Hurts talk new album Desire, self-producing and Depeche Mode with hmv.com...
Manchester pop duo Hurts have had a strange career. Consisting of singer Theo Hutchcraft and multi-instrumentalist Adam Anderson, they formed in 2009 and were only a going concern for a matter of months before they were snapped up by major label Sony, largely thanks to their debut single ‘Wonderful Life’ going viral on YouTube.
Their debut album Happiness was a big hit, selling over 25,000 in its first week and over 180,000 in all in the UK alone, the duo looked destined to be a big deal on these shores, but, as time has worn on and two more albums have come and gone, we seem to see less and less of them in the UK. Why? Because Hurts are massive in Europe.
Here they do pretty well and will headline Brixton Academy later this year on a December UK run, but when they visit Latvia next month they’ll play to just under 15,000 people, not bad when only two million people live in the entire country. Add to that a seven-date Russian arena tour and huge shows in Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania, and you get the idea.
Ahead of the release of their new album Desire, their fourth in all, we sat down with Hutchcraft and Anderson to talk about making the album, why they decide to produce it themselves and their own take on their massive European fanbase...
How did you want Desire to move on from what you’ve done in the past?
Theo: “We just some leads from the last album and found a thread to somewhere new. The albums are just a collection of the best pop songs we write in a year, there’s no agenda, no vision, we just try to write as many different sounding pop songs as we can and then bring them all together. It takes a route naturally because of our tastes at the time.”
How many songs did you have for this album?
Adam: “On the last record, we went a bit crazy, I think we ended up with something like 100 songs. This time we were a bit more concise, we had a lot less than that. The first record we had very few, I think we had 13 when we made the album, so it really varies from record to record.”
Theo: “We tend not to finish things if we haven’t got a good feeling about the song. We know ourselves well enough to know when something’s not going to work out.”
You produced the album yourselves, was that something you wanted to do?
Theo: “You gain confidence with every album and then you wake up one day and you believe you can do this.”
Adam: “We’ve got a very strong sensibility. It’s much more rewarding to take complete control and do it all yourselves.”
A lot of bands need producers for discipline, was that something you struggled with doing it yourselves?
Adam: “We do struggle to finish things. A lot of artists are great at starting things, being creative, but s**t at actually finishing them off. That’s when you need an adult in the room so it was a challenge to force ourselves to get songs finished.”
Theo: “With this band so much of it is just down to the two of us, our videos, our look, our album covers, we learnt, in the beginning, to be very self-reliant. There’s a lot to do and a lot of decisions to make, we’re just lucky there’s two of us and not one, you’d go insane.”
How easy is it to say to each other “I don’t really like that” when you’re writing?
Adam: “We usually know at the same time.”
Theo: “We’ve been writing songs together for 12 years now, most days. So we’ve spent a lot of time in each other’s brain. Even when we write separately we’re thinking about what the other person would think of what we’re doing. If it’s a ‘Yes’ then it’s ‘Yes’, but if it’s one ‘No’, then it’s just a ‘No’. There’s never battles, if one of you doesn’t like it, it goes on the shelf.”
What about the lyrics? Do you share them too?
Theo: “When we started it was very much a case of I’d do the vocals and Adam would do the music, but the years there’s been a lot more crossover. We help each other out a lot more.”
What kind of album is this lyrically?
Theo: “I’ve always thought of lyrics as words to songs, sometimes you need something poetic, some songs need more indulgent lyrics, but sometimes that’s completely inappropriate, some come from one line. Some of these songs are very personal, especially the ballads, but there’s never a thread.”
When did you settle on the title?
Adam: “We had it at the beginning. We like the album titles to be short and to have many meanings, desire is a word with a lot of darkness and a lot of light to it, it fits pretty nicely.”
Do you always have the titles there at the start?
Theo: “There’s never been any doubt about any of our album titles. It was the same for the name of the band. You just feel it, you hear it in the music, you sense the mood.”
You’re four records deep now, how will you go about choosing your live set?
Theo: “That will be hard. We write every song to be sung along to in concert and it makes dropping them hard. There are songs we’ve been playing on every tour that it might be time to dip out for a bit, or maybe not, maybe we’ll just play for longer?”
You’ve got a very established fan base in Europe, but there are any new places you’re looking to get to on this album?
Adam: “We’re looking at South America, we know we’ve got lots of fans there and we’d love to go. We’re looking to spend some time in North America, we’ve only done a handful shows there, so we’d like to dedicate some time there. Likewise Australia. Europe takes up so much of our time and we’d like to keep making music. Hopefully this time we’ll get to some new places.”
It’s been a strange career trajectory, being so huge in Europe and smaller everywhere else, it’s not something you could have planned for...
Theo: “It’s odd, but it is all we’ve ever known. We feel like expats, we always have. We got signed in Germany, our first hit was in Greece, we’ve got no other reference point. When you’re getting started you never imagine you’ll spend less time playing in the UK and more time playing on the continent, but it’s great, we love spending time in those places.”
Is there a band you look to in terms of how you manage your career?
Adam: “Depeche Mode. That’s the closest reference we’ve got. They tend to be big in the places we go to and they’re a big inspiration.”
Theo: “You can never plan for who's going to like your music. When we were first starting out we were just amazed people like us in London.”
Finally, are you already planning for what you’ll do next?
Theo: “Absolutely. We can work as we go. We’ve got a little studio to take with us and we wrote a lot of songs on our last tour. We’re never satisfied, there’s always more to do and say, we work a lot, but we love it.”