Man & The Echo are about on embark on their latest headline tour, ahead of this they played a very special end of year show for WArringtonMusic.co.uk and were our latest [WAM] Magazine cover stars.
This feature was originally featured in the Spring 2020 edition of [WAM] Magazine.
Look out for the digital version of the issue going live on 14th February.
In their latest music video ‘Give Me The Pomp’, the band went amongst the public, ridiculing a Little Englander mentality that we’ve seen so much of recently. However it seemed that real life was so much stranger than fiction with similarities popping up everywhere in the weeks to follow.
“We thought it would be funny to see what their reaction would be but they were actually quite positive unfortunately. It seemed like the Brexit party was copying us by the end” laughs singer and guitarist, Gaz Roberts as we meet on the eve of last year’s General Election.
“They have as much contempt for people like us as we have for them, so it’s kinda playing to our crowd for silly laughs. It’s a fun tune, where much of the album isn’t that fun, so just an opportunity to be a bit daft. Everything (politics) seems a little crazy, almost moving beyond satire. The man who’s going to PM for next five years, is running off to hide in a fridge the day before the election its that wouldn’t be in The Thick Of It, too silly.”
The band’s latest album ‘Men Of The Moment’, was self-released after the dissolution of their old label and partially funded by a National Lottery grant, meaning the band were able to have full control on the process.
Early on, there was a conscious decision to go into the mind of these characters on the record. Some of whom are fairly unpleasant.
“I’ve written quite a bit of character driven songs in the past, and whilst writing, I was watching lots of musicals, mainly as I was unemployed at the time, and thought be nice to give some of these big choruses that sort of feeling. Take for example ‘A Capable Man’, no one would sum themselves up like that, but in a musical that’s how you introduce them. Thought be nice to do something like that in a pop song.”
Completed by Bassist Joe Forshaw, Drummer Joe Bennett and Keyboardist Chris Gallagher, the band might have been wondering how they were going to complete their 2nd album if it wasn’t for the Arts Council England grant the band received as they were hesitant to fund it via pre-orders or a kick-starter model after their self titled album had a lot of investment in it:
“We weren’t particularly 100% happy with the first album, so we really seized the opportunity. Every single one of us took a lot of care in making their part of it as good as it could be.”
“We spoke to one or two labels but we decided not have anyone else other than the producer we chose to work with and the band contribute to how things are going to sound, how it’s going to look. If you take funding from someone you invite them to be a part of your record and you invite their opinions on things when they are half formed.”
“It wasn’t easy to do for the budget we had, but we worked with really good people who believed in the project and were happy to put a lot of work in and get things done. If we didn’t get the funding or get picked up by someone who actually could invest, I don’t think we would have bothered. I kind of feel a bit differently now, having done that I feel I could do one without any money.”“We took risks with the album, knowing we’re not going to hit the charts or make something huge so wouldn’t be any point in making something beige” as Gaz explains.
The album, with cover art courtesy of collage artist and satirist, Cold War Steve, would go on to be well received after its release in August 2019. Preparations were well underway for a UK headline tour planned in the Autumn. But after being put forward by their agent to tour with The Divine Comedy and hearing nothing back, a few months later they were asked if they would be available for a huge 7 week UK & European tour that would include shows in Germany, France, and the Netherlands.
“It was a very brief discussion in work, texting each other in middle of the day. Can we do this? We’ll work out how we we do it and worry about it another time.”
Joe Bennett tells us he always had faith things would go ahead: “We had then to wait a couple weeks more after that point but I was the only one who knew it would go through.”
The band embraced the time on the road, taking time to explore each new city and felt part of each shows experience, and that was down to the audience.
Gaz tells us: “I didn’t realise how black and white a European tour would be to shows in the UK. There was quite a distinct culture in each different country, France was fantastic
they were like a theatre audience, applauding between tracks, quiet during songs.
Germany were up for a good time but could still talk to them and they’d respond. Barcelona just talked all the way through so we learnt from that show to go big in Madrid, and it paid off for us playing all the fast heavy songs. We couldn’t give them a chance to talk!”
Footage from the band’s tour in Europe was used in their music video for ‘The Girl From Hamburg.
No matter where they went in Europe there was only one thing people wanted to talk about:
“We did a whole interview on German TV about Brexit! In France we were talking to these young lads who were crying about it,“why do you hate us?”. I was really drunk, trying to talk french and repeating “J’adore France.” They’re really bothered by it and don’t get why we don’t want to be part of what is essentially a trade agreement and a few rules about movement.”
“On Brexit day we planned to all wear Blue EU T-Shirts, instead we wore them as a celebration that we stayed, and the crowd were fantastic. Soon as we walked out they were going for it.”
“It’s bad for business for the promoters as well because a lot of the american bands who play the 700-800 capacity venues there get their visas sorted in the UK. Which is where most the music industry in Europe is based and if they can’t do that they’ll probably just play the UK and not bother playing in Europe. Which is not something that occurred to me.”In 2020 we look to the future of the band with the rescheduled tour fast approaching, and wonder how they might bring together the concepts from the album and their experiences on the road in the huge theatres.
“There’s one or two things that I plan to do. The Divine Comedy did a version of it in their tour but don’t want to seem like we’re copying them!
We want it to feel like there’s a little bit of a thread running through it so the stuff we play from the earlier album and singles will be need tie with it.
But we have got to work that out yet.”
The band are on tour across the UK in February. Head to ManAndTheEcho.net for more
A version of this feature originally appeared in Spring 2020’s copy of [WAM] Magazine.
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Words: Lee Harman
Pomp Party Photos: Jon Lingwood
Live Photos: Matt Price