Gino DePinto, AOL Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra and singer-songwriter…
- Posted on Jul 6th 2011 10:40AM by Theo Bark
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While Manchester Orchestra's third studio record may be unified by Hull's thematic struggle to make sense of his life, his career and his marriage, it's not as much a traditional concept piece as a 10-song dialog between the harrowed frontman and himself.
The descendant of two generations of Southern ministers, Hull has said that he has "constantly questioned my beliefs, trying to find the truth," using his music "to explore how that faith stretches and challenges me to be a better man." His recent work is clearly the product of this pursuit.
Pairing sprawling, emotional ballads with upbeat ragers, 'Simple Math' is a revelatory exploration into the mind of a 20-something husband in a touring band, crowing one minute about "alcohol, dirty malls, Pensacola, Fla., bars" then drifting into guilt-ridden concern: "My daughter, she barely eats, she barely sleeps, she barely speaks." The record features Hull at his most bruising and honest, over some of Manchester Orchestra's heaviest, sweetest grooves and is certainly their most ambitious and impressive effort yet.
The band recently stopped by Spinner's Los Angeles studios for an Interface performance. We sat down with Hull and multi-instrumentalist Chris Freeman to discuss the album, the band members' relationships and Lady Gaga's Amazon success.
This album is described as a concept album, how is it a concept album?
Hull: I mean, it's just about me and it's about grand, kind of like ... I almost feel like I wish we never would have told anybody it was a concept record because they all think it's like all creepier and stuff. People don't really understand how ridiculously descriptive some parts are of real moments and real scenarios and people and parties that actually happened.
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Freeman: Like the situation of walking into the nail [in 'Pensacola'].
Hull: Yeah, like walking into a nail in the parking lot. That actually happened to me. Things like that, it's like every single line on the record is meant to be said, so I guess in that sense it's meant to be conceptual. As far as a story, it's about me putting back together a lifestyle that we had gotten into, which is basically just touring and drinking and getting fat and not caring about other people. And then my wife was going through a very similar kind of life. Just life-changing stuff, man. It's like, f---, anybody that writes a concept record about getting married at 21, then they know what I'm talking about, and those that don't can pull from it. In some ways it's like I don't care that people know it's a story about me and my wife re-finding this love for each other. Maybe people think it's cooler if it is [a concept album]. It gives more mystery.
Freeman: It's about a guy in the woods somewhere.
Hull: Yeah, it's about a dude in the woods [laughs].
Freeman: Finds a polar bear.
Hull: They're like, "It's genius!"
Freeman: "Hull's done it again!" [Laughs]
Hull: Also, it's like we've been in a band together since we were 14. When's the last time I brought a song that wasn't s extremely personal to the table? I don't think I ever have. That's what I write music for.
You guys grew up together and played in a band forever, so what kind of input does the band have? it's not just the emotional stuff ...
Hull: I think it is the emotional stuff. That's how we influence each other, by being close friends, being people that actually care for each other and love one another. That's how our band survives, by having five people that actually influence each other on an emotional level. I'd say far more emotionally than musically. We are a band of guys that don't really know how to play our instruments. We all just taught it to ourselves. When I asked Chris to join this band, he didn't play keyboards and he's been playing with Manchester now for five years, six years. He was the drummer in our first band, but I didn't ask him to be in the band because he was good at playing instruments. That's why bands break up. I wanted him because I loved hanging out with him every day. It made it easier if you were in a band.
Being in a band with your best friends seems tough, though. What happens if these guys get mad because Andy writes all the songs?
Hull: That doesn't happen.
Freeman: Yeah, no [laughs].
Hull: That would never happen in our band just because it's very clearly what it is. I mean, I started this thing and they're not going to take it away from me. We're all part of it together. We share it. And the other cool thing is, we've never had anything -- I've never had anything against somebody else bringing songs to the table. It's not like some rule of Manchester Orchestra that I have to write all the songs. It just so happens that I have.
Freeman: Yeah, we've had multiple songs where it's like, "Hey, can we use that? Do you mind if we use that verse from this song?"
Hull: Yeah, because like Chris and Robert are both in bands that they're the songwriters for and singers for, and I'm in both bands, so there's times where I'm like "Man, we should use that part. Do you mind if I sing over it?"
You're playing Lollapalooza for the fourth time. You played five years ago, probably to a lot less people. How do you feel?
Hull: I feel like its taken six years. At the end of it, it's like kind of surreal because it all passed so quickly. It's like we lost six years of our life. I have no idea where it went. It's really cool to see the reward. No one knew who we were. The festival didn't believe we were playing when we tried to get into Lollapalooza the first time we played. It took us four hours to get inside the festival, and we were playing. That's just the way we've done it. It's slow and steady, and it's grinding. It's kind of a new time in music where it's the wild, wild west and we can make up our own rules, and we can make up what we want to do and I think that's what we're going to plan on doing is figuring out the next steps of our band. How we're going to be innovative and different, because obviously releasing a f---ing amazing concept record with not one bad song on it doesn't work anymore. Because we just did it.
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Hull: Yeah, but did you play 250 shows each one of those years?
No, we definitely didn't.
Hull: It goes slower [laughs]. I'm not complaining. We did choose this. It's just, at the end of the day, it's really, really hard. And albums still matter to us. We're one of the few bands that I can think of at our age, being 24 years old, still caring about a record. It's sad. We love albums.
Freeman: Albums, yeah.
Hull: Nobody wants albums. Like, people do and fans do and that's why we do it, because those people care, but people just want songs. I like the concept. I like the idea of something creeping in on you 15 listens later. That was always so magical to me. Like ... given from God. The two of us, when we would listen to records, we've always just driven around and listened to albums. It's important. I think we'll continue to do it, but who knows what will happen? It's a weird time for music. I think the fans will prevail though. I think the music fans will prevail, people that love that. It's like Lady Gaga cheating. She didn't sell 1.1 million -- that's cheating. You sold it for a dollar. I would have bought it and I hate that s---.
Freeman: It's true [laughs].
Hull: Know what I mean?
Hull: Would you have bought it?
Freeman: Yeah. Definitely would have bought it. I didn't know.
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