80’s retro synthesizer duo HURTS have announced a Dublin date at Whelan’s on May 20th. This will be HURTS’ first ever Irish show and is sure to be a very hot ticket following their top 4 placing in the BBC’s hope for 2010 poll.
Tickets priced €14.45 including booking fee are on sale now through all Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
See BBC interview here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8439832.stm
The sky is notepaper-white and the pavements have been cleaned. Outside the bars of Thomas Street people sit alone at tables, hunched inwards over cigarettes and phones. I’m walking to meet Hurts. They’re working underground near here; writing songs in a basement beneath Manchester’s centre.
On my way down into the building, I meet another local band. They seem flustered and nervous. They tell me that they’re off on tour. When they discover that I’m going to see Hurts the lead singer sets down the amp he’s carrying and seems on the verge of tears. -What do those two do in there?’ he asks.
Adam Anderson and Theo Hutchcraft sit side-by-side in chairs. The room is sparse and has a dusty wooden floor. There’s some recording equipment against one wall and a microphone in the opposite corner. Occasionally, Anderson pulls a guitar across his lap and inspects the frets for a moment. Hutchcraft takes a comb from his pocket, manoeuvres it between his fingers, then replaces it. They both seem different, at first. Anderson, the calculating visionary. Hutchcraft, the born pop-star. And yet there is a strong sense of loyalty between the two men. Above all, they both seem impossibly calm.
It’s a few months since they signed to an imprint of Sony. It was a decision they made in Berlin, having escaped there to get some perspective on their situation. It was a chaotic period. Even in Berlin, they say, they were tracked down by the MD of a German record label. -He told us that people aren’t happy,’ says Hutchcraft, smiling. -And that they needed our music.’
Silence surrounded Hurts at the start. There was no screaming house-party shows, no twittering, no posturing or hyperbole. They’ve spent the last year moving regularly from suburb to suburb, spending time in Broughton, Rusholme and Bellevue, as well as Berlin. A mystery surrounds them both. Though today, they seem relaxed and happy to discuss their pasts.
-My dad was a milkman in Hazel Grove for thirty years,’ says Anderson, monotone but cheerful. -I’ve not really been anywhere,’ he adds. -My granddad was a wartime entertainer. He played banjo for the Queen.’
Hutchcraft says he was -born in North Yorkshire. I came to Manchester after I left home. As a kid, I travelled. We owned a caravan. We spent some time in Australia, some time in the middle-east.’
Both have spent the majority of the past four years on the dole. -I told the government I wanted to be a talk-show host and they gave me forty-four pounds a week,’ says Anderson. -It was ok.’
-It was fine,’ says Hutchcraft. -We had nothing.’
Both worked, too. During the first Hurts sessions Hutchcraft was touring with British Super-bikes, working backstage. Anderson filmed the greyhound races at Bellevue dog track. He was still filming dogs when Hurts began to gather momentum. -It was odd,’ he says. -One minute you’re watching a man inject steroids into the hind leg of a dog, the next you’re on the phone to Rick Rubin and he’s saying how much he loves your video.’
Anderson and Hutchcraft met outside a Mancunian nightclub just before Christmas 2005. Their friends were having a punch-up and the two of them got talking about music. Over the subsequent year they communicated only via the internet from their homes in Salford and Longsight. Anderson sent backing tracks. Hutchcraft sent back vocals. -It was like we couldn’t meet in public,’ says Anderson. -Perhaps it was your [Hutchcraft’s] lifestyle, I don’t know. But we made music together before we knew each other.’
Their musical backgrounds were different. -I learnt to sing by singing along in clubs,’ deadpans Hutchcraft. Anderson, meanwhile, had an ambition to write scores for television. -I did one for channel five once,’ he tells me. -But they hated it.’
The previous band the two masterminded was -Daggers’. Neither seems uncomfortable talking about this period. With -Daggers’, Hutchcraft and Anderson manufactured a party band. A hyperactive pop group that divided audiences.
-Daggers’ were tightly wound. They were aggressive, hostile and obsessive in their pursuit of pop. -We studied songs constantly,’ says Hutchcraft. -Everything was fast. We wanted to write the perfect pop song. We wanted to construct the greatest pop band on the planet. We couldn’t quite do that.’
The -Daggers’ experiment reached its peak in September 2008 when Hutchcraft and Anderson took the band to London to play a showcase alongside Beyonce’s sister, Solange Knowles.
