The Music

////THE MUSIC////ROB HARVEY////MAY 2008////

With all members still in their early twenties it’s hard to believe that The Music, a band mainly influenced by the whole ‘Madchester’ scene, emerged back as early as 1999. At this time, they were tipped by the NME as the best unsigned band in the country and strongly pioneered by the likes of Steve Lamacq. Since then, their two full length album releases, the self-titled, ‘The Music’, and follow up, ‘Welcome to the North’, have become firm favourites amongst admirers. Combined, these two records have sold over a cool million copies. To top all this, the band have played and headlined festivals all over the world and supported the likes of Coldplay, Oasis and U2. This month sees the end of a four year wait for die hard fans as their new album, ‘Strength & Numbers’, will be released. Currently out on tour, showcasing tracks new and old, lead vocalist Rob Harvey spills the beans on life in The Music…

So you did your Leeds’ home town show last night, how did it go and how did they take to the new tracks?
It went well. We had a few technical problems, but apart from that it went well. They’re a bit weird, home shows, they’re a bit stand off-ish. I think its ‘cause a lot of people there know us, so it’s more about listening for them. Also, we are also quite early on with the album process, so people don’t really know the songs yet, so they mainly stood there listening. The reaction has been good though, especially when we played the single. It’s a bit like playin’ in London is Leeds, just a bit stand off-ish. We’re getting’ there slowly…

For a young group of lads, you’ve been involved in some pretty spectacular events and shows, such as headlining the Fuji Festival in Japan, festivals in Sydney, not to mention multiple nights at Brixton Academy… do you have a particular stand-out show which has been etched in your mind?
Em, probably the Brixton one. When you get to a point where you can sell out five thousand tickets you know, it’s erm, quite a pat on the back. It confirms what you are doing has some quality to it, ‘cause that many people are paying to come and see it. That was a massive thing for us, and it was quite early on for us too, I think it was for the first album.  Fuji in Japan was also something that will stay with us for all our lives. The surroundings of where it’s set are just so perfect for a festival; it really gets you in the mood for it, it’s amazing.

You’re currently in the middle of a concept called  the ‘Four Cities’ set of dates, in which you play a city and then return within the month to play another show in that place, but at a bigger venue, can you tell us a little bit about the idea behind this?
When we sat down and started talking about touring again, we decided we wanted to try and do something exciting with it. Something a little different, ‘cause there’s only so much you can do with them. We wanted to try and create excitement with the shows, to get people to really want to come, as opposed to it just being another gig. Start small and make the gigs mean something to people that are there, and for those who missed it, then there’s a chance to see us again if they want to. Also, we were at a point were we hadn’t played a live show in a good while, so our confidence wasn’t the highest, so it was a good way for us to edge back into it ourselves. So basically, doing it that way, allowed us to do that.

Your new album ‘Strength in Numbers’ (out on 16th June) has been produced by Flood (NIN, The killers, U2) and Paul Hartwell (ex. Orbital). How on earth did you come up with a combination like that to produce it?  
We sat down and tried to come up with like a dream team of producers, and they were two names that excited us. One reason being ‘cause Paul understood dance music, and with Flood, his CV is pretty epic with all the stuff that he has produced. We really didn’t think that we would get both of them. We thought we’d be in a position where we’d have to sacrifice one of them. We’d actually sent some stuff to Flood, a while before hand, but he’d never got the chance to listen to it. By this point we’d already got the ball rolling with Paul and were doing stuff. Then Flood heard ‘Strength in Numbers’ and loved it, so suddenly we had Paul and Flood wanting to do it. We weren’t sure how it was going to work but they were both so easy going…

So there was never a situation of egos clashing?
No, not at all, everyone was very respectful. If there was something that we weren’t into, they’d both stand down and say, ‘it’s your record’. We’ve never really had the control like this on the first two records, but I think it was vital on this one that we did.

What do you think you’ve gained from the combined knowledge of two such respected figureheads from very different genres?
It was much more enjoyable than the previous two, ‘cause we had all the structures sorted before we entered the studios, so it was a case of just getting the best out of us and out of the songs. I think more personally, I learnt not to be too precious about my vocals; I can get a bit protective or paranoid about nailing them, but not this time. It was about going in and enjoying it, relaxing and expressing ourselves. I’ve always found recording the least enjoyable process really, but not with this one.  

It was recorded in London, but I’m interested to know after touring the world why you weren’t tempted to record in a much more exotic location?
Financially we are not really in a position to do that. The way the industry is at the moment, unless you are Radiohead or Coldplay, money’s tight and you’ve got to look after your own y’know. And simply put, recording is expensive to do…

As we speak now, the album has been completely finished, but it is not out for another month. Do you find this period of time a difficult one, in the sense of having the urge to go back and change or re-record parts?
No not really, I mean we’ve been to-ing and fro-ing with a few mixes here and there. We all got to a point where we said right, that’s it now, if we want this to go forward and make it happen this year, so people would know them for the festivals in the summer, then it’s got to happen now. We had cut off points and approval dates with the record company. There needs to be a point where you stop being so anal and just do it.

Ok, so as already mentioned, you’re all in your early twenties, your first two albums have sold over a million copies, but you are still really unsung heroes. I wondered, with ‘Strength & Numbers’ being so eagerly anticipated, and the music press being really positive towards it, how big you would like this whole thing to go for you?
I think we’ve got a lot to offer and I think we bring a lot more than a lot of other bands do. I also think we bring content and I think we bring good music and I think we provide a safe environment for people who come to see us. A lot of people who come to one of our gigs for the first time always say how nice people we are, there always seems to be a good vibe, d’ya know what I mean? The more people that listen to our music is a good thing for us, so I suppose we’d like it to go as big as it can. I mean we don’t have any projections or plans really, I suppose whatever happens, happens really. Were just gonna keep workin’ our socks off…

You’ve got a really strong, unique and stand-out voice, so on a more personal level, who would you regard as inspirational singers?
Bono – I love him, he’s massive. Jim Morrison as well, I’ve always liked how he used his voice from a blues point of view.

I read that Dave Grohl is a big fan of yours, so much so, that after watching you guys from the side of the stage at the V Festival, he has used one of your tracks ‘The People’ as the last track to be played before the Foo Fighters performed on their 2005 tour, which must be very flattering. Have you heard of any other big name fans?
I know that Coldplay are big fans, and we’ve played a few shows with U2 and they loved it. Whenever we’ve done festivals we’ve always been into walking around and talking to people; we’re still pretty young, so we still get really excited, so when Coldplay or Dave Grohl say they like what you do it’s a real buzz.

Winding things down, can you tell us the best and worst things about your job?
The best thing is that we don’t have to work as hard as a lot of people do and we get to do what we love, but the worst thing is that there is a lot of pressure. Kind of like the more you have, the more you have to loose. It’s about trying to stay sane and present and not losing yourself in the unconscious.

Finally, you’re a rock star but I’m not. Its Friday evening now, so what are you going to being doing after this interview?
What tonight? Ah, I’m an easy going kinda guy these days. I don’t go out and have it like I used too. I gotta take care of myself. Just take it easy after the show and then we’ll probably then head up to Glasgow for tomorrow’s show. 

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