Editors writing own musical experience

English neo-punk quartet in it for the music, not the fame -- despite international buzz

August 30, 2007|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,Sun pop music critic

They may not be as big in America as they are in their native England, but the guys in Editors aren't really preoccupied with dominating the pop charts on both sides of the pond -- at least for now.

So far, though, the neo-punk quartet -- whose members include lead singer-guitarist Tom Smith, guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, bassist Russell Leetch and drummer Ed Lay -- has generated a fair amount of international buzz with its two albums: last year's acclaimed The Back Room and An End Has a Start, released in June.

"We're into this because we love music so much," says Editors' focal point and spokesman Smith. "We can't think of anything else we'd want to do. But it's great that people embrace what we do. I think ultimately that's what all musicians want."

The band, which headlines Washington's 9:30 Club on Tuesday night, became an indie rock sensation with the release of The Back Room, a collection of frantic, albeit tightly structured, tunes shaded by Smith's brooding, nocturnal lyrics and vocals. The album spawned the international hit "Munich," a blisteringly propulsive number. Immediately, Editors sound drew comparisons to Interpol and Echo & the Bunnymen.

Although the first album crackled with energy, was widely praised and kept the band on the road for two years, Smith says the band still had much to explore musically.

"We wanted to make a more textured record," says the musician, calling during a shopping trip in London. "We were itching to make a new record. With the first record, we were in a room and not pushing ourselves. After touring, we're 10 times better musicians than we were on the last record."

But An End Has a Start has garnered mostly mixed reviews. The consensus is that the album feels too calculated, lacking the edge and fervor that made the debut so engrossing. Plus, the songs, all written by Editors, aren't as direct this time.

"We could have made a lot of songs like the first record," Smith says. "We tried to do things more interesting. There are more layers to the sound this time."

And that means strings floating over the urgent, heavily rhythmic arrangements. The first single, "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors," comes close to approximating the electricity of The Back Room. Appropriately, the charging uptempo number leads An End, driven by Lay's pounding drums. Afterward, the album settles into highly polished songs mostly centering on the finality of things, hence the album's title.

"When something horrible happens and you're forced to deal with it, you can look around at what you have and make the most of it," Smith says. "I thought an end, strangely, is a start. It's all in the way you look at it, I guess."

Editors got its start in 2003 at Britain's Stafford University, where the members met while studying music. After graduation, the guys relocated to Birmingham, England. Under the name Snowfield, the burgeoning band played the rock club circuit and recorded a demo, which eventually reached a revitalized Kitchenware Records, the famed British indie label. By that time, the group had become Editors.

When The Back Room came out in England in July 2005, the album quickly went platinum there on the strength of the hit singles "Munich," "Bullets" and "Blood." The CD was issued in the United States by the Fader label in March 2006.

As Editors continues to build a fan base in the States, Smith says the focus is squarely on making music that feels right.

"The only reason we're doing this is for the love of the music. We have a passion for it," he says. "At the end of the day, they're just pop songs. But I hope people can perceive us as a band with integrity."

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

See Editors on Tuesday at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. N.W. in Washington. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available through tickets.com or by calling 800-955-5566.

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