Embrace come back to what they know


Written by Melz Durston
13 Tuesday 13th May 2014

Not content to sit back and rely on their back-catalogue of records (which began in 1998 with their debut, hugely popular album The Good Will Out), the band are creating music that has that age-old habit of settling into your gut, like a warm honey and lemon drink, with the sharpness of the after-tang left by the taste.

Metaphors aside, it honestly is a wonderful thing to know that Embrace are back on solid ground and deciding to keep in the game.  Tonight they'll be playing to a hopefully sold-out 02 Academy in Bristol, the fourth date on their tour - to which, Mike Heaton, the band's drummer (and teacher, and mentor to name a few of his other hats) has enthused:

"Started really well in Liverpool, then a great gig Birmingham, and Nottingham was off the scale!  The fans, their reaction, the overwhelming cheers, we had to take our in-ear monitors out at the end.  I think it went down fairly well."

Since writing 24 songs in just nine days, for their previous album in 2006, their latest album might seem like a long and drawn-out process, taking over four years to write and record.  They might have been laying low, in the public's eyes, but they have been concentrating on individual projects including a bit of mentoring, musical coaching and producing, club nights and such.  Mike has been visiting universities and colleges, mentoring students, which he says has pushed him to develop and improve his own technique.

"It's done me the world of good.  I'm 100% a better drummer than I was before."  Mike has also helped to produce their previous b-sides release.

During this busy hiatus, the band found themselves back in the same room together after a couple of years and realised that they still had a lot more life left in them as a band:

"We realised we've got some unfinished business here, we haven't said what we wanted to say.  So we started working on a record."  Mike explained.

The record took four and a half years to make, but it was time well channelled, as previous to their temporary break from recording, they had a crazy year in 2006, resulting in making some wrong decisions.  The time away was a conscious and necessary decision to re-focus, and showed that they still had it in them to churn out the punchy, emotionally-charged songs we've come to expect and love from Embrace.

The first song to emerge from their regrouping as a band set the benchmark.  And partly accounts for the time involved in producing this, their sixth studio album.

"If the first song had been shit, it would have been a lot easier!"  Mike pointed out.

Embrace have been through a journey, in terms of label signings, including a stint with EMI, Independiente and Fierce Panda.  Now signed to Cooking Vinyl, but no longer producing home-recordings on to cassettes like in the early days, they're still very much grounded, and despite their world tours they have kept true to their roots and have come back to what they know (cliche aside).

"It feels like we've got the energy back."  Mike said.

And for a band who have been around this long, signed in the UK in the mid 90s, and still got the same line up - that's something to feel chuffed with.  But they're still striving to improve, as their singles Refugee and Follow You Home show.

Mike and the band invested a lot into their newest material, taking their songs into the studio for a prolonged time and literally pumping all their emotional and financial energy into them.  It means more to them, than might first meet the eye:

"We need to make this work, and it needs to be the best thing we can do.  It has kept us sharp.  We still have an urge to better ourselves.  We're not sitting in our castles with our Ferraris."  

And a good thing, too.  For if they were, they surely wouldn't be producing the same, raw and honest songs that they are creating, all these years later.

With a focus more on the studio time and generating the songs so that they are just right, this has kept the band motivated to achieve great things - and is why, when you go to see them live, you'll be quite frankly, blown away by their raw replication of these studio-made songs.

And as the drummer, Mike has to ensure he is in-tune with the emotional output of the band, whilst figuring out how to make the impossible into something tangible:

"Playing an instrument is fifty percent about playing an instrument, and the other half is about listening to the band."

Admittedly, sometimes, the impossible is difficult to achieve, but he'll give it a shot:

"I've only got two arms and two legs, I've got to work out how the hell to play it!"

As a band who have been virtually invisible to the outside world, for the past eight years, it was a tough one to know if they'd be well received on their return.  But they shouldn't have worried, as their first shows have been pretty much sold out.

And the great thing is, they'll be reaching an entirely new generation of listeners this time around.

"Our old fans are coming back but we're hopefully attracting new ones too."

In today's digital age, it's too easy to lose interest and move our attentions to other, newer sounds that are constantly distracting us, but Embrace seem to be in this for the long-haul, and this too, is reflected in their fans and the loyalty they show.  And whilst there might appear to be a pressure on bands who have been around for more than a decade, to keep on innovating and producing new and surprising material, this is something that as a band, they don't have the same need to fulfil.  

Secure in their sound, but constantly driving to improve, these are the values that underpin their latest, and newest work to date.  There's a sense of coming home, a nostalgia and a feeling of contentment - but by no means is this marking a lull in their output or indicating that a creative plateau has been reached:

"We're going in the right direction, we're being loyal to ourselves.  While we're still improving, we'll still keep going."

And for fans across the country and around the world, this news is possibly the best news of this year, yet.

Embrace are back, with their album Embrace released on Cooking Vinyl.  Their tour will stop in at the following venues.  There are even plans to tour the USA this October, so stay tuned.  Be sure to get yourself a ticket or two (if it isn't sold out already, that is).


Tour Dates:

13th May - 02 Academy - Bristol

14th May - 02 Academy - Leeds

16th May - 02 Academy - Glasgow

17th May - 02 Academy - Manchester

18th May - 02 Academy - Newcastle

20th May - 02 Shepherds Bush Empire - London

21st May - 02 Shepherds Bush Empire - London

More info at: www.embrace.co.uk

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