TF Archives

Elbow - Grounds For Success

Author: Nina Bertok
Monday, February 9, 2009

Burial was a hot favourite, as were Radiohead, but it was the fourth album from Manchester’s elbow that won the Mercury Prize for best album of the year – shocking not only the public, but also the band. Now heading to Australia for V Festival, 3D’s Nina Bertok speaks to drummer Richard Jupp.

While the likes of Radiohead and Robert Plant were busy partying away in response to Elbow taking out the Mercury Prize last year, the Manchester group saw winning the prestigious award in a rather different light.

Where most musicians would thank god or their mother, drummer Richard Jupp and his five-piece alt-rock group thanked the Mercury Prize for giving them a vital kick up the ass.

“It truly was a jump into reality for us,” Jupp recalls. “I think you could have seen it on our faces at the event, just what a huge shock it was for us to get the Mercury. Don’t get me wrong, to say that we were thrilled to receive it would be an understatement, but most of all receiving that award was a sign for us to keep pushing and pushing and touring and touring. It was a much-needed kick up the ass in many, many ways. It’s really wonderful to get recognition for music that you’ve made and that you love yourself, so that part was fantastic. But the moment we got the award, we just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘the hard work starts now, we have to keep this momentum going’.”

That Elbow has earned its place among artists such as The Killers, Snow Patrol and Kaiser Chiefs among many others on this year’s V Festival is testament to that.

“Since the award we’ve been very busy with shows and our own tours,” Jupp continues. “The V Festival line-up sounds absolutely amazing from what I know, we’re especially looking forward to seeing our good mates Snow Patrol. Then there’s Duffy and The Killers – it just looks brilliant, it looks like a real cracker.”

And it isn’t just the fellow musos that Jupp and co. are eager to see, it’s the land down under itself that Elbow is keen to revisit once again. “I’ll give you an example,” Jupp offers. “I can’t say that as a band we have really actively pursued America. The other thing about America is that our music isn’t immediate enough for them and it’s not radio-friendly so it’s hard and we realise that if we wanted to crack America we’d have to spend a couple for years touring permanently over there. We have families and we certainly can’t and don’t want to do that. But on the other hand America has been good to us in different ways as well, but it’s interesting that America seems to be a lot further away in temperament than Australia, which is amazing when you think about it because you guys are physically further away, yet your country feels so much closer and warmer to us. Literally, warmer, for sure! But I also say ‘warmer’ as in pleasant and welcoming… I don’t know, maybe it’s the Brit thing.”

Maybe. Or maybe it’s just the damn good music that keeps the Aussie crowds flocking to Elbow shows each time the band decides to return. “It’s an un-fucking-believable life,” Jupp reveals. “To be able to travel to places like Australia, it’s very surreal. To have something in the bag that you’ve done yourself, like an album, and that everybody else seems to like is amazing. To have a family supporting you and to have your own house and a car and those little things, to know that you’re doing it all through something that you love… As I said, it’s un-fucking-believable.”

Elbow’s die-hard fans tend to describe the band in much similar terms, but then the fanbase itself is in many ways out of the ordinary, as Jupp agrees. “Oh, for sure. There is no demographic for our fans. If there is, then the demographic ranges from five-year-olds to 75-year-olds! After the release of this album [The Seldom Seen Kid, 2008] a lot of mums and dads became fans and we heard that even grannies and granddads starting liking it too. It ages all the way down to my six-year-old who absolutely loves it.”

Age groups aside, Jupp isn’t quite sure where his band really sits genre-wise either. “It’s very weird,” he agrees. “We were a slightly odd support for someone like Placebo [2004], you would normally say our two bands just don’t go together, but the crowds were brilliant. The same goes with Muse who we supported in the UK [2003]; their fans were so welcoming and absolutely great.”

Despite a massive number of UK dates coming up over February and early March for Elbow, Jupp promises another masterpiece is in the making.

“Even though The Seldom Seen Kid came out quite a while ago, we are actually still promoting this album,” Jupp claims. “The record itself was self-produced and we didn’t need any help mixing it and recording it either. The thinking at the time was that we’d had a damn good run of things with our previous three albums so we though, ‘let’s just kick back and do exactly what we want’. We decided to get back to basics without having to prove anything to anyone. So we got Craig Potter [guitar] and we did it entirely our way.”

While Jupp is pretty sure that ‘doing it their way’ was a key factor in the album’s success, he is reluctant to reveal too much about the band’s upcoming fifth offering. “At the start of the year all five of us sat down in a room and got our heads together about what we are going to do for our next album. We have all been listening to lots of music together. There is no one major songwriter in the band, we all chip in our bit, we have been bringing in reference points and discussing how the album could move from track one to five. It’s just about the basics right now, just getting lots of little bits and pieces together. All I can tell you is that we’ve got to just see what happens, really.”

WHO: Elbow
WHAT: Play V Festival, Centennial Park / Metro Theatre
WHEN: Saturday 28 March / Wednesday 1 April