Manchester Orchestra Interview: Andy Hull Talks Creative Rebirth and "The Million Masks of God" (2023)

Manchester Orchestra's new album, The Million Masks of God, is out nowOrder it on Pink Smoked Vinylsou Brooklyn Vegan-Laden.

manchester orchestraare approaching the 15th anniversary of theirdebut album, and they are still moving forward. You are looking at 2017A black mile to the surfacea creative renaissance - and it was one of their best-received albums (and also spawned their biggest hit single) - and what's to comeThe Million Masks of Godacts as a sequel to this album. He brings the band together withBlack Mileproducer Catherine Marks, and also features Phoebe Bridger collaborator Ethan Gruska (who also worked onthe last albumby the Bad Books branch of the Manchester Orchestra) and has a similar atmospheric feel to its predecessor. this album andBlack Mileit definitely feels like two sides of the same coin, and has moments that are also reminiscent of past Manchester records, but who caresThe Million Masks of Godit's so impressive that it really doesn't sound like any other Manchester Orchestra album. Andy Hull's distinctive voice and distinctive songwriting style make this album instantly recognizable as a Manchester Orchestra album, yet it feels like a whole new chapter in his career.

The album has been dubbed a "movie album" and its sequel really feels cinematic. It has a clear beginning, middle and end; Songs flow directly into each other; and the songs share recurring musical patterns and common lyrical themes throughout. And like a good film, it is a multifaceted work that unites different moods and ideas. It can be soft and pretty or loud and loud; Some parts are earthy and acoustic, others rely on electronics and sound manipulation. It takes elements from folk songs and big muddy rock songs, glitch pop and more, and ties it all together in a seamless, genre-bending way. The album does have its standout moments, however - aside from the satisfying first single"headboard"- most of them will gradually approach you instead of jumping right away. It's an album best listened to from beginning to end, and if you put in the time, the results are truly rewarding.

The Million Masks of Godis officially available at Loma Vista on Friday (4/30), and you canPre-order on light blue clear vinylfrom the BrooklynVegan store. Ahead of the release, we caught up with Andy to talk about the new album and nostalgia for the live shows, some of Andy's recent collaborations and more. Keep reading our chat...

The announcement for the new album states that "in some ways it can be seen as the band's second album following a renaissance.Black Mile." Can you talk about how to do thisBlack Milewas it like a rebirth for you and how did this album set you on the path to this new one?

in many waysBlack Mileit felt like our first record. It was like, "Oh man, we're kind of going back," like moving forward but also going back, a vulnerable start. It wasn't a reactionary record, it was just a pure record. I think our first four albums clash and move side by side and have reactions to each other and I love how they all sound like each other but we really didn't feel like there was anything to do after witheHave hopeπŸ‡§πŸ‡· It felt like we had a really clean slate. And then do something like [the 2016 film soundtrack]swiss army man, which took away all our instruments and made us really focus on the textures and moods of the music, something less technical. It felt like a new thing where we had new tools and a clean vision [of music]. And so the way it was received was obviously unexpected for us. We have a huge following who really love our band and we know they will always support us, anything beyond that is like a really nice bonus. This album felt like it had a lot of extras and it reached new people for the first time, so I think it probably also felt like the second time we debuted.

Did you ever imagine when you made your first record that your biggest music would come a decade later?

That's the hope! So I mentally looked at everything like I never wanted to be a band associated with a particular decade. I think if you can come out of that decade and still do something meaningful, you've sort of outgrown that decade. So yeah, I'm super proud that this happened. But I think it's also proof that we like it, don't try it, and that made it even better. I remember when the record company said they really loved the song"The gold,"and we said, 'yeah, that song is cool, it's not like mineFavorite, I don't think it's going to explode or anything", and then it came to connect with the humans.

you mentioned doingswiss army man, and the new album will be called "Movie Album". From your experience as a film musician, what did you contribute to this?

Well, I think the connectivity with everything - like we've always wanted to make records that feel connected and the order is really important. You can listen back like inmeans everything- that was our first real attempt, "how do we combine all these things to make it feel like one thing?" And with this record, and really everything up until thenBlack Mile, it really was the A-side and the B-side. There were two parts in action that really complemented each other. And thenBlack MileFor me, it was the first time we came out with the A and B idea. And that vinyl record actually had the A, B and C sides, so you have the middle section with "The Alien", "The Sunshine" and "The Grocery" - that was something of a mini-disco in itself. So we figured out how to start putting things together a little more intentionally, like songs that are in key or maybe some kind of guitar playing over a song, and then we started thinking, "Oh, so maybe we can just write a whole A-side that it just needs to be heard as one thing." for them, so yeah, I think just our ability to think smarter about how to connect songs and make a complete listening experience out of them was super army man.

It definitely feels like a movie. Many of the songs flow into the next one, it's obvious that the two singles you've released now have the same drum pattern. When you put it all together, did you start with a bunch of different parts and then piece them together, or was it more like you had a narrative arc in mind and you followed that sequence from the beginning?

