Interview: Elbow

Published on February 17th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams

Guy Garvey, for all his radio presenting and celebrity dating, is generally accepted as the public face of Elbow; and why not? He combines black belt lyrical mastery and smoky dulcet tones with a personable nature and self-deprecating wit. Craig Potter is undoubtedly the Elbow grease, taking on as he does the lion’s share of production duties – no mean feat for a band with such an expansive sound – as well as playing keyboards.

Guitarist Mark Potter makes the music soar with his enormous guitar sounds, while bassist Pete Turner is responsible for the kind of heaving, soulful bass lines characterised straight from the off on ‘Any Day Now’, the opening track of 2001 debut album Asleep in the Back. All of which leads us onto the hulking, groovy rhythm sections which underpin all of the above; step forward drummer Richard Jupp.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Jupp ahead of the release of Elbow album number five, the eagerly anticipated and superbly titled build a rocket boys! (use of lower case here is vital, according to Garvey) in order to discuss, well, Elbow, Elbow and more Elbow…

Build a Rocket, Boys! has a tough act to follow, succeeding as it does 2008’s Mercury Award-winning The Seldom Seen Kid. Did you feel under any pressure to produce another commercially successful record?

You know what, I can honestly say we didn’t. The pressure probably came the moment we delivered [the album]; then you’ve got to make decisions about artwork, the vinyl cover, the singles’ covers, this, that and the other. We’ve got the tour in March and it’s quite a close turnover so we have to make decisions on the promotion side of things but we’re also trying to rehearse so our schedule is quite manic. But, during recording, there was no pressure. When we finished touring Seldom… in September of the year before last, we were going to say, right, let’s take the rest of the year off and reconvene in January but we were just sitting twiddling our thumbs; so we got right back into it and used the success of Seldom… as a springboard.

It’s nice not to have pressure from the label and nice knowing that we’ve actually got a label because we didn’t have one during the initial recordings for Seldom. We knew we had the support – we’ve sold a few records, we know this is coming out, we know when it’s coming out – so I think all that sort of pressure was alleviated. We just thought, right, we just need to knuckle down and do what we do best, really. (Pause) That’s a horrible cliché!

What can we expect from the new album?

It’s a lot simpler, a lot more direct. We’ve not actually changed our writing style but, during our initial sessions at a friend’s house in Mull – which is absolutely beautiful and as far away from anybody as you can probably get – we hunkered down after the Mercury madness, tried to get our heads together and work out what was going on, basically. It was a bit of a confusing time for us.

The first track we wrote for this album hasn’t actually changed from its demo form. It’s called ‘Jesus is a Rochdale Girl’ and it’s kind of about a guy who lists stuff from his past, reminiscing about where he used to live, how he was feeling as a young buck, so to speak, growing up. The music really fitted that in that it was very simple, just a kick drum and bass, some random keyboards and a very simple guitar line. And that’s how I think we carried it on, even the bigger tracks like ‘Neat Little Rows’ and ‘Open Arms’ are very simple in structure and instrumentation. So it’s a lot more direct and a lot more fun, in a way, because it’s more or less just the five of us having a bit of a blast.

‘Blast’…’rocket’…no, let’s leave that one. So, tell us how an Elbow song comes together. It hardly strikes as your traditional singer-songwriter fare…

It takes us a while. It’s like a slow roast: you put all the ingredients in…(pause)…no, that’s a terrible analogy! But, you know, we have to let things simmer. There’s five of us obviously so, when there’s a decision to be made, it has to go to a vote. You know, it’s got to be 3-2. Some you win, some you lose but, invariably, everybody’s happy when it does all come out.

The writing process is quite elongated for us but, in saying that, the tunes were simpler this time so it was a much easier writing process. Although, again, you’ve got to put stuff into the pot and let it simmer. We listened to a lot stuff together; before we started the sessions, we put an album together of songs that we love, in order to formulate a shape as opposed to just going headlong into the writing process.

Care to divulge the identity of any of these songs?

I’m a bit of a metal head still. I like the big rocky ones so that was first up on the album, then sort of midway, then towards the end. So it had a nice undulating sort of shape. Again, it can be anything; we could be shouting a melody into our phones and bring that in, somebody could accidentally hit something and we’ll go, “God, that sounds great!” It can literally be anything. Guy could just turn up with a full set of lyrics, a couple of words or an idea and then we’ll base it around that. It’s completely random.

The first two Elbow albums had some rather dark themes coursing through them. What brought the sunshine out on the subsequent couple? Success and acceptance?

