Far Out Meets: Editors reflect on their evolution as a band and why they rebel against the comfort zone
Today is a day of fifteen years in the making for Editors, a band who reach the milestone that very few acts achieve and are releasing their greatest hits album, Black Gold, which hits the shelves today. The career-spanning 24-track compilation showcases and celebrates the number of uncompromising and left-turns the group have taken since they released their debut in 2005.
The title track for the compilation is a shining example of the evolution of Editors, the band that sit in front of us today are that of a completely different beast to the one from all those years ago. Frontman Tom Smith’s unique voice still creates the chilling sense of darkness that their debut set out but now, with the experience behind it, reaches that destination using a different mode of transport.
Editors’ 2.0 cycle began with their third record 2009’s In This Light and On This Morning which saw the band change up their style by swapping the guitar for the synthesizer, the album was a critical and commercial success which topped the album charts in the U.K. However, guitarist Chris Urbanowicz would later leave the band citing musical differences following this change in direction.
The Midlanders then made the decision to carry on and, while the band were a man down, the agreement was reached to bring in two extra members with Elliott Williams joining on keys and Justin Lockey replacing Urbanowisz as lead guitarist. As I prepared to interview the band, my research highlighted just how many obstacles Editors have been forced to overcome. While their breakthrough was one which instantly propelled them to high exposure, it’s their longevity and ability to stay relevant which seemed almost more impressive. Luckily, I was able to meet up with Justin Lockey who talked us through his journey with the group, the key to their durability and why they continue to re-invent themselves with every record.
Joining a band who are already well established and with three albums under their belt can be a strange position, but Editors with this new look line-up were approaching the shake-up as if they were making a debut all over again: “I think going into their fourth record they wanted to expand even further and make this jump from indie guitar band into this kind of expansive synth kind of world and got the bug for experimenting and moving forward,” Lockey explained. “Bands do get really bored after a while of just playing the same shit all the time.”
Editors’ fourth record and first for Lockey, 2013’s The Weight Of Your Love, was necessary for this new era of the band to get into full swing and “imprint their new sound” as Lockey tells me, stating: “In some ways the fourth record is just a band in a room playing together to gel the new members and imprint a new kind of sound. It was when we went into In Dream in 2015 which spiritually picked up where their third record left off which adds experimentation into the dark. By that point we had toured the world a couple of times and were very much a band, then last year’s ‘Violence’ record was a further departure from that.”
In Dream saw the band take their experimentation to new ambitious levels and, when I mention this to Lockey about how tracks such as the almost spoken word ‘No Harm’ show the band at their boldest, the guitarist then revealed that he was given extra production responsibilities despite his new arrival: “That kind of sound comes from a place of trust. It was obviously the right time for us to dig deep into that production world again, we are more of a studio-based thing anyway because we love being in the studio so it’s nice to be able to have the time to just dig in and do whatever the fuck you want to do really.”
While Lockey talks up the trust factor that the current line-up seem to have in abundance with each other, it becomes perfectly clear by the passion in which the guitarist talks about his bandmates that a major factor in their success is the collective devotion and intensity for their shared creative vision while their individual egos are firmly left at the door. “With the evolution of the band, we are all not precious with what we play or do,” Lockey said. “This band started out all those years ago with four guys in a room making a lot of noise with all that excitement of being young and making your first record but that excitement leaves.
“That post-teen guys in a room thing you can’t re-create that and if you try, everyone can tell. So six records in, I couldn’t give a shit if I play the guitar on any of the tracks, to be honest. I am a guitarist but it’s just one of the things I do and that’s the same with all of us. We are way past that precious stage it’s about pushing ourselves personally and as a band.”
Despite the band being a constantly evolving shape, which has undoubtedly played a massive part in them being as relevant as ever with a headline date at Wembley Arena on the horizon, it goes without saying some drawbacks will arise from such development—a factor which may have resulted in some of their fans struggling to adapt to their evolution.
Lockey opened up to me about some of the criticism he has personally faced from some of their older fans, saying: “You do get fans saying ‘I fucking hate this record, it doesn’t sound like the first record’ and I’ve even had fans come up to me saying ‘I prefer Chris’s playing’, I say ‘Great, well I’m not Chris’. That band was 15 years ago, you can go back and listen to your record because that’s always going to be there but the band personally, couldn’t give a fuck cos it’s just going to keep moving on.”
He does, however, understand the objections of the vocal minority, saying: “People like their bands because bands mean something to them in a certain moment of their lives. Say you get a mad Morrissey and Smiths fan and no matter what The Smiths do since they’re just like: ‘It’s not This Charming Man’ but the band aren’t in the same place, Morrissey is this weird right-wing dude now they are different people now.”
“To be a truthful artist and move forward, your tastes develop because you physically aren’t the same person you were 15 years ago.”
