How's life finding you at the moment? You seem very busy touring the new album?
Yes, we've just returned from a run of dates across the UK and Ireland: we've played some shows with Shearwater, Death Vessel and Hospitality, as well as a few of our own shows. It's been good to get back into the groove of playing, as we hadn't played all that much for a year or so while making the record. It's been fun exploring the songs, seeing which ones work together, which ones we can approach in different ways to how we recorded them.
The vinyl version of Best of Times is a thing of beauty (I'll be bringing my copy along for signing next week!) Who's the art fan in the band?
Art has always been a really important to what we do - Nick and Dan are both practising artists. It definitely influences how we write and it's something we've tried to incorporate into other aspects of the band, like playing shows in art galleries, or how we make videos.
The packaging really grew from that. The idea was to commission 9 different artists to respond to a song each, so we had a unique piece for each track. Nick and Dan both contributed, along with Nick's brother Phil (who has done all our previous covers as well as this one) and other artist friends of ours. We also asked Tim Rutili from Califone, whom we toured with a few years back. In this age when it's easier not to buy records we wanted to try everything we could to make it something worth investing in. I'm really proud of how it turned out
Who chose the band name and why?
That was me (Ed). I took it from a poem by Thom Gunn that I discovered and liked ... it somehow seemed to reflect the sound of the songs I was making.
You're currently on the Bella Union label. How did that happen and has it been good for business?
It happened fairly organically. We'd done a couple of records, the last one of which Simon Raymonde had put on his favourite albums of the year list. We played some festival things they were organising - Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park, their 15th Anniversary celebrations at End of the Road. So we just got to know the people there over a couple of years and had always loved the label, so it seemed like a good fit.
The new album is called Best of Times yet despite the beautiful mournful music the themes seem to contradict the title. Are you naturally drawn to the melancholy?
Well, the title comes from the song 'All Times into One' which says 'it could be the best of times, the worst it could be too'...so accepts the possibilities of both hope and regret at the same time.
It would be great to see a longer set from you guys live. Any plans for a headlining tour?
We've been playing a handful of headline shows. It is nice to be able to stretch out a bit more. It's been hard for recent support shows boiling things down to half an hour, as we either have to trim things a bit which doesn't feel right or only play a handful of songs. We'll hopefully be back with more headline shows after the summer.
Which current bands do you admire and who are your influences?
Current things ... I really like William Tyler, who recently put out a great EP called Lost Colony. Also enjoying records by Kevin Morby and Younghusband. More generally influences kind of start with the Beatles, move through 70s krautrock and end up with US indie stuff from the 90s.
What would be your dream venue to play and why?
The Empty Bottle in Chicago - it's near where our bass player Dan grew up and went to see shows all the time ... it would be nice to end up there.
What's next? Do you start writing new songs now or wait until touring this one is over?
New songs are always percolating. I've got some things I'm working on and now this first bit of touring is over it's probably time to start pulling things together and working on new stuff in earnest.
And finally: Who's going to win the World Cup?
Questions from our Keith.