For fans who have been following Manchester Orchestra for the past decade and change, the sound of the band's new record, A Black Mile To The Surface, is a surprise. With early releases like I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child, Simple Math and Cope, the band built their following on loud guitars and big emotions. Their latest is full of emotion, but finds that feeling through the songs' stories. It's sweeping, cinematic and really quite beautiful.
A couple influences factored in to what we're hearing. Core members Andy Hull and Robert McDowell put down their guitars for a bit to work on the sparse and mostly vocal score for a 2016 film called Swiss Army Man, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (aka "The Daniels"). And Hull became a father – a theme that shows up often on the album, and in our chat.
In this session, we start with a performance Manchester Orchestra recorded on stage at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. It's a song called "The Gold." Hull told me it was inspired by The Homestake, a shuttered gold mine in Lead, South Dakota. He wrote the song from the perspective of a woman whose husband worked deep in the mine every day ... a black mile to the surface.