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- Posted on Aug 3rd 2011 3:00PM by Theo Spielberg
Recently, the band was placed on the shortlist of nominees for the prestigious Mercury Prize, awarded annually to the best British album. The stylistic evolution seems to have paid off in spades. The band's Joseph Mount, Gbenga Adelekan and Anna Prior took some time to talk to Spinner about their nomination, why Adele shouldn't win and England's confounding new breed of diminutive rappers.
How does it feel to be nominated for Mercury Prize?
Mount: It's cool. I guess in England it's a big deal for the labels.
Adelekan: And for the music fans, too.
Mount: It's kind of perfect for a group like us, because we are kind of bubbling about the place and it offers a chance maybe to push us up a little bit. We're not even thinking "C'mon, lets win it" -- just being nominated is a real exciting thing. And we're going to go to an awards ceremony!
You topped NME's reader poll as the clear favorite.
Mount: I was thinking about that. Maybe some of those people thought other bands should've been voted but with the 12 that have been voted maybe we were the best choice.
Adelekan: That's kind of the beauty of the award though. You can have artists who are on major labels and artists who are recording jazz that sells hundreds of copies. Theoretically, everyone is in with pretty much the same chance, although the jazz album never wins it, maybe this is going to be the year that it does. Even music fans who think it's a load of crap will still talk about "Oh, I can't believe this is the nomination list this year. I can't believe this band didn't get recognized." It's a talking point, which is what I think I like most about it.
Of the other nominees, who are some of your favorites?
Adelekan: They're all competition. Sadly, we've had to end a few friendships.
Mount: It's weird because your favorite is not necessarily relevant to what the award is supposed to be about. PJ Harvey is someone who has an amazing career and body of work, but I don't think she should win really, because she's won it before.
Adelekan: And what more is it going to do for her?
Mount: It starts a lot of people talking about what's happening in English music right now. If you're talking about that then you think maybe Katy B should win or Tinie Tempah because it's young music and kids love it. But then they're already having quite a lot of matchless success in England so they shouldn't really win. Though if Katy B [won], I think I'd be pretty happy.
Adelekan: Anna, you've listened to a bunch of the albums. Apart from the ones I knew already, I've not listened to any of the other ones.
Prior: With the Tinie Tempah thing I just think "Why has he been nominated?" It's not like when Dizzee Rascal was nominated. When that album came out everybody was like "Where is this coming from?" it was brilliant. It was really pushing boundaries.
Mount: I guess with this new little breed of English rappers he's probably the best. As an album I'd say he's got a couple of really good singles but I don't like the album.
Adelekan: They are all quite little.
Do you think the award should be given restricted to lesser-known groups?
Mount: They made this thing to help give coverage to bands or acts that were deserving of it but weren't getting it. Adele obviously has to be included, because she's having this incredible year. But the award for her is totally useless. You win £20,000 and you get loads of publicity. She really doesn't need it. She might be deserving of it. If no one had heard of her then she would be the perfect person to give it to, but everyone's heard of her. The idea is that you give it to a band or an act that really needs the coverage, and maybe needs the money as well.
Adelekan: I don't know, I've never read what their mission statement is or whatever. They've always nominated bands that were on major labels, or bands that are getting a bit of commercial success. Radiohead have been nominated four times. When Primal Scream was having a really amazing year they got nominated. Now, if a commercially successful artist wins it, I think a lot of indie people tend to kick against that. That aspect of it has always been there. I do think you really want to give it to someone who would benefit from the exposure of being named as the album of the year.
Would you say they should display some ineffable British qualities?
Mount: Obviously, part of it is to say these are the best 12 British albums, and it should represent what's happening in England. But if you think about Adele, whilst it's really great, it's soul music. There's nothing that British about it and half of it is produced by Rick Rubin, who isn't British at all. It should maybe have this British thing to it, but it's kind of impossible. It should be that you have to have "England" or "English" in the title of your album.
Your album certainly fits that criterion. Was that intentional?
Mount: It's funny it's actually called 'The English Riviera.' I can't really remember the very first thought about it, but it maybe came from trying to make something that was more studio sounding. The English are quite good at having this sense of humor about them where they can joke about how it's always wet but at the same time there are some very nice places. I thought it was kind of funny in a way because 'The English Riviera' is such a crazy-sounding thing to so many people, but it is this nice place. It sounds kind of aspirational.
What's next for you?
Adelekan: The thing about it is that the day after the nomination announcement we went away and have kind of not been back.
Mount: We fled at 4 o'clock in the morning. We had a brief couple of hours to feel like it was really special. There's this kind of unspoken pressure that bands have to sell records, especially when now is a kind of difficult time to sell records. It already felt like the label was so happy with how things were going with the album and the response. In a slightly cold, business way, for it to be nominated it feels like we really can enjoy the rest of the year. It's not the Holy Grail because it happens every year.