Home > News & Reviews > Editors

Editors: 'We've Taken People on a Journey'

Friday, 23 February 2024 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Rahi Rezvani

When they first announced themselves to the world back in the mid noughties, Editors were pegged in some quarters as just another indie-rock guitar band with a Joy Division fixation. Yet, in the years since that scene’s expiration, Birmingham’s finest miserablists have shown themselves to be capable of so much more. 

Continuously twisting the band’s trademark sound into a variety of forward-thinking shapes, they’ve boldly revitalised their aesthetic at every turn. It would have been very easy for them to religiously cling to the formula that propelled their 2005 debut ‘The Back Room’ to a platinum certification and a Mercury nom, after all.

Arriving as the decade drew to a close, ‘In This Light and On This Evening’ served notice that Editors had no intention of happily sailing along in their comfort zone. Showcasing an increasingly confident and adventurous approach, the band’s third record incorporated fresh instrumental flavours.

Judiciously infusing a wider range of styles into their music has, in conjunction with a line-up change that saw two new band members (Justin Lockey on guitar and Elliot Williams on keys) broaden the Editors dynamic following the departure of founding guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, been crucial in allowing the group to forge a career that’s become increasingly unpredictable and fascinating with every release.

Kicking off the band’s ‘third act’ with the addition of Fuck Buttons/Blanck Mass experimentalist Benjamin John Power to their ranks, 2022’s genre-defying ‘EBM’ unleashed a tornado of age-be-damned innovation. Hammering together everything from indietronica and industrial rock to new wave, techno and synthwave, it found Editors swerving aggressively into dizzying new territory without losing their ability to serve up memorable songs. 

With the group — completed by vocalist/guitarist Tom Smith, bassist Russell Leetch and drummer Ed Lay — about to embark on a series of live dates around the UK, we spoke to Leetch about their committed approach to rejuvenation, the key to retaining Editors’ distinct identity and whether or not he still wants, in the best way possible, to keep pissing people off. 

It’s a question established bands often get asked, but how tricky is it to put a setlist together these days? Not just because of the amount of material you have to pull from, but also fusing together all the different styles you’ve explored on your records and incorporating Benjamin’s influence into pre-existing material. 

Things like The Phone Book, which you find on ‘The Weight Of Your Love’, is very different to something like Picturesque off the new record. So those sitting next to each other is not the wisest thing to do in a set. It might be a bit confusing. It’s just about getting that flow right and taking someone on a journey, like how you would with a DJ set. You warm them up, then you play some of the bangers, bring it back down and then back up again.  

We’re just rehearsing a set that’s got about 30 songs in it at the moment, which is obviously a bit too long.  I love going to watch The Cure. They’ve got so much to go through but it always seems to work when I see it. But it’s whether you want to go down that route of playing for that amount of time or making it more concise and more of a show.     

What’s Ben added to your older numbers when you perform them with him in the band?

It brings new life to some things we’ve played over and over again, like Munich. Just putting the floaty lines on top with the keyboard makes it that little bit different. It’s what his ears are hearing from years ago, when we recorded it, when there was like a ghost echo which was done by the reverb off a guitar with a fan playing the strings. He mimics that, which is quite nice. So he’s reinventing old tricks. Ben’s music can be quite abrasive and bold, so bringing a bit of that to old songs is refreshing for us. Especially if you’ve played them thousands of times. Which we literally have.  

How well do the songs from ‘EBM’ work live and what insights did you get from playing them in front of an audience? 

The songs have gone down really well with the fanbase, so once they started coming to see the actual show it transitioned more to them. Strange Intimacy is a prime example of something transitioning live to where it is on the record. I think people can understand it. Maybe it doesn’t quite have that same lift off on the album than it does live. It’s stayed in the set and seems to be a staple for the fans. That’s often the way with bringing something to life. I don’t know where we’ll go next, though, because we haven’t started writing or anything, so next year is the time to do that. Once you get the desire, once you get the hunger for it, then things start rolling. 

In an interview last year you said you wanted less electronic drums, and maybe more strings, on the next record.

I think we’re still looking to do something like that. A little bit more organic. We’re always a song-based band so however we dress them up, however we decorate them, the songs are always going to lead the way. Songs like Violence or something like that, you can hear our acoustic versions and it always works.  

I suppose the challenge is to build on ‘EBM’ but, in typical Editors fashion, do something different too?