I think so, yeah; and getting paid! The whole recording for Leaders… was a great experience for us because we found Blueprint Studios in Salford, which is run by a few mates of ours from way back. It’s got this amazing, huge live room so we sort of decamped in there, paying very little rent. These guys said, “Just come in and record in there, that’s all we want. Just pay the nominal fee.” They were building their studio underneath and rehearsal rooms in the cellar, so it was a proper hive of activity. As a young band, we tried to do visuals with a company called Soup, a guy called Mark Thomas who again is an old friend. He came in and we thought, “Why don’t we document it, try and do a visual side as well as an aural side?” During Leaders of the Free World, it made for a real fat-free kind of creative buzz around the place because they had CCTV cameras in the roof, one corner was doing stop frame animations, the other corner was doing something else. It really energised us.

So it was great and there was some success around Leaders… but unfortunately V2, the company we were on, was a sinking ship so we kind of downed tools and said, “We can’t really work this way.” Eventually we got onto Fiction but this was after we’d already started writing for The Seldom Seen Kid so there were some dark times but we knew it would come good. I don’t know why but, thankfully, it did.

Craig, your keyboardist, again took on the task of producing the album. Did you ever notice the workload getting to him?

You know what – bless his cotton socks – he’s an absolute machine. I’ve wondered about this but he never gets snappy. He regards that [the production] as being as much a part of the creative process as putting down his piano and keyboards. He has to separate the two to some degree but he does see mixing and editing, moving stuff around on Pro Tools and trying things out, as a creative process and it’s an absolute joy to watch him, really. He does go down on his own quite a bit but we keep in contact with him with texts and phone calls so I don’t think he ever feels as if he’s out on his own. He does have that support. We totally understand, you know; he can be sat there with red eyes because he’s been up half the night but somebody makes him a brew, gets him a bit of lunch and it keeps on feeding the fire.

Elbow’s songs have been used rather a lot to soundtrack various campaigns and television programmes. Does this bother you?

Not at all. It’s fantastic to hear your own tunes on a myriad of stuff, like Big Brother, Top Gear and the Olympics. It’s good that it’s covering all bases rather than getting pigeonholed. The Big Brother thing was a real shocker; [it was used] right at the end with the montage of all the ups and downs. I was lying in bed with my wife and it suddenly came on. It was like, oh my god! I got a bit of stick for it but it was alright, you know. For any kind of montage, we’ve got a track for you!

How much of a say do you guys get in terms of where and how your songs are used?

As soon as a record’s recorded and we’ve done as much as we can, we have to let it go to the publishers. Fortunately, we’ve got a fantastic guy called Nick Angel at Salvation Music who has been with us since year one, really, when we were signed to Island Records initially. He was the guy who signed us. He’s been with us for years and he knows what we’re like so he would never push anything untoward. We’ve turned down quite a few bits and pieces but stuff like Big Brother and the Olympics is great press for us so, from a business point of view, it’s fantastic that we’ve got all these things. From an artistic point of view, we are blessed in that our publishers, and also the guys at Warner/Chappell, actually give a sh*t about where the music is going to be used. So we’re blessed with great publishers who understand what we’re about.

Given that none of you are all that into sport, how did you feel about ‘One Day Like This’ being chosen to soundtrack England’s (ultimately failed) bid to host the 2018 World Cup?

We were pretty honoured, actually. There was a chap from Bury on the committee and I think he suggested that ‘One Day…’ could be an anthem, that it might hypnotise the judges into choosing us. Unfortunately it didn’t happen but it was an honour nonetheless.

Finally, what is a) your favourite Elbow album and b) your top three albums of all time?

I would say Asleep in the Back is definitely my favourite Elbow album. Obviously it was the first one, it was the one that broke us, brought us out into the open and there’s a lot of raw stuff in there. ‘Little Beast’ is a favourite track of mine, you’ve got ‘Newborn’, you’ve got the title track ‘Asleep in the Back’. Looking back over eighteen years of being a signed band, we spent a good few years trying to learn our craft, so to speak.

As of this moment, my top three albums of all time would be: Superunknown by Soundgarden, Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk and The Brown Album by Primus.


About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.

44 Responses to Interview: Elbow

  1. This is a topic that’s near to my heart… Many thanks!
    Exactly where are your contact details though?

  2. g says:

    Hello, I log on to your new stuff on a regular basis.
    Your humoristic style is witty, keep doing what you’re doing!

  3. g says:

    It’s amazing for me to have a website, which is beneficial for my know-how.
    thanks admin

  4. I simply want to mention I’m beginner to weblog and definitely loved you’re website. Almost certainly I’m going to bookmark your site . You certainly come with perfect articles. Thanks a bunch for revealing your web site.

  5. This design is steller! You certainly know
    how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved
    to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job.
    I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented
    it. Too cool!

  6. W88 says:

    You are my breathing in, I have few web logs and very sporadically run out from post :). “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.” by E. B. White.

  7. electro says:

    Very efficiently written story. It will be helpful to anyone who usess it, as well as me. Keep up the good work – looking forward to more posts.

