Today’s Feature – June 14-15: Elbow

June 17, 2008 at 7:34 pm (Today's Feature)

Guy Garvey, Craig Potter, Mark Potter, Pete Turner and Richard Jupp of one of England’s most storied acts, Elbow, are also part of one of music’s greatest anomalies: Why the hell are Americans so unfamiliar with this phenomenal pop group? Led by unique and imaginative frontman Guy Garvey, Elbow has become one of the more influential acts across the pond, receiving endorsements from artists such as Blur, R.E.M. and U2. In fact, The Velvet Underground’s co-founder John Cale selected Elbow’s “Switching Off” as part of the BBC’s “Desert Island Discs.” This is only part of their story – their music, their fans and their unbelievable critical acclaim truly define Elbow.

Starting out in the early 90’s, the band didn’t release their debut album, “Asleep in the Back,” until 2001. The record took off quickly, nominated that year for both a Mercury Music Prize as well as a BRIT Award. “Cast of Thousands,” their 2003 offering, includes thousands of people singing during a performance at Glastonbury, “We still believe in love, so fuck you,” a sure sign their place in England’s music history was now set in stone.

Now following their third collection, “Leaders of the Free World,” Elbow has released their fourth studio record, “The Seldom Seen Kid,” totally self-produced, mixed and recorded without any other outside help. Guy Garvey says this record begins Òwhere the previous album leaves off.” Considered “a little more romantic and dramatic” it feels like the most complete collection of the bunch, a well developed, crafted, evocative group of tunes. The band enjoyed taking on all of the responsibility this time around, treating it as “a well kept secret you know people are going to like.”

Elbow will be hopping from festival to festival over the summer, so keep an eye out if you’re on that side of the Atlantic. They’ll be making a handful of appearances here in the states as well. Look into Guy’s television show, which can also be seen from anywhere online. It’s a music program, showcasing music that Elbow loves; this week is actually the US tour diary edition. So check it out. And get into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Elbow – Guy Garvey

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Hey Guy, how are you?

Guy Garvey (GG): Hey man, I’m good thanks.

PEV: I’m bouncing around the site right now, playing some tracks and reading (even) more up on the band. It seems that from the start being a musician was something you always saw yourself doing.

GG: Well, it was either that or act, actually. I originally got into music to show off and get attention, I guess. From a young age, I always acted out pop videos and saw myself as a potential singer.

PEV: Growing up in England, what kind of music where you listening to?

GG: A very wide and very diverse range… I’ve got five older sisters with very different tastes. They all wanted me to have a good taste in music. I didn’t so much listen to music as I had it drummed into me. So yeah, it was always going to be something like that.

PEV: What were the earlier days like for you in the music business?

GG: We would play these small pubs and clubs in Manchester (England) and there was more or at least the same excitement now as there was then. Even now when we are top billing on these festivals, there is no more or less adrenaline involved then when you were doing your first gigs in front of 15 or 20 people. It was amazing you know. That’s a source of pride and contentment.

PEV: When you first started out, playing clubs in front of 15 or 20 people, did you ever imagine that years down the road, albums down the road, you’d be where you are now?

GG: Yeah! Even when we were shit, which was like for six or seven years. We were awful but even then we were playing the music that we wanted everyone to hear. But you need that kind of blanketed self belief.

PEV: Tell me about the latest album, “Seldom Seen Kid”. What can fans expect from this?

GG: It’s where the previous album leaves off. For the lyrics, it jumps forward two and half years; all the things that have happened – people dying, break ups, all the things that people have really. But it’s perhaps a little more romantic than the previous record and more dramatic. I think of the four albums we put out, it’s the most complete. I’m proud of all of them but this is the best one in terms of “sit and listen to this for an hour and you won’t be sorry” sort of thing.

PEV: And you guys did this all yourself, with no outside involvement, right?

GG: I think that it’s so complete. It’s the only album that is to the exact minute detail.

PEV: Do you find it more trouble when you have outside influences when you are putting together an album?

GG: Well, it’s just a very different experience. When you get any of the people we’ve worked with before, it’s a very fulfilling experience. It’s never kind of mattered. I mean, no one or two of us wrote any one of the songs, it was all five of us writing them. It’s kind of… I don’t know how to put it… It doesn’t matter where the ideas come from, so it’s easy to invite someone in from the outside. But with this record, it felt better with just the five of us. Like a well kept secret you are working on and you know people are going to like.

PEV: When you sit down to write music, is there a certain kind of atmosphere or zone you surround yourself?

GG: Yes certainly, but you can’t put yourself in that zone. The best writers are the ones that write the most. That’s a simple equation as it is. Bowie’s brilliant because Bowie has written more songs than anyone else, so he’s got more good ones. The Beatles wrote the equivalent of a song a day for seven years. If you don’t have that work ethic, you won’t be as well known. We take twelve years to write our songs (laughs). We’re very proud of every single one.

PEV: How’s life on the road for the band? Good parts and bad.

GG: Fatigue. Constant fatigue. It can take its toll either way but it’s been great. We’ve got a big crew of people and we all know and love each other very much. We had a Bar-B-Que the other day and invited the whole town down. We got drunk and had some great food. It’s like what Granddaddy used to do on the road and we picked it up from him. Yesterday we went white water rafting so our days are spend fruitfully and wholesomely. The rest of the time is spent playing music and getting drunk (laughs).

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time?

GG: Um, we all do different kinds of stuff. Mark is a king fisherman. Pete loves sitting and watching crap television – he could do it for days. Craig pretty much spends his time with his kids. And I like hanging out with my misses and my mates. I got a show on the BBC as well.

PEV: Tell me more about the show.

GG: It’s two hours on a Sunday night. All about music, music I love, music I think you’ll love. You can listen to it online all week as well. I’ve filtered the music from like 40 suggestions down to 3 a week. I’m interviewing everyone from the guy that pulls wooden pegs out of the ground after a festival to Frank Black, it doesn’t really matter, just good music I like listening to. The one going up on this Sunday is the US tour diary edition.

PEV: What’s something we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Elbow?

GG: They’re all pretty accomplished break dancers.

PEV: Really? Do you bring that on stage too?

GG: Nope, never (laughs). Mark did a swan dive into a caterpillar on his wedding day – he said he was going to bust a move but he nearly busted a rib. Yeah, so there was an age when it was very big.

PEV: And being from Manchester, are you a Manchester United fan?

GG: Nope, don’t follow football. That’s a surprising fact. Maybe because we’re all crap at it. Well, Richard was quite good but no, I don’t really follow it.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career?

GG: They are fantastic, all wonderful and very interested. Yeah, they’re great. I got a big family with big characters and big hearts. They are all really proud of me.

PEV: What fans expect from a live Elbow show?

GG: Maybe a lot more interaction than you might be led to expect if you went off the music alone. And we have a laugh!

PEV: What’s next for Elbow?

GG: We got festivals this summer and then hopefully back here (the US) as well.

PEV: Well Guy, thanks so much taking time with us.

GG: Oh thanks man. Take care.

For more information on Elbow, check out www.Elbow.co.uk

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