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It's crunch time! After legandary gigs and two massive singles, can Editors' first album live up to the hype?

Bad interview techniques number one: pointing out that in Playmusic's May issue's Listening Post, our own Hannah Hamilton described Editors as an "Interpol covers band" before mentioning that in the very next column our editors, Lord Barney of Jameson, insisted that the same group was, in fact, "stunning".

"I didn't know anyone didn't like us!" howls baby-faced guitarist Chris Urbanowicz in mock indignation. "I thought everyone loved us. This interview's over!"

"We're not going to divide opinion," smiles slightly calmer singer and guitarist Tom Smith. "We're going to unite people!"

"I don't think we've given anyone a reason to hate us," adds Chris, quickly regaining his composure. "We don't divide opinion as much as a band like The Others."

"I don't think that anyone who knows anything about music loves that band," sighs Tom. "I don't think any music fan could consider them a good band."

It's not like Editors to bitch. Even the briefest listen to their music makes it obvious that the four members have their minds on higher planes. We may be sitting in an anonymous boozer in Cambridge an hour before a show, and indeed bassist Russell Leetch and drummer Ed Lay are tucking into their pub grub while we chat, but Editors seem wholly disinterested in the sordid side of rock and roll.

"The success that we've had so far has been a reaction to the two singles we released and just going out touring," insists Tom.

"The audience is getting bigger and people are buying the record because they're hearing it and liking it, rather than people being told to like it."

"Not liking us because of what drugs we take or who we piss off or who we fight," adds Chris.

"We've always had that," grins Chris. "Before we even got signed we sent out a one-track demo, Bullets, to two or three people. It snowballed and about thirty labels ended up coming to see us at a gig in Birmingham not knowing who we were, what we looked like, what we were called or anything. We could have been four fat, bald fifty year olds."

If this introduction to the assembled A&R mass was Editors' official entry to the music industry (a gig Chris describes as "bollocks"), it wasn't the springboard for the success that followed. The credit has to go to the hard work they put in at the very beginning.

"When we finished university we moved to Birmingham to concentrate on being in a band," explains Tom. "We had to get jobs and in the evening we'd rehearse. We were working on songs for a year and a half until we got signed.

Chris adds, "We'd pay 20 quid for two hours in this rehearsal room. It's like throwing four people in a room and saying 'be creative' for two hours. Sometimes you're not feeling it after you've been at a bad job in a shoe shop or a call centre. We were always fucked off. Maybe that helped."

It was those songs, rather than the mystery showcase, that finally led to a deal with the tiny Kitchenware label. It's a testament to the band's powers of self-control that they avoided the temptations of major label cheques being wafted in their direction. For Editors however, signing with a small indie was absolutely ideal.

"We're a spearhead of a label!" boasts Chris. "We never would have been a spearhead of a major."

"Bands like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party have proved you can make music that crosses over on independent labels," announces Tom. "Also, we've got amazing people working on our record who are going to make sure that the right people hear it. If they're confident enough to work with a band on an independent label then great. Bands have so much money thrown at them when they're on a major label, and it suits some bands. But for a band like ourselves, we don't need to be rammed down people's throats."

"We don't need our faces up on big hoardings outside Marks and Spencer," smiles Chris.

"If we don't sell 'x' amount of our debut album we'll still have a deal," explains Tom. "That's the crux of it. Even if we sold a tiny amount we'll get at least two more albums out of Kitchenware."

"We are hoping to sell more than 'a tiny amount'," clarifies Chris.

"Things are going well at the moment so it's easy to be smug," continues Tom. "But if they weren't we'd still be comfortable."

That position is likely to get a lot more comfortable after the release of the album The Back Room. Full of the sort of epic tunes that owe more to Bends-era Radiohead than Interpol, it's a perfect combination of the new and the classic. And Editors are aware of exactly how good it is.

"We wanted to make a record that's our debut album," explains Tom. "We're not trying to make OK Computer. But we do want to have a little depth. And Jim Abiss, who's done stuff like Kasabian, The Music, DJ Shadows and Bjork, took our sound and added depth. There are dark electronic sounds here and there. It's not gone prog, but we've pushed the boat out."

Experimenting with sound they may be, but Emerson, Lake and Palmer aren't on the tour-van stereo. Not yet anyway.

"We're influenced by quite a lot of contemporary stuff," continues Tom. "The Walkmen album last year was a major thing. And Chris loves The Strokes' album."

"Bands that are playing around us now, like Tom Vek and Bloc Party, are still having an influence on us," insists Chris. "That was a working title for our album – White Boys Getting Funky – because there are some punk funk elements in there. Some of the stuff went in a bit of a Gang of Four direction. And some of it is very choppy  and arty, which is kind of Bloc Party. It's just what you're listening to at the time you're making a record."

Tom is the head of the creative process, writing the chord structure and lyrics himself before bringing it to the rest of the band. Which, if you'll pardon the cliché, is where the magic happens.

"That's when it starts sounding like an Editors song," smiles Chris. "Instead of a Badly Drawn Boy song. We've all got our own styles and when you put them together apparently it sounds like… Joy Division!"

"The vocals are a similar kind of range," admits Tom, referring to the baritone that's already launched a thousand Joy Division comparisons.

"I can't do anything about that. When I started writing music I listened to bands like Radiohead but I could never sing like Thom Yorke, Chris Martin or Jeff Buckley, it just didn't work. There are ways of discovering how your voice works. You find a range that suits you. It feels comfortable and it'll resonate with people. It's all part of being a singer, Joy Division were much more about mood and atmosphere anyway. We're not afraid to write pop songs, even if it's in our own style and might be a bit darker. But we're not scared of melody. Bands like The Cure wrote amazing pop records but they were interesting and dark."

With the record still not on the shelves, most people have been getting their Editors fix through the already legendary live performances. Put them in front of a crowd and Editors are instantly recognisable as a genuinely important band. While Russell and Ed provide an intense backbeat, Chris and Tom crash across the stage, living and sweating every note and lyric. More lively than Interpol and more passionate than Razorlight, as the tours get bigger and better, the 'Britain's Best Live Band' plaudits are only weeks away.

"It's just putting everything into it for that half an hour you're on stage," reckons Tom. "You don't really think about it. It's impossible to think about it. Everyone has their way of expressing themselves on stage. For me it just seems right and it's what happens when you're trying to deliver the lines. The moment it feels forced will be the moment it feels uncomfortable."

"There is a dance floor element in what we do as well," interrupts Chris. "So it's only natural we don't stage there and show gaze."

It's a point they hammer home eloquently later that night in front of a curious crowd of Cambridge residents and students. Over a brief half hour Editors unveil song after song (most of which the audience has never heard) sounding like the most vibrant and awe-inspiring new band the UK has produced in years. Tom's voice, note perfect throughout, sets new standards of drama and tension. When Chris finally throws his guitar to the ground to signal everyone present knows they've been present at something they can tell their kids about in years to come.

They're trying to let the music do the talking, but it's only a matter of time before Editors' faces will be everywhere. Even outside Marks and Spencer.

© Robert Collins
Playmusic Magazine
July 05