An early Wednesday summer afternoon and I rush nervously to my scheduled interview with Hurts in St Barnabas House, Soho London. I’m walked through to a beautiful intimate but also intimidating small chapel to meet the duo that form ‘Hurts’ Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson. As expected both are sharp, dapper and charming.
What I really wanted to ask you about was writing songs, and how they can be difficult tackling themes of boy meets girl, which can be recognizable but also standard for the listener, one person I think tackles this well is Annie Lennox, who can make love/passion/desire sound epic and innovative, which is a quality I think hurts possess?
THEO: Yeah I think we both…..like our songs are never love songs they are always about the end. It’s funny because we never wrote love songs for a longtime. We tried to write everything but… It’s definitely important to keep it unique, because everything is usually tried and tested like you said, but at the end of the day it’s an extremely emotional subject. Yeah Annie Lennox did it really well. It can be a really good story especially told from an abstract point of view.
It’s very hard at the moment with the current music climate to draw the same amount of attention to the music and lyrics at the same time, you guys are successfully achieving this, was this difficult?
ADAM: The way we do it, is when we start the songs it is the two of us a piano and vocals, very simple….but its kind of the months after that we spend on the music, creating….it’s like a juxtaposition, where we strive to offset the nature of the melodies, which are quite poppy and very melodic with something darker, which hopefully when we put them together that’s what’s interesting.
THEO: It’s good that you notice that because it is something we try to do, spend equal quality time on both parts.
Another point I was going to bring up was now that you guys are a lot bigger, how is sort of delegating creative control, because obviously you guys would want to know about what artwork is going on an E.P in Japan or what the magazines approaching you are like or simply what’s going on tonight, but time is scarce to have the luxury?
THEO: You still do it, we still do it all. We’re still fortunate enough…even if we don’t sleep, we are still fortunate enough to have this balance, I think of getting involved.The album was the biggest one, because we were involved with every single process, the mixing, the mastering, the production…but also I think once the music is over, because that the one thing that consumes your brain and now all the kind of fun parts of artwork are easy because you can relax. But I think the longer you go on, the more people around you do understand, like what is Hurts and not Hurts and as it’s slowly going on and the more we say “no no no” or “yes, but change it” they get it.
ADAM: People might assume we’re control freaks, but it’s necessary to have oversight.
Yeah I was going to ask where that comes from because most bands are happy to have any industry help and direction.
ADAM: I think because when we got signed we already had a thorough idea of what and how we wanted to be, we had a producer we already wanted to work with before we signed the record deal and so I think, the label has just been very supportive, because its what we wanted to, so it’s kind of the same as it was a year ago really.
THEO: I think it comes with the fact that, we’ve been waiting for this for so long, we’ve been in bands before, we’ve been pushing and pushing it and you know Hurts was like a last chance really for us and going into it, we just didn’t want to not have control, we didn’t want to get messed about again. Fortunately if you go into it and you know what you want from it…I think people respect it, because a lot of people aren’t interested in every aspect. So I think when you are people go “awww okay that’s exciting” but at the same time we’re very aware, that we can use the record company for what they’re good at, getting our ideas out and making out ideas possible. Which is one amazing feeling you get, like with ‘Wonderful Life’video we did for like £20 we could only do the best both of us together could. But the ‘Better than love’ video we had an idea, and the label said “how do you want to make it”and we said “okay can we do this”, which becomes the most exciting thing to not having constraints.
Which leads me onto your visual presence you both look like you could have been in a Hitchcock classic or Film Noir, rather than another pair of beloved skinny jeans, how conscious was this decision?
THEO: Well the songs are very cinematic I think, we write songs with a visual point of view. The way we dress comes from the opposite, which is interesting it comes from a time when we were on the dole for like two and a half years and you have to go the jobcentre every two weeks to explain why you haven’t got a job yet but if you go in dressed in a suit they don’t patronize you and you can walk out with some kind of dignity, even though you’ve sat there thinking “what am I doing with myself”…so I used to do that all the time. You go to the record companies and you believe in your ideas and you believe in who you are, but you have to get a 6 and half hour megabus from Manchester to London, you get off the bus knowing you got to meet some important people, and think how can I pull myself together so you go to the toilets and put a suit on.
ADAM: It’s also trying to claw back a bit of pride because after two and half years on the dole it’s so demoralizing, so its about the beginning period of something better ‘Hurts’.
