20 years into their recording career, Embrace are making an epic and emphatic return with their seventh studio album. With three #1 albums, six Top 10 singles, sold out arena shows and over two million album sales behind them, Embrace returned to the music scene three years ago with their Top 5 self-titled album Embrace.
Already being hailed as a return to “classic” Embrace, new album LOVE IS A BASIC NEED was recorded in the first half of 2017 at the band’s own Magnetic North Studio, produced by Richard McNamara. Mark Millar talks to Richard McNamara about the new album.
Embrace have just released your 7th album called Love is a Basic Need. Did you go into the recording with any preconceived ideas how it should sound and the kind of songs you wanted to write?
No, We spent so long on the last record. This time around we decided early on that we wanted to do something quick and play as a band in a room and use the muscle memory we have got as Embrace to take us on and just do what we do rather than try and second guess it and reinvent the wheel, which I think we did on the last album. So as a result of that we are not afraid to use strings or have piano ballads and play the 'epic.' card because the songs really suited that. Above all that we were enjoying being together and not being too precious about it. I think it has an effortless feel to it even though it wasn't effortless.
The record sounds very much like Embrace of old was that intentional?
No not intentional. What we seem to do is record an album that sounds like us then we will do one that is the opposite of that then we will go back to sounding like us again and then try something a bit different. The invention comes from the melodies rather than plugging things in and twisting knobs about. It's more organic and a bit more real sounding, that was intentional. We intended not to get in our own way. We had a meeting quite early on and picked out what we thought were the best songs we have ever done and made sure that the songs on this album fitted into that. There are a couple of bits that stick out as maybe not quite fitting in but that just highlights the ones that do.
Does songwriting come easily to the band?
Danny (McNamara) will bring a song on an acoustic guitar with a few bits written. When I bring a song, I tend to have it all finished. Ill have the drums and the bass and everything else on it already. We have two ways of working, one way is to try and recreate what I've done and do better or to try and build one of Danny's songs from nothing. When we do that we might spend a few days trying each song out in various ways and then settle on the best version.
Kerri Watt performs on the song 'Never' did you have her in mind when writing the song?
The song was written towards the end of the last album then we got to the stage that we wanted to move on and get the album out, so it didn't go on the previous record. In the meantime between the last album and Love is a Basic Need we started writing with other people so we could pitch songs to other artists. Never was in the pot for that, so I got my daughter to sing it and demo the song of how it's going to be sung by a female voice, and then nobody picked it up because it was quite a slow version that we'd done.
I had been working with Kerri Watt on some of her own music, and she came to the studio for a writing session, and I showed her the song, which she loved it straight away, and she wanted to do it. So we did a version with Kerri which was faster and in a different key and Danny decided that he wanted to put it on our album, so we talked to Kerri about the possibility of having it as a duet. I think we recorded that song about five f***ing times. (Laughs)
You sing on the track Where You Sleeping? Why did you choose that one? Would you like to sing more songs?
We had finished the album and I was going through a divorce. One night I was in my garden with a guitar and came up with a riff and got the whole song in an hour. Initially, I thought it might go on the next album, or I might do it as a solo thing. Then all the band heard it and loved it and wanted it to be on the record, so we reconvened, and Danny tried to sing it, but he couldn't quite get the rhythm of it right. My melody was more rhythmic, and Danny's was more melodic. His version didn't have the anger or desperation that mine had it sounded more melancholy, so I decided to sing it.
Was it an enjoyable experience recording the new album?
Yeah well apart from getting divorced during it. (Laughs) My life was a bit shit, but the recording sessions were fun. That's the thing with us now we are not too precious anymore we used to argue about stupid stuff, but now we are a bit older and wiser and looking at the bigger picture. We don't bother ourselves with the little things anymore, so it makes it more enjoyable.
Love is a Basic Need is the 2nd Embrace album in a row you have produced. You also co-write the songs and sing on the album. Do you ever feel pressure with all the responsibilities?
It's a bit like being Dennis Waterman where you write the theme tune and sing the theme tune. (Laughs) That's an internal joke. Its good in some respects because I don't let anything slip and I pay attention to details that maybe an outside producer wouldn't put in. But on the other hand, if I weren't producing, I would be spending more time writing guitar lines. Its hard to say but I'm interested in working with other people again on the next record.
What kind of producer are you in the studio?
It depends every job is different, but I have seen it from both sides of the glass. Some producers will be just like a glorified engineer and sit and record everything, and some will make you do things you don't want to do. I'm somewhere in between. I will argue strongly if I think someone is wrong but if they argue strongly back ill say; "well it's your record lets do what you want to do your face is going to be on the cover after all." Producing is just being a Sheppard to about four or five blokes usually.
You recently supported Coldplay on their stadium tour. Both bands have been very supportive of each other over the years. How did those shows go down?
That was amazing it was the best two nights I had for years. They accommodated us really well. Sometimes when you are a support band, the crew can be very standoffish and don't really give a shit about you, but the Coldplay crew were so lovely. And the crowd were really receptive as well they were singing along when Danny was down the ego ramp getting everyone clapping and singing.
Do you worry about trying to stay relevant in today's music environment?
No, it doesn't worry me we are just doing what we do and enjoying it, and as long as we do that, that's the main thing.
Embrace has been doing this for 20 years now. Looking back do you have a particular highlight?
Yes, it was in 2004 the week before our album Out of Nothing came out, it went gold on pre-orders. And that was coming off the back of two of the band having shit jobs. I was pretty much-selling everything in my house on eBay. I was down to my last hundred quid, and then the album went to number one the week before it came out. From then on for two years we had good news every day.
Then we brought out the album This New Day, and just before it came out we were playing arenas then we did that f***ing World Cup song, and all of a sudden negative energy seemed to start which pissed me off, so we decided to take a break which extended to about four years. (Laughs) I think the band has got to build it up again with some momentum. I think we are going to release the 21st anniversary of our debut album The Good Will Out next year. That's should hopefully put us back up there.
Will the 21st-anniversary edition of the Good Will Out be remastered with bonus tracks etc.?
I don't know I think they lost everything. When Hut records got shut down, and Virgin got sold off they threw all the tapes in a skip. Nobody seems to know where they are anyway.
Do you have a record that you always return to?
Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams probably.
How do you listen to music nowadays vinyl streaming or CD?
I just stream. I used to be on vinyl and had the big hi-fi and all that. I bought a Stevie Wonder album on vinyl and was sat there loving it stroking my beard, and I heard a digital skip halfway through it because it had was mastered from a CD, and they had not checked it, which is crazy.
Following recent stadium support dates with Coldplay plus establishing and performing at their own award-winning secret festival, the band recently performed a short run of intimate shows, where they previewed songs from the album. They have announced a UK tour in March and April along with summer festival performances, with full live dates as follows:
Wed 28 th Glasgow O2 Academy
Thurs 29 th Newcastle Riverside
Fri 30 th Nottingham Rock City
Sat 31 st
Sun 1 st Cardiff Tramshed
Mon 2 nd Southampton Engine Rooms
Wed 4 th
Thurs 5 th
Fri 6 th London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Sat 7 th Leeds O2 Academy
Sat 19 th Lancaster Skiddle Fest
Sun 26 th Portsmouth Victorious Fest
Sun 2 nd Knebworth Cool Britannia Festival
Tickets are on sale now.
Embrace are brothers singer Danny McNamara and guitarist Richard McNamara, bassist Steve Firth, keyboardist Mickey Dale and drummer Mike Heaton.