Hailing from a small, suburban town in Atlanta, Georgia, Manchester Orchestra have won the hearts of many music fans over the past 13 years. Like many bands, Manchester Orchestra came to life late in high school for Andy Hull (vocals, guitar); however, the band have created waves in the music industry. After nearly one and a half decades of creating indie rock, the musicians began dabbling in other genres and mediums.
In 2016, Swiss Army Man hit the theaters accompanied by a beautiful score composed by the remaining original members, Hull and Robert McDowell (guitar). There’s a clear contrast between Manchester Orchestra’s soft twang and the pair’s vast layers of vocal tones peppering the recent Daniel Radcliffe film—talk about eclectic.
Now, with members Andy Prince (bass) and Tim Very (drums), Hull and McDowell are taking to the road, ready to show off their new album, A Black Mile To The Surface, released in late July 2017. I was able to have a brief chat with McDowell about the tour and their approach to composition.
How’s the tour been going?
It’s been wonderful so far. It has been a while since we did a proper US tour so we were ready to get back out there!
Have you guys been playing anything from the new album? If so, how’ve the new songs been received so far?
We are playing a lot off the new album. Our fans are the best and have been embracing it. It’s really scary creating a live identity for songs, so we spent a while working out kinks. Each show is feeling better and better.
How do you and the band feel about this new record?
We are very proud of it. It is a combination of what we have learned over the past 15 years. We made sure to take our time and push ourselves to go somewhere new and not settle into what is comfortable.
What was the process like when writing and then recording the album?
Writing was great. We locked ourselves in a cabin in Asheville, North Carolina. It took all distractions away. Recording was great too, but it was a different work process. It is the make or break moment. All these songs can exist in a number of ways, so we had to make sure it was the right presentation.
You guys also created the entire score for Swiss Army Man—how’d you guys get that gig?
We had worked with the writers/directors of the movie on our music video for “Simple Math.” They asked if we wanted to write some songs for the movie. Once we sent the first one over they gave us the option of writing a few songs for the movie or scoring the whole thing. We had no experience with scoring, but we knew we had to say yes.
What went into that creative process—was it any different from writing a Manchester Orchestra album?
It was a brand new process. When you’re writing for a band, the music is the main art. In this situation we had to learn how to compliment what was already there. Even if we were working with a 15 second segment of film, we had to create an emotion to steer scenes.
The band’s music has also been featured on television shows and other films—even on video games. Did you guys do anything different to write the tracks, or were they used as-is?
They were used as-is. It’s important for us to try and chase our vision rather than aiming for a certain sound that is popular in the moment.
In the last 13 years, the band has had plenty of success. What does all of this mean to you?
I feel so grateful for it. From an early age, I knew I wanted to do whatever it took to create music. It has been a lot of hard work, but every bit of it has been worth it.
You also have a couple of your own albums out. Can you talk about that decision to release your own material?
I actually can’t remember the decision. I think it came naturally. It’s important to me to always be creating something. With side projects you can get a little weirder with stuff and try new things. All it does is sharpen your tools for the next project.
What do you guys have planned once this tour is over?
First thing is family time, then back in the studio for something fun. We are lucky to have built a studio about a mile away, so we try and do a solid nine-to-five work week there. Then in the new year we will be heading over to Australia!
Don’t miss as Manchester Orchestra pull into Terminal 5 in New York on Sept. 29. For more information on these rockers, visit their site at themanchesterorchestra.com.