"We've made this sort of dark cartoon album..." hmv.com talks to The Coral
When they first burst onto the scene in 2002, The Coral were at the vanguard of a resurgence in British guitar bands and their debut was a critical and commercial success, earning the Liverpool sextet a Mercury Prize nomination and being certified platinum in the UK. Five more albums followed in the next few years, until the band went on indefinite hiatus after their sixth album, 2010's Butterfly House, to concentrate on other projects.
In the six years that have elapsed since then, guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones left the band and, in 2014, the remaining members decided to release their 'lost' album, The Curse of Love, recorded eight years earlier but shelved when the band changed their minds about the album's direction. For a while though it looked as though this might be the last time we'd hear 'new' material from The Coral.
But then in November the band suddenly announced that a new album was on the way, releasing a new track 'Chasing the Tail of a Dream', accompanied by a psychedelic new video. With their other guitarist Lee Southall opting to extend his hiatus a little more indefinitely than the rest of the band, the remaining members recruited guitarist Paul Molloy to fill the shoes of their pair of departed axemen and today (March 4th) sees the new album, Distance Inbetween, arrives in stores (you can preview and purchase the album at the top-right of this page).
We caught up with keyboardist Nick Power for a chat about the new album and why the band decided the time was right to return...
So, it's been a while... what have you all been up to in the last few years?
“There's been quite a few little projects going on, I mean we weren't like banned from seeing each other or anything, we all played on each others' solo stuff. So it wasn't like we were coming in cold when we reconvened.”
When did you start seriously thinking about making a comeback?
“It was after we'd got about three or four tunes, we thought 'f*ck it, this is an album now'. It wasn't just a directionless little project we were working on, it was starting to shape up like an album, but it wasn't planned that way really. I didn't expect it to be so soon, I thought there'd probably be a longer wait but, in the way that it always has done, the songs kind of dictate what the band does.”
So when did work actually start on the new album?
“It was only about two years ago, maybe two and a half. We had a few songs written and we went and rehearsed them a little bit, but [new guitarist] Paul Molloy wasn't even there then, it was just the three of us. So we had about five or six songs, we didn't rehearse much more at that point but the songs kind of spoke for themselves.”
This is your first album with your new guitarist isn't it? How did Paul get involved and what does he bring to the band?
“He just did a few rehearsals with us and then did a lot of work in the studio. He's just a really good guitarist, he understands where to play in a song and where to leave it, he's got a really good style. I'd always liked him, he was playing in our drummer's band, so there was already an established working relationship there, it wasn't like drafting someone in.”
It sounds like it's all happened quite organically, was there a specific idea about what you wanted to achieve with this record? It seems like you've ramped up the psychedelia aspect of what you do...
“Yeah, we haven't really brought that side of the band out too much on the last couple of albums and psychedelic music is in pretty good health at the moment. We hadn't explored that for ages so it was fun, we had these new synths and we've made this sort of dark cartoon album. We were listening to a lot of British psychedelia, loads of European stuff too like Krautrock, early to mid-period Pink Floyd, that kind of thing.”
Where have you drawn inspiration from for this album, lyrically speaking? You mentioned making a 'dark cartoon album' and we'd heard you've been reading a lot of Alan Moore...
“Yeah, yeah, but that's always been a constant really. There's one that everyone loves called Hellblazer with this psychic detective John Constantine. And he's from Liverpool too! So loads of stuff like that, sci-fi stuff, but also loads of American, kitchen sink type stuff like Raymond Carver that I really like.”
Have you had a chance to play the new material live yet?
“We haven't done any gigs yet, no.”
So will the new live shows be mainly the new stuff or are you going to mix it up a bit?
“Oh, it'll be a mix, yeah. You can't really do that to people, haha! No, you've got to mix it up a bit haven't you? So it'll be a bit of everything.”
What are your touring plans for the new record? Are you doing any festivals?
“We've got some UK dates and then some in Europe – Paris, Amsterdam and then three or four in Germany, but that's it really for touring. We're headlining Sound City in Liverpool, as for the rest I'm not sure how much I can say really, I've been b*llocked before for announcing things before they've been announced, haha! I didn't know! So, yeah, you'll have to wait and see.”
Can you tell us a bit about this 'cassette tape amnesty' you're doing?
“We just thought it was a fun thing to do. We always used to make mixtapes as a band and pass them around, we did on this one as well. We make compilations of stuff that we're listening to, just to give us an idea of the sort of colours you want to use in an album or whatever. I don't know how many people still do that, I mean we always used to do it on tape as well, it's like a dying art form innit? You can make playlists or whatever but it's not quite the same, you don't get to make the cover or anything.”
So people basically send you the worst cassettes in their collection and you wipe them and record the new album on top, is that how it works?
“Yeah, that was the idea, send us your really sh*t ones. Some people were getting the hump about it! Like 'I'm not sending you my mixtapes, they're very dear to me!” and we're like 'alright, we're not forcing you!'”
Have you been sent any shockers? Do they send a track list and stuff?
“We haven't had 'em yet, they're coming soon. I've got to get the cassette machine out and sift through 'em all.”
So what happens next? Is the band everyone's main concern now?
“While it's happening, you can't really do anything else, it's all-encompassing. I do a bit of writing here and there and I thought I'd be able to sort of balance the two, but no, it's impossible.”
After this round of touring though, do you think there will be another album as The Coral?
“I don't know. As I said before, it's the music that dictates it, there's never, ever been any sort of long term plans, it's all just done on feel, really.”
Distance Inbetween is available in stores now.