Interview: Embrace coming back to what they want

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Interview by Graham Chalmers

They were once hailed as the “new Oasis” but, in a way, Embrace are in a healthier place right now than the erstwhile kings of Britpop.

If the Mancunian Gallagher brothers seem trapped forever in the days of Definitely Maybe, the West Yorkshire McNamara brothers, Danny and Richard, have been allowed to progress beyond the early hype.

Currently on tour to promote their first album for eight years, guitarist and co-songwriter Richard McNamara tells me Embrace never liked the Oasis comparison.

“It kind of wound us up, to be honest. The same line kept coming up in every newspaper interview we did. I suppose it was exciting in the sense it meant we were good enough to be compared to Oasis.”

For a time this Brighouse band were nearly as big as the like of Blur and Pulp thanks to early singles like All You Good Good People and Come Back To What You Want.

Not that Richard thinks there was ever any affinity between themselves and the Britpoppers down south.

“We kept ourselves to ourselves. We didn’t go down to London and go to the parties with all the other bands. We stayed up north and got on with doing the first album.”

Talking to me on his mobile as Embrace arrive at HMV in Manchester to do a spot of promotion for their new album, Richard sounds full of confidence, which should make for a great show at 02 Academy in Leeds on Wednesday, May 14.

It hasn’t always been that way. When sales dipped after the number one success of The Good Will Out album, the Embrace were dropped by their record company, EMI Virgin. Things were so bad for a time that Richard even tasted a period of unemployment.

Such is the positive spirit which shines through their songs, the band bounced back in 2004 with another number one album, Out of Nothing.

It didn’t hurt that it included a hit single written by Coldplay who had become friends when supporting Embrace on tour in 2000.

Richard said: “Obviously we had a few drinks with them on the tour but it was Danny who kept in touch with Chris Martin I was a bit resistant to take the song, to be honest, we like to do all our own writing. But Chris phoned Danny and said to him that Gravity sounded more like an Embrace song to him than a Coldplay one.”

In another twist in the Embrace story, having hit the top spot again with their This New Day album in 2006, the band quietly disappeared from view almost entirely.

“I wanted to do production work with young bands, which I did do. Danny bought a nightclub in Manchester. One member of the band became a charity worker. Another was breeding cats.”

But his new role had its own frustrations and the lure of the band was too strong.

Back together again. Embrace’s latest album is eponymous, usually a sign of a band’s renewed confidence.

Richard says the album title was inspired by an old video he came across of the young Embrace aged 18 or 19 playing in a club in Leeds.

“It seemed to have the same sort of vibe and energy the band has got now. Our history has come full circle.”