Interview With Manchester Orchestra - 7th October 2011
Photo Of Manchester Orchestra © Copyright Manchester OrchestraThom caught up with Chris Freeman from Manchester Orchestra before their headline show at London Koko to talk about their new album 'Simple Math', their current tour and much more.

Thanks for taking the time out to do this.
No problem.

Welcome back to the UK!
Thank you.

Last time you were here you did the one headline show at Heaven, I bumped into Jonathan and everyone seemed a bit stressed, there were some passport difficulties?
Yeah, our drummer thought he had lost his passport because his bag got stolen, but it turns out that in Germany his passport had got switched with our bass player. And so we showed up to the airport the next day and we had the wrong passport and it was a whole mess of going to the embassy and everything. It was awful.

But everything is sorted this time around, I take it?
Yes we have kept a close eye on our passports.

Okay well, how is the tour going? Your last headline tour here was 2007?
Yeah well, we've been here so many times, I feel like we've done some headline shows but, not a tour. No, it's going really well, the shows have been great, bigger venues, and tonight's [KOKO] sold out, so it feels really cool.

How does it compare to the last tour of your first album?
Well we played KOKO actually, on our first trip over during an NME DJ night, or whatever, and a lot of our gear ended up breaking, Andy's guitar didn't work, it felt like a throw-n-go kinda show. It wasn't as organised as we'd have liked it to be, so now that we can sell it out and play to our fans, it's really nice.

How many of the nights have sold out?
Tonight, Manchester, and maybe one other. Glasgow? Something like that, but one of the other shows sold out as well.

And you're here with The Xcerts, have you been pally with them? Another Scottish band for you to make friends with. (Having previously toured with Biffy Clyro.)
Yeah they're great, honestly, great band, really funny, good guys to be around. Our humour is kinda similar so it works out really well.

Were you touring anywhere else around the globe before this UK stint?
We just got off a tour with Blink 182 and My Chemical Romance in the States, doing their Honda Civic tour. Then we have five days off and we have our own headlining tour of the US.

Yeah that looks like a pretty big tour, is that maybe one of the biggest you've done?
I suppose so, I feel like we've just been going and going and going since the record came out so it all just feels like one big blur of shows.

And then of course the big US tour ends with “The Stuffing” which is an event put on by yourselves in Atlanta, can you tell us more about that?
Well, we have our label Favourite Gentlemen, and all the bands on that label... We kinda wanted to have a big thing with all the bands off the label. There's a venue in Atlanta that has three different sized rooms with bands rotating throughout the entire building. And this year it's us and Cage The Elephant headlining it. Well, I suppose we're headlining it. But it's just a cool hometown thing to do, this is the second year we've done it, the first year went really well and sold out. So it's a really fun family gathering.

After the last record, it was put about that you were kinda going on hiatus, putting things to one side for a bit but then.. a few months later it was all about the next album, what happened there?
Well, we didn't go on hiatus we just went into the studio. We had to end the Thrice tour early because of some health problems within Thrice's family, so we just went straight home and started writing. We still had the energy from the tour going, but it got cut short, so we went into the studio and started to write and demo everything. We wrote like, thirty-something songs for Simple Math so it took us that time to record it, and we did.

And obviously you've changed drummer...
Yeah we had three guys on Simple Math; we had Tim, Ben and Len(?), who we had played with in other bands and had been around for a long time, and who we liked as drummers. We have Tim with us now, he seemed the one that made the most sense, and we stuck with him...

He seems a lot more powerful than before, perhaps it's just the way he expresses his movements...
He's a lot faster, very John Bonham-ish. He can play fast and hit hard at the same time, so it's nice to be with a different kind of drummer.

So, onto the album, Simple Math. Peaked at #21 in the US, sixteen places up from Mean Everything To Nothing. You've gotta be happy with that.
Yeah, the response in general for Simple Math was just so positive, fan-wise and critic-wise. It's a really cool release and we're happy that people enjoyed it. We sat on that record for a while before it came out so it was nice that when it did come out, people enjoyed it as much as they did.

It didn't chat so well here, but at the end of the day you've come over to do a tour with some sell-out dates so...
Yeah well over here it's more about word of mouth. We've been able to watch our fan-base grow without having a hit single or huge record, so we're not concerned about being a flash-in-the-pan kinda band.

How would you describe the record in comparison to the second?
We had friend who described the jump between Virgin and Mean Everything To Nothing as a step up, and then this record as more of a ladder up. A situation where, it took multiple steps to create this beautiful and very bombastic, like, a very deep record as far as the sounds go. And I think that's what we were going for, the biggest most beautiful sounding record we could do, and I think with the strings and the other additions to the record, we were able to do that. I think it's a very personal record for all of us, the subject matter is something that we all went through together, as friends, so I think it's a good representation of the two years before the album came out.

The album is generally about, if I'm right, Andy and his wife and the whole post-marital...
Yeah it about early twenties, you know, getting married at 21, and what that means as a touring musician and the effect that has on you and your friends. The situations and the narrative of that. That hardship that happens and what comes out of that, it's something very beautiful and something which the record represents very well. And it all ends with a beautiful sort of stoner-y riffy song.

Do you have favourite tracks from the album?
I love Virgin, I think that's a great song. I think that's the heaviest song we've done. Andy played a metal baritone on that track, definitely one of the darkest sounding we had. That and Pale Black Eye, Apprehension, songs where we were able to veer off a bit. Having a drummer who was a little more versatile than Jeremiah was able to be. He was a hard hitter but he wasn't able to groove as well as we wanted him to.

Manchester Orchestra was intended initially as Andy's project where he would have friends collaborate and such. When was the crossover from this to, “okay, we're a band now.”
I think once we had this line-up, well, once we had Jeremiah we'd found a group of people that we liked being around, everybody got along, and we made good music together. It was discovered that, the band was changing too much, with different members each time. So once we found a formula that worked it made sense to settle down, and Jeremiah leaving was a wrench in that whole system but I think with Tim now, we're back to that same place. And this is the core of our band.

I was at the Bristol show last week. Fantastic.
Thank you.

But no Virgin!
Well that's the problem, it has to be played with a baritone guitar, it just can't be done in a proper way without a baritone. But we got one, today, we rented one. So hopefully we're going to throw that into the mix.

Excellent! Has the set changed much over the week?
Once we found a good rhythm... I think we found a good rhythm in, maybe Glasgow? I can't remember which night but we found this really good set, that flowed really well and we'd changed it from our US set, and I think we're going to stick with this new one.

Quite a lot of bands come over with a new album and will play it's entirity and then...
Well we don't really know how to play the entire record! There are so many songs we wish we could play live but, can't remember how to play them. From touring so much, you get to a spot where you're like “oh, we've gotta go back and learn that one!”

No, it's refreshing, we get to hear five tracks off the first album which is, surprising.
Well yeah, we know how to play those ones!


Interview by Thom Curtis
 Band Members

Andy Hull
Jonathan Corley
Chris Freeman
Robert McDowell
Tim Very
 Latest Releases
Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math
Release Date - 9th May 2011

1. Deer
2. Mighty
3. Pensacola
4. April Fool
5. Pale Black Eye
6. Virgin
7. Simple Math
8. Leave It Alone
9. Apprehension
10. Leaky Breaks
 Band Related Links
Manchester Orchestra MySpace