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Editors Take Their Back Room to the Forefront

photo credit: kim owens
SXSW 2006

It all starts with a fairly simple plan. Get your mates together, write some songs, put them on a CD and head out of town. Nice in theory, but the success of such plans does not come so easy.

For the Editors, it was no cake walk, but success they’ve had with last year’s debut release, The Back Room on the U.K.’s Kitchenware label, is a tribute to their talented songwriting and commitment to the road.

The sound with which the Editors travel is filled with distinctive, British pop finesse, reincarnating classic guitar lines while casting their own mold for captivating audiences far and wide. From the halls of Britain’s Stafford University in Birmingham, these music technology grads rely on their diverse set of rock ‘n’ roll skills to deliver an up and down ride of gyrating, frenzied rhythms (“Munich,” “Blood, “Bullets”), then simmer down to beautiful, 3:00am contemplations and epiphanies (“Camera,” “Fall,” “Open Your Arms”).

With a solid track record established in their homeland and surrounding countries, it was time the Editors head to the expansive lands of the U.S. This plan included a romp in the bed with the Fader Label (the record label division of The FADER magazine, which released Saul Williams’ rock and hip-hop heavy self-titled debut on the label in 2005), providing Americans with access to The Back Room.

The Editors first got their feet wet with a few showcase dates in the west and east coasts in early 2006, and then it was time for the band to dive into the madness of Austin’s SXSW.

But that isn’t the end of their U.S. trek.

Using the same determination they did to win the hearts of U.K. fans, lead vocalist and songwriter Tom Smith, guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, drummer Ed Lay and bass player Russell Leetch have kept going after their filled-to-capacity, BBC 6 Music Showcase at Bender’s Bar in Austin. They’ll hit 27 U.S. cities along with stops in Canada before they head over to Japan at the end of April. From there, it is time to hit the major music festival circuit, including Coachella, Glastonbury in the U.K., the Rockwave Festival in Athens, Greece, Lollapalooza in Chicago, and the Frequency Festival in Austria.

Before setting up for a show at the Mad Hatter in Covington, Kentucky, Ed expounded on the rush their lives have been this past year and a half.

Ed Lay: This is the first time we’ve been here properly. We’ve all been surprised at the reaction we’ve got. Pretty much across the board, it’s been fantastic. There’s a lot of people that know the album. With our headlining tour there’s a good mix of bands. We’ve got similar styles but there’s enough of a difference between the bands to make an interesting show. The Mobius Band, they deserve a mention. They have an incredible following, so we’re really happy to have them as well.

Kaffeine Buzz: I actually got a chance to get into your show at SXSW, which was not easy to do. A lot of people I know weren’t able to make it in because it was full up, so it was obvious that people were well aware of you already.

EL: Sure. That was our showcase event, wasn’t it?

photo credit: kim owens
SXSW 2006

KB: Yep.

EL: It was a good show, but very typical with South by Southwest. Everything’s very rushed and a bit of a headache with technical difficulties. But the shows go on and they’re great. They’re very rock ‘n’ roll, so you just go in fast and furious and get off in half an hour. It’s a very interesting event and not without its difficulties, as you can imagine. But it was a vast amount fun. What did you think of it?

KB: Oh, I had a great time. It was a bit tough to squeeze in to take pictures but everyone in the crowd was pretty accommodating and the show was brilliant. You guys have a stage presence that really pulls people in, and it was very cool to hear songs from the album brought out. Tom’s got a really animated presence. He’s quite a showman.

EL: Yes, that was one of the shows where it was just fantastic to watch that.

KB: Well, looking back at this last year, so much has happened for you guys. If you think back to January of 2005 and what you had set out to do, did you have any idea that you would be this far along in just a year?

EL: In a way, yes, but…I don’t know. We always kind of had a structure and knew how we were going to build ourselves as a band. The way we wanted to get out to people in the U.K. was to go out and tour constantly all of last year. We didn’t have the money to spend on advertising campaigns. The only way we could let people know who we were was by going out to their towns and showing them. So now, we’ve been stepping up venue sizes and going out to other towns in the U.K. Our plan was also to come over to the U.S. this year. Because of the way things have picked up back home in the last four or five months, it’s given us the platform to come over here a bit earlier and try our luck a little bit sooner.

KB: So you’re going to keep up the same pace this year as you did last year, just in a different part of the world?

EL: Yes, we’ve got the same attitude over here. We signed to the Fader label and they’re very independent thinking, and [we work with them] in the same way as we do with Kitchenware. We started with South by Southwest and we’re staying through to Coachella. That’s a seven week tour. I don’t know of many that have come over in recent years and put that much into it for their first tour.

