It’s been a long coming, but with a new album, tour, and Sound City slot on the cards, The Coral are finally back from the brink, Getintothis’ Patrick Clarke speaks to the band on Distance Inbetween.
When Getintothis last spoke to The Coral, the band had just made the surprise announcement that they were to finally release their ‘lost’ album, The Curse of Love, 8 years after its recording. The excitement back then was palpable, though not only for the record itself, but for the fact it was a sign of life; after half a decade of hiatus, the gears seemed as though they might be whirring once again for one of Merseyside’s very best.
But at that time The Coral were not quite back, as we all hoped they’d be. The release, though solid as ever, was of music close to a decade old, and in our interview the band were all guarded ‘hopes’ and ‘maybes’ when bordering on the news we all really wanted – a full-fledged, new album, European tour sized comeback. “We’re talking about it”, the band’s Nick Power told us, tantalisingly vague, “but nothing’s set in stone”.
The limbo was agonising, but The Curse of Love came and went, the respective members’ side-projects and DJ sets continued, expectations settled down. Dull, Coral-less order was restored. That is, until earlier this week, where seemingly out of nowhere, Sound City announced their first headliner for 2016’s docklands bash.
You guessed it.
Not only are The Coral set for as perfect a homecoming as could be imagined – set against the sunset of Bramley Moore Dock, the festival’s new main stage makes for one hell of a closing party – but there’s a proper tour to precede it, and on top of that a brand new album due in March: Distance Inbetween.
There’s no such vagueness when we check in with Nick Power a year on, in fact he’s brimming with enthusiasm. “Am I excited? Yeah! Fucking hell, definitely! The Flaming Lips were there last year and it was fucking brilliant. It feels great [to be playing live again.] It gives your life a sense of purpose and worth.”
The news that the group were back together for a new album seemed to creep up on most of us, not least, it appears, the band themselves. The seeds of the comeback began, Nick remembers, with the swapping of compilation tapes – “just whatever stuff we were into” – the return of an old band tradition, developing in turn to dips in and out of the rehearsal rooms and eventually to the announcements of this week.
It’s not as if the band had disappeared from Liverpool entirely in the five years since Butterfly House. With The Intenders, The Serpent Power, solo projects and production work with the booming Skeleton Key Records to keep them busy, there was rarely a Liverpool bill without a Skelly or two involved at one juncture or another. Perhaps a full reunion was more an inevitability than a bolt from the blue. “There was loads of stuff going on, it has been a continuous thing really,” Nick agrees. “Things just kind of fall together because everyone lives within a two mile radius of the rehearsal room.”
Distance Inbetween, their first new studio album since 2010’s Butterfly House, was recorded live, each song requiring barely a third take, if that, a process that was “all about going in and capturing that first thing you do, that magic thing that you get on a demo”, according to drummer Ian Skelly; the takes that, according to Power, “just had the right feel”.
That ‘feel’, Skelly tells us, is “Like Event Horizon. Y’know the film when the spaceship goes through hell? The spaceship goes through a portal, into hell and comes out the other side. It’s like that. It’s kind of like a more distorted version of The Coral.”
Distance Inbetween is to be no diminished return of the autumnal acoustic tinges of Butterfly House, but simply the next step of the band’s perpetual progression from album to album. “We’re trying not to be too over-rehearsed. When it’s on the edge of falling apart music’s more exciting” says Nick of the record’s sound. “It’s not like Tangerine Dream or anything, but there’s different stuff on there”.
Power hints at a ‘European’ sound, as if Neu! covered a Byrds arrangement, while Skelly affirms the prominence of the group’s rhythm section in the new sessions, a direction influenced, one imagines, by the fact that early rehearsals were conducted without a lead guitarist, owing to the departure of long-term member Lee Southall.
“Lee’s had a kid and I think he’s just enjoying being a dad,” says Skelly of Southall’s absence this time around. “He says he wants to make a return at some point, probably next time round, but he’s doing his record as well. I think he wants to get that out of his system before he comes back.”
“He’s been focused on his album for two or three years and it’s getting to the point now where it’s becoming a reality” adds Power. “Obviously you can hear his style a mile off, he’s one of the most recognisable guitarists there is, but you do your best to work round it. I don’t think it suffers necessarily but it’s slightly different because Paul brings his own thing.”
That’s The Zutons‘ Paul Molloy, by the way, who having already played alongside both Ian and Nick in The Serpent Power for the past year, was in many ways the ideal candidate to slip straight into The Coral‘s process. “He just loves music like us, and that’s what we do, we can weave round each other” says Nick. “He plays quite edgy, quite punk, but he’s got all aspects covered really. I haven’t really analysed it too much, but I like how he plays”, Skelly backs up.
Whenever a band go on hiatus, there are more than the usual questions asked when they return, most prominently why they’re back in the first place. Yet in conversation you get the impression this is not a Coral chasing the reunion gravy train, but a band still riding the sense of vitality to their output that characterised every minute of their glories before.
Having enjoyed a rarely-seen run of consistent acclaim from 2002’s debut record to present, Skelly says he feels no pressure to live up to high expectations on record. “It would [matter]if we gave a shit!” he says. “That’s not really the attitude of the band, we’ve never really cared what anyone thinks. You just slip back into that mould.”
“We’re just having fun with the tunes” Power seems eager to point out when asked of the atmosphere surrounding the new sessions, and in doing so affirms what’s perhaps the most important thing about the band’s comeback; nothing feels forced. “We wouldn’t release anything if we didn’t think it wasn’t up to standard” he continues. “We just wouldn’t do it. If you’ve got nothing to say then don’t say it because otherwise you’re clogging up the airwaves.”
Throughout the whole of their now near-fifteen-year history, The Coral have always held their relevance as the intelligible voice of music’s finest obscurities. As Nick says, “We’re just a great British psychedelic rock band. That’s what I think we do best, listening to weird obscure music and distilling it into four minute pop tunes. That was the point when we decided we wanted to release this album. There’s something we’ve got to say that we want to get out, otherwise we’d be wasting people’s time.”
Check out the new track and video for Chasing The Tail Of A Dream below.