Hey Elbow made their name with their debut album Every Other, which was packed with sweeping, epic art-pop that made its way into a lot of people’s end-of-year lists in 2015. It also sent the band on tour around Europe and the US, which meant that it has taken Julia Ringdahl, Ellen Petersson and Liam Amner a while to get around to writing a follow-up. But in October last year they returned with Quest, a new single that showed a clear development in their sound, and last Friday they finally released their new album C0C0C0. We interviewed the band over email to find out more.
You’ve said you were burned out after the heavy touring post Every Other. Was it a struggle to begin writing again after that?
After touring and a few weeks apart, we went through all our musical ideas from old to recent ones. We started jamming, trying stuff out, the music followed. But, to answer your question, it wasn’t really a struggle, more of a comfortable process to be in.
What was the turning point that helped you overcome that block and get started again on C0C0C0?
The urge to create new music had been with us a while so we took time off from concerts and just focused on writing. Time and geography [the band members live in different cities] is what makes it hard for us, so we gathered and gave ourselves time.
This album feels more stylistically coherent than Every Other. Every Other felt more like a collection of songs of different styles, but here there’s a real sense of shared style and DNA between the songs and they flow together smoothly. Would you agree with that?
Definitely. We all enjoy albums where you feel that the music and the songs have a strong connection. We wrote and arranged songs with during this period and one day realised – Wow, we have an album.
The flow and interplay between songs on the album is very strong, and makes it hard to pick out individual tracks because it feels like a collective whole. Was getting that effect something you worked hard and put effort into achieving?
We worked on finding a good pace and a mood, even in the silence between the songs.
Ghosts Of Budva is one of the most striking and enigmatic songs on the record, and you actually played in Budva in 2016. Can you tell us a little about that track and why Budva made such an impression on you?
That’s right, we were there for a show on our tour in the Balkans. We came from the mountains of Albania, to Budva – coastline, palm trees and empty streets. Ghosts of Budva is the first song we recorded for the album. We have talked a lot about the people we met there and the feeling of arriving at an abandoned off-season beach resort.
As well as performing together in Hey Elbow, you three also play as Alice Boman’s band. Do you feel you have an especially strong musical connection at this point, and is that at the heart of Hey Elbow?
Yes. Playing with Alice is great and it makes us experience new sides of our individual musicality – together.
With Boman, does playing live as someone else’s band, and being part of their live show, give you an interesting opportunity to learn from their show and be inspired by it in relation to your live show?
Sure, musically it’s very different, but the same things matter. We want to keep it interesting and the audience interested. Hey Elbow has always been about the live show, and we always aim to make it more interesting and connect with the audience – and that really inspires with Alice.
What are your plans for the rest of the year after the record comes out? You have one Swedish tour booked in March, will you be playing here again later this year?
We hope so. We have a European tour in may, and we’re really looking forward to playing the new album. What the summer has planned for us and later on, we’ll have to get back to you about.
Photo: Djoana Gueorguieva