“I think that what we haveover other bands,” says Courteeners frontman, songwriter and lyricist LiamFray, “is that we didn’t meet at university, we didn’t answer an advert in theNME. We’ve been friends since we were 10 years old and we’re still friends now.We’re still really close knit.”
It’s six years since Liamand his friends; drummer Michael Campbell, guitarist Daniel Moores andbass-player Mark Cuppello formed the band in Manchester. Picked up on almostimmediately thanks to their blend of brilliantly sharp song writing,Courteeners have gone from hometown heroes to potential world-beaters over thecourse of just two albums. Which makes their third, titled ‘ANNA’, anincredibly important moment. For Courteeners, right here is the place and rightnow is the time.
“We’re a very good band, whowrite great songs with great melodies,” Liam says. “But we’ve also got a lot more things goingon than people think.”
That is certainly true whenit comes to an album like ‘ANNA’. Liam wrote many of the songs while, “sittingin bars, bored, getting the beer mats out, asking for till receipts…” Whilstover in America, visiting his girlfriend - he would spend days just peoplewatching, getting the train over to Williamsburg, getting inspiration from watchingrandom, unsigned bands.
Later, Liam snapped hisankle while playing football on holiday in the Caribbean and ended up oncrutches for months. That’s plenty of time for anyone to be reflective.
“I realised that our firstLP was very raw and ready,” he says, “while the second one had some larger,more cinematic numbers. For this one I felt we had to bring back that rawness,but also incorporate the care and attention that went into the writing of thesecond record. I had a couple of really down moments as I was recuperating.There were times I was absolutely bored to tears sat at home watching WoodyAllen, reading Ian McEwan, basically getting depressed. So when we finally didget back into it, it was all guns blazing. We were let off the leash, so to speak.”
All those moments inspired‘ANNA’s’ fiery and explosive nature. ‘Here Comes The Young Men’ is a fabulouslymelancholic roar which takes a long look around and asks, “Are we gettingolder? Are we getting wiser? Or are we getting none of the above?” Thepulsating ‘Money’ rides a sparkling glam-rock beat, while album opener ‘Are YouIn Love With A Notion’ has a minor key swing and considers that, “you lingeron, a feeling that you can’t quite put your finger on”. Elsewhere there’s thedarkly paranoiac ‘Sharks are Circling’, the rolling, wide-angle anthem ‘Van DerGraaff’ and the dark disco throb of ‘Push Yourself’. The new single ‘LoseControl’ is needle-sharp, but digging further into the album will reveal a songlike the beautiful ‘Marquee’ which is from somewhere else entirely, somewheremuch more love lorn and intimate.
“People would expect RichardHawley to write a song like Marquee,” Liam says, “but maybe not us. But Iactually find that kind of song easier to write – just me and a guitar or meand a piano. I can write that while I’m waiting for the dinner to cook. Thelyrics are difficult to sing, but for me, that makes it all the more powerful”.
This is a powerful, utterlydriven record that takes Courteeners – and Liam’s songs – far beyond where they’veever been before. Recorded over a year back in their hometown, at Manchester’sHertz Studios with Hurts producer Joe Cross with no deadlines and feeling nooutside pressure, they spent as much time as they wanted perfecting everymoment. As you will hear.
“Manchester was staring usin the face,” Mark says. “It’s a very different city from the one we grew upin. We felt we weren’t invited to the party first time round. But that’salright, because the majority of people who were invited to the party are notat the party any more.”
While the Courteeners havetaken their music to the wider world, they’ve always made time for home.They’ve twice headlined their own shows at the 16000-seat MEN Arena as well asselling out 10000-capacity shows at GMEX and Haigh Hall in Wigan. This is atruly massive band, one that witnessed a whole new city emerging around themwhile they recorded ‘ANNA’.
“We’ve sometimes had chipson our shoulders coming from Manchester,” Mark says. “But we get a lot more outof the city now than we have ever done before.”
These new songs were writtenin batches. The band would take two or three songs, concentrate on themexclusively, then take a step back and live with them for a few weeks. A newsense of purpose and focus meant instead of 30 songs, like they had for‘Falcon’, they had 14 and so those songs were pored over lovingly until everypart was perfect.
“Joe wanted a big record,”Liam smiles. “And I love big records. He was well aware that I could write atune and I was well aware of the fact that he could make big songs, so it feltright.”
“ANNA is an intense record,”Mark says. “It’s really fast paced even though the recording process was muchmore laid back this time. We were paying for it all ourselves too, so we tookas much time as we wanted. We didn’t want to rush it out.”
“I think the problem for alot of other bands is by the time they get to album three, they really hateeach other,” Liam says. “But with us, egos never get in the way.”
The Courteeners have takeneverything they have done, everywhere they’ve been and everyone they’ve met andstirred it all into the creation of ‘ANNA’. Watching them take it to the restof the world is going to be one of 2013’s greatest highlights.
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