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A deeper cut: Manchester Orchestra starts from scratch

Matt Sullivan
Manchester Orchestra
Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee
Manchester Orchestra is Andy Prince, Chris Freeman, Andy Hull, Robert McDowell and Tim Very.
Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

When Play caught up with Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull, the band was working on ideas in the group's newish studio. It's in a house that the band members used to live in, and a couple of years ago they decided to buy it and convert it into the studio they'd use to record album number four, "Cope."

But with "Cope" slated for release on April 1, singer/guitarist Hull said they felt the need to push themselves to make the new investment worthwhile.

"There's been a little bit of guilt, I guess, where I need to just continue to write and create, and it's literally less than a mile away from my house," said Hull, who lives just outside of Atlanta. "We've been trying to get in here every day and make something."

Churning out a ton of material is nothing new for the indie-rock ensemble, even if the band doesn't make all those songs available. "We've sort of built up in our band's history hundreds of songs that have never been used, but that's been helpful for us," said Hull. "We're not afraid to turn them down. I think a lot of times in bands, people can get too attached to a song and think, 'That was mine.'"

"Cope's" long gestation is due partly to the band's ability to step back.

"Around December 2012, I thought we had a record," said Hull. Of that would-be record's 14 songs, only one made the cut for "Cope." Had Manchester Orchestra been working with a producer this time around, Hull said they probably would have stuck with shaping up that initial record. But since the band was operating on its own this time (Columbia/Sony partnered on previous releases, but not this one), Manchester Orchestra didn't feel any need to rush anything.

Those 14 songs were just something the band needed to get out of its system, Hull said.

After that, Manchester Orchestra streamlined its approach, putting together an album that's a bit more visceral when compared to 2011's cerebral and sprawling "Simple Math."

But before jumping into "Cope," Hull, who started the band when he was just 16 years old, had to step away from the group for a while.

"It was like seven straight years of touring without any days off," Hull said. He'd reached a point where he felt disconnected from what he was doing; "It felt like a job."

There was some question as to how the band should continue. But after taking time to recharge, Hull said, they knew they wanted to push in the opposite direction of "Simple Math" and make a record that more closely resembled the group's aggressive live sound.

For a band with a debut album called "I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child" and a compilation titled "You Brainstorm, I Brainstorm, but Brilliance Needs a Good Editor," the new album's simple title suggests the group is a little more interested in trimming the fat.

"That immediacy was super important," Hull said. "I think if we had written a lot of these songs back in the day, they would probably all be about three minutes longer."

Working the songs in the band's own studio gave them plenty of time to get the sounds right, though.

"It is the first record that I've ever worked on that, when I listen back to it on any ears or headphones or whatever, I'm like, 'This is exactly what I wanted it to sound like,' which is a really wonderful feeling," said Hull, though he's quick to dissuade any notion of being unhappy with the band's back catalog.

"I'm very proud of what we've done. I feel really fortunate to be in that position because I think a lot of bands can find success early and they don't really like the early stuff they did or they don't like whatever, but I really like what we've done," he said. "I'm not listening to it all the time, but when I go back I go, 'Yeah, job well done.'"

By Matt Sullivan
Daily News correspondent