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By now, we hope that you've heard the message: Embrace is once again on American shores. This time, not only on CD, but also in person. The gentlemanly Danny McNamara took a few minutes to sit down with David DeVoe and chat about the tour, the new record, the expectations of American audiences and the greatness of the Dave Chappelle Show.

Hybrid Magazine: So, how are things? How's the tour been going?

Danny McNamara: It's going really well. You know, I didn't know what to expect, really. We haven't played in America for all our career as a band… so that's 8, 9 years we've been waiting. We had tours booked for the first album, but then when we got dropped from Geffen, just as "All You Good Good People" became second most added to radio that week, right behind "Intergalactic" by The Beastie Boys… we got dropped and so that tour never happened. Since then, we've always wanted to come out here and ride in a silver single-decker across the desert… which is maroon, incidentally. I'm a bit disappointed by that. I didn't know what to expect… the first little tour we did this year was all sold out and the second tour we did with Snow Patrol, you know, we were received well. And this tour, it's been a mixed bag. Places like Seattle and Portland and San Francisco, it's been sold out. And then places like Reno and Sacramento and stuff like that, it's been about half empty. But the crowds have all been well up to it, and much more than we were expecting. Much more than I was expecting. I was expecting about five men and a dog, which I wouldn't mind if they were all singing along. The crowds have all been great. I was told as well by friends that American crowds are slightly more aloof and a bit cooler than they are in Britain, where it becomes a bit more of a rabble, you know? But that hasn't been the case. I can't really tell the difference.

HM: I think that depends on the band a lot. I think there are certainly shows that it becomes like that, and certainly genres of music that support that kind of deal. I would expect that a bit more with you guys as well, as the music tends to be a bit more subdued at times. But that is very good to hear. I had forgotten that you had gone out with Snow Patrol.

DM: They've become really good friends. I got a text from Gary today, actually. We really hit it off. Sometimes you do with a support band, and sometimes you like them, but they're really not your cup of tea as people, or whatever. But with Snow Patrol, I think we've made some new friends. They're really nice guys.

HM: Are those guys younger than you guys?

DM: I think they're about the same age… spread a bit through the thirties.

HM: It seems to me, in thinking about what I was going to ask someone from Embrace about, you know… When I got the first record, there were a bunch of us on a Catherine Wheel list that kind of discovered you at the same time, and so we always talked about you guys, but it didn't seem like anyone else in the world knew. But looking back, I think that The Good Will Out was the precursor to bands like Coldplay and Snow Patrol. I don't know that that music would have existed in the same form had Embrace not been on the scene already. It draws from other places as well, obviously, but…

DM: I suppose it's uncool for bands to name check really… It's kind of like U2 suffered the same fate until recently. A lot of bands that liked U2 secretly, sort of, are now coming out of the woodwork. But they all speak to me, you know. I understand why they don't like name checkers really… But Chris [Martin] has been really open about it, I think. He's said that we inspired them and they wouldn't have written XYZ if it wasn't for us… Actually, not the album X&Y, I'm just talking a figure of speech. They wouldn't have written this song or that song, had we not been around. They're definitely post-Embrace, or whatever.

HM: Well, that's one of the things I thought about on their first record… Oh, it's Dave Matthews mixed with Embrace. It's a nice fusion…

DM: He came to see us at a gig we did… just about three years before Coldplay got a record deal, and we gave him tinnitus, apparently. And he still blames me for it now.

[everyone laughs]

HM: He's doing just fine with it! You might have helped him out.

DM: Me and him… Again, I mean, he's probably my second best friend in the whole world. He's a truly inspiring human being to be around. He's always, like, all switched on. I imagine that when he's brushing his teeth he does it on one leg to keep it more interesting, you know? And I love being around him, he's just really invigorating to be around. And he kind of looks at me like an older brother or something, he's always asking me for advice. We have a lot of late night chats, and we've written songs together. They're not very good. I suppose if we were to write a good song, it would come out… It's too many chiefs, not enough Indians.


