Embrace are back...again. Almost 20 years on from their debut album, guitarist Richard McNamara tells ANDY SYKES how shows at Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom helped set up their latest return
‘Danny ran down the gangway like it was his gig,” laughs Richard McNamara.
“He got a bit of a telling off for that!”
It was a balmy night in Cardiff this summer when a friendship born on the stages of UK venues back in May 2000 helped reinvigorate the Yorkshire five-piece and set them up for yet another comeback.
Embrace were supporting Coldplay on the UK dates of their tour in July when lead singer Danny, Richard’s brother, leapt around the stage like an overexcited child during the band’s anthem, Ashes. He set off down the gangway, oblivious to the wrath from the stage manager.
Not that his mate Chris Martin would have been too bothered.
In a role reversal, a then little-known Coldplay supported Embrace on their 2000 Drawn From Memory Tour, which included two dates at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool.
“Danny has stayed friends with Chris so it was great to get the support slot on their UK dates,” enthuses Richard.
“I couldn’t wait to get on that stage. I wasn’t nervous – we couldn’t see the crowd, it was just a wall of people. I think Danny in particular had a great time!”
Those gigs were the starting gun for Embrace’s latest return to the public consciousness.
Their seventh album Love Is A Basic Need is out in March next year and they are about to embark on a small UK tour, starting in Preston this Saturday, all 500 tickets of which sold out in 48 hours.
It is a case of history repeating itself – they played a small gig at the Mill on Aqueduct Street in 2004 the week they released hit single Gravity, which was penned and gifted to them by Martin. The subsequent album, Out of Nothing, surpassed all expectations.
With the power of social media activating their loyal fan base, they have released one track so far, The Finish Line, a slow burning whisky-chaser of a song to whet the appetite for the album to follow.
So what can we expect from the show?
“We’re specifically doing small shows but you never really know how to gauge it,” says Richard, speaking almost 20 years to the day since Embrace released their first big single, All You Good Good People.
“You put them on sale and wonder why they’re not selling. Then a week later it has sold out. I think Preston sold out really quickly.
“It’s reassuring to know the fans will still come out and we could have sold a lot more to be honest.
“Setlist-wise we always tend to stick to the favourites but we’ll be doing three or four new ones as well, of course.
“We do try to chuck in a curveball now and then. But when we’ve added in B-sides they tend to fall flat – apart from three blokes at the back or so who clap wildly while others are left bemused by a song they’ve not heard before.”
One curveball is the introduction of a sixth band member – Scottish singer-songwriter Kerri Watt.
She duets with Danny on second track Never – the song the record label is hoping will take flight.
“That’s the one we think will do well. I’ve been producing Kerri’s singles for a couple of years now. With Never and Finish Line we were writing them to pitch to other artists at first. My daughter, who is 16, sang Kerri’s part. Kerri was then going to do it then it ended up being mixed as a duet, It was a happy accident I suppose.
“Danny always tries to sing five semitones higher than he can. I always asked him why he sang stuff so high because it’s really hard!
“He just says ‘it’ll be right’ but it works really well with Kerri and the response so far has been great.”
They plan to release several singles from the album prior to it being released in March next year – with keyboardist Mickey Dale saying it is most like debut album The Good Will Out, which itself turns 20 next year.
Pressure on, then.
“Danny calls me an Embrace denier because I won’t let us be what we just are,” laughs Richard.
“I’m always fighting against it. I get bored.
“I came into music through thrash metal, I think I broke up with a girl when I was 14 and got into it.
“We’ve got a cycle where we do an album, change our sound a bit, go back to what people know, change again. The Good Will Out was the album which remained the best for the longest so I’d probably agree with Mickey. The last album felt very stressful to make. It was really intense around getting everything sounding perfect. But with this album we didn’t want to try to reinvent the wheel and wanted to be happy sounding like Embrace.
“It felt more natural.
“We wanted to make it feel effortless and not pored over.”
So what will success look like? They have three number one albums, three more in the top 10 with their last album reaching number 5.
“Realistically Radio 1 won’t touch it,” he muses. “Radio 2 will ideally playlist some of the singles and I guess we’d be happy with a Top 10 again.
“It’s just great to be back.”