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      Manchester Orchestra in Worcester

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      December 8, 2019

      Sunday   7:30 PM

      261 Main Street
      Worcester, Massachusetts 01608

      Manchester Orchestra

      with Foxing, Oso Oso
      Manchester Orchestra had always prided themselves on their approach. The Atlanta-based band, led bysinger/lyricist Andy Hull with Robert McDowell (who is also Hulls brother-in-law and lifelong friend), hadspent their career challenging each other to build a poignant, exhilarating narrative with each new album andEP. The band had worked relentlessly to cultivate a passionate fan base the old-fashioned way: releasing music,making music videos, and touring (most recently with drummer Tim Very and bassist Andy Prince). Theirprevious long-player, 2014s Cope, had even spawned a cover album of itself by its creators, an acousticreworkingand reimagining of its songs with a heavily emotional bent that they called Hope. But now thirtyyears old, stable, and a frst-time father Hull found himself facing a crisis of inspiration. Since the beginning,each subsequent Manchester Orchestra album had been a grand statement for that specifc moment in theircareer, originated in a desire to push themselves forward creatively. The desire to achieve greatness is oftenfollowed by a need for that same desire to evolve. So, for a musician used to writing out of self-refection, whatdo you sing about when life is good? For a band on record number fve and seeking innovation, how do youuntangle yourself from the past? How do you write songs about being happy?It was becoming clear that they required a completely new approach from an entirely different sphereand set of faculties and, lo and behold, just such a moment arrived when Hull and McDowell were offeredthe chance to score a movie.In the midst of the Cope/Hope LP release cycle, the directing duo The Daniels who had created adense, theatrical music video for Manchester Orchestras Simple Math in 2011, winning Vimeos MusicVideo of the Year in the process countered Hull and McDowells request for them to work on anothervideo with the idea of scoring the directors in-the-works feature flm debut, Swiss Army Man. They had never written a flm score before, but the pair of musicians happily rose to the challenge. The Daniels immediateguideline was: Cool, dont use any instruments. In the project, Hull and McDowell recognized an opportunityto leave their comfort zone and to push emotion to new heights.Cope was very much a record where we knew what we wanted and it was a goal in our heads wecould chase; that was followed by the polar opposite in Hope. But once we started work on the soundtrack,we threw the textbook out and started approaching music against our instincts, says McDowell. I think thescore kind of was like going back and getting a doctorate. Once we fnished it, there was this whole new realmof situations and sounds that we could go down.Swiss Army Man was a weird albeit cult Sundance hit, and the flms New York Times-laudedmarvelously melancholic music earned rave reviews around the world. Riding that excitement, Hull andMcDowell decamped to a cabin near Asheville, North Carolina, with bandmates Very and Prince to write anew record. Inspired by their experience creating the score, they seized the chance to rethink ManchesterOrchestras typical methods of working.Were a band that loves to use heavy, crunchy guitars, says Hull. We wondered how we could limitthe use of that, so that when the guitars come in they can be creative and impactful. For Swiss Army Man wehad to make seventy minutes of music with our hands tied behind our backs. When youre creating all thesounds you need just from the human voice, it allows you to rethink what is possible, and determine what isreally needed. We wanted to make an album in a non-Manchester way if there is such a thing. So we startedlooking for people to help us do that.This process gave them new ideas of how to think about writing, how songs could fow, and how to layermelodies on top of one another to propel the tune into a new emotional arena. To manifest this vision, theband turned to producer Catherine Marks (Foals, PJ Harvey, The Killers, Interpol) and began working with herat Echo Mountain studio in Asheville. She just got it immediately. Catherine looked at us and said, I hear TwinPeaks: The Album here, says Hull. The band instantly connected to her unique sonic outlook for the record:Marks wanted each song to sound like a different room. "Like you could understand where you were in theroom and identify where each particular sound was coming from, pick it out with your hands and pull it out,Marks explains, adding, Being able to utilize the sound of the rooms we recorded it in, whether it was at EchoMountain, or literally standing in a bath and engaging with the reverberation and refections that those roomsprovided -- as opposed to manufactured reverbs -- was super exciting to me. In addition to mixing with Marksat her Assault & Battery studio in London, Manchester Orchestra also worked with John Congleton (St.Vincent, Explosions In The Sky, Angel Olsen, Cloud Nothings) in Los Angeles gathering new sounds, addingto and widening the songs dimensions as well as their longtime producer Dan Hannon, who offered an invaluable perspective that only an old friend could give. Encouraged to go against frst instinct, eachcollaborator added their own touch to the music, pushing it to places no Manchester Orchestra record hadever gone before. As Marks says, Throughout the entire process, the band fought for the unknown and theunquantifable. In thoughtfully deconstructing and rebuilding their songwriting process, the band pushedthemselves to create their best album yet.It was a testpersonally, emotionally, creativelyto see how far we could push ourselves withoutbreaking, says McDowell. This record was intentionally un-compromised on every level. We made sure toexplore all the options and that we were moving forward with the strongest approach for each songstrongest part, strongest melody, strongest lyric.Describing a rock record as cinematic usually implies a double-length, sprawling album with a fullorchestra on every song; A Black Mile to the Surface is cinematic in that it conjures worlds. Theres magicalsurrealism at work, with songs about a boy with no ears (The Alien) and the father/sleeping child callback ofThe Sunshine. Theres a story to parse here three brothers, an abandoned wife and child, a mysteriousjourney through the depths of a miles-deep mine, a narrative of twists and turns, recurring characters,alternating timelines but the songs and melodies stand on their own.The initial creative spark for Hulls lyrics came from a photograph. While we were writing the albumin Asheville it was snowing heavily at the cabin. I was reminded of what it feels like to live in a place that iscyclically cold. No matter what happens you cant escape it," says Hull. I had written a song with a characterin South Dakota, so I started looking up pictures of winter in South Dakota, and there it was. What he foundwas a picture of a road with snow piled high forming walls on either side, maze-like; cars were frozen in time,the sky a white-nothing blur. Hull began to write songs from the perspectives of different characters who mightlive in the scene, and found that as he was creating these fctional stories, it became much easier for him to talkabout the things that were happening in his own life. In The Gold, a song about a woman missing her husbandas he descends into the blackness of the mines, Hull saw his own wife left alone with their young child after yetanother months-long tour. As he sang these characters concerns, he realized he was really singing his own.A Black Mile to the Surface is a bold record of vision and purpose, inspired by and dwelling in a sensoryand imaginative experience. Its a reinvention of sorts, both musically and personallya sort of cosmicworldview shift. But in the end, the records themes are universal. On the stunning fnal track, Hull sings, Letme watch you as close as a memory/ Let me hold you above all the misery/ Let me open my eyes and be gladthat I got here. Certainly, thats a father speaking hope to his daughter, but its also a message to listeners.How do you write songs about being happy? With your eyes wide open, your loved ones in front of you, andthe misery of the world waiting just outside the door.

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