Elbow - Guy Garvey on Four of His Favorite Cities and the Songs that He Associates With Them | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Elbow - Guy Garvey on Four of His Favorite Cities and the Songs that He Associates With Them

Traveling Music

Mar 21, 2014 Elbow Bookmark and Share

According to Guy Garvey, Elbow‘s new record includes “wide-eyed, youthful, optimistic celebrations of travel.” Not for nothing is the album titled The Take Off and Landing of Everything.

The British frontman wrote much of the album’s lyrics in New York during a lengthy stay in the city in 2013. Call it a working vacation. Garvey sent his ideas to his bandmates back home in Manchester and touched base with them via virtual conference calls. “I recommend a group Skype,” says Garvey. “It’s very entertaining.”

One of the fruits of Garvey’s six weeks in the U.S. was the album’s lead single, “New York Morning.” “Lyrically, it draws on the excitement of waking up in New York,” says the singer.

“I love traveling with the banddon’t get me wrongbut there’s a certain amount of hassle involved with traveling in a large group,” continues Garvey. “I enjoy traveling alone. I like being a bit of a world citizen.”

We asked Garvey to name four other favorite cities and which songs he associates with each place.


There’s a famous Ian Brown quote, “Manchester has everything, except a beach.” Melbourne is like Manchester with a beach. I love Melbourne. It has an open, easy-going atmosphere.

Nick Cave’s “Babe, You Turn Me On” from The Lyre of Orpheus is my Melbourne song. I actually saw him perform at the launch of my friend’s book, Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience. My friend Shaun Usher compiled it. It was a wonderful launch. He had Benedict Cumberbatch and Gillian Anderson and Nick Cave and all sorts of people reading letters from the book. Gillian Anderson was amazing actually. She read a letter that Katharine Hepburn wrote to Spencer Tracy 20 years after he died, which was so fucking moving. Gillian did it as Katharine Hepburn, which brought it to life. It was astonishing.

Nick Cave played “Love Letter” and he read his own letter that he wrote to MTV to turn down an award nomination they gave him when he did a song with Kylie Minogue. It was hilarious.

Letters of Note is a great website and it’s a fantastic book.

Los Angeles

I had a sparkling love affair with one of The Watson Twins, Leigh Watson. She made a mixtape for me. Tons and tons of great music from that one mixtape. She introduced me to Blonde Redhead, Jesca Hoop, My Morning Jacket. For Los Angeles, I’m going to choose “It Beats for You” by My Morning Jacket. It’s the first song I heard from them.

I love what they were doing with the drumsvery powerful drums looped up at strange points to make a really insistent, energetic thing you can balladeer over. There’s kind of a parallel with The National, who do the same sort of thing. It’s a trick that Elbow adopted here and there.

We finished and mixed Leaders of the Free World in Los Angeles. To visit it for a couple of days, it’s a very difficult city to get your head around. It’s like a different country from the other coast. On the surface, it can be quite overwhelmingly superficial, but it has a sequins-missing, faded charm to it that really is quite beguiling. Unlike any other city with a big personality, the underground is so much thicker and healthier for it. There’s a lot of music coming out of Silver Lake. I have a lot of really good friends there, like the guys in Grandaddy, particularly the guitarist Jim Fairchild. Through Silver Lake and all its music, I fell in love with L.A.


I’m always there in autumn and spring because the light is always the same when I am there. They’ve got a dark sense of humor there and I really like the way they treat their art. The band that represents them for me is dEUS. All [the members] of Elbow are huge fans of dEUS and I ended up singing on a record with them, probably four years ago. Tom Barman and his crew became good buddies. “Instant Street” from The Ideal Crash is great. Tom is a very smart guy. English is his second language, but he just comes up with beautiful turns of phrase that you wouldn’t do if it was your native tongue.


It has to be “I Am the Resurrection” by The Stone Roses. The lyric in itself is so cocky“I am the resurrection and I am the light”it betrays a northern sense of humor. It betrays that cockiness that eventually morphed into what Oasis became. Not just within Manchester, but the whole of the north. That swagger that all the Sheffield boys carry with themArctic Monkeys have that. It all came from John Squire and Ian Brown. You have to see the Shane Meadows documentary [Made of Stone]. It re-establishes Ian Brown as a cultural phenomenon, let alone an icon. He is literally the coolest cucumber you’ve ever seen, walking through a crowd taking selfies with people’s phones. The most confident man you’ve ever seen. “I Am the Resurrection,” lyrically, is the embodiment of the Manc swagger.

Growing up, you ran into The Smiths or Happy Mondays or members of The Roses. The Stone Roses appeared in our hometown of Bury. It’s a small backwater up in the hills in North Manchester. They were recording at Square 1 Studios right near the police station. Mark [Potter], our guitarist, was a pizza delivery boy by night. He came into rehearsal one night and said, “I delivered a pizza to The Stone Roses last night.” Nobody would believe him, because they’d been in exile for so many years. No one knew if they were even contemplating another record. I’ve always compared it to that film, Whistle Down the Wind, where Hayley Mills finds Jesus in the barnand it turns out to be an escaped criminal. That’s how it felt to know that The Stone Roses were working on a record in our hometown. Nobody phoned the NME! Everyone between 16 and 20 knew they were there and nobody blabbed to the press. It was a lovely secret. That kind of thing made music a noble thing to pursue.

The Stone Roses are such an integral part of my decision to go into music. They were so supportive and helpful when we were coming through, in the same way Doves were. It’s nice to be a beneficiary of Manchester’s music community.


[Note: This article first appeared in the digital/iPad version of the February/March print issue (Issue 49). Also pick up the print version to read a separate article on Elbow’s new album.]


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