Kaotican Alphabet

Elbow interview

Guy Garvey chats about supporting Coldplay in America

With lovelorn Manchester tunesmiths Elbow having supported Coldplay for the last few weeks, we called up frontman Guy Garvey for a chat ahead of the Charlotte show.

Hello Guy. You’ve been with Coldplay for a couple of weeks now, how it’s going?
It’s great. It’s a really good vibe. The crew are dead hospitable and the other band that are on, Kitty, Daisy and Lewis, are great – we’ve been hanging out with them a lot. The Coldplay boys have been very, very generous. Their shows have been amazing too. And we’ve been playing for 40,000 people a night, so that’s been great. It’s a lovely tour to be on.

According to Roadie #42’s blogs most of the Coldplay crew watch you from the pit every night.
That’s true, yeah! That’s really flattering. They’ve all been very complimentary about our set. I’m made up.

You guys have had a very successful couple of years in the UK. How are things going for you in the US?
In comparison to the UK, it’s still relatively early days for us. We were due to do the Letterman show the other night, but they over-ran and we didn’t make it on.

Did you actually go to the studio?
Oh aye, we’d got our hair and make-up done, ready to go on and they said, "Sorry, we’ve over-run, we’ve not got time for you".

Who was the guest who talked for too long?
Some guy from a theatre production. He crapped on at length, having our air time for breakfast! But apparently it’s happened to loads of people – including the White Stripes, twice!

Have all four Elbow albums been released in the States?
Yeah, to varying degrees of success. This is certainly the biggest one so far over here. We’re on Geffen in the US now, so it’s a much bigger affair this time.

Elbow and Coldplay go back a long way. So far, in fact, that you were both signed via the same In The City showcase.
That’s right, in Manchester in 1998. I’m not sure we met them then, but we do have many Coldplay-related memories. Pete reminded me of one yesterday actually. At T in the Park in 2000 or 2001, our splitter van got stuck in the mud and a load of the local crew started helping to push us free and Chris joined them. He just ran up and helped us get the van out. So, yeah, we’ve known each other for years.

Do you remember where you met?
I actually met Chris upstairs at the Barfly in Camden the week that Yellow came out. We were playing a gig there and Chris came along. He had a copy of the Newborn EP ahead of the first album and started chatting, saying that he really liked the stuff.

And you guys played with them at the Bolton gig in 2005.
Yeah, at the Reebok Stadium. Typical northern weather, it was really quite wet. But wonderful.

You said before that show that you’d bring your mum in a limo.
Haha! Yeah, that didn’t quite happen. In fact, she actually missed our performance because the traffic was so bad. That was a bit of a shame.

So, how did you come to be on this tour?
Chris phoned me up and asked me if we’d be up for it, and of course we were delighted and said yes. I think he was washing up when he phoned. I was over the moon.

Sorry, he called you while he was washing up?!
Yeah, I think that’s what he was doing. Either that or bathing his babies or something. There was definitely splashing involved.

You’ve been doing your own US dates between the Coldplay ones.
That’s right. We did one at the Wiltern in LA, and another at the 9.30 Club in Washington DC. It’s nice to squeeze in a few headline shows.

Is it tiring to be so busy? You’re playing pretty much every night.
It is quite knackering. Although the Coldplay opening slot is only 40 minutes, so it’s not like I’m doing a full gig. But, yes, I am very tired, I must admit.

And you’ve been on the road for ages with this album.
Yeah, probably around the same amount of time as Coldplay. Our album came our just before Viva, I think.

Is it hard to maintain the energy to play live?
To be honest with you, the performance itself is never the problem, it’s everything else around it. It’s the travel and the waiting around for a shower – all the unglamourous stuff.

But presumably being busy is a nice problem to have for a band?
Oh yeah, it’s bloody great! I love what’s happened for us with this album.

Almost 20 years after you formed, you’re suddenly winning all the big awards and playing arenas.
Mental, isn’t it? I still can’t really believe it. I think I need a bit of a break just to start getting my head around everything that’s happened.

Has your life changed much? Do you get recognised now?
I do get recognised more. And me being me and being a bit dopey, I always forget. So I’ll be walking down the street and somebody’ll be looking at me and I’ll be thinking, "What the fuck’s his problem? Why’s he looking at me like that?"

Do people have one thing they tend to shout at you?
People do wave their elbows at me. And we get "mantra lunar" a lot from the Delamere Forest gig we did. I actually said to the crowd, "In future if you run into any of the band in the street and you say this to them, they’ll know that you were at this gig." And then I said "mantralunar", because the moon was out.

With your ego having been nicely plumped over the last year, what’s it like playing support shows?
It was a little bit of a culture shock initially, but nothing serious. It was just a bit like, "Oh shit, we’ve got to win people over again"! But we’ve got the muscle memory from doing it in the UK for however many years that was!

Have you been on the road in America a lot?
Yeah, we’ve come here every album at least once. I love it. It’s a fascinating place to tour – like 50 countries rolled into one.

Do you get to see the places much?
Not on this tour as much as I’d like, just because most of the gigs are in arenas outside of the main towns. But in the past, yeah, I’ve got to see an awful lot of it. We’ve made a point of seeing some of the beautiful side of it, as well as just the cities.

Is there any one place you’d recommend a visit to?
Anyone who’s not been to New York has to do it. It’s just amazing. If you get the chance to live there for a bit, I would. In fact, I’ve been thinking about doing it for six months in the future. We’ll see.

Presumably you’ve watched Coldplay’s set on this tour.
Yeah, it’s a great show. We’ve caught it whenever we can.

Have you seen them a lot over the years?
Absolutely. I think I saw them at the Camden Monarch first, actually. The only prop they had then was that globe that was on the front cover of Parachutes, sat on Chris’s piano.

They’ve come on since then.
Bloody hell, just a bit, yeah.

Do you think you could’ve predicted back then at the Monarch that they’d end up where they are?
I don’t think so, no. But they’re very, very hard-working and ambitious and they stepped up to the plate. And they’re not at all out of place in those big places. You’ve got to be one of those bands that wants people to have the two-way experience of a big arena. And one of the best things about gigs, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s all about loads of people coming together for one reason. And they’re kind of celebrating their involvement with that music by doing that. If you don’t make people think that every single performance is special and different to you, then I could see it getting boring. You’ve got to give.

So, what have you chaps got coming up for the rest of the year?
We’ve got another show with Coldplay, in Dublin. And we’ve got a couple of dates with U2, including Wembley Stadium. We’ve also got V Festival and then we’re headlining Bestival. And then we’ve got our big Manchester show on September 18th. After that, it’s back in the bunker.

Have you made any progress on the new album yet?
Yeah, I would say we’ve got about 30 or 40 new ideas. Now they need hammering into song shape.

Presumably people are already asking whether you’re feeling the pressure for the next one.
Yeah, that’s happening a lot. At this point, we’re not. But I’m sure that’ll start to happen towards the end of it, when you lose sight of what you’re working on. Or, it could be, anomalously, the easiest record to make of all time. We might have it knocked up in two months and it just be the finest piece of music anyone’s ever heard. I’m gonna aim for that! We know that in terms of accolades we can’t possibly do better than we did on this album. But I’m kind of done with awards ceremonies now anyway. Seen ’em all. Sampled every canapé they’ve got. Haha!

Finally, what is your favourite Coldplay song?
Um… let’s think. I love The Scientist. It’s beautiful and it’s got an amazing simplicity to it. I’m a sucker for his romantic stuff.

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