Editors Go Hollywood

Monday, 17 September 2007

If An End Has a Start is Editors’ maxim, it is a confusing one for critics and fans alike.

Booked like wildfire for the first of the U.K. sensation’s forthcoming trips to the U.S., they have been touring on the East coast all September, and are coming to San Francisco, San Diego’s Street Scene Festival, and Los Angeles’ own Wiltern Theater at the end of this month, showing no signs of a proverbial “end.”

GC talked to Editors’ drummer Ed Lay about their new album, U.K. press darlings and the English university system that made Editors, hardly schoolboys, who they are today: four college buds who take their song-craft, and their gigging, damn seriously.

“We know we’re not going to get splashed all over SPIN and we’ve never been NME's darlings,” says Lay with his shiny new pair of Polaroid sunglasses. “So we need to come here and work. We’ve never been championed as the hot new thing. There has always been somebody a bit cooler or a bit quirky looking. But we like that. We don’t want to be fashion.”

We talked a lot about sunglasses and fashion by the poolside of Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel, but somehow none of this seemed ironic. The truth is, as much commercial success Editors have met since their debut in 2005, The Back Room, it has been less a result of hype than it has of their work ethic.

“We have toured the U.K. so heavily, probably more heavily that many of our contemporaries, and that’s what probably got us into the position of #1 album in the U.K. Our intention for the U.S. is to do exactly the same thing, we had some long tours. We view it as, if we want to make any sort of dent in the U.S. market, or to be a band with a career in the U.S., we have to work here as if it’s our home country. We’re spending the vast majority of our touring time in the U.S.”

So how does a college band o’ buds reach such escalated levels?

“We were all music technology students and we ended up living together, the four of us. But our studies didn’t help much with the band. If you want to end up being a producer or engineer with that degree you need to have such a thirst for learning about all the different types of gear and be really technical about it and we weren’t particularly like that. It was more of a chance to meet like-minded people and fuck around for three years before you had to decide on what you really need to do in the big world. When I went into university I thought of playing as a hobby, and I would just concentrate on schoolwork and finding a job after. But incredibly, it worked out that my job is playing drums in a rock band. That’s fucking amazing. And we’re in Hollywood.

“I think the key was in our confidence, really. Quite an early song written before I joined the band was ‘Bullets.’ After I joined we started playing that song to bigger audiences, and we realized that we were onto something, we really can write songs that aren’t just for a pub band. From that point you get confidence and your goals grow quite substantially. We’re not scared of the possibility of becoming a big multi-national band. From quite an early point we all realized that we were in it at a professional level.”

With an album built with all the noir exuberance you can expect from Editors, the self-conscious sophomore effort seems to be traded in for big, theatrical moments and impeccable production on An End Has a Start. It seems clear, especially considering their tour-crazed season, that Editors have a reason to hate the next big thing: they want to stay in it for the long haul.

“What we’re trying to do is write pop songs. There are parts of us that are quite angular, and there are other parts that are straight disco, then there are some really grand sounding moments. Moments that make the hairs at the back of your neck stand out. What we’re trying to do is make emotional pop songs.”

More for the fans: Ed Lay’s breakdown of An End Has a Start

We recorded in Ireland where we hooked up with producer Jacknife Lee, who was awesome. We were always in the studio listening to anything we could get a hold of. We enjoyed it so much, we were in a beautiful setting in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no distractions and no pressure. As soon as we were working on the songs we became very confident about putting it together. We tried to be daring with instruments, we shied away with on our first album where we wanted to make that debut—four guys with their four instruments.

There wasn’t any aim or discussion about what it should sound like. It worked itself out. The only aim really was we all thought we wanted to make something a bit grander and a bit more ambitious. We couldn’t have done anything more…but in two more years we will do something more daring.

“Smoke” is the first single and I think it’s a big song for us. It’s different from anything we’ve done before, a regular kind of anthem; it’s not a dark disco hit or whatever. It’s almost a call to arms because it was our single, a real statement of intent of how ambitious we want to be.

“Spiders” is quite a subtle song but it’s the best chorus that Tom’s ever written. The vocal melody is sublime—I can listen to it over and over again.

There’s a song called “Escape the Nest” which is an out-and-out rock song that’s not trying to pretend to be anything—real guitar heavy, almost like a Foo Fighters record that’s angry and in your face. That song is built for our gigs, like real serious wall-of-sound type approach.

I’m delighted with the new album. It’s exactly the record we wanted to make. I think it sounds phenomenal. There’s been some weird press on it though, nothing seems to tie together. On one hand people are saying it’s the same as the last album, and on the other hand they’re saying it’s too bombastic, over-produced. Well, I don’t think it’s the same as the first album, and what’s the matter with a bit of good production? I know people only listen to mp3s now so it’s kind of pointless spending all that money. I hate mp3s.

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