I mention to the guitarist about when I saw their emphatic headline set at Belgium’s Pukkelpop Festival in 2017 which was a special night for the band that Lockey can vividly recall, saying: “It was mad, I remember that night because the promoter came back and told us there was 55,000 people stood in a field watching us which pecks your head. We don’t assume or expect, we just go out and do our best show so when you get figures like that thrown at you it just goes over your head like how’s that happening five records in, we shouldn’t be getting bigger but when your taste changes and the fans you lose along the way because they can’t get past the fact they’re not playing their first record anymore you pick up new fans who find you on record four, five or six, it’s such an evolving bizarre existence.”
He continued: “Wembley Arena on album six like what’s going on here? To still be growing is a bizarre feeling, especially for a British band as there’s such a high turnover of bands in Britain like all the bands that came up with Editors at the beginning there’s probably like three left, and they’re all just playing their classic album or something, which I get but we like to move forward.”
Being six albums in, headlining festivals around Europe is a rare position that the band have found themselves in and while Lockey knows how fortunate they are, the secret to their success isn’t really a secret as he sheds some light on. “It’s a work ethic thing, they went out to Europe early and saw past Britain. I remember they were lumped in with the theme of the time which was Bloc Party, Rakes, Editors and Maximo, they were all talked up by NME as being this scene blah blah then you had bands like The Bravery and shit like that from America which was all post-punk basically.”
Adding: “But you can hear on Editors’ first record that what they were trying to strive for was way beyond that scene and box allowed them to do so they just fucked off and kept going back to Europe since day one and just worked harder than everyone else, they were always playing and saw the rest of the world as important as the UK. Whereas a lot of bands think because they’ve played Brixton Academy that they have made it, but you take that attitude to France and they’ll tell you to fuck off. In terms of France, there’s an attitude towards English bands were they think they are going to be well respected everywhere they go but a lot of people couldn’t give a fuck and these are massive countries. It took until ‘Ocean of Night’ on record five to get decent radio play in France.”
This immense work ethic and lack of an ego-centric ideas has been another huge contributing factor to why they are where they are, Lockey recalls the surreal nature of his first European adventure with the band saying: “Fucking hell, the first European tour I went on with Editors we were doing stadiums in Belgium then would go to Norway and play to 400 people in a club. It’s a very old school way of growing a career as a band and not something that a lot of bands grew up with especially the current crop who grew up watching X Factor where someone comes out a megastar but there’s no longevity in that.”
Lockey then gave his advice to younger bands, adding: “The emotional connection is always that live feeling that emotional attachment of seeing your favourite band loud in a club is always going to beat the record. For a band if you keep going out and out at some point if you’re good enough it’ll grow in a very organic way and that’s what Editors did from the start, now we can do Wembley and Sport Paleis in Belgium on album six or our own outdoor shows in Italy, Germany and Holland.”
Editors feel somewhat underappreciated in the U.K. because they don’t play the same festivals every single summer but they more than make up for that across the continent, a touring scene where it feels like they are truly treasured for the talent they are and Black Gold is a great excuse to delve back deep into their expansive repertoire of a band not scared of doing it their own way.
Black Gold is released via PIAS and available here, for tour dates look below:
Thursday 30 Jan France, Paris – Salle Pleyel Friday 31 Jan Germany, Dusseldorf – Mitsubishi Electric Halle Saturday 1 Feb Belgium, Antwerp – Sportpaleis Monday 3 Feb Germany, Berlin – Velodrom Tuesday 4 Feb Poland, Krakow -Studio Wednesday 5 Feb Poland, Warsaw -Torwar Friday 7 Feb Austria, Vienna -Gasometer Saturday 8 Feb Croatia, Zagreb – Dom Sportova Zagreb Monday 10 Feb Italy, Rome – Atlantico Tuesday 11 Feb Italy, Milan – Alcatraz Wednesday 12 Feb Italy, Milan – Alcatraz Friday 14 Feb Switzerland, Zurich – Komplex 457 Saturday 15 Feb Switzerland, Fribourg – Fri-Son Monday 17 Feb Spain, Madrid – The Box (Wizink Center) Tuesday 18 Feb Spain, Barcelona – Razzmatazz Thursday 27 Feb UK, Birmingham – Arena Birmingham Friday 28 Feb UK, London – The SSE Arena Wembley Saturday 29 Feb UK, Manchester – O2 Apollo Monday 2 Mar Ireland, Dublin – Vicar Street Tuesday 3 Mar UK, Glasgow – Barrowland Friday 27 Mar Greece, Thessaloniki – Principal Theatre Saturday 28 Mar Greece, Athens – Tae Kwan Do Arena Wednesday 1 Apr Ukraine, Kiev – StereoPlaza Friday 3 Apr Russia, Moscow – GlavClub Saturday 4 Apr Russia, St. Petersburg – Morze Monday 22 June Germany, Hamburg – Stadtpark Saturday 27 June Netherlands, The Hague – Zuiderpark