Coachella Teaser: An Interview with Elbow’s Pete Turner

Elbow (L-R): Craig Potter, Pete Turner, Guy Garvey, Richard, Jupp, and Mark Potter

For over a decade each spring, the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival has brought the rock ‘n’ roll masses together under the scorching desert sun in Indio, California. This year’s installment, which kicked off yesterday (April 15), features some of Britain’s best, including PJ Harvey, Tinie Tempah, Suede, The Chemical Brothers, Duran Duran, among others.

Tonight (April 16), Mancunian alt-rock fivesome Elbow — singer Guy Garvey, bassist Pete Turner, guitarist Mark Potter, organist Craig Potter, and drummer Richard Jupp — will stop by the Mojave Tent at 7 pm PT to woo a throng of sweat-drenched music fans with their latest opus, Build a Rocket Boys! Last month, I had the pleasure of briefly chatting with Pete Turner about the new album, the recording process and more.

Elbow’s 2008 LP, The Seldom Seen Kid, earned the band a Mercury Music Prize, a Brit Award for Best British Group, as well as two Ivor Novello statues for “One Day Like This” and “Grounds for Divorce.” With all of that success, what was it like writing the Build a Rocket Boys! album?

What happened with the last album was just incredible. And because of that we’re all pretty settled and very happy. But Guy was quite conscious that he didn’t want to write about how good life is for us at the moment. So it was kind of like: “Where do you go with it?” To look back at a certain period of your life was appealing, really. We are all in our mid-to-late thirties. Most of us have kids and things like that. So it was probably a good time to do it this way.

What would you like listeners to take from this 11-song set? From the quiet rapture of “Lippy Kids” and “The Night Will Always Win,” to the surging joy of “Open Arms” and “With Love” (both featuring Manchester’s fantastic Hallé Youth Choir), Elbow’s sincerity is as real as ever.

I know The Seldom Seen Kid brought a lot of people to our music, but I’d like people to see that it’s really the next step. It’s a very relaxed album and it’s a little rough around the edges. We also like to say that this album has hips, like with a little shake.

What was it like working with the Hallé Youth Choir?

We first came across them when we did a show at the Manchester International Festival in 2009 with the Hallé Orchestra. [And for the new album], we originally needed a choir for just one or two songs. But when they came in [to the studio], it was like 40 14 to 18 year-olds in one room. You can probably imagine what that’s like, with that many kids in the room. They’re just absolutely fantastic and we ended up using them on about seven songs. It works with the whole vibe of the album, the idea about looking back to that kind of age and the experiences of that time.

Organist Craig Potter is at the helm of the new collection, as he was with The Seldom Seen Kid. Can you talk about what it’s like to keep the music totally within the confines of the group?

I like that the five of us, absolutely and completely from start to finish, worked on [Build a Rocket Boys!]. It’s the way we feel it should be.

It’s such a luxury that the five of us can literally just be. And we’ve always been lucky because the record companies have never kind of got in the way of all this. We can just make an album.

In addition to your Coachella performance, might Elbow have plans to venture back to the States for a proper tour?

Yeah, I think later in the year we are going to do a tour in the States. It’s one of those places that we always have an absolute riot when we come over. We couldn’t not go over there. Putting an album is out just an excuse to go travel [laughs].

And for me, I tell you what. I really love Portland. I think it’s a brilliant place. I love going to L.A. That moment where you fly in, seeing that city all sprawled out, it amazes me. I love New York! And I love Chicago —I love the fact that it’s just an industrial-looking town.

For more on Coachella, check out the festival’s live webcasts today (April 16) and tomorrow (April 17) starting at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT.