Embrace - the comeback kids
Fresh out of the indie doldrums with a successful new album and renewed optimism, Ben Kendall talks to Embrace frontman and songwriter Danny McNamara.
Their career has seen them go from one of the biggest-selling groups of the Nineties to also-rans in the quest to become the biggest band in the world.
For a band once dubbed – largely by themselves – one of the best prospects of the British music industry, Embrace have struggled to live up to their own hype.
Since it charted at number one in 1998, debut album The Good Will Out quickly became an indie classic, almost a swan-song for the Britpop era.
The fivesome were widely and perhaps, frustratingly, compared to Oasis, partly because of brothers Danny and Richard and their outspoken nature but also as result of their anthemic sound.
They developed a loyal following, but their two follow-up albums failed to repeat the previous commercial success. In 2002 they were dropped by record label Hut. But after two years out the future looks bright for the boys from Huddersfield.
The new album, Out of Nothing, went straight in at number one and, as they prepare to bring their sell-out UK tour to Norwich on Wednesday, November17, singer and songwriter Danny McNamara says he's feeling more positive than ever.
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“We're all totally gobsmacked by the album's success. We were hoping for the top 10, so number one is great,” he says.
“The whole band is walking round with big cheesy grins and a Ready Brek glow.”
Such success has come at a price.
About 500 songs were written over two years before the band felt ready to go back into the studio.
The three months spent recording Out of Nothing were tumultuous as McNamara clashed with producer Youth, at times questioning whether it was worth the aggravation.
He admits: “I hated Youth for the first six weeks of recording and we argued constantly. I'm a bit of a control freak and had to learn to shut up and listen to someone else.
“He'd ask me to change lyrics I'd been poring over for years and interrupt midway through a song.
“There were times when I just considered packing the music industry in, throwing my mobile away and going back to nature, living on an island or find religion or something.”
However, the pair shared a common goal: to record the truly great album they both knew the group was capable of.
“It was hard work but we had the strength of character to get through it and it pushed us on to new levels,” says McNamara.
Rediscovering the popularity that the group had once taken for granted has made success taste even sweeter.
“This time round it felt like people really wanted us to succeed and we've had a lot of support.
“I think we're appreciating it a lot more this time round. With the first album we were too caught up in recording and touring to even notice how big we were.”
While he admits Out of Nothing is the most complete recording Embrace have managed, McNamara stops short of hailing it their best album.
He says: “I don't know if it's my favourite. It's certainly the most accomplished because we've learned a lot throughout our career.
“But I hope in years to come people will look at all our albums and love them equally for the different aspects of life and stages of our career they represent.”
Single Gravity was written by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, a close friend of the band. Initially, they were reluctant to record a track that wasn't their own. But once they heard it they swallowed their pride and accepted it was an Embrace track through and through.
“I've known Chris for years and we're always playing songs down the phone to each other,” says McNamara.
“A couple of years ago he came to me and said he'd written this song, but didn't want to record it because it sounded too much like an Embrace song.
“Eventually we decided to record it and when we were done we knew it was a track for us.”
As an influx of new talent floods the charts the band find themselves in the unfamiliar position of music industry veterans, a role McNamara is relishing.
“It's a very exciting time in the music industry right now and I'm glad to be part of it,” he says.
“There are bands like Kasabian who I love.
“I look for a band who have real passion and who you can really make a connection with. I don't care what kind of music it is, it can be country and western or anything, as long as there's something special about it.”
Embrace have always promised to become something special, perhaps now they are beginning to fulfil that promise.
t Support comes from West Country band Thirteen Senses who have just released their debut album The Invitation, which has been described by the NME as “one of the best debuts of the year”.
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