recently been put into music and released as the band's fifth album, Build A Rocket Boys!. The band's bassist Pete Turner checks in with The Dwarf to chat about the record (which, a few hours after our interview, was nominated for this year's Mercury Prize) and their upcoming spot on the Splendour in the Grass bill.


"I'm just walking down South Manchester with my daughter, we're going to get some breakfast." Turner greets me. "It's a pretty grey and miserable day, but that's Manchester for you." While I find this somewhat amusing as I'm wrapped up in layers of clothing to keep warm, Elbow's bass and keyboards man is quick to let me know that he's keen on getting over to Australia for some ‘sun'. "I'm definitely looking forward to it. It's [Australia] warmer than our summers though, so I'm looking forward to getting some sun over there."


2009 saw Elbow perform in Australia last at the V Festival and since then, they've ridden on the success of 2008's The Seldom Seen Kid, performing to sold out crowds all over the place. On the band's fourth album, Turner believes that the production process came easier than on that of their previous records, as it was produced solely by the band. "When we were recording the album, it was just the five of us in the room and it was like our room, so we just go to work every day and soldiered on. I'd never want to go back to being in a big studio again at all."The follow up record, this year's Build A Rocket Boys! seems to have had a similar aura continuing through the composition and recording process. "We were very relaxed and quite confident; we knew we didn't want to make a Seldom Seen Kid Part II. We wanted to write something that was completely its own album." Turner is quite adamant about this, even when I ask if there was any sort of pressure on the band, Guy Garvey in particular, in releasing an album which had the potential to either equal the same level of success as their last record, or even bettering it. "Each album we wrote, apart from Build A Rocket Boys!, was written under some sort of pressure. This was the first time there was no pressure and I think we all enjoyed that. It was a really fun period actually; it was fun from start to finish. Usually it'll start off fun and then you'll start losing your mind."


Build A Rocket Boys! is, apart from anything else, a snapshot of the band's childhood. This nostalgic theme is represented through Garvey's unique yet relatable lyrics, something Turner was impressed with. "I liked the fact he went back to childhood; it's nice because it's a period of time when we were all friends," he says. "We have the same opinions on most things, so you can pretty much guarantee that whatever Guy's writing about is something that we all feel. Each of the albums really does document a period of your life so it's quite lucky to have. You could only really be more specific if you kept a diary."


As a live act, Elbow have cemented their reputation as one of Britain's favourite live groups, a reputation that has endured the change in trend, from post-Britpop into this ‘new' sort of indie-rock. Turner muses this is down to the clear honesty and love the band show for their craft. "We do take music very seriously, but I think people see that we don't necessarily take life very seriously. I think people realise that the music is very honest and there's a lot of care taken when writing it, but we've never been a bitchy band. We're a fun band and I think people respect that."


The most recent example of how well Elbow go down in a live atmosphere was their set at this year's Glastonbury Festival, where thousands of fans went insane for them. According to Turner, it was just as special for the band. "It was like every gig we've ever done was working up to Glastonbury. We're never particularly nervous, we're always very excited, but there were definitely nerves going round between us. We had Jay-Z and Beyoncè watching at the side of the stage, it was surreal for us."


From Glastonbury to Woodfordia, Turner is nothing short of eager to come back and get into the Splendour atmosphere and the sideshows which Elbow will play while they're over here. "It's nice to play in the more intimate venues; I think it makes for a better gig. It's predominantly the last two albums, but we've got strings with us so songs like Great Expectations have been put in there, they work so beautifully with strings. So yeah, it's predominantly the last two albums with some bits and bobs of the other three.


With the band having to add a second Melbourne date to their run of headlining shows and hype building around their Splendour spot, I can only assume that there are going to be some pretty happy punters and band members alike at the end.


Elbow are performing Splendour in the Grass sideshows at the following venues:


July 25 – Metro City, Perth July 27 – Palace Theatre, Melbourne July 28 – Palace Theatre, Melbourne July 29 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Follow The Dwarf on Facebook

Comments ()