Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Editors

In the festival filled days following the release of Editors’ second album, An End Has a Start, the band basked in the popularity its first two LPs had wrought. Crowds that spanned as far as the eye could see converged around them and provided nothing less than the very picture of musical success. It was in those days the band began penning several new songs with the intent to use them on their follow up record. PPtheeditors

In the festival filled days following the release of Editors’ second album, An End Has a Start, the band basked in the popularity its first two LPs had wrought. Crowds that spanned as far as the eye could see converged around them and provided nothing less than the very picture of musical success. It was in those days the band began penning several new songs with the intent to use them on their follow up record.

PPtheeditors

Editors (Photo: Sarah Cass)

“They were fine songs,” guitarist Chris Urbanowicz says. “But fine wasn’t good enough for us.”

The songs topped out at “fine” due to their strong similarity to their already-popular predecessors. That didn’t set well with Urbanowicz, nor his bandmates — Tom Smith (vocals/keys), Russell Leetch (bass) and Ed Lay (drums). Instead, the foursome went back to the drawing board, reconfiguring their approach to songwriting.

Instead of starting songs by writing on guitar, Urbanowicz jumped onto the synthesizers. Nine tracks later, Editors had the makings of its October 2009 release, In This Light and On This Evening, a dancy, anthemic album that took them off the guitar-rich path that had led to their heralding as one of the music world’s best new bands.

“It wasn’t particularly the sound of our previous songs that was boring, it was just that we weren’t getting anything out of it. It was becoming too repetitive,” Urbanowicz says. “So I started writing on synthesizers. It seemed to work and sent everyone else down that path as well.”

Synth-rich and with an industrial feel, In This Light and On This Evening shot to No. 1 on the UK charts, but earned a wide divergence of reviews from critics. The BBC hailed it as the group’s best album to date. British music site NME used one of the band’s own lines against them, asking if the group was merely living out secondhand clichés and wallowing in mawkish bombast with its new approach. Others continued to fault the foursome for their likeness to Joy Division, a comparison that has dogged the group since their start.

It’s always seemed odd that one band should be faulted for sounding like another when music writers base much of their careers on the practice of comparing new acts to already-established groups. But sound similarities aside, criticism of the album as pandering seem to miss one essential fact — the group already had its throngs of fans. If anything, it risked alienating its established fan base by taking a new tack on its third LP.

As Urbanowicz says, the change in writing direction wasn’t for the fans so much as for the band itself.

“When we started writing songs for this album, we did it in the traditional Editors way, with the traditional formula,” he says. “We always think that when a band starts to have a formula, that’s when it starts to rest on its laurels a little bit and get bland. That was the most important thing we wanted to avoid. So we started, not panicking, but wondering where we should go to make things interesting for us again.”

They found that second wind with the new electronic-heavy approach, one that gave them more avenues for creativity and one other important aspect.

“It was just more fun,” Urbanowicz says. “There’s more stuff to play with. We’re all music geeks at heart and we like fiddling around with toys and this is a way to do that when you’re a big boy. We used a lot of sequences on this album and we haven’t really used them before, so we had to work at how to use them and how to get the best out of them. Doing something like that is way more rewarding than something you’ve done with a guitar.”

Fans can join in on the fun when Editors performs Sunday, Feb. 21 at 9:30 Club. Tickets are $20 and doors open at 7 p.m. The Antlers and The Dig share the bill.

• For more on Editors, visit www.editorsofficial.com.