“There are naysayers but I really couldn’t give a **** about them” Indie rock band Embrace prepare to return to Norwich as part of comeback tour
- Credit: Archant
They've had numerous top 20 hits, three number one albums and sold more than 2.5m albums in the UK alone. But indie band Embrace have chosen to make a relatively low-key return, including a gig in Norwich. David Powles found out why.
The year is 2000 and the venue Tower Ballroom in Blackpool.
Embrace are the headline act with support provided by a then little known band called Coldplay.
The rest, as they say, is history, as the soon-to-be-released single Yellow helps propel the second on the bill band to worldwide stardom.
And it may not be the smartest move, but I decide to make this the starting point of a catch-up with Richard McNamara, guitarist with the returning five-piece.
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I ask him if he ever wonders what might when he looks back on a gig like that?
He says: 'I do remember that gig and we've always got on well with the band. I guess there is a part of me that wonders what they did right that we did wrong, but it is at least nice to be able to lead a normal live and walk down the street without being noticed.
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'I remember Danny (McNamara, lead singer with Embrace and Richard's brother) telling me he was with Chris Martin in London once, Chris had his hoodie on like he always has to. One person recognised him and within moments there was a swarm of people around him. If that happens all the time it must be hard to deal with.'
Not that Embrace have any reason to look back on their careers so far and regard themselves as a failure.
Formed in the 1990s in Leeds, the band first tasted chart success in 1998 when Come Back to What You Know reached number six. A further 13 top 30 singles have followed as they have forged a particular reputation for poignant indie rock sing-a-long ballads.
As Richard explained, they count themselves lucky to have tasted success at the right time: 'The industry is completely different now to how it was. We were lucky enough to enjoy some of the excesses that might not be possible now. We recorded our second album in a stately home for goodness sake, getting up to all sorts, basically just having a great party.
'You definitely have a shorter shot at it now, but there's a great saying 'if you touch people's ear it will last a year, if you touch their heart it will last a lifetime'. Hopefully our songs get into people's hearts.'
But it hasn't always been a smooth ride, with the band splitting up in 2007, before reuniting three years later.
Richard says of that break: 'There has been some struggling along the way, but the break was the best thing that happened to us. We were all able to grow up a bit and take a step back and realise we should just enjoy what we are doing.
'Fortunately that is still where we are now. We're just enjoying having a laugh and being best friends. We still put ourselves through it every now and then but there's a lot of love in the band right now.'
The band will play seven gigs in December to help them get back into the groove ahead of their seventh studio album, due for release next year.
And Richard is adamant that after two decades in the business, the magic of playing live hasn't faded. He said: 'Playing songs we have written to a crowd is the best feeling in the world. It's what gives me the greatest high. To turn it up loud and just blow the place out.'
It's fair to say Embrace haven't always been considered to be amongst indie's most coolest bands. They've suffered the same fate as many, in that some would build them up only to knock them down.
But, Richard believes, that has probably helped them to forge a very close bond with those who have supported them along the way.
He said: 'After all these years we just accept who we are and get on with it. There are naysayers but I really couldn't give a **** about them. That wasn't always the case, but you stop worrying. It used to be that if we had a really good review, but the last line was a negative, that would be the bit I'd concentrate on.
'But if I like something I like it, it doesn't have to be classed as cool and hopefully that's how a lot of people feel too.
'The great thing is that, thanks to social media, I know most of our fans by first name, which is a really nice thing to have.'
Live is where Embrace really make sense, many of their songs are big and epic and just work. And don't expect them to shun the hits for their newer, more obscure numbers.
Richard said: 'We'll be playing a fans set. If I see a band and they don't play the songs I love, it's frustrating, so we won't do that to others. You'll get all the best songs, don't worry.'
They'll be playing Norwich Waterfront on December 12 and the city is already a place close to their hearts, as Richard explained: 'We've great memories of Norwich, it's always a great gig. I remember it was the first gig after our third album and the set was all mirrorballs and glitter and it just blew us away. It was breathtaking.'
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