Leah Hamer || December 20th
‘We’re a gang, a family, and best friends…although we do often want to kill each other.’ Mickey Dale, the chirpy, piano playing, Yorkshireman of Embrace laughs, as I ask him about life on tour with the band.
Despite having no new recorded material to promote (just yet), Mickey, along with brothers Danny and Richard McNamara, Steve Firth, and Mike Heaton, were eager to get back on tour after performing at The Secret Festival, earlier this summer.
‘Touring is a lot of fun. The thing about being in a band is that you look forward to all aspects of it, if you time it properly, by the time you’re getting sick of being in the studio, it’s time to start working on the artwork and doing interviews and promos, then when you get sick of that it’s time to get on the road.’
This tour, which ended on Sunday night in Edinburgh, was a Christmas celebration, as well as preparation for 2017 which will see them on the road once again, to promote their seventh studio album.
‘We’ve been busy beavering away at this album but it’s going very well. It’s been flowing very freely. The process can be a bit fraught and laborious at times but now it’s like we’ve gone back to a more simple approach, it feels like the first album. The arrangement is very simple, it’s like a refined version of Embrace. We’ve got the confidence now to let the songs breathe a bit, we’re trying less hard, and letting the songs guide the band.’ He pauses and laughs, ‘It feels like as a band we’ve actually improved.’
The unnamed album has been in the offing since the start of 2015, but life interfered with its process. ‘We were off to a flying start but then Danny announced he was getting married- so there was a stag, a wedding, a honeymoon and he went travelling for a few months. But it’s done him the power of good, there’s only so much inspiration you can conjure up from daily life, so it’s good to break that routine.’
After their first album was released, The Good Will Out, nearly twenty years ago, you’d think writing would be second nature to everyone now. ‘We always want to please ourselves first, but we’re all hard to impress, which makes it difficult at times. I think the process of writing gets harder- on a first album you’ve had your whole life to write those twelve songs, and then you’re expected to do it quicker and better, which creates pressure.’
Despite this, things have been going well so far with this album, ‘We used to write songs on tour, where we’d turn the back of the bus into a studio, and upset the road crew massively. After a long day when they just wanted to relax and were then tripping up on wires and equipment everywhere because of us! But we never got any work done. Sometimes we would lock ourselves in a room for days and not speak to our friends and family to try and get an idea. But with this album, each day we’ve got a couple of songs done, so it was hugely enjoyable and everyone was in good spirits… I hope I’m not going to jinx it!’
The hope is that the album will be released in the early months of 2017, as all it requires now is some polish and a name. ‘After a couple of beers I’m sure we’ll come up with something. Like the best things it will come out of nowhere. The last one we just called it Embrace, so we’ve used that trick already.’ He chuckles. ‘It almost feels like we’ve come full circle, with that naïve approach that we first had on our first album. So maybe something about the process of this album will guide us to a fitting name.’
Before I let Mickey return to his hectic schedule, he revealed his appreciation and admiration for young bands looking to make it in the tough world of music. ‘If I could talk to younger Mickey this is the advice I would give myself… Stick to your guns ruthlessly, don’t compromise your art. Let your passion run through your music. Don’t let anyone compromise your outlook or your individuality. Strive to be as original. Strive to stand apart.
His final advice, is something that he must remind himself of on the bluer days of band life. ‘I have to remember that I’m really lucky, I’m doing this thing that others would kill for whilst their stuck in the office from eight until six…Make sure you love doing it, you have to enjoy the journey. You don’t know where you’re going to end up, you might get to have a record deal and think it’s awful, so you have to enjoy every step of the way. You’re not going to be paid for it, you’re doing it for love.’