an interview with ed lay of the editors
  • MONDAY, MARCH 15, 2010

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Things we take for granted in America: the ubiquity of 24-hour places to buy beer, the ability to exist in totally different cultures simply by driving from state to state, and our bloated, excessive music industry. Our bravado often leads to ignoring our little brother in musical output, the UK, who arguably favor quality over quantity. For every five Black Eyed Peas-ish acts that America excretes, there is probably something equally as popular and infinitely more respectable happening in England. One such band got its start at a University in 2003 (the "best place to start a band"), and has since has two records debut at number one on the English charts. Impressed? You should be, although the name Editors probably doesn't ring too many bells in the midwest. At least one guy was a big fan at Kimmel last month, because he pretty much knows all the words, not to mention plays a mean air drum.



The funny thing is they were supposed to play Conan, (RIP Late Night's number one man), an apt metaphor for some of our ignorance of their work. America puts Leno at the number one spot, despite Conan's infinitely superior popularity (with people who aren't afraid their computer might take over their house, like my Grandma). We put Will.I.Am at the number one spot, despite the fact that his lyrics are often repetitive one liners he probably thought up while drunk. (I'ma be... a poet?). Here is the million dollar question: how is it that a platinum record in the UK doesn't even break 100 in the US? Why do I not have/cherish a copy of An End Has A Start?

Who knows, but you better believe I have a copy now. After chatting with Ed Lay, the groups drummer, it became evident that Editors is an extremely relevant band in Europe, not to mention a collection some of England's finest contemporary rockers. Their latest effort In This Light And On This Evening found them writing "more intelligent" songs in their opinion, in addition to the obvious advances in synth production (courtesy of working with Mark "Flood" Ellis). Their frame of reference for fans was sounding like the Terminator soundtrack. And the resulting tunes seem to suggest they nailed it: fresh, energetic, and unlike anything they've done before.

The band probably sounds a lot different than they did in 2005 ("or was it 2006?" Lay said) when they made their US debut at South By South West. But one thing is for sure: this band sounds on purpose. Lay would probably agree the band is good at getting what they want out of the studio. Of their first recording together, Lay said "we had a definite idea of what we were trying to do with it, and i think the songs work. It sounds not rushed, but it sounds like it was recorded quickly... of a moment." It's the kind of thought that seems to go into all of Editors work as they bounce ideas around England to each other. Another nice detail about Editors is their collaborative process; an idea for a chorus or hook makes the rounds to each of the band members, who contribute something else until the songs are fleshed out.

And they've thought a lot about how to fill out their sound without excessive multitracking. "You'd think [layers are] what you need to power a song along" Lay said. We discussed the Editor's meticulous attention to instrumentation over gluttonous layering&mdash quality over quanity&mdash to establish a fuller sound to their songs. The funny thing is that Editors have always considered themselves a live band (a time when excessive multi tracking is arguably irrelevant). Lay cited excessive touring on releases as the building block of their success in England and Europe. Perhaps their rare stateside appearances have something to do with my former lack of Editors music in my iTunes. Lay talked about a show promoting the first single, "Bullets", at a bar in Birmingham. The place was packed. "The amount of people that congregated felt like a special atmosphere. It felt like something very important was happening for our band." It's moments like this that make a band, even in today's digital age.

That doesn't mean it is too late to experience them for the first time, in real live or in MP3 format. Their longevity is a testament to their passion for what they do. My favorite thing about Editors is that they pride themselves in also being a visual band, a component that shoegaze often forgets and hardcore often blows out of proportion. The band is very animated while performing, employing lots of lighting cues and high-energy movements. They are very specific about their artwork. Coincidentally I think visual bands also have a stronger hold on their identity, and thus last longer. Even their name has an aesthetic purpose. "It has nothing to do with newspaper, television, or film editors" Lay said. "We just put the name at the top of the record, and we liked how it looked." Looks good from here too. -joe puglisi


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