The haunting melody and the heavy beat of "Wolves at Night" is all you'll need to get into the groove of Manchester Orchestra's refined excursions. Frontman Andy Hull's kind face framed by a bright stage light and a crowd of followers hollering penetrating and heavy lyrics is all you'll need to become a believer. That's all it takes. Most critics felt the same after spinning 2006's "breakout" I'm Like A Virgin Losing a Child, but while the album still sticks in many-a playlists, there is no denying that Manchester Orchestra and Hull fans are itching for some new material.
In this interview, Hull fills us in on what's in the works for both Manchester Orchestra and Right Away, Great Captain, his loyal side project, when, where are how religion has impacted his music and life, if Jesse Lacey will be contributing to the new album, and much more. Many thanks go to Andy and Brad Oldham. Read and enjoy.
For the record, can you tell us your name and what you do in Manchester Orchestra?
Andy: My name is Andy Hull. I tend to write songs, play guitar, and sing in Manchester Orchestra.
How are things? You've recently come off a tour with Say Anything, Biffy Clyro and Weatherbox. How did it go?
Andy: Things are just fine around here. We played our last show for a long time last night in SC. Currently, I am riding shotgun in J's Mazda, heading down to Florida for a few days to spend some time with my mom and my fiancee. All four of us are going to see Radiohead on Monday night. As far as the tour, it was a genuine month of laughter and selflessness. I find that whenever I tour with bands we know or don't know, as long as everyone (holding ourselves to this standard as well) has a humble and grateful attitude, then everybody is going to have a genuinely great time.
I suppose we should start from the beginning. How did you get into music?
Andy: Well, I guess the answer would be my grandparents on my fathers side and my parents. My mom has really become an equal influence on my life and my music. I think a lot of times for artists, including myself, they are far more influenced by situations and events than we are by records that we love. Records give me aspirations, emotions, and blueprints for how to be better. My influence is far more rooted in the good and the bad in life. Itís like those memories that no matter how old you grow or how far you travel from them, they never leave. Those things for me are life, death, God, the devil, my family, my friends, woody allen, the gospels, and various others.
Did you ever have formal guitar lessons?
Andy: I took guitar lessons as a freshman in high school. I walked in and large head-edly (not a word) told my teacher that the only thing I wanted to do was to learn how to play "Stairway To Heaven". He told me I could learn it one of two ways. The first being that I would learn the guitar through the way it works, how the notes work together, and shape myself to become a real guitar player. The second option was to learn "STH" by hearing it and feeling it... the easy way. I chose the second. and I still don't know what the hell I'm doing with a guitar. I just know what sounds right. should've picked the first.
How much does religion play a part in your music, whether it be in inspiration or in story-line?
Andy: Religion plays a significant part in anybody's life that grows up with a dad and granddad as minister. I grow more and more grateful for the life lessons and general mentality of "Christianity" that I was brought up on. Whether people admit it or not, there is a time in every person that grew up surrounded in that lifestyle when you look around and say "Wait... what if I don't believe you?". Virgin is that moment for me. I wish I could say that once I finished that record, those questions went away, but they did not and they never do. Faith was something I never understood and still don't. However, I do believe that the moment I started having a general sense of "faith" it was during the movie "Manhattan". I thought to myself, I believe that my existence and the meaning of life is most likely going to be bigger and will always be bigger than something I or any other human can understand. I think the older I get, the more I realize that this whole thing isn't about me at all, never has been.
When do you start recording for the new MO album? What can you tell us about it?
Andy: We start pre-production in July, recording to follow right after.
Do you have the album mapped out already, or is this something that is going to unfold in the studio?
Andy: There are around 30 or so songs I have written. I will, over the course of a record cycle, show the songs to the guys one at a time, as they are written or after I have processed and finished the "demo version". I can usually tell the ones they are excited about from the reaction or general concensus after the first time I play them for the guys. We then go in the practice space and turn them up or down. Most of the songs start with just me and the guitar. The band has the veto power to keep a song solo. "Sleeper 1972" and "I Can Feel Your Pain" were both songs I wanted to evolve and expand with the band, but when the song was played in front of everybody they said... "Yeah, you're not changing a damn thing about that." So we didn't, and they were right. Right now we are at the point where the songs are chosen, but still very bare. Once the five of us get into the practice space, it is a very different process. The other four guys make the songs I write better than they could of ever been alone.
8/8/08? Hmm, could this be the release date? Do you have a title picked out yet?
Andy: It is a release date but itís more than that too. You'll know what i mean.
Can we expect any collaborations or guest vocals?
Andy: Well, I guess we are always collaborating in some way or another. The best any of us have come up with is just calling it "the group". We kind of started with Manchester Orchestra, Colour Revolt, and Anathallo. Then we met Brand New, etc etc. That was close to 3 years ago and it grew instantly. Kevin Devine, Brand New, mewithoutYou, Brian Bonz, and others. Some of us are closer than others, but I think itís a general respect and admiration for each other as people and musicians. Some of my favorite bands are my friends, like the band Winston Audio and All Get Out. As for us (MO), we are all pretty strict about studio recordings for Manchester. We try and collaborate and create new music with as many people as we can when we play live and in the studio for other projects. But this is a record that is going to be made by Manchester Orchestra and whoever is there to help us make it. And to answer what you actually wanted to know, Dr. Lacey asked if he could play a solo on our new record, and I said no... Scandalous isn't it? However, Vin Accardi will be lending his guitar skills to the new Right Away, Great Captain record this summer.
How do you think it will compare and contrast from I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child?
Andy: With the record not being made yet, I guess the answer is that I don't have any idea how it will sound compared to other things we've done in the past. I guess I would consider Virgin a cinematic experience, where with Humble it is more like a play that would take place in a theatre and has an intermission in the middle so you can take a breath. The loud parts are blaring, the soft parts are whispered. the record will definitely be the most dynamic and dramatic thing I have done so far. But that might mean it will just suck more, who knows.
Something that I think is great about Manchester is your versatility. You can play small clubs and massive rock venues, and then head across seas and do the same. But what sort of audience environment do you enjoy the most?
Andy: I don't mind the size of the rooms at all. We have been so blessed to play in places so diverse from each other that it really gives you a perspective about how your music can come across to people. And how you have to alter that depending on your surroundings. If we're playing a small club for our fans, we will play softer and slower songs. If we're opening for a band who's fans couldn't care less about us, then we are not going to fool ourselves into thinking that they want to hear the deeper cuts from our record. That mentality is more of a turn as loud as you can so if they aren't paying attention to you, then at least we're too loud for people to chatter during the set.
And now onto Right Away, Great Captain. Not everyone knows about this project. Can you give us a general rundown of what it is all about?
Andy: This is my "solo project" of sorts. It's more of a creative writing technique that forces me to write songs from out of my own body. The songs are extremely personal and have motive behind them, but they are just sung from the view of a 1600's sailor who hates his wife because she cheated on him with his own brother... you know, that kind of thing. I also use the name to release random songs that I want people to hear. Not everything from RAGC that comes out pertains to the sailor.
Is there a distinction between what will become RAGC songs and Manchester Orchestra songs when you write? Have you started writing something for one project and it ended up working for the other?
Andy: I never sit down to write one or the other. I think both bands are incredibly different from each other so when I finish a song I can generally tell what purpose it will have. But there are many many times where I have written something and thought it should be for one band and ended up using it for the other. "Colly Strings", "Don't Let Them See You Cry", and "I Can Feel Your Pain" are all examples of that.
Where did the inspiration for The Bitter End come from?
Andy: I wrote a record for J a few years ago called The Garage and on it had a song called "Right Away, Great Captain". I ended up using that song as the centerpiece for THE BITTER END. Then things just became natural as I sat down and wrote out a three record concept that could help explain what I was trying to get across. an over zealous and eager thought, but I ended up really enjoying the character I was singing from, so it just stuck.
When will you record for The Eventually Home? What else can you tell us about the album?
Andy: I started recording The Eventually Home on May 15. I can imagine a late July release. I am recording it with Dan Hannon who mixed, recorded and produced Virgin. It has nine songs and it will have quite a few collaborations on it. I wrote and recorded all the songs for The Eventually Home but following the release will come a five or six song companion piece written from the perspective of other sailors on the ship. That will feature members of All Get Out, Winston Audio, Eric Skelton, The New Frontiers, Kevin Devine, Brand New, and Alaska Him Nicely (Chris Freeman). As for TEH, itís a lot darker lyrically and musically. It moves slower, but itís not as long as the first, so it feels fluid. I think itís the best thing I've done, but I guess thatís why we make music, to convince ourselves itís the best thing we've ever done.
Will "Badges and Badges" make it on The Eventually Home?
Andy: No, it will not. But it will be on the Manchester Orchestra EP/DVD that will come out this year.
More on "Badges and Badges", which I absolutely adore. When and where did you write the song, and what is the story behind the lyrics?
Andy: That song is from a record called Money that I wrote in October of 2006, right after our first tour where we made profit. I wrote and recorded it like most of my demos - in my walk-in closet that I share with Chris. The song is about weakness and how it can be magnified during extensive touring. "Don't make a badge and sell it too, mark my S's through and through" - that line refers to selling your own band's t-shirt and the power of the dollar sign. Where the line "I think i found the missing link, with your head inside a kitchen sink" refers to a drunk girl I watched puke in a sink for 3 hours one night on that tour in Florida. Each line represents my own weakness and ability to change without batting an eye.
Back to Manchester, what about the song "Colly Strings". Several of our users are curious about the story behind this song.
Andy: "Colly Strings" is a song I wrote on the first record I wrote for my fiancee. Each phrase of four lines switches back and fourth from my perspective and hers. The song tells the story of the hard things we had to get through to finally find each other. "Besides you can't believe without bleeding" references the idea that before you can experience real joyfulness, you have to experience pain. It's the only way you can appreciate the good. And to clear confusion on the lyric people can't understand... it is "And I fell flat in Seth Ott's bedroom".
It seems like you're always putting out new songs/demos, etc on your myspace. How do you keep up with this on the road? Do you find it tough to write on tour?
Andy: It's harder to write on tour, but I think it might be a positive for me. Instead of writing 150 songs in a year and keeping 30 of them, I can write 30 good ones and take my time. Being less prolific is odd but it makes for more concentrated music.
What albums or bands do you go to regularly for inspiration? Has there been one band more than others that's been more fundamental and inspiring to your music?
Andy: Pedro The Lion, Death Cab For Cutie, The Weakerthans, Eels, Mountain Goats, and Grandaddy are my favorite bands of all time. They are constantly being played and have been for the last several years. If I had to pick one I would say David Bazan/Pedro the Lion. He is my favorite songwriter of all time, hands down. I have never felt more moved listening to music than I do when I listen to his records. I feel utterly embarrassed when I compare my writing to his.
What have you been listening to lately?
Andy: My Morning Jacket is hands down the greatest band in the entire world right now. I am not over speaking, I am not blowing smoke. They are by leaps and bounds the greatest band that's been around in 10 years. They have the ability to change music forever, I am a true and massive fan. Other playlists include - The Whigs, Chris Freeman's new band Alaska Him Nicely, Make Believe, Sam Cooke, and the new Anathallo record (which is fantastic).
Can you update us on what is going on with this documentary?
Andy: The documentary will be released as an EP/DVD in the fall. The EP will have 4 brand new songs from MO and also a few live performances of altered tracks on Virgin. The documentary is really great. I didn't have anything to do with that part of it, but Sam Erickson is an amazing film-maker and we were blessed to have him come shoot for a week on the road. The DVD will also include all of the MO music videos so far.
And please take All Get Out on tour with you. And come through Maryland. My life would be made complete.
Andy: We plan to tour with them as soon as we can. The EP they have out has taken over my iPod for the last 6 months. I am just happy I got to sign them to Favorite Gentlemen. Not nearly as proud as our signing of Alaska Him Nicely, now THAT man is true artist.
Any last words for AbsolutePunk.net?
Andy: Thanks for writing about our band, we are going to make a record for you to hear soon. We hope you enjoy it.
What a great read. I'm also jealous about him hearing the new Anathallo record. I was just complaining to my friend last night that it has been done so long and just sitting there, waiting to reach my ears.
Also, that companion piece to TEH sounds really cool. I love how bands in "the group" tour together and put on some of the greatest shows.