It’s always gonna be similar because it’s the same people in the room. The same melodies always kind of transition out. However much people think it’s a departure, it never really is. We haven’t gone David Bowie into drum and bass. So, it’s not too far away. 

Elliot jokingly said you’re a band with a constant identity crisis, but what’s the core DNA that binds everything together and allows it to still sound like Editors, regardless of what styles you’re exploring?

It will always be Tom’s voice. Just the tone and the notes, melodies, that he will pick out. They’re always going to follow a similar thing. We’re never going to go too far that way or the other way. I think we’ve got our remit really. It’s that thing of, what did Martin Gore from Depeche Mode say, about if the sincerity of it isn’t felt? You’ve got to keep your identity as people, haven’t you? It would be interesting if we had an external writer present us with ideas, but it’s Tom’s voice binding it all together. He’s not gonna sing a melody he’s not comfortable with. It’s not gonna happen.   

You’ve spoken in the past about how frustrating and reductive it was being compared to Interpol and Joy Division because of Tom’s voice. Did that ever make him self conscious or was it water off a duck's back?

I think you’d have to ask him, but the way his voice has evolved, you can hear the difference live especially, he’s become a better singer. Understanding notes more from where we were when in our 20s. So we’ve outgrown those comparisons now. Interpol have had their mould and it hasn’t really changed since day one, whereas we’ve gone on to try different routes a little bit more.  

You had huge chart success in the UK straight out the gates as part of a certain movement that was popular at the time, not to mention lots of mainstream radio. When the scene shifted in the UK and that was no longer the case, was your willingness to evolve a key factor in navigating a potentially challenging time?

I guess so, yeah. If that goes and your fans don’t follow you’re gonna to be a bit screwed and it’s gonna be hard to make a career out of it. But we went to other countries and had success there on different records, which people in the UK don’t know about. They’re always going to be [focusing on] those first two albums, but when people come and see us it’s, ‘They’ve got some pretty decent tunes after those events.’ We’re currently like 1998 The Cure in our career. Eighteen years in since the ‘80s albums and you’re waiting for the anniversaries.

When you were younger and a more guitar-driven band, were you dogmatic about that style or did you always have much broader tastes and a desire to keep pushing your boundaries in the way you subsequently have done? 

We came out at a time when rock music, guitar, indie, if you call it that, was popular. It was in the charts, on the airwaves, it was exciting. People loved those bands and their songs and you’re in the midst of it. But because we went over and toured a lot on the continent we built up more of an international fan base than a lot of UK bands and that’s never really changed. Again, it just goes back to being a song-based band. However you dress them up, people always attach their kind of thoughts, feelings or whatever to Tom’s vocal, what he’s saying and what it means to them.   

I’m sure you know there’s a portion of your fan base who’d love you to do a guitar-dominated record again. Is that something you’d be keen to do in future, albeit alchemising it into something different than it was before?

I think so. We definitely all enjoy playing guitars. So we could do it and I think it would be a really good one because we’re better musicians now than we were at 20 years old. I watch some of our early shows and it was quite scrappy, which is fine, but it’s not like that any more. I doubt it would sound like ‘The Back Room’ though. 

And what do you reckon the band who made ‘The Back Room’ would think if you played ‘EBM’ for them?

I don’t think it’s that far away. I think that’s one of the closest ones to it, really. If you’d have done that as the third album it wouldn’t have been an issue. It’s because we’ve taken people on a journey since with album number four and ‘In Dream’ as well. I think it’s just that the tempo is up on the latest record with all the influences on it. 

Editors Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon February 26 2024 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE NX Newcastle
Tue February 27 2024 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Wed February 28 2024 - LIVERPOOL O2 Academy Liverpool
Fri March 01 2024 - BATH forum
Sat March 02 2024 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Sun March 03 2024 - SOUTHAMPTON O2 Guildhall Southampton

Compare & Buy Editors Tickets at Stereoboard.com.


We don't run any advertising! Our editorial content is solely funded by lovely people like yourself using Stereoboard's listings when buying tickets for live events. To keep supporting us, next time you're looking for concert, festival, sport or theatre tickets, please search for "Stereoboard". It costs you nothing, you may find a better price than the usual outlets, and save yourself from waiting in an endless queue on Friday mornings as we list ALL available sellers!

Let Us Know Your Thoughts

Related News

Mon 04 Mar 2024
Editors Confirm Spring London Show At O2 Academy Brixton
Mon 11 Dec 2023
Editors Confirm UK Shows For Early 2024
< Prev   Next >