HM: I don't think a lot of people who are just beginning to get into you, from the Snow Patrol gigs and such, are obviously not going to know the history of the band. With Geffen dropping you after The Good Will Out, there were two records, or was it three…

DM: There were two records. Drawn From Memory and If You've Never Been.

HM: Cool, I wanted to make certain I wasn't missing one. When they came out, those of us on this side of the Atlantic, we all had to pay thirty dollars for them, and they were completely worth it.

DM: I know, I know. That's the other weird thing about the gigs as well… We get people chanting for songs off those albums… probably more than songs off the new album.

HM: Well, the new album's not out yet…

DM: Yeah, but… They've all got it already.

[everyone laughs]

DM: They're all in for a shock.

HM: That's a big part of the whole Internet thing. I did the same thing with Drawn From Memory. I couldn't find it here, so I found three or four tracks on the Internet, and then finally…

DM: The website that we've got is really cool, I think. My brother does it, and it's really like… Whenever I want to know what we're doing I just go on there, because it is more up to date than I am. It's a pretty cool website.

HM: There was never a time when Embrace did not exist, right?

DM: Obviously, like when we were kids… but [laughs]

HM: Well, since the band has been going…

DM: Since we formed? Absolutely. Not even for a second.

HM: And with the same set of guys. That's pretty amazing.

DM: Well, we get on pretty well. I think if anything I'm a slight outsider in the band. But no less loved or whatever than anyone else. I don't get up so early like everyone else does, and I don't drink as much as they drink… and I stay out a lot later. I'm single and they all have long-term partners… And, I'm quite intense, and they are all, for the most part, really laid back. But, you know, that's the thing… In the mix, you compare us to most other bands, we're all so down to Earth. Have you ever seen a program called Auf Weider Tzen Pat[?]?

HM: No. [shakes head]

DM: It's this program, these bricklayers go and live in Germany and get this little hostel… It's just like that on the road. We're just all so… it's just a gang of lads going out and having fun. When we're in the studio, we're just like five kids messing about. See what that button does, or what that button does. I don't think technically any of us are very good at what we do compared to… take for instance Long-View. The singer in Long-View is a classically trained guitarist and could run rings around any of us, you know. We're sort of… the technical side of it, and that takes a back seat to: do we get on? And we do. And that's the heart of the band. That's why we are still together. It's like, do I like the guy? Yeah. Can he drum? Well actually he can… but you know, it was in that order.

HM: It's the Neil Young Syndrome. That's what I call it.

DM: A little bit, yeah. I love the album Harvest. The first song on that…

HM: I mean, he can't play guitar, and he can't sing. But he's one of the greatest guitar players and singers of all time.

DM: Absolutely. I completely agree with that. You could say the same about Bob Dylan or Lou Reed, or you know… The ones that are technically good, sometimes actually leave me behind a bit. It's like they're not singing to you, they're singing at you. And I like… I used to sing a lot like Ian McCulloch… I used to do all the inflections and everything. If you had seen us in 1992, you'd have said yeah, I compare them to Joy Division, all those bands… U2. But I sat down with an acoustic guitar and wrote a song called "Retread" and it was just me singing on my own in my bedroom, really quiet so I didn't wake my mom and dad up… and I gave it to my brother on a tape. There were some songs on the other side, the Echo And The Bunnymen ones, and he put the tape in the wrong way around, and heard me writing this song on my own and was like "What's that?". And I told him I'd just been writing this song on my own, and it's not that good. He said, "You what? It's fucking great!" I thought it sounded too country and western, or Tammy Wynette, or too commercial or… something put me off of it. It was too tuneful or something. And he was like, "No, man, we've got to work on this" And that's what became us. I felt like we were something no one else was. It felt quite special at the moment.

HM: Growing up, were you exposed to a lot of American country music?

DM: It's like my mom and dad would always play old Motown and soul and northern soul. Just a lot of American stuff. Beach Boys was in there as well. Never really country western, really. I don't know where that's come from. Some people in the early days said I had a deep voice a bit like Glen Campbell or whatever. And I'd never heard him, and I went and listened to him… and that's a very flattering compliment, to be honest. His voice is amazing.

HM: Yeah, he's the king.

DM: Just stunning, yeah. Particularly on "Wichita Lineman"… and "Galveston" is like, whoa. There's songs in that genre that just take my breath away, but 90% of it leaves me cold. It's all a bit honky tonk, and a bit… it's too kind of rootsy, and it excludes me a bit. Even something like "She" By Gram Parsons or something. You know, it starts out [sings] "She, la la la" and then suddenly it goes dang-da-lang-da or something. Oh! What've you done? You know…

[everyone laughs]

But those beautiful moments where you've got like some white guy singing from the heart. You know, someone like Glen Campbell or Gram Parsons, you know me, I put them in the same sort of ballpark, it's the most beautiful thing you can get as a white person. And then you look at people like Marvin Gaye and Al Green that run rings around us all, but you know, I suppose that's as good as it gets from a white person. I always liked Carole King when she did her stuff. Man, I love Aretha Franklin, but there's something special about the original Carole King versions of some of those songs that she wrote. They were just like… I don't know… Makes me feel more…

HM: I think a lot of people would be surprised by how many of their favorite songs were actually written by Carole King, you know? Because she did write a ton of songs. It's like, every year I discover a new song that I had no idea Bob Dylan had written. Pretty much, without fail, one a year.

DM: Neil Diamond's a funny one for that, as well, actually. [laughs] He did that Monkees song…

HM: Yeah, that surprises people the first time they find that out… So, for me, I'd like to kind of know what part of England you guys are from, because your accent is very northern…

DM: Well, the nearest sort of big town is Leeds. Which is sort of thirty miles east and north of Manchester. And there's loads of little satellite towns around there… We sort of live between a bunch of those small villages. But Leeds is kind of the one that people would know. But whenever anyone in America asks me and I say Leeds, they say "Where's That?"… In England.

HM: Yeah, American geography pretty much knows London and Manchester, and that's it.

DM: Yeah, maybe Edinburgh or something… But we're about 30 miles east of Manchester.

HM: How was it playing in the early 90's, with the whole Manchester scene… musically it's kind of disparate, but with the Happy Mondays, the Charlatans

DM: Absolutely. The Stone Roses were the kings. Yeah, you know that first album by the Stone Roses is still in my top five albums of all time, even if it weren't for sentimental reasons. They were just… for about a year and a half in that late 80's early 90's thing… completely untouchable. And I think the heights that they reached is equal to Nirvana or any band since, really. They were just absolutely phenomenal. And any band that was coming up at that time hoped that they had even a small percentage of what they had. They were just an amazing band. And the Happy Mondays… Shaun Ryder is just a fantastic lyricist. Fair enough, he has a certain amount of freedom because he doesn't really sing melodies, he kind of raps, and so that gives you the freedom to kind of do what you want… but not a lot of people use that. Particularly in rap. A lot of rap acts just tell you how good they are in their lyrics. The best ones don't, you know? But a lot of them do. And Shaun Ryder kind of invented this new style of rap, really. A Manchester rap style, really, that no one has copied because it's so unique, you'd just get called a copy of him. He's such a one-off. And then the other bands, great bands like James, Inspirals[Carpets], and Charlatans, that you mentioned, that whole thing. But even before that it was like New Order, Echo And The Bunnymen, Joy Division…

HM: All that Factory Records stuff.

DM: Yeah. The Smiths… you know, Manchester and the north of England, most of my favorite bands are from there. There's really only U2 that I'd add to that mix, really.

HM: I always kind of placed Manchester as kind of the Motown of Great Britain.

DM: To a certain extent, you know, if you'd say what's the musical capital of England? It would either be Manchester, or because of the Beatles, Liverpool. But you would probably say Manchester.

HM: I would definitely say Manchester.

DM: Yeah, I think that's probably right. And there's great towns in England… you know, Glasgow's a fantastic music town, and Leeds is becoming one now. Manchester's still really cool. It's kind of funny because London, til the Libertines came along, was always seen as a place you kind of go if you want to be a press darling. And then the Libertines came along with so much heart in what they did… There's nothing about them really, but something… people have taken them to their hearts, you know.

HM: They're just a very good, solid rock band.

DM: They're just really true, I think. And I really like that thing again, that's like bands that are technically not the best songwriters or whatever… just what they had was so good. It's a shame they're not together any longer.

HM: Okay, you guys have the new record coming out… So, what are the plans? Obviously, you're touring for this record…

DM: We're going to keep coming back. We finish this tour in a few weeks and then we're in England for about two weeks recording album number five, and then we're back here for about another month. Then we've got about two weeks off, probably mixing album five, and then back here for another six weeks. We're doing the VH1 tour; we're headlining it with Turin Brakes

HM: That should be amazing. That new Turin Brakes album is very good, as well. They're another band that should by no means be popular. They're a weird band with a weird singer, but whatever that chemistry is, they've got it figured out… So, the fifth record is written?

DM: Yeah. We're about 70% of the way finished with it now. I think we still need to do a bit more writing. It's already sounding more immediate than the last one. It's going to be a good one for playing live, cause it's a lot more kind of jumping up and down, drums and guitars. It's quite raw as well. It's quite exciting really; we started writing songs as a band towards the end of the sessions for the last album. "Out Of Nothing" and "Near Life" were both written that way, but they were only sort of prototypes. On this album, 90% of it's written by the band as a whole, and we've really hit our stride. It's really exciting.

HM: So previously, songs were written by…

DM: Me and Richard.

HM: And then taken to the band and see what happens.

DM: Yeah, jam it out and see what happens. But these have all just come from scratch, just with the band, and they sound a lot more inspired… a lot more varied as well. Also, a lot more original sounding… a lot more sort of pushing the envelope a bit. But no less tuneful, which is kind of a surprise to everybody, including our record company. They want us to try to put it out this year, because they think there are some good singles. Our record company says you've got all the singles, they just want us to tally up the album so they can sell it. But I want the album to be the best album we've ever made, and it's going to take a bit more than two weeks in between tours to get there.

HM: So was Out Of Nothing a longer process?

DM: Three Years. We wrote over 500 songs and picked the best fifteen. And then eventually narrowed it down to the best ten… and eventually lost one of them to put "Gravity" on. And the song that we lost, a song called "Everytime That I See your Face"… I think that Aimee Mann might do it, actually. She's said she wants to work with us, and so we sent her that song. That's a bit of an exclusive, actually, since I only found out this week. We're doing this thing called the Forest Sessions, which is going to involve collaborations with other bands and stuff. Hopefully, she's going to get involved in that. Magnolia is a fantastic album… except for the three tracks by someone else. [laughs]

HM: She's pretty amazing.

DM: Yeah, she is. She name checked us as one of her top ten albums of last year. And so I wrote her a letter asking if she wants to work with us and she wrote back saying yes. It should be good. I always wanted to hear one of our songs sung by a beautiful female voice.

HM: Well, you can't pick a much better voice than that.

DM: Yeah. Well, if not Sinead O'Connor… Aimee Mann will have to do. [laughs]

HM: well, since Sinead's kind of tied up doing the family thing…

DM: Yeah, Sinead O'Connor's busy. [laughs] It's a fucking honor, really. I'm very flattered. When our manager sent me the email, it changed my week.

HM: Well, that's pretty fantastic. I know people that would kill for that… or be killed for it, either way. What have you guys been listening to on the bus this tour?

DM: We actually haven't really been listening to music very much. We've been watching the Chappelle Show… We've got it on DVD, and we've just been working our way through that from start to finish, because we'd never seen it before. And it's fantastic… truly amazing. I hope it comes to Britain.

HM: We'll wrap up with this: If you could tell the world one thing about Embrace, what would it be?

DM: Hmmm. That's a really good question. I've never been asked that before. The whole world gets to know one thing about us… it would have to be something like, check us out, you might like it! [laughs] because anything else sounds arrogant… You're addressing the whole planet. I'd probably want to talk about something else if I was addressing the whole planet. I'd get them all to hold hands… I don't know. I think if you see us live, you get it. I think we've hit certain heights on records, but when we play live it kind of all makes sense. If I was going to be selfish, I would say come check us out live.

-David DeVoe


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