-It was a car crash,’ says Anderson. -You could see A&R men edging backwards out the room.’
-It went wrong,’ says Hutchcraft. -It was a relief.’
In late 2008, Anderson and Hutchcraft returned to Manchester. -We were done. We had nothing to do.’ They began writing differently. -It was pretty effortless,’ says Hutchcraft. -The songs just started to come. Completely different. We weren’t pissed off, really, or worried. We were hopeful, melancholy. We just started writing these songs.’
They wrote a song called -Unspoken’ late one evening. They recorded it immediately and, having listened to it once, they called up the various members of -Daggers’ and told them that it was over. The following day Hurts flew to Verona.
It’s the period in Italy that Hutchcraft and Anderson seem most guarded about. -We went searching for Italo-disco,’ says Hutchcraft, taking his comb from his pocket and running its edge across the palm of his hand. -But what we found was Disco-Lento. That’s all.’
Mancunian rumour says that Hurts performed fairly regularly during the month they spent in Verona. But both Hutchcraft and Anderson are indifferent on the subject. -It’s over now,’ says Anderson. -We stayed in the home of a Soprano. But she was an amateur Soprano.’ And with that we move on.
They play me some music at a moderate volume. Often these moments can be pretty excruciating; perched on chairs with musicians, listening to their output. But this isn’t like that. The atmosphere is calm and I feel strangely medical.
I realise as the first song begins that I have no preconceptions, no expectations. This is a rare state and it feels good. What I hear sounds a little like the self-assured, epic balladeering that I associate with American R&B. The music is spacious, confident and connected to joy. There’s a sense that Hurts have an open, intrigued and uncomplicated relationship with contemporary music. They’ve engaged with songwriting in an unbiased and unrestricted way. It’s refreshing, unguarded. It’s not ravaged by cool and there’s no genre-splicing gimmick here. The statement of Hurts is an emotional one.
If their sound recalls the global and their history seems oddly European, there is also a strong Mancunian dimension to Hurts. Anderson is only truly animated when talking about the suburbs he writes in. -Broughton,’ he says, almost wistfully. -Broughton is a beautiful area.’
Hutchcrafts’s Manchester is the warm, mist-strewn world of Vallette, rather than the matchstick men of LS Lowry. -Really,’ he says. -Mine is an outsider’s view. Manchester isn’t a lairy place, or a macho place, particularly. It’s quite gentrified. It’s hopeful and bleak. Manchester respects its heritage. It’s about development, not restoration. That’s what Hurts is about, too.’
-I enjoy the statistics and the passion of sport,’ says Anderson, firmly, when I ask what else he does. -I’d like to build a reverb chamber some day. I love music. It fills the void in me, I feel. It fills some of it, at least.’
-All my life I’ve struggled with hobbies,’ says Hutchcraft, then he bites down on the tip of his thumb. -I love Otis Reading and The Righteous Brothers,’ he says, after some time. -I like soul music. I love great voices. We’re both inspired by film soundtracks, too, and’¦’ He bites the tip of his thumb once again and his forehead creases a little. -I suppose I’m fascinated by female emotions,’ he says. -I mean, I’m interested in them. They influence me’¦’ He covers his mouth with a sideways palm for a moment. Then he smiles, looks me in the eye and says, -I listen to Prince.’
It’s like being in the eye of a storm. In the hour I spend with them a silenced phone grumbles and flashes frequently but is always ignored. Anderson and Hutchcraft just sit on chairs, side-by-side, serene. Their sentences seem, at times, blunt and down to earth. And yet there’s something about the two that feels warm, humorous and alien. Pressure and expectation don’t seem to weigh that heavily on either of them. They discuss the chicken restaurant -Nandos’. They talk about the influence of Music Concrete on the band. They are musicians who have an unfaltering faith in their vision. They talk about their debut album with a sense of excitement, a sense of pure pleasure and with complete confidence in their ability to move people and entertain them. When I leave, they immediately lock the door.
Outside on the pavement the local band I encountered earlier are now loading their gear into a blue splitter bus.
-What did they say?’ the lead singer asks, perched nervously on his skinny legs, pulling on a fag.
-Just this and that, really,’ I say.
I stand and watch them shifting their gear for a moment and I find myself picturing Hurts.
Beneath this pavement.