Interview | Manchester Orchestra

November 16, 2009 by  

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Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra have seen their ascent to the upper echelons of inide-rock accelerate rapidly since the release of their second album ‘Mean everything To Nothing’. Add to this a stint supporting Kings Of Leon, their troublesome beginnings must now seem inconsequential when compared to their ever growing legions of fans. Currently on tour with Biffy Clyro, we managed to prise Jonathan Corley away from the band’s constantly hectic schedule. Talking to JC we soon discovered how much the world of Manchester Orchestra had changed since its humble beginnings in a red mini-van…

AM: How has it been supporting Biffy Clyro? Do you guys all get on well?

JC: We just wrapped up a twenty-one day tour throughout the UK supporting Biffy. I met the Glaswegians back in 2007 on a tour with Say Anything. Beyond being three of the most easy-going human beings in the world, they melted faces every single night. We connected with them immediately and ended up following them back across the Atlantic. Honestly, I am surprised at just how large of a production their UK tour has become. With the release of their new record last week, you could feel excitement surrounding the band as they moved to each city. While in Glasgow, I wandered into a dive bar called King Tut’s for a pint of beer and heard just how much hometown pride surrounds Biffy. I heard more about Kilmarnoch soccer – sorry, football – than anyone should have to put up with. We plan to tour the US together at some point in the near future.

AM: Do you find it difficult on the road, being so far away from home?

JC: It gets tough to stay healthy and sane while bouncing between different cities each night. Today, I’m in Berlin and running on a pitiful four hours of sleep. Our plane left London Heathrow early this morning, and I’m not sure that I’ll even make it out to see Berlin (outside of the venue we’re in). Everything falls into an incredibly scattered pattern on tour. Back home, there are surely people that I never meant to lose touch with. Traveling constantly I’ve lost a lot of acquaintances, but realize just how important the people close to me are. While it can be straining on relationships, this job awards me with an opportunity to experience so many cities that I would otherwise never even venture to. Before this last tour, I had never even heard of Guy Fawkes Day. Sure, I had seen V for Vendetta, but I didn’t realize that an entire country lights shit on fire to celebrate some maniac that attempted to blow up parliament. I spent “bonfire night” with friends from Leeds, bar-hopping near Hyde Park.

AM: How much did Atlanta shape your sound and do you still listen to anything coming out of your home town now?

JC: Personally, I’m a gigantic fan of older local acts like REM, Neutral Milk Hotel and Outkast. When we started playing shows, a key decision was made to get the hell out of Atlanta. Early on, the band loaded all of our gear into a Suburban and never really looked back. That bright red Suburban didn’t even have Air Conditioning. It got us out of Atlanta and in front of different people every night. Throughout years of touring, we have focused on building community around us. Manchester Orchestra runs the Favorite Gentlemen label, which includes several active Atlanta acts on the roster. They are some of the greatest people that I could hope to know. There is truly incredible music being released by Atlanta bands like O’Brother, Dead Confederate, and Winston Audio.

AM: Your second album ‘Mean Everything to Nothing’ has been received extremely well over here; did you expect it to get that kind of response?

JC: We sat on that record for about six months between its completion and release. It was our second major release and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The record is filled with songs that I enjoy playing – songs that we’re proud of. We can all be something bigger. There will always be a drive to put the albums into as many hands as possible, and I hope that those people enjoy what they hear.

AM: Was it a difficult album to record and get out?

JC: The process of recording Mean Everything to Nothing was intense. We spent about four solid months on the project. They were some of the most difficult and rewarding months of my life. I mentioned that nervous anticipation leading up to the release. That was possibly the most difficult part for me. It was waiting, hoping the record doesn’t leak. Whatever we release will dictate the next year or so of my life. It can certainly put things into a strange perspective – I mean, we had never released a sophomore album before.

AM: Given the difficulties of your earlier recordings did you ever feel like just giving up?

JC: There isn’t a moment that comes to mind where I considered walking away from this during the recording process. We were so invested in the project that “giving up” wasn’t really an option.

AM: You’ve included a big headline date at Heaven, are you looking forward to the step up? Or do you prefer playing smaller venues?

JC: The intimacy of smaller venues can have its benefits. My favorite London show to date is a headline show that we played at Kings College. We played in front of about 500 kids who were passionate about the music they came to see. The Kings College show was scheduled on a day off during the 2007 Kings of Leon Tour. We followed the show up with a support slot at Wembley Arena. On the other hand, The Wembley show is fulfilling in an entirely different way. That room is a place that I will never forget playing. It’s a show that I’ll tell my kids about one day.

AM: What’s up next for you guys? Recording? Touring? Relaxing at home?

JC: Next? Next is two days in Germany, one show in London and then home for Thanksgiving. I’ll have a week off to spend with family and friends back home. We head north on Nov 28 for a Long Island show at Nassau Coliseum (with Brand New, Thrice, Glasjaw, and others). During December, we have a series of shows that take us to different corners of the United States.


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