Andy Sykes speaks to Embrace ahead of their north west dates
The best things about mates is they tell you how it is.
A lasting friendship between Embrace and Coldplay’s Chris Martin was spawned from the latter’s support slot of Embrace during their Blackpool Empress Ballroom gig in 2000.
So when it came to lending a critical ear to Embrace’s first album after eight years away - not exactly a hiatus, more a fall off the face off the earth disappearing act - they knew who to turn to.
“He’s heard the new stuff. He loves Refugees, it’s one of his favourite tracks,” Embrace frontman Danny McNamara said.
“He was really buzzing about it all, which is great because, obviously, he’s done alright for himself.”
Which is a good job as Martin panned their third album If You’ve Never Been - straight to McNamara’s face.
You can always rely on your mates...
Embrace, the five-piece heart-on-your-sleeve Yorkshire indie band, are right to be nervous.
They have returned with a self-titled album eight years since their last, This New Day, which hit number one and notched up two top singles. It was their third album to go in at number one and they were flying.
But then they vanished. Their website became dormant. No-one heard from them.
But a few years ago the first murmurings of an awakening were heard. Songs were being written, recorded and whittled down for their latest comeback album.
Their comeback from If You’ve Never Been - the one Martin disliked - was an unparalleled success, Out of Nothing, a stadium-sized album from the depths of uncertainty.
But this time the wait was longer. Would they still be wanted?
“It feels great to be back, says guitarist Richard McNamara, Danny’s brother.
“I didn’t think I would be doing it again to be honest. I’ve been producing young bands and it spurred me to start writing songs for Embrace again.
“It feels like home again.”
And fans have clamped them to their bosom, as ever. Embrace went in at Number Five in the album charts last week and has been well received by the critics.
They set out determined to only come back if they could better their debut album, 1998’s The Good Will Out. Danny reckons they have achieved it.
Out has gone the post-Britpop string-laden anthems to be replaced by bold, synthy electronic effects, clattering percussion, the U2-style guitar mixed in with dance beats and powerful choruses.
It hits more than it misses.
First single Refugees was a rug-pull of a return single, thundering live, all beats, sound effects and a wall of sound.
“It’s my favourite song on the album,” says Richard, who is lead vocalist on the single, his first thrust into the singing spotlight since 2000’s Hooligan.
“I actually wrote it three years ago. I gained perspective from working with young bands who instead of releasing their best song they would choose a different song for radio because they may like it more. So we sat down with the record label and Danny and decided this was the one to be released first.”
In The End, Quarters and The Devil Looks After His Own are other highlights, showing Embrace have still got the harmonies to back up the bravado. But better than The Good Will Out?
“I prefer it but I can see why people won’t think that,” admits Richard.
“People’s lives are split into parts and they will remember killer tracks from certain parts of their lives and that is the case for many with The Good Will Out. We’re still immensely proud of it and we’re going to mix up the new stuff with the classics on the tour.
“One Big Family is back in the set and it sounds fantastic.
“We are are our own worst critics. We’ve been away a long time and it’s all changed so much, it’s alien to me, I just hope it resonates with the fans.”
Whatever happens, they can always rely on the support of their dad.
“We gave a copy of the album to my dad a few months back and he put it on in the car. The solicitors he was parked outside had to come out and tell him to turn it down. He was jumping up and down in his seat he liked it that much.”
An American club tour is planned but they refuse to look too far into the future. The music business can be a fickle mistress.
“We’ll keep doing it while it’s fun. We still love it. Our fans are brilliant and it gives you a warm feeling of reassurance that people really do give a monkeys about you. It’s humbling.
“We still enjoy going into a room and playing to people who want to listen to our music. Right now I can’t think of anything better.”
Embrace play Liverpool Academy on Friday May 9 and Manchester Academy on Saturday May 17.
Go to www.gigsandtours.com for ticket details.