Interview: Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra

By on Friday, 13th May 2011 at 2:00 pm

Lead singer and guitarist Andy Hull and lead guitarist Robert McDowell of American band Manchester Orchestra chat with Braden to talk about ‘Simple Math’ being complicated, being out of tune at Leeds and Stone Cold Steve Austin in lyric videos…

“I’ve been playing it to literally anyone who’s taken an interest,” begins Andy Hull, “like, if someone in the pharmacy said they liked my music, I’d want to take them out to my car and get them to listen as some sort of validation.” The Manchester Orchestra frontman is quite excited, and with good reason. The band’s third record is imminent, and after the first two gaining critical approval as well as a dedicated fan base across the world, Hull and guitarist Robert McDowell are feeling impatient.

“We’ve had this record finished since November so we’ve had like 6 months to wait for the schedule to play out. We almost wanted it to leak but we’d be so screwed if it actually did.” Robert explains. Released on Monday (9 May) in the UK, ‘Simple Math’ is the most anticipated album from the band to date and the band are clearly more than ready. “On one hand, I’m the most proud I’ve ever been of a record so far. And on the other hand, I’m wondering if it’s the worst mistake of our lives! That’s what the 6 months’ waiting does to you.”

So with the album finally so close to arrival, the band have come for a week over to the UK to preview and warm up what’s sure to be a hugely busy year for them. Shows in the previous two nights in London including what was almost a “greatest hits up to now” show at Proud Camden and a huge show at XOYO, the band are taking a day off before driving up to Manchester in the morning.  “This trip’s a good thing for us to do. Just to be able to come over here and play these few shows has been really positive. Manchester’s always a really great crowd…obviously, and London as well is fun.”

One of the trademark sounds of MO is their transitions between soft, lyrical sections of music and huge guitar riffs. This doesn’t change in ‘Simple Math’, and talking to Andy and Robert, you can see where these come from. Andy talks in spurts of activity as all his words come to him at once, and listening to him recite some of the lyrics from ‘Simple Math’ is like listening to a poem in hyperspeed. Other times both Robert and Andy sit back and relax, taking every moment with their words. This realism from their personas transfers across in the record in both melody and lyrics.

“Thematically, it’s Andy and the Andy in an alternate universe. I write from both perspectives,” Hull contemplates. “Like, with both I can get so descriptive, taking from almost real events or imagining situations and their most dire consequences. The track ‘Simple Math’ is about an affair and its consequences,” he delves. “Hunter’s eyes, I’m lost and hardly noticed.” This track of course closes with a huge finish with complete beauty displayed both in the official video, directed and created by Daniels (the duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, based in America) and the lyric video that appeared online from the band a few weeks prior.


“We made that because of other lyric videos that just sprout up online that have some of the wrong lyrics, out of time and with random pictures of like, Stone Cold Steve Austin, or something placed in,” Hull jokes. “The idea was to just put the track up so people could hear it, not to give an indication of the album.”


They claim that the album itself is 10 stand alone tracks that only really make complete sense when you listen to the album in full. “If you put it in your player and listen to it through, there is no song that sounds like another.”  Robert attempts to clarify.  “I wouldn’t say it’s got a set sound. ‘Simple Math’ is really quite complicated,” they both say.

Outside of the record, it’s a hectic few months for the band. With a co-headline tour with Cage the Elephant coming up and a whole series of festivals, the band contemplate the coming few months. “We’re pretty selective about who we’ll play with as support bands. We prefer to headline of course.”

They’re hitting the festivals too, where they’ll look to build on their live reputation. “We love Bonaroo and Lollapalooza in the US! A few years ago we played a really great set in Reading followed by the worst show in Leeds, but we’d like to make it known now that that’s because we were out of tune. Our tech didn’t bring a tuner and mine was broken so we never really stood a chance. We’d like to redeem ourselves though!” Glad that’s cleared up then.

So with the record set straight on a Leeds set that I was actually present at and still didn’t dislike one bit, and the third album (reviewed earlier this week on TGTF), that’s Manchester Orchestra’s “complicated” ‘Simple Math’ until they next blast out on a British stage near you. Be prepared.

TGTF would like to thank Imran at Sony for helping set this interview up.

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