Posted by: martinworster | August 15, 2016

Embrace (Interview)

‘Don’t be a fool again/We’re just a bunch of hooligans’ – ‘Hooligan’

Take a cursory look at the current state of the music scene and what do you come away with? You don’t have to be Beethoven to appreciate that ninety per cent of current chart action is pre-packaged pap (read pop) with next to no shelf-life. That’s why, when uprush met up with Embrace’s lead singer Danny McNamara, it was refreshing to come away with the feeling that there are still bands out there for whom musical integrity and connecting with the listeners where it counts are still important.

“I think it’s (the music scene) in a pretty dire state,” Danny told uprush. “I mean you watch MTV for more than an hour and you feel brainwashed. It’s all like girl bands, boy bands, girl-boy bands. It’s hard to see the good stuff in that. Occasionally a transcendent piece of pop comes along but on the whole it’s so formulaic.”

It was with these values that Danny, along with brother Richard and Embrace members Steven, Mike and Mickey, set about the task of following up their half a million selling debut album the ‘The Good Will Out’. The guys locked themselves away for the best part of 1999 along with producer Youth at a country house in Gloucestershire to get down to some serious creative toil. The result is ‘Drawn From Memory’.

“We’ve got more creatively confident,” explains Danny. “This albums more Embrace that the last one. Hopefully people will listen to this album and go back to the first one without all the hype and context clouding the music.”

Around the time of the release of ‘The Good Will Out’, Embrace suffered comparisons to Oasis. This could be seen on a musical level; the Embrace sound was characterised by lazy journalists as being dominated by epic ballads and large string sections, not to mention Embrace’s penchant for direct lyrics. Danny sees the old Oasis comparison as more down to the fact that both bands are fronted by brothers (Danny’s brother Richard also sings and plays the guitar). “I think if we were sisters we would get compared to the Nolans,” Danny quips. “The Oasis comparisons didn’t really annoy or surprise me.”

This is why Danny believes the Embrace sound has moved on. “It doesn’t conform to the box that other people put us in at the time which was big epic strings, ballads – lighters in the air stuff,” he comments. “I mean if somebody lights a lighter at one of our concerts it’s to light a cigarette.”

Fans got a taste of the new material when ‘Hooligan’ came out towards the end of 1999 and crashed into the top ten. ‘Hooligan’ – quirky, shuffling hip hop beats and that distinctive kazoo solo halfway through the track – surprised many with it’s offbeat sound and was an early wake-up call of what to expect from the new album.

Second single to be lifted from  ‘Drawn From Memory’ is ‘You’re Not Alone’ which received heavy airplay and entered the charts at number 14. This was a return to ballad land and underlined Embrace’s status as a band for the people. “We want to be the soundtrack to people’s lives and we want everyone to hear our music. We’re not an elitist band.”

Part of why Embrace work on this populist level is their use of direct lyrics. Although from the critics perspective this lyrical openess can be a double edged sword. “I do listen to the critics,” Danny explained. “But then some of them will hate us for having such direct and honest lyrics and for another person that’s the best thing.”

It’s with this lyrical technique that Embrace can connect with their listeners on such a raw, emotional level. When asked what effect he would like Embrace’s music to have on their fans, Danny replied: “I think of a 24 year old kid who’s split up from his girlfriend and he’s listening to ‘I Had A Time’ in his bedroom and it’s making him cry his eyes out because it’s making him feel a certain way. But then I also think of 7-8 year olds skipping in the park with ‘Hooligan’ on a ghetto blaster.”

Like all good music, the effects on the listener are varied. But it does have an effect. “All we hope for with each album is that we get to make the next one,” Danny told uprush. “So selling half a million copies with ‘The Good Will Out’ meant that we had all this time to do this album. Hopefully this one will do as well so we don’t feel pressurised to do an album in a short amount of time.” Judging from ‘Drawn From Memory’ it looks like Embrace should be getting just the right amount of time for their third album. And that’s something to we can only look forward to.

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