THEO: And that’s where the control thing comes in again, well I mean the visual side of it too because when started, we really wanted to maintain substance over style, so we purposely represented everything minimalist, so the songs could speak for themselves, to be the colour and pictures of everything. Now the videos say about 50% of what they should say and then you leave the rest to people’s imagination, so a video like ‘Better than love’ for instance is….on the surface nothing happens essentially its just lots of people watching ballet. But the thought process, we know all the in, outs and tiny details but if you ask one person they might say “it’s the most graceful, peaceful”…
I actually think it is a little sinister…. watching it one morning after many videos featuring four piece bands rocking out and ‘Better than love’ came on…
THEO: Yeah that’s what’s interesting because at the same time someone else would say it just so “beautifully peaceful” but that’s what we’ve done with everything, we’ve let people use their imagination a lot more, so that they can interpret it a bit differently.
Errm…I wanted to know what happened to the lady dancer featured in ‘Wonderful Life” the first online viral video?
ADAM: So do we (Chuckles)
THEO: She’s disappeared, we can’t find her, we tried, and we just made a new video for it…
OH no….you remade it
THEO: No we didn’t, we’ve done a sequel to it, all inspired by the fact that we cannot find her. She turned up, she disappeared and we’ve spent a year and a half desperately searching for her and we just don’t know where she is.
ADAM: I keep thinking I’ve seen her, I was walking to the shop and I saw a girl jogging and she went right past me and looked me right in the eyes and I was convinced it was her.
THEO: The way we did it, was we were going to film the video in a studio we had, we wanted a female dancer but we didn’t want a professional dancer, we wanted someone with a raw unique personality and something different. We put an advert in a shop ‘Female dancer wanted for pop video, must wear black, turn up at this place at this time’. We sat in the room for ages going “Right no one is going to come” or “someone is going to nick our camera, because they know we’re shooting the video at this place at this time”. She just turned up with her girlfriend who was like really mouthy. She was the only person who came, I just turned the camera on and said “okay here’s the song, dance” and she started and both just went… (mimes gasp) and I just couldn’t stop looking at her, because I couldn’t work out what she was trying to do. Then we did it and it was all over in about an hour and a half, then Adam took her to the cash point and gave her like £20, said thanks and then that was it. At the time we really didn’t think anything of the video we just started this band and wanted to see if people like it and it just went (raises right arm to simulate a rising chart/graph climb). Everybody asks us about that, every comment on the video is about her, everywhere we go people want to know who she is and where she’s from. We have tried asking people, because we know she lives in Manchester or did live in Manchester because we put the advert in the shop. So we made a video to celebrate the fact that we couldn’t find her.
I was wondering it’s always been just you two and what happens live, is there a drummer?
ADAM: The live set up is more a kind of expansive version of the album really, it’s always just us two but it’s always important to separate the recordings by what we do live. By getting extra musicians in such as a 7ft tall opera singer who produces all the backing vocals…
I thought that was a rumour?
THEO: No it’s true…he’s a massive giant of a man. It was something we thought wouldn’t otherwise work. We just had this idea but were unsure but even if we played in like Wrexham it does. So we got in a drummer, a keyboard player and we’ve spent a long time getting it right but different from the record. When there are two of you it can be as small and as big as you want. We thought we would start somewhere that was exciting for people. So when we first played our show….we actually didn’t do any show for about a year and the first one was in a church, so we worked it all out so we could just arrive and say this is who we are.
Yeah….I definately noticed there was no pub circuit tour introducing yourselves, one minute I saw the ‘Wonderful Life’ on youtube, the next minute I saw ‘Better than love’ in rotation on MTV. And what are we to expect from the album, is it still on schedule to be released in August?
THEO: It’s finished
ADAM: Its going to be September now, it was going to be the last week of August buy I think it’s been pushed to September.
THEO: Its errm…we’ve been careful to put out the songs/singles that would set the tone for the album in that order. Its going to surprise people, it inevitably is because they haven’t heard much about us before.
ADAM: Its been quite a year really…so many different experiences and emotions and you can hear that in our album, because it is a year in our life.
THEO: We really have put 110% into it, we couldn’t put any more hours into it and not had anymore control and so now it’s finished it’s like well if it is bad, we’ve put our all in. It’s not like we walk around going why doesnt everybody like us, if they don’t like it…..it’s okay because we couldn’t have made a different album if we tried.