A bit of both. There were certainly songs that came together where we were like, "Oh, okay, I see where this song is going to go," and then there were a lot of songs where you'd take the chorus from another song that wasn't really worked on and start combining them. And since the writing was about the same thing, it helped to be able to borrow lines from places where it felt like "this is a great place for the narrator to say it again". And I think the idea of ​​really not caring about the rules of songwriting and how exciting it is to break your own self-imposed or self-taught tools in the process. Allow these songs to live a long time, and treat them with respect, like, "We could have broken up 75% with you, but there's another place we can take you, there's a level we still have." "Just treating them that way and figuring out where all those things would fit together made it organically make more sense.

I'm sure that after more than 10 years of writing music together, the process needs to be reinvented a little.

Yes, and there's nothing wrong with taking a long time to understand a song. For a while, I just stuck to songs that were really easy and really easy for me. This time I enjoyed chasing them. If in the past we might have said, "Yeah, that was a great b-side" to those who weren't there, this time I said, "No, go ahead."

Did the pandemic have anything to do with having more time to record?

It had nothing to do with the extra recording time. We had completed the follow-up [before the pandemic]. But it helped enormously with the mixing. London and the US basically closed on the same day and we were about to mingle with Catherine [Marks]. She likes to spend a lot of time on our records, which I love. She had already booked a month for this, and I said, "I think we can do this in three weeks." And then when everything got cancelled, we took a break and she mixed about six hours a day. We spent two and a half months, three months, it really went slowly and it was amazing. I never really had the luxury of saying, "let's do this weird sample of someone whistling backwards... nobody's ever going to hear that" [laughs]. We really need to dig in and have fun mixing instead of a stressful "we have to do this" mentality.

This is your second consecutive album with Catherine and you also have Ethan Gruska on this album. What attracted you to your work and what new features did it bring to the Manchester Orchestra?

I think it also depends on what we find working with Catherine.Black Mileit was a bit difficult experience for useCatherine. We were trying to figure out if we trusted each other, if she trusted us that we really knew what we were doing, and we wondered if she knew what she was doing. Once we recognized her strengths and found places we wanted to add, maybe more of a technically musical side to it, all we needed was a complete nerd [laughs] and it was like Ethan was the guy. At first he kept workingBad Books IIIand added some cool stuff to this album, and then I spent a day in the studio with him in his studio in LA, early 2019, and he was just one of those guys - there aren't many of them - where I had a very specific one with a sound in my head and I could explain what I wanted that sound to be and he could make that sound in about five minutes. If you find someone who can do that and is really excited about it, who loves hunting weird, atmospheric, weird... yeah, I thought, 'Hey, can you come into the pre-production booth with us? πŸ‡§πŸ‡· a week and just go through the songs and play with us, just sit there as the fifth member? As far as production goes, it was pretty cool.

Lyrically - according to the press release - the album started out as a story about a fictional character, and then the songs revolved around Robert's father, who was losing his battle with cancer. How did this transformation occur from a compositional point of view?

I think this is partially true. In the end, it wasn't just about Chuck and that experience, but the whole concept became that. It was a very tragic moment where Robert lost and we lost a large part of our group and our family and at the same time this new life emerged. Rob's son and my son were born five weeks apart. And so to see my best friend going through this and I'm also trying to process this - it's a very emotional thing for me personally to sit down and write a song about it. This can be really overwhelming to think about as a concept. How could you say that in a song? It's too big to put into one song - at least that's how it felt. And so I think I let it work as the album progressed. And like, yeah, there's a story about a guy, and it might as well be me. I think getting into a character and having a conceptual thread, okay, so maybe each song is like a picture of that guy's life. And just having that as an idea allows me to move more freely and explore more emotions as I write, rather than saying this song is about Rob and his dad.

Do you think writing the album helped you and maybe Rob with the grieving process?

Yes absolutely. I mean, I can't speak for Rob specifically, but I know he's very grateful that we made this album and that it's an album that, for something so dark, carries with it a sense of redemption. And there's for me a sense of warmth, positivity, relief from guilt, just a sort of clarity about sanity, or at least the pursuit of it. For me it was very important. That's how I process things by writing about them and exploring those emotions there. I also couldn't process any other way at the time because I really needed to be there for my boyfriend, so yeah, that's where my thoughts came in.

I think something like that really stuck in the Manchester Orchestra's music. A lot of his songs were really there for people in times like these.

I mean, that's the biggest gift and purpose of doing this. That's what I found out about 10 years ago, which is really not about us. We're here to help people, it's a kind of medicine. And I like.

Consequently, the Manchester Orchestra has a reputation for being a strong live band. Shows have obviously been paused for a while, even if you didsocially distanced acoustic showslast summer, and thelast live streamπŸ‡§πŸ‡· What impact has this year of not touring had on you and the band, and could you also talk a little bit about your experience of social distancing concerts?

