Editors: 'It's hard to move on if the fans expect certain things'
Their line-up might have changed, along with their sound, but, as indie rock band Editors tell Edwin Gilson, they've only ever tried to be their own men
There was a time when Editors, and their introspective post-punk tones, were straddling the fine line between indie respectability and mainstream success. It was an age when guitar-driven music still appealed to the UK masses, and a genuine rock movement was more than just a fanciful notion.
"We were lucky around 2005 because radio stations played the kind of music we made," reflects bassist Russell Leetch. "Whereas the stuff we do now is a million miles away from the charts."
Clearly this is partly due to a change in the popular music landscape, with the recent rise in profile of electronic dance music, but also partly because of a dip in form from the Birmingham band. While their first two albums, The Back Room and An End Has a Start, were reviewed glowingly, there was a noticeably mixed reaction to Editors' third record in 2009.
In the subsequent years, Editors – who play at Mandela Hall on November 19 – have parted ways with founding guitarist Chris Urbanowicz and (apparently inadvertently) moved away from their gloomy, '80s-indebted music. Some commentators claimed the band had gone 'arena rock' with fourth album The Weight of Your Love, released this summer, but Leetch denies this. While the album definitely attempts to be bigger, more dramatic, the bassist claims there was not a conscious effort to subvert the traditional Editors sound. And the change was most certainly not a reason for Urbanowicz's departure.
"A lot of people think he was against the alleged new musical direction, but that wasn't the case at all," insists Leetch. "There was no unifying focus on this record. We were trying to use guitars, but it wasn't working, it just felt mundane." When Leetch talks of the 'turbulent time' he and his band members have been through, he is largely referring to the split with their former guitarist. However, he points out that "it isn't just Chris who should take the blame".
He adds: "It was just a general feeling; we weren't communicating with each other. When that happens, it stops being fun for anybody. Chris's heart wasn't in the new songs that we were practicing and he didn't want to ... what's the word ... force it anymore. That was fair enough, but we did have to ask him to leave, which is never a pleasant experience."
To make up for the loss of the influential Urbanowicz, Editors drafted in not one but two new members, Justin Lockey on lead guitar and Elliott Williams on keys. "They had to learn about 80 songs in the space of a few weeks," laughs Leetch. "They got used to them pretty quickly, though, and there's a lot more enthusiasm around now than there has been for the last few years."
With admirable honesty, Leetch admits that The Weight of Your Love "may well have alienated some of Editors' fanbase". He wistfully declares that "it can be hard to move forward and explore new areas when you have fans that expect certain things from you. People's opinions are all so different nowadays anyway; you only have to look on the internet, if you dare, to see the varying reaction. Some people might well say we are cheesy; that's just the way it goes when you try to inject drama in to your music."
Leetch has evidently been contemplating his band's image in the minds of the UK press, too.
"People are often confused as to our situation," he sighs. "They ask how people that seem contented off stage can appear so miserable on it. It's a personality crisis for some journalists to get their head around."
Still, Leetch is adamant Editors have always tried to be their own entity; and that's not about to change.
"Even back in the mid-2000s, when we were getting bracketed in with bands like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, we were always out on our own," he says. "We still are. It feels good to be that way."
Editors play at Mandela Hall in Belfast on November 19. For details, visit www.qubsu-ent.co.uk