“We’re going to be defined by the challenges we face in 2020…” - hmv.com talks to Boston Manor
Blackpool punks Boston Manor have always been a band with big ambitions.
Right from the opening chords of their snarling debut album, Be Nothing, they’ve established themselves as a band whose passion and energy is matched by precision and sophistication.
That’s never been more evident than on new album GLUE, which arrives today and is available to purchase from hmv’s online store by clicking here.
Recorded in New Jersey’s Barbershop studio with Taking Back Sunday/Brand New knob-twiddler Mike Sapone, the album finds the band in confident and assertive form.
We spoke to frontman Henry Cox about experimenting in Texas, returning to New Jersey and why he couldn’t get the word ‘Glue’ out of his head...
When was this album written? Are you collecting songs on tour or do you need to be at home to write?
“The best way to describe it is that we try and keep things moving on tour. But it’s unrealistic to write in the same way that we do when we’re at home. You get ideas down and you work on them in the breaks you get from touring. This record’s writing period was about six months in all.”
You worked with Mike Sapone, who did your last record, why did you decide to stick with him? And did you always want to go back to New Jersey to work?
“It was more a case of don’t break what’s doesn’t need fixing. We actually did a session in El Paso, in Sonic Ranch, before we went to Jersey. We did two songs there and then we decided to go back to the Barbershop. We felt at home there, it was cosier and more like the way we like to work. We re-recorded the tracks there.”
What’s Sonic Ranch like? There are some great stories about that place…
“It’s incredible. It’s this huge complex and there are so many artists coming in and out all the time, you sit and have breakfast with some amazing people. We missed Bon Iver by a day or so. It’s this old pecan farm, which is right on the Mexican border, and you have to drive between studios. We had a fortnight there and it was incredible to work there. I’d love to go back there and do a full thing.”
What does Mike give you? His history is pretty illustrious, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, but what’s he like for you guys?
“It’s quite weird. I grew up listening to his records and being in awe of those bands, and now he’s one of my close friends. But he’s such an incredibly talented guy and a very warm person. We’ve found each other at an interesting point in our careers. We were from that world, but a lot of our key influences are very electronic, Aphex Twin, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, which is not something he was well versed in. But he absolutely brings the best out of us.”
In what way?
“He knows so much. Quite often you’ll be banging your head against the table in frustration about why a track isn’t working. And he’ll say ‘Right, here’s a Duran Duran song, it’s got a similar tempo and a similar drumbeat to this, and here’s why it works’. He’s very analytical and you learn so much.”
Does he work quickly or do you end up doing a lot of takes?
“He’s not a guy with a method like that. You don’t feel like anything’s unnecessary, but, at the same time, we’ve spent days and days on a part of a song. He doesn’t f**k around and he does pull out of holes. We can get obsessive and lose focus and he’ll stamp that out pretty quickly.”
How’s living and working in New Jersey?
“It’s really interesting. It’s this little town called Hopatcong, which is on a big lake. It’s very Twin Peaks. There’s a bar, a gas station, a diner and a fire station and that’s basically the whole town. We didn’t have a car, so we were quite isolated. We were actually snowed in while we were making Welcome To The Neighbourhood. We couldn’t go anywhere for three weeks. It made us a bit crazy, but it also made us really focus. It was very much like The Shining, we’ve actually nicknamed it The Overlook.”
It sounds very much like America from all Bruce Springsteen’s songs…
“It is very much Springsteen’s America, especially in the summer. It’s all speedboats and keg parties by the lake. There’s no big industry, it feels quite working class.”
It’s a 13-track record, is that slimmed down from a much bigger pool of songs?
“We ended up writing two albums and shelving one of them. So it was a big batch of songs in two very different camps. We’ve pressed on with GLUE and put the other one aside. We only recorded one set of songs, but the others are still very much alive. GLUE just felt more pressing and more relevant.”
Were they split into two obvious camps?
“Totally. We knew which songs were meant for GLUE and which weren’t. They’re quite different, they sorted themselves out. Mixing them together would have felt like a playlist rather than a proper body of work.”
What kind of records are they lyrically?
“GLUE is quite grand in scale, whereas the other songs are a bit more focused and small. It’s much more focused. They’re both quite diverse, but GLUE is everything, it’s angry, it’s about being people being disenfranchised, the negativity surrounding the world.”
“‘On A High Ledge’ is about male suicide and toxic masculinity, ‘Playing God’ is about the Christchurch massacre, ‘1’s and 0s’ is about how the numbing effect of the internet. It feels very, very now. We’re going to be defined by the challenges we face in 2020.”
When did you settle on GLUE for the album’s title?
“Originally I wanted to call it Ratking, then Glue Trap, but I kept looking at the word ‘Glue’. Have you ever looked at a word for such a long time that it doesn’t look right any more? Like it’s been spelt wrong all along? In some ways, Glue is a nice thing, repairing things, sticking together. The record has quite a positive ending, about bringing people together, solidarity. It’s going to take a lot to bring people together after such a divisive few years. Maybe that’s hokey, but I just really liked it.”
In terms of your live plans, it’s all up in the air now…
“Our tour’s gone to August, who knows if that’ll stay the course?”
What do you think you might use the time for?
“I’m always writing, I’ve not stopped since Christmas, so I’ll try and really focus. I hope it’ll be a positive thing. It is going to be frustrating though, you’ve got all the songs and you’re desperate to play them for people…”
A lot of new records will be out next year, all being written now…
“Seven months from now you’ll get a glut and it won’t stop until the winter. Hopefully. Maybe everyone’s just binge-watching. We’ll try and do some work anyway…”