I think everyone who performs β€” even if they don't really like performing β€” gets a little bit of that β€” and I didn't realize I lost it until a few months into [the pandemic]. I realized that I had received something from the shows that I wasn't getting anymore and it felt really weird. And even at the Zoom shows at the beginning of all this, I was a nervous wreck. I was like, "Oh, I forgot how to do this." When we got together and started writing songs for Patreon and jamming together and exploring new ways to play all of our old songs, it certainly got us excited. But then we went up Echo Mountain and recordedthis live Black Mile thing, even without an audience it was like "ohDiesthat's what I'm missing", the energy and togetherness of five or six people playing something together, without irony and just enjoying the pure moment of the music. I missed that so much. Social distancing shows are difficult because there's not really the thing. right. Luckily we did acoustic shows so it could feel a little quieter and people could keep their distance. Still weird of course but thankful we did that, we've been doing a show every year since 2004 so it would be a shame not to did one last year and I'm confident that things seem to be moving in the right direction.

Of course you also do a lot of work outside the Manchester Orchestra and in the last year you've done some really cool collaborations. you sang intouch of loveit's atKiefer TigersRecords, and you co-produced thisneues Foxing-LiedπŸ‡§πŸ‡· What excites you about these bands and what have you learned working with them?

Really three different experiences. First, I love all these people deeply. It was a really cool collaboration with Touche. I was asked to do one thing and then I asked if I could do another [laughs] and they were kind enough to keep it cool and then they really liked what it was. that was so cool I've loved this band for a while now and I really think they are renegades in many ways in the way they approach their craft and mix genres. Tigers Jaw was really just a cute little bond between me and Ben [Walsh]. We sent each other demos and he sent me this demo, I think the day he wrote it and when they were in the studio he wanted some little harmonies in the verse and I was more than happy to be a part of this band's great legacy in a small way. And then Foxing was so much more - I had been working with them on this album since February or March of last year. We were in the final four months of completing our registration as they began the first four months of their experience. It was great to be a part of this album from the beginning, the demos that they sent in and just working as closely with them as they wanted and going through all the concepts and lyrics for this album. It was a great time. And then they came here in the middle of the summer - they all got tested - and they camped out in our studio for two weeks. They were supposed to stay for a week and we were like, "Dude, stay here, this is great," and we just worked long hours and kept pushing the record. And in the end they did it, I'm really proud of this album.

I don't know if it's just because they're so close, but I feel there's a good relationship between the new Foxing and the new Manchester. They both have these atmospheres and these sounds...

[Laughs] Makes sense! We all kind of write about the same things in completely different ways. They feel connected to me, me and Conor [Murphy] kind of talked about it. Somehow, without knowing it, we made these sister albums together.

Are there any other new artists that you're a fan of lately and/or would like to collaborate with?

I really likeBristol Maroneywho just released their new albumsunflowerπŸ‡§πŸ‡· Rob and I co-wrote the second track on this album called "Bottle Rocket" with him and I really like the other songs on this album. He is great. This is probably the most important thing we work with and complete our friendbrother birdlast year's new album or something, which is really great. And me and Rob are gonna be working with this really cool bandcoatsπŸ‡§πŸ‡· I like things that go straight to my heart and it's nice when I can do something nice with people.

When the pandemic started, many artists emptied their coffers just to give people new music and you releasedtwo full albums with demosfrom the time of the first two albums. Did anything surprise you as you went through these demos? Were there any songs that made you think "wow we should have released this" or "we should have played this live" etc.?

Sure, but there are tons of them. Those are the ones I thought were audible, but there are so many others that I'm really embarrassed about that need to be sold when I'm much safer... or dead [laughs]. I will give children the right to set them free. But you know what was cool about it? Just listening and some of them were like "whoaaa" and I texted Kevin Devine like "what did I do with that fiery message when I was 19?" And others would just say, β€œUhhhh! you fool! This song was so close to being good until you had to do it" [laughs]. It was a very thoughtful moment, but it was also cool. I always knew I had these songs and I liked them, so I chose the ones I liked. And yeah, it felt like if there was a time to do something like that, it probably would be, you know? It felt far enough away that I could feel really good about it because it was a long time ago.

Have you ever thought about how a boxed reissue of the pre-I'm like a virgin who lost a childMaterial? I always thought something really special about Manchester Orchestra was that when you put out what's usually called a debut album, you had about 25 other songs. While most of them aren't available legally, I've always wondered if they would eventually get proper clearance.

Absolutely safe. We are starting to get into that area. we will makesimple mathright now for the tenth anniversary. [We're working on] the crazy multi-LP thing that has all these songs that were written back then that never made it to what we really love. And there's a lot of that early stuff as well. Fortunately, I was pretty good at maintaining and documenting all of that. It's on a lot of iClouds and real hard drives and computers in the studio, so yeah, I think so. I also don't think we did because we were busy, which is great. We didn't have a lot of dead time to think.

Like you said, it's great to be in your career after more than 15 years and still looking forward.

Yes, we are so grateful that this is happening and that we still care so much about it. It's nice not to feel like you have to fake it or call. I'm still very proud of it.


commandThe Million Masks of Godon pink smoke vinylhere.

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