“We Wanted to Do Something Completely Different”: An Interview with Editors

In This Light and on This Evening
Fader Label/Kitchenware

When British band Editors came out with An End Has a Start in 2007, the group’s biggest asset was its ability to create well-executed guitar-rock gems brimming with bombast but without any sense of becoming over-the-top. This was quite evident just listening to songs such as “Smokers Outside the Hospital Door” and the dance-rock romp “The Racing Rats”.

But perhaps the title of the last album was a hint at what was to come, for the Birmingham quartet decided to somewhat put an end to the guitars and start moving towards a leaner, electronic-leaning sound.

The end result is In This Light and on This Evening, a collection of songs that — on first listen — sound far different than what fans might have anticipated. But listening to lead guitarist Chris Urbanowicz describe it, it was definitely what Editors were seeking.

“I think one of the things that we’re happy with is that we’ve managed to do what we’ve done and get all of the things right,” he says prior to a gig in Madrid in early December 2009. “It’s hard to say without sounding pretentious but I think there were a few things that we wanted to maintain from the previous albums that we did like. But I think we wanted to do something completely different and push forward from anything that we had done.”

Although the band demoed one song early on which seemed to put them in the right mindset for this “electronic” experiment, Urbanowicz says getting producer Flood for the record certainly didn’t hurt in reaching that goal.

“We’ve been fans of electronic and industrial sounds before and we knew that [Flood] had worked with bands like Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and Cabaret Voltaire,” he says. “So with him having that experience, it was easy to work with him and he pointed us in the right direction.”

Released in October in Britain and having come out in the U.S. on January 19, In This Light and on This Evening begins with the dark and dreary title track. Lead singer Tom Smith states London is the “most beautiful thing I’ve seen” as if channeling the late Ian Curtis and his Joy Division mates scoring the sci-fi flick Blade Runner, a film Urbanowicz says was a source of inspiration for the album.

“Right from the first demo that we did we were happy with it and we wanted to keep it fresh,” he says. “I mean the lyrics have a lot of things going on in them but we weren’t tempted to go with arranging and creating these big crescendos which is something we did on the last album.”

This is perhaps best exemplified — aside from the minimal, dance-tinged single “Papillon” and the “shoegazer, strange, and abstract” hue to “Like Treasure” — in the lengthy, synth-fuelled “Bricks And Mortar”, a song which sounds like they’ve collaborated with fellow electro-rockers M83 on. Urbanowicz says Editors wanted to breathe life into the machinery they were using, resulting in a far less impersonal vibe than one might expect.

If there’s one big surprise on the album, it might be how Editors decided that nine songs would be enough for the record.

“That was probably the hardest thing actually,” Urbanowicz says regarding the song selections. “I don’t know how many songs we had — about 16 or 17 — but we had to find a way of what songs would make the best record or would fit together best. We were very careful about narrowing it down and there were some songs that were left out.

“We just wanted to make sure that by the end of the ninth song, you wanted to put it back on and start all over again. It was all about having the material flow.”

Some of those songs that didn’t make In This Light and On This Evening have since ended up as Cuttings II, a bonus batch of five tunes found on the deluxe edition as well as being available through iTunes.

Editors — who will spent a good portion of January recording new material — have spent the recent months touring Europe but tours North America in early February after a quick jaunt through Australia in early January. Urbanowicz says the shows have featured the band playing the new album in its entirety, including the next single which will be “You Don’t Know Love”.

“The shows have been going good, we’ve actually had to move some shows to bigger halls because of the demand,” he says. “We’ve been playing across Europe and it’s been great seeing it happen in different places. Most of the places love the new material but you can tell in Europe that when we start ‘Papillon’ it turns into something else. We were playing in Belgium and the crowd was great but when we played that song you could just see the change, it was very cool to see.”

Yet the biggest question might surround the video for “Papillon”, not so much for its marathon length but its marathon feel, using several runners who go at full speed from start to finish.

“We had this idea for the video but it turned out to be extremely expensive and way over budget so it was ridiculous,” he says. “So we decided to do this one.”

So then there was no chance of the band being the runners in the video?

“No way!” Urbanowicz says laughing. “One of the things we made clear with this video is that we weren’t going to appear in the video. If I would have been running I would’ve lasted for 10 seconds and then collapsed.”