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The Music - Thanks For The Music

Author: Cyclone
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
3D’s Cyclone talks to Phil Jordan of The Music about their latest dance/rock crossover album, Strength In Numbers.

The divide between the spheres of rock and electronic music has long collapsed.
Happy Mondays popularised indie dance in the ’80s, while U2 courageously forged into electronica with Achtung Baby, but the old guard resisted such manoeuvres. Since then, groups like Klaxons, more dance-rock than ‘nu-rave’, have captured ever-widening audiences. Even Thom Yorke is reaching out to Berlin’s underground techno stalwarts.

Now The Music – Robert Harvey (vocals and guitar), Adam Nutter (lead guitar), Stuart Coleman (bass) and Phil Jordan (drums) – have cut an album, Strength In Numbers, with Flood and Orbital’s Paul Hartnoll. With this edgy third LP, The Music have progressed from what Harvey has referred to as their “stoner dance rock”. However, like U2, they’re still a stadium rock band, just a modern incarnation.

That Strength eventuated at all is the real wonder – but more on that later. Curiously, the final album didn’t alter dramatically from the band’s demos. In the past, says Jordan, the alt-rockers’ albums “completely changed” during studio sessions.

“We had the songs pretty much done. We all had an idea of how we wanted it to sound, and we were a little bit short on studio time, so we just got in there and got it done,” he says. “[There was] very little thinking about the album too much.”

When The Music initially approached Flood, known for his work with U2, he declined. Next they considered Hartnoll.

“Originally Flood was one of the names that was put forward,” Jordan says. “We really wanted to work with him, but he was too busy, so we started to look for somebody else. Paul’s name just came up – and we’re all big fans of Orbital – so we thought, well, let’s give it a go.

“He brought a lot to the band. Then Flood heard [the single] Strength In Numbers and that really convinced him that he wanted to do the record. He pushed back everything that he was doing so he could get in with us for a couple of weeks. Of course, even Paul wanted Flood’s experience on the record. Everything was a great happy family – we all just got along together.”

Hartnoll’s influence in particular isn’t obvious, although he recently ventured out with a cinematic solo LP, The Ideal Condition.

“Like I was saying, the album was pretty concise before we got it [into the studio],” Jordan explains. “It wasn’t like in previous times [when] we’ve had the producer needing to help with a few melodies or keyboard ideas and that. This time we didn’t really need that kind of assistance.

“Paul’s done a few things, but a lot of the stuff that’s on the record was keyboards that we had before we went in there, and we thought Paul would be able to just complement them. A lot of the keyboard stuff sounded quite Orbital, so it was great for him.

“What ended up happening was that for the first few weeks that Paul was there, we were re-recording drums and bass. I had Paul there to guide me through all the dance beats. I could tell that if I was getting Paul excited in the studio, then we were doing something right along the dance side of the record. Then, when Flood came in, it was Rob and Adam doing the guitar stuff. Flood could look at the song side of the album.”

Of The Music’s four players, Jordan is the electronica buff, together with Stuart, yet it was Rob who collaborated with house outfit X-Press 2 on their Kill 100. Ironically, Harvey’s side-project benefited The Music.

“That was another good turning point in the record,” Jordan recalls. “[Rob] went away with X-Press 2 and [Kill 100] was a new way for him to write a song. They gave him a very simple keyboard line – just said, ‘Come up with something like that’ – so he had to rethink how he worked. He found a new way to use his voice, the real low end of his range. That, in turn, got him experimenting with his voice, which led to Idle – which was the first song that got this record [Strength] turned around and got it moving.

“It’s because of the way he’s changed his voice that that was possible, so we can thank X-Press 2 for that!”

The Music formed in Kippax, Leeds in the late ’90s, all attending Brigshaw High School. Then unsigned, the band with the bombastic handle generated industry buzz with Take the Long Road and Walk It, picked up by Fierce Panda. The Music subsequently aligned themselves with the Virgin-affiliated Hut. They presented their eponymous debut in 2002. The Music exhibited a post-grunge style, but there was always an electronic undercurrent. Two years on, The Music returned with the forceful Welcome To The North, produced by American Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam).

The Music have a formidable reputation as a live entity. They’ve again hit the road in support of Strength. The Music will touch down in Australia for Splendour in the Grass. Jordan is chuffed with the response to their new material so far.

“It’s sounding surprisingly great,” he says. “Playing new songs to people is absolutely nerve-wracking. The majority of songs that we’ve been playing off the new album have been received almost like they’re old classic songs that we’re playing.

“Songs like Strength In Numbers, a lot of people have heard it a couple of times, but it’s quickly becoming one of the strong points of the set – which is baffling to me, but that’s the way it is.

“It’s a great confidence booster as well, now we’ve been playing these shows and seeing that people like the new songs.”

WHO: The Music
WHAT: Strength in Numbers through Universal / Play Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay
WHEN: Out Saturday 14 June / Saturday 2 August – Sunday 3