Manchester Orchestra


Manchester Orchestra release their fourth studio album, Cope, this Friday, April 4. LEAH BLANKENDAAL speaks to keyboardist, Chris Freeman, about recording the LP, building a studio, and coping with the idea of life outside of music. 

It’s been a few years since Manchester Orchestra have produced a full-length album. Absorbed in other projects, the least of which included building a studio, Cope seems like it has been forever in the making. 

This process was made harder with the 2010 departure of drummer, Jeremiah Edmond, and the 2013 departure of bassist, Jonathan Corley, who left to pursue a career outside of music.

“It is strange, it’s very emotional, it’s very difficult, because you form such a close bond with people,” says Chris Freeman, Manchester Orchestra’s keyboardist. “When you’re always travelling together, you’re sitting in the same room, you’re all sort of bunched in together going through these airports and hotels.”

For a band that has known no other career aside from music, understanding this career change has not come easily. “This is kind of what we have to do. It’s not that we’re not particularly good at other things, it’s just become part of our make up, part of our genes,” says Freeman.

Rebuilding the band with two of the original members gone was quite a literal process. Taking a house that a few of them had lived in while they were students, the lads from Manchester Orchestra set about converting it into a fully functioning recording studio.

“There was a house that we’d all lived in, that had always been a bit of a dream… our studio at the time was way too far away, and now we all live a mile away, which means we can pop over whenever we want,” says Freeman.

The result of this rebuild is a raw and unapologetic album, rooted strongly in guitar-based rock. From its beginnings the band was clear of the musical direction they wanted to take.

“If there’s one thing that we’re missing from the contemporary rock or alt-rock scene at the moment it’s a good guitar band. Everything is Mumford & Sons, and it’s not that it’s bad… but it’s very soft, it’s very gentile,” explains Freeman.

Cope sets out to fill that void. In a trademark display of lyrical honesty singer/songwriter Andy Hull has strung together raw, distorted guitar hooks with visceral lyrics that spare no emotion.

Highlights include the The Ocean, which has been featuring in Manchester Orchestra’s live set for some time now. An unusual little tune in waltz time, it is possibly more melodic than several tracks, yet still holds true to the heavier roots of the album. Likewise Top Notch, the first single from the album, bears a heavy and unrelenting bass and guitar riff, coupled with emotionally raw lyrics.

Cope is an album for anyone who’s ever found themselves in a situation that makes them feel a little bit older or more warn, for those who know what it is like to pick up the pieces and face whatever it is that broke them. For Manchester Orchestra, being around for close to a decade now, this coping process is about learning how to hold on and to let go.