KB: When it comes to the songs on The Back Room, and with respect to the listener’s interpretation, I pick up senses of irony, of contradiction and observation.

photo credit: kim owens
SXSW 2006

EL: Yea, you’re right. There’s definitely some irony in there, which is something you’d probably have to speak to Tom about. But I can say that he picks up on those things quite regularly, so I think it’s only natural that he writes them into the songs as well. We always get called ‘gloomy’ back in the U.K. But I really don’t think we are. Maybe the lack of rock ‘n’ roll drinking stories may fortify that image. I mean, we’re just pretty regular guys. Some of the songs can be kind of dark, but they can also be enlightening.

KB: Well, maybe because they are enlightening, which can also require one to look in the mirror and observe their own reflection, that can be scary for some. So they tend to automatically connect their fears to something that’s gloomy. The truth is dark for them.

EL: Precisely. But reflection is an important part of growing up. Especially at our age, when we were writing the first album at 22 or 23, it’s a funny time for people our age. There’s a lot of changes going on in your love life or in your working life. Tom took the things he experienced and saw going on around him and wrote them into this album.

KB: Even within the songs themselves, there is contradiction within the instrumentation, like in “The Fingers in the Factories” where in the chorus you’re blasting the booming drums and Chris’s guitar parts are very delicate and fragile.

EL: It’s all about balance, isn’t it? In a live situation you can make things feel more dynamic, making the loud very loud and the soft, very soft. That’s why we enjoy playing live, because we can make those differences even more different. (laughs) We’ve kind of thought about playing them live when we record them, if you get my drift.

KB: Oh, absolutely. I’m all for musical exploration, but it’s a bummer when you really love a song on an album, but the band isn’t able to pull it off live without two hours of set up time or something.

EL: Exactly, and we didn’t want to complicate things, especially with our debut album. It’s very much a ‘point in time’ album. That’s what we were up to back then.

KB: Have you guys written any new music since The Back Room?

EL: Yea, we’re actually playing a couple of new songs on this tour that we wrote in the first part of this year, with intensions for the next record. We have our ‘next record heads’ firmly screwed on at the moment, because in the U.K. the record’s been out for almost a year now. We want to write a new record and get something recorded possibly by the end of the year.

KB: With these new songs and what you have in mind for the new album, how has the last year impacted your song writing now?

EL: It’s certainly impacted it in a logistics way, because we can’t just sit in a rehearsal studio in Birmingham like we did for The Back Room with the hours and hours, weeks and months; that’s not a luxury we have anymore. We’re on tour constantly, so we’ve had to adapt our way of writing. And to be honest, the major difference in writing tunes now is our confidence. It’s really high. We’ve always been able to critically analyze what we’ve written and throw out the bad bits. We’ve gotten better at doing that because everything is in a tighter schedule.

KB: Has it ever been surreal for you, how things have continued to fall into place and with some of the experiences you’ve had? I mean, when you get back in May you have three sold out shows at Brixton Academy.

EL: Hmmm…yea, of course, but we still have to do our laundry. (laughs) I must admit, I did sort of had to pinch myself the other day when we were in Miami at South Beach and we were just hanging out. It was ridiculous, like we were on holiday. We never take for granted how lucky we are.

photo credit: kim owens
SXSW 2006

KB: Well, yea, when it comes to the music business you can’t take anything for granted. And even within your songs there are also themes of impermanence, which is just part of life anyway.

EL: Of course, of course. We always wanted to build a career out of this and so yea, we’re very aware that tastes change, which you can’t do anything about. We know we’ve got to make the best record possible the next time to continue our careers. It’s definitely in the forefront of our minds, to not rush anything and make it exactly right. The platform we built from the first record is pretty substantial, so it would be a real shame, and we’d definitely let ourselves down, if we didn’t build on that. Yea, I think this next time around we’ll be playing around with instrumentation a bit more to pull different qualities out…you know, mix it up a bit.

Although the Mobius Band, which Ed mentioned, plays their last date with the Editors on April 19 in Lawrence, Kansas, another popular act, stellastar*, stays on the tour. Los Angeles outfit, Monsters Are Waiting, jumps on board for the show this Friday, April 21 at the BlueBird.

BUT – before all that, the Editors will play a free, in-store show at Tower Records in Cherry Creek on Thursday, April 20 at 6pm, the first of four in-stores planned, including their Seattle stop at Easy Street Records(April 26), at Tower in San Francisco (April 29), and at the San Diego Tower in La Jolla (May 1). Editors’ complete tour schedule is available on their website.


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