“You need to keep yourself interested when you’ve done as many albums as we have…” - hmv.com talks to The Coral
Scouse psychedelic pop collective The Coral have had a strange career.
First formed in 1996, the band had six very quiet years before landing with a bang with their 2002 self-titled debut album and its blend of swirling psychedelia and Beatles/Beach Boys esque choruses. Lead by hit single ‘Dreaming Of You’, which cracked the Top 10 and remains a staple of any indie disco to this day, the album went Top 5, scored a Mercury Prize nomination and took the band into huge venues.
The next four years saw the band in prolific form, producing five new albums over the next seven years. But in 2011, after the touring for their sixth effort Butterfly House ended, the band went quiet and headed off on hiatus, focusing on solo projects and production with other artists.
Then, in November 2015, the band announced their return after and plans for a new studio album, Distance Inbetween. That album was well-received and has galvanised the band into a new force, one that returns again this week with a brand new album, Move Through The Dawn.
As it arrives on shelves, we spoke to The Coral frontman James Skelly about how it all came together...
When did the songs for this album start coming together? Did you start putting together the songs for this LP while you were touring Distance Inbetween?
“We’d actually written another album in the same vein as Distance Inbetween and we were about to go in the studio to record it, but then we realised we were playing it too safe. I think we were swayed by how well the last album got received and just wanted to do Part Two.”
What did you do instead?
“We thought ‘What if we do the complete opposite?’. We went back to melody and pop songs. We used that as a basis for the new material and we got to work, it took us about six months after that.”
Why did you decide you needed to scrap all that material?
“You need to keep yourself interested when you’ve done as many albums as we have. You need to challenge yourself. If you don’t challenge yourself you get bored and you become unaware of what it is you’re doing.”
Last time out you were coming back with your first new album for six years and a new line-up, are things more settled now?
“We had a lot of missed time and it feels like we’re a fully functioning band for the first time since the first album. Paul Molloy, our guitarist, he joined during Distance Inbetween, so this is the first album with a settled line-up since the first one.”
You said you wanted to go back to melody and pop songs, why did you decide on that direction?
“I wouldn’t say pop, if you think of Dua Lipa as pop and what pop is nowadays. I mean more classic songwriting and focusing on melody. When you think of The Coral you think of harmonies and you think of melodies and I hadn’t written songs like that for a while. It was like going back to the way you’d write when you first write a song when you’re very young.”
You’ve worked with Rich Turvey, who helped you produce the Blossoms album, what does he give you as a producer?
“We work well together, he’s really good, we’re good mates and he’s a real natural. Rich is young and hungry and up and coming. All the people we’ve worked in the past have been older, music veterans, which was great, but we thought we’d try something new.”
What kind of album is it lyrically? Is there a theme?
“There’s a loose theme, it’s trying to find something real when the world is getting more digital. Sometimes you forget to look at the sky. Sometimes the sky can be more psychedelic and more moving than anything you can see on a screen. How we’re becoming dehumanised.”
Is that where the title came from?
“Sort of. It’s reaching out for a friend. How much better it is talking to someone and trying to find some common ground rather than arguing about it on Twitter.”
How are lyrics for you more generally? Are you always writing things down?
“No, it’s all in my head. It’s all there, song titles come to me and I often work backwards from there. Sometimes we all get in a circle and something comes out. You need titles that sound good and are easy to sing. I can’t write like Arctic Monkeys and Father John Misty, I can’t write down specific things, it sounds ugly with my vocals. I’m a bit in awe of that way of writing, but it just doesn’t suit my voice.”
What kind of set are you playing live? You’ve got a fair few records to choose from...
“We try to do the ones that everybody knows, the big singles, then we’ll do some new ones and we’re doing a Yardbirds cover, ‘Heart Full Of Soul’, then we mix and match the old ones to go with the core set.”
Is it fun picking out old songs and bringing them back?
“In a way, sometimes you play an old song and you think ‘Why didn’t we record it like this?’. We play a song called ‘Something Inside Of Me’, which is from Invisible Invasion and it’s so much better than how we recorded it.”
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
“We’re going to Spain and then Scotland and Ireland, a little mini Celtic tour, then after that, we’ll see where the album takes us. If the demand takes us anywhere else, we’ll do it. We’re trying to get that kind of demand again.”