The Fire And The Fury Behind Boston Manor’s New Album, GLUE
“The one rule that we had was to not think about the bigger picture,” says frontman Henry Cox of their follow-up to 2018’s explosive Welcome To The Neighbourhood, due out on May 1 via Pure Noise Records. “And we didn’t even think about how we were going to do it live, either. It was just, ‘Write cool music, and figure out how to channel that into everything else later on.’”
It’s an approach that has worked wonders for the Blackpool quintet, taking the band – completed by guitarists Mike Cunniff and Ash Wilson, bassist Dan Cunniff and drummer Jordan Pugh – even further away from their melodic beginnings and into genuinely colossal territories. “A really noisy rock record” is how the vocalist describes album number three, but he’s modestly underselling what’s to come. You can listen for yourself in the video for lead single Everything Is Ordinary below – but in the meantime, allow Henry to unveil an album that sounds like a career highlight from one of the UK’s most exciting bands…
What was your headspace coming out of the cycle for Welcome To The Neighbourhood, Henry?
“We were really burned out! It was an amazing couple of years in our lives, and it took us to a place that we never expected to get to. But we just toured so much, and in 18 months we didn’t really come home. Then we found ourselves with the summer off to finish this record, and we were in a pretty dark place. We were burned out from touring, and there were some personal struggles away from the band. We all found ourselves a little bit beaten and battered. We were overthinking everything, and it got us to the point where we were on the verge of breaking up or going on a long hiatus to figure out what to do. And then we just had a couple of songs that came out, and they were really angry, raw and visceral, and we came out of the cage fighting. It gave us the kick up the arse that we needed; it was a desperate time, so we wrote an angry, desperate record. We channelled all of that frustration and sadness that we were all dealing with into the music, and it came out great.”
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When did you start writing GLUE?
“The Welcome To The Neighbourhood cycle only really ended a couple of months ago, so we were writing throughout that, on and off. And there were a few different projects that we were going to do, because we weren’t sure if we were going to do a record, or just an EP. But we got to the point where we had this really cohesive body of work – in fact, we’ve actually got two albums (laughs), and one of them is just chilling at the moment! I don’t know what we’re going to do with it. But we had two finished bodies of work, and they’re really cohesive lyrically, artistically and musically. And GLUE just fit together so perfectly that we couldn’t not release it. It felt a bit wrong to split it up and drip-feed it as something else.”
Is the second album along the same lines as GLUE, or is that more the off-cuts?
“No, it’s not like a B‑sides at all – it’s a completely different album that we wrote! It’s not the right time to release that record, so we just put it to one side. We have a name for it and everything, but we’re just letting it sit. It was a little too far ahead, if that makes sense. Whereas GLUE is so modern and current, and of such a time and place thematically, that we had to focus on that record and really give it everything we had.”
That’s quite the turnaround – going from considering breaking up to now having two complete albums…
“Yeah, it was crazy – and we were crazy (laughs). A lot of it came to us in the studio, and we recorded with Mike Sapone, who did Welcome To The Neighbourhood with us. He’s our creative partner and he’s amazing. He really brought the songs to life when we got into the studio. But yeah, at one point we had literally nothing, and before we knew it – and once we decided that we weren’t going to break up – we ended up with lots more!”
Did you all sit down and discuss the different direction of this album, or did it just come naturally?
“A bit of both. Whenever we sit down and go, ‘Right, the next thing we’re gonna do will be like this,’ it never fucking ends up like that (laughs). But we definitely knew that we wanted to keep things quite heavy, and I think that came from the live show. That’s what we do best: we have a very energetic live show. It wouldn’t be true to ourselves or our fans if we cut that out of the record. And it just fit so naturally. Once we started the music, it came out that way anyway. So it really was just a bit of both: it was pretty visceral and we didn’t really think about it. It just sort of came out.”
Is this next touring cycle going to be completely exhausting, then?
“Definitely! I’m working out every day and getting really prepared, physically, to be able to do this set. It’s going to be the most demanding live set we’ve ever done, and we’re going to be playing for longer than we’ve ever played – and I’m prepared for that. But, you know, I’m pissed off, and everyone else should be pissed off, because it’s not a very good time to be living harmoniously in the world. I’m hoping to use the shows as a bit of an outlet and channel some aggression.”
What specifically has been making you angry? There’s plenty to be pissed off about at the moment…
“It’s the same as what’s making everybody else angry. I keep calling this album ‘21st Century Fury’, because we’re so abused and we’ve been stretched so thin by corporations, by greedy, selfish people – and by ourselves as well. I don’t think we’re being very good to ourselves. Our response was to make something really angry and aggressive, and I think that’s how a lot of people feel at the moment. It’s a political record, for sure, but I’m not going to be yelling at people telling them who to vote for. It’s tough to condense it down into a soundbite, or a coherent sentence, but this album is very 2020. After the election results and how disappointed most young people are with the ongoing shortcomings of our government, I feel like we now have to define what our generation will be known for. It’s our responsibility to step up to the plate. That’s what this album is about, and it feels very natural that we’re releasing it at the start of this decade – it’s like a rallying cry of how we can’t delay anymore.”
Were there any points during the process where you felt like you had to rein things in – either lyrically or musically?
“Honestly, no. On the last record we took a big sonic leap, and we’re very lucky in that our fans fully supported us and went with it. I feel like we’ve established ourselves as a band who do whatever we want musically, in a sense – if that doesn’t come across as too arrogant! We’re lucky that we trust our fans and they trust us, and I feel like there are very few things that we could put out that would be so far out of left field that they would be like, ‘No, fuck this.’ Of course there will be people who just want a [2018 single] Halo or something, but I trust that our fans are very open-minded and will at least give things a chance.”
So you don’t have any nerves about what people are going to say about GLUE?
“Well… the thing is, good art polarises people. And, to be honest, I don’t think our music has been polarising enough yet (laughs). Usually the most we get is about my haircut! But, quite honestly, I genuinely don’t know what people are going to think about this. I’ve shown some friends who’ve absolutely loved it, and I’ve shown others who have said that it’s not their favourite. I always ask people to be completely honest with me, and that’s what I think is really interesting. I’m excited to hear people’s reactions. But how it goes live is the tell-all, and if you get the kids jumping then that’s when you know you’ve done a good job.”
Tell us about the album’s lead single, Everything Is Ordinary…
“It sums up that ‘21st Century Fury’ thing. It’s aggressive, it’s exciting, but there’s also the Auto-Tune thing going on in the vocals, and we’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. It’s a bit of a rallying cry that sums up the entire record right from the start. It’s one of our maddest tunes yet, and I’m proper buzzing to start playing it live – it’s going to be hectic.”
What about the song On A High Ledge?
“That’s a really important song to me. It was one of the earlier tracks that we wrote and it’s different to stuff we’ve done before because of the electronics. It’s about toxic masculinity and ‘man-up’ culture and the very high suicide rate in young men, which I believe is a result of that toxic masculinity. It’s an interesting track musically, and I think it’ll be a different listen for Boston Manor fans.”
You also take a hard look at yourself on Terrible Love. How are you feeling about putting that one out there?
“I’m nervous, actually. I made a list of all the things that I really hate about myself, and then took all of them and turned it into lyrics, and that’s what that song is. It’s about my insecurities and shortcomings of character. There are definitely some moments on the record that are very honest and a bit ‘baring all’, but fingers crossed…”
Did that process help you in any way, and make you take a step forward towards the person you want to be?
“I think so. This entire record was so cathartic to make, and once it was actually done it felt great that we channelled the exhaustion and frustration into it. There’s been some nervous energy around the whole process of writing. It was a weird atmosphere, but it’s put us all in a great headspace and it feels like the very beginning of something quite exciting. I don’t mean that in terms of the band suddenly becoming something else, but it feels like we’ve finally put our flag in the sand of, ‘We’re just doing our own thing.’ Everything now is on our terms, which has been my ultimate goal in the past.”
What are your personal hopes for this album? Are you going to look after yourselves a bit better this time around?
“I think so, yeah. I had a bit of a look at myself in the mirror last year and realised that I wasn’t taking care of myself, I was drinking too much, I wasn’t taking good care of my mental health, and I wasn’t being a good friend to some people. It was like a little hole that I’d crawled into and was comfortable there – it was safe, but slightly misanthropic and miserable! I feel amazing now, and we’re all in a really good place. We’re really excited and happy to be doing what we’re doing. I think I’ve learned a few things about myself that I didn’t know before. It just took me 25 years to figure that out (laughs).”
Boston Manor’s new album GLUE is out May 1 via Pure Noise.
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