  8. I consider something really special in this internet site.

  9. I wish to express thanks to this writer for bailing me out of this type of instance. Because of checking through the search engines and coming across ways which were not helpful, I assumed my entire life was over. Being alive devoid of the answers to the difficulties you’ve resolved through your entire review is a serious case, and those which could have in a wrong way affected my entire career if I had not discovered your web site. Your expertise and kindness in controlling all areas was useful. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t come upon such a thing like this. I am able to at this moment relish my future. Thanks for your time very much for this skilled and effective guide. I will not hesitate to endorse the blog to anyone who should receive tips on this subject matter.

  10. Utterly composed written content , thankyou for information .

  11. Appreciate it for helping out, excellent information.

  12. We’re a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your site offered us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done an impressive process and our entire group will probably be grateful to you.

  13. bartenders says:

    Hello there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!

  14. You made several fine points there. I did a search on the theme and found nearly all persons will consent with your blog.

  15. Whoa! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a totally different topic but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Excellent choice of colors!

  16. #Swimwear says:

    This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post. Also, I’ve shared your website in my social networks!

  17. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he just bought me lunch as I found it for him smile Therefore let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

  18. Magnificent site. A lot of helpful info here. I’m sending it to a few pals ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you to your sweat!

  19. poker says:

    I think other site proprietors should take this web site as an model, very clean and great user friendly style and design, as well as the content. You’re an expert in this topic!

  20. excellent submit, very informative. I wonder why the opposite specialists of this sector do not understand this. You must proceed your writing. I am confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

  21. One more thing. I think that there are a lot of travel insurance web sites of respected companies that let you enter a trip details and acquire you the estimates. You can also purchase an international travel cover policy on-line by using your credit card. All you have to do is usually to enter your travel specifics and you can start to see the plans side-by-side. Simply find the plan that suits your finances and needs and after that use your bank credit card to buy that. Travel insurance on the internet is a good way to search for a reputable company with regard to international travel insurance. Thanks for discussing your ideas.

  22. I’ve been browsing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be much more useful than ever before.

  23. Greetings from Florida! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the info you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, fantastic site!

  24. online poker says:

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already ;) Cheers!

  25. I really wanted to construct a note so as to express gratitude to you for these marvelous instructions you are posting on this site. My time consuming internet investigation has at the end of the day been honored with really good ideas to write about with my family. I ‘d repeat that we site visitors are very much blessed to dwell in a very good site with very many marvellous people with interesting principles. I feel pretty fortunate to have discovered the webpages and look forward to so many more excellent moments reading here. Thanks again for a lot of things.

  26. Interesting article. It’s very unfortunate that over the last years, the travel industry has already been able to to take on terrorism, SARS, tsunamis, bird flu virus, swine flu, as well as first ever real global economic downturn. Through everything the industry has really proven to be sturdy, resilient and also dynamic, locating new ways to deal with adversity. There are constantly fresh problems and possibilities to which the market must yet again adapt and behave.

  27. 릴 게임 says:

    Thank you for some other informative web site. The place else could I am getting that type of information written in such a perfect way? I have a challenge that I’m simply now operating on, and I have been on the look out for such info.

  28. Attractive part of content. I simply stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your weblog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing on your augment or even I fulfillment you get right of entry to constantly quickly.

  29. Wow! This blog looks exactly like my old one! It’s on a totally different subject but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!

  30. I am not sure where you’re getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for magnificent information I was looking for this information for my mission.

  31. poker online says:

    You could definitely see your enthusiasm within the work you write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  32. Thank you for another informative blog. The place else may just I am getting that kind of info written in such a perfect method? I have a mission that I’m just now running on, and I’ve been at the glance out for such information.

  33. Cannabis says:

    Excellent beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend your site, how can i subscribe for a blog web site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear idea

  34. slabire says:

    I was studying some of your articles on this site and I believe this internet site is very informative ! Keep on posting .

  35. Great site! I am loving it!! Will come back again. I am taking your feeds also.

  36. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is magnificent, as well as the content!

  37. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile Therefore let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

  38. blancolån says:

    I think this web site holds some rattling great info for everyone :D. “Nothing surely is so disgraceful to society and to individuals as unmeaning wastefulness.” by Count Benjamin Thompson Rumford.

  39. Hey there, You’ve done a fantastic job. I will certainly digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m sure they will be benefited from this site.

  40. Google says:

    Hey there. I discovered your website via Google while looking for a comparable topic, your website came up. It looks great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to visit then.

  41. Hello, Neat post. There is a problem with your site in internet explorer, may check this… IE nonetheless is the marketplace leader and a good element of people will leave out your excellent writing because of this problem.

  42. You are my inhalation , I possess few blogs and rarely run out from to post .

  43. I truly enjoy looking at on this web site, it has got excellent blog posts. “Don’t put too fine a point to your wit for fear it should get blunted.” by Miguel de Cervantes.

  44. btc doubler says:

    you could have a great weblog here! would you wish to make some invite posts on my blog?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *