Find­ing more el­bow room

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Eguide Music - JAMES WIGNEY EL­BOW will play Fes­ti­val Hall, Melbourne, March 21. To book, phone 136 100.

BRI­TISH band El­bow has had its fair share of ac­co­lades, awards and suc­cesses in its 20- year ca­reer.

From ac­claimed al­bums, to win­ning the UK’S most pres­ti­gious mu­sic prize, The Mer­cury, in 2008 and most re­cently be­ing af­forded the hon­our of com­pos­ing the BBC’S Olympic cov­er­age theme tune, the revered Manch­ester quin­tet is on a high.

But ar­guably the big­gest, and cer­tainly most un­ex­pected, thrill for all – for the band mem­bers who are not averse to a tip­ple – was be­ing able to mix their own beer, which was then named in their hon­our.

The brew they came up with was de­signed as a limited re­lease to help pro­mote the band’s al­bum of last year Build a Rocket Boys, but lead singer Guy Gar­vey says it’s still sell­ing 8000 pints a week in their home town so they just keep mak­ing it.

‘‘ We should have ne­go­ti­ated more money frankly,’’ says the af­fa­ble Gar­vey, with a laugh.

‘‘ I could have bought that yacht. Get­ting drunk on your own beer just makes the band laugh it’s some­thing we never ex­pected to be do­ing.

‘‘ One of those lit­tle am­bi­tions you never knew you had.’’

Hav­ing had the same line- up for more than 20 years and only achiev­ing its big­gest hit rel­a­tively re­cently, with the mil­lion­selling 2008 al­bum The Sel­dom Seen Kid, the slow- burn suc­cess of El­bow is some­thing of an odd­ity in a fast- paced in­dus­try with a short mem­ory.

Gar­vey puts the band’s longevity down to keep­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion clear be­tween band- mates and not let­ting ar­gu­ments go un­re­solved, no mat­ter how small.

‘‘ I re­mem­ber my mum said af­ter she and my dad di­vorced that it wasn’t any­thing big it was 20 years of lit­tle things.

‘‘ I have never thought about this be­fore but my mar­riage to those four is about to trump my mother and fa­ther’s mar­riage.’’

Lyri­cist Gar­vey even wrote a love song to the rest of the band, Dear Friends, on the most re­cent al­bum and says they would all give up the band be­fore they gave up the friend­ships they formed as teenagers.

‘‘ We have done so many amaz­ing things to­gether,’’ Gar­vey says. ‘‘ It’s not lost on us that trav­el­ling to Australia is a mas­sive thing.

‘‘ That what we do here in lit­tle rooms in Manch­ester can fly us across the world to an await­ing au­di­ence is just amaz­ing.’’

Gar­vey says the band has been back in the stu­dio work­ing on the fol­low- up to Build a Rocket Boys and some of the songs may well make it into the set- list for next month’s shows in Australia.

El­bow flirted with the then- new trip- hop sound com­ing out of Bris­tol in the early ’ 90s and Gar­vey hints at a re­turn to sim­i­lar ter­ri­tory for the next al­bum.

‘‘ We kind of left that idea there and wan­dered off to­wards prog rock and some­times to­wards melan­cho­lia and we have gone back to that slow, stoner groove thing,’’ he says. ‘‘ We’re play­ing with beats.’’

Gar­vey is also ad­vis­ing au­di­ences to bring their best voices along to the shows.

For the sec­ond El­bow al­bum, Cast of Thou­sands, the band recorded the crowd dur­ing their slot at the fa­mous Glas­ton­bury fes­ti­val and used the massed choir on the song Grace Un­der Pres­sure.

‘‘ We will be record­ing ev­ery show we do in Australia and there is a strong pos­si­bil­ity we might ask the au­di­ence to do some­thing ev­ery night, which is then on the next record,’’ Gar­vey says.

And af­ter im­press­ing at last year’s Splen­dour in the Grass fes­ti­val, Gar­vey says the band is keen to bring a big­ger pro­duc­tion with ‘‘ lights and bells and whis­tles’’ back to Australia.

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