The Coral interview: It's exploded and gone technicolour
As the Wirral's psych veterans release their seventh album Distance Inbetween , Jamie Bowman catches up with The Coral's keyboardist Nick Power
Last updated: 5th Apr 2016
Five years into what was supposed to have been an indefinite hiatus, the Coral are well and truly back with a new album Distance Inbetween and a spring and summer packed full of gigs and festival dates.
The Wirral band's first release of original material since 2010's Butterfly House, Distance Inbetween sees guitarist Lee Southall take a break from Coral duties with former Zuton man Paul Molloy joining the line up of James Skelly, Nick Power, Paul Duffy and Ian Skelly.
During the band's lengthy lay off, none of the members have been resting on their laurels, with both James and Ian releasing solo albums and Nick publishing a volume of poetry. But home is clearly where the heart is and following the 2014 release of lost album The Curse of Love, it became obvious that a reunion was well and truly on the cards with the Coral's new direction heralded by the 'Chasing The Tail Of A Dream' (watch the video below).
Catching up with Nick on the phone, just two days before Distance Inbetween was unleashed on a Coral-starved world, the keyboardist was in a bullish mood as he looked forward to returning to the fray whilst reflecting on the change in musical landscape since the band released their stunning debut in 2002.
You've thrown yourself into the promotion of this album with live sessions, interviews and James even appearing on the BBC's website predicting the football results. Have you missed being away?
You've got to do all that now or there's no chance of anything happening. The rug's well and truly been pulled. It feels like the business has found it's feet recently but I remember about five years ago people were wandering around like an atomic bomb had gone off. It was a new landscape but now I kind of like it. Artistically and creatively I think it's better now we're not dictated to by one big label or one big media company.
Back when you started out you had the weight of a major label like Sony behind you and there was an appetite for young guitar bands following the success of The Strokes. Things have changed in a bit in the 15 years since...
You'd finish an album and then have to have six or seven meetings. It was like making a fucking Hollywood movie sometimes. I'm making out it was bad but of course it was great and the money was better back then but I was never in it for that.
We were at the crossover really. The big changes in the music industry happened early enough in our career that we could adapt to it but it was a lot harder on some of the others, especially the 90s bands. It was all pure decadence back then - imagine going through that and then Spotify knocking on your door? What I do miss is going to America because you just don't get a lot of bands going over to the States anymore. I loved it - it was like being in a film when we toured across America. I remember getting back once and I'd lost about three stone.
What made you decide to reform? You all seemed to be enjoying your various side projects?
We all realise now it's our best opportunity to reach people. You take it for granted when you've done it for 12 years or whatever so playing together again reaffirms it all. It's so hard on your own and starting from scratch again if you're not 18 or 19 just because of the energy levels. I wouldn't wish it on anyone now.
People had been telling us to do it for years. It was hard to get Butterfly House reviewed - people were like "oh it's just another Coral album". I don't think people knew what to write about us anymore. Because of our personalities it's hard to get an angle. I'm going to have to assassinate someone I think. You need angles man.
A lot's been made of the new album adopting a new, more rhythmic sound with elements of Krautrock and the more pronounced use of synths?
For me it's a natural progression as boring as that sounds. What is different is some of the soundscapes we've used. We started off recording as a three piece because Paul hadn't joined yet. Things like 'Miss Fortune' (watch the video below) are based around the synths when before they've always been fighting against two or three guitars. I'm glad that's come to the fore but it's daunting for me live. We always had two supernatural guitarists and I was like "fuck, I can't push this". When we were young we wanted to throw everything into the mix and didn't realise that sometimes things would sound bigger with less instruments. It's just come down to experience.
It feels like a good time to stage a comeback with the current vogue for all things psychedelic and bands like Tame Impala, Blossoms and Temples enjoying success recently?
We try to pick up on things and I think things are in pretty good health at the moment. A load of the nu psych stuff I've heard has been brilliant. We always make compilations for each other and there's always stuff being passed around. It feels like stuff like Tame Impala are becoming the mainstream but that always happens. Five or six years ago I remember thinking how boring it was - it was all meat and potatoes rock but now it's exploded and gone technicolor.
You're headlining the Liverpool Sound City festival which will be your first headline show in your hometown for years and the first since the tragic death of Alan Wills (The Coral's former manager and Deltasonic Records label boss was killed in a traffic accident in 2014 - watch a video tribute to him below). I imagine it will be a very emotional occasion?
It's a headline show so of course we're looking forward to it and I think Sound City have pulled it out of their bag there with it being on the dock front. I can't really think of a better setting - it's going to be like Jean Michel Jarre or something. We rehearsed with a lighting guy the other day and it was brilliant - we've got all these projections and it's going to be like Hawkwind.
As for Alan, I'm always a bit cynical about that homecoming stuff and then it's me who gets hit the hardest and gets a lump in his throat so I'll definitely have to compose myself because his family will be there . I'm over the grieving process but it still feels like he's everywhere and you can't really get rid of him. God's not going to get rid of him that easily - he was too much of a pest!
Looking back on the scene which developed around Deltasonic Records and bands like The Coral, The Zutons, The Stands and The Bandits, it certainly seemed like there was something pretty special going at the time in Liverpool?
It was a special time and I think it sort of gets overlooked. Maybe because it was in Liverpool. It felt really special to me and it was an important scene for music in general. We get a few bands saying how we influenced them and you hear things all the time. For me it's a success if I can tell that something is 'Coral-esque'. I'd love to become a cliche - Motown is a cliche. That would be great.
Finally Nick, you're playing quite a few festivals this summer. Are they an experience you enjoy?
I love festival season because it means you get away at the weekend and don't have to rehearse. It's like having a really great weekeed job. My mum's going to Glastonbury this year and it's like "what's the world coming too?" She's on Facebook and my dad's on Twitter - I don't know what the fuck to think anymore.