Interview: Liam Fray
Mancunian four-piece The Courteeners are something of a British indie phenomenon. First arriving on the scene in 2007 with debut single ‘Cavorting’, it wasn’t long before the Middleton outfit were causing beer-soaked dancefloors in the north of England to swell and buzz in ways not witnessed since the Gallagher brothers held the reins. Despite being one of the main players in the thriving late-noughties lad rock scene, they’ve long outlived many of their counterparts and last year played their biggest show to date in front of 25,000 fans at Heaton Park. Sound-wise, the band have shifted and morphed over the years – from the raw, sneering britrock of St Jude to the quasi-electronic, stadium-friendly atmospherics of 2014’s Concrete Love. With their fifth studio album Mapping The Rendezvous out this month, Exposed’s resident Manc Paul Stimpson spoke to frontman Liam Fray about what we can expect.
New single ‘The 17th’ is a bit of a departure for The Courteeners.
Yeah, we always try to mix it up. I remember that following St Jude, Falcon came as a bit of a surprise for some people, and Anna was the same after that. I’m not into the nay sayers – those people who are like, “Ah, Biffy Clyro’s first album will always be the best!” It’s just like, “Fuck off, man!” People change over time and it’s the same in any job. We don’t sit down with a clipboard to plan things out; we’re just doing what we like.
You’ve said recently that you don’t care about what people say about you anymore. Is that the mentality you had when going to make this album?
Definitely. We used to get so bogged down. People would say to us we need to get a certain amount of streams and YouTube hits, etc. I mean, who actually cares? We’re all in a good place and we’re enjoying what we do. We had loads of fun writing and recording this album, and we’re all playing on the same level with each other.
Details have been pretty scarce so far. What else can you tell us about the record?
Yeah, I’m not sure what to say about this one because I feel like I have to give it a review. Erm, it’s fucking incredible and it’s gonna blow everyone’s heads off! Nah, but we do feel good about it. We had a good time writing it and putting it together and we hope that people enjoy it. You always know what you’re getting with us lot, though. We always give it 110% at our shows and we always come off the stage soaked with sweat. The same level of effort goes into our records as well.
I’ve seen you describe it as ‘sexy’. Can you elaborate on that?
[Laughs] You know, sometimes, you look back at what you have said about a record and just think ‘fucking hell!’ That said, the songs do have a bit of a strut. It’s a confident record. I think I’m finding my voice and I’m less concerned with critics these days. I used to write lyrics 100% autobiographically, and it gets a bit too much sometimes. So I’ve taken a step back from all that. The Courteeners have always enjoyed a bit of a cult following.
I know fans of yours that have been to see you more than 20 times.
It’s ridiculous, man. I mean, I used to follow my favourite bands around, like The Strokes and The Cribs, but I’ve met people who are on gig 50 with us. I can’t really put it into words how good our crowds are.
Especially the northern audiences, who are particularly mad for it.
We played Leadmill once and it was absolute carnage. We were really hungover. I think it was our manager’s wedding the night before, and we needed the crowd to pull us through and luckily they did. We did a New Year’s Eve show in Sheffield too, it was a full on party zone. I suppose it’s that cliché that the further north you go, the better the crowds are. I think they can detect the bullshit – they can see right through it up north. The girl working in Greggs who comes to see a show, she’s probably got enough to deal with without bands peddling shit. It’s like when a footballer comes out and says something honest for once, it strikes a chord with you.
Talking of Sheffield, Milburn are supporting you at your Leeds gig. What do you think to their comeback?
Buzzing. I’m looking forward to that gig. I had ‘Lipstick Lickin’’ on 7-inch when I was about 18. I was a big fan. I saw that they dipped their toes in last year with the Sheffield shows, and you could see it building from there. I can’t wait for that [Leeds] show.
Finally, and after almost ten years since your first release, how does it feel to be putting out your fifth record?
It’s difficult to put into words really. Back when we started, we did a lot of stuff that we weren’t really comfortable with. Like playing the Nokia Green Room for example. What a load of shite that was. We were so young and we had no advice from anyone, we went in absolutely blind. After that first album drops, you tour for ages and then you realise you’ve got to churn another out straight away. There’s a lot of pressure on bands to do that, and it’s a lot to deal with when you’re that young. We got lumped in with a load bands because we came out at the same time, but I actually think we came out at the wrong time. People quickly became sick of hearing the word ‘indie’. But we were allowed to work at our own pace and, you know, those people who came to our early shows really did change our lives. We still feel fresh and we haven’t run out of ideas either. We’re not done yet.
Roadhouse – October 2006: “That was an insane debut. I mean, really insane. We were doing three gigs a week back in those days.”
Sheffield/Leeds – New Year’s Eve 2008: “We’ve played Sheffield a few times, but that one really sticks out in my mind. We did Sheffield before and then Leeds after the countdown – it was chaos.”
Castlefield Bowl – July 2013: “Those were really special nights. The atmosphere around town was so charged. Walking down Deansgate and seeing loads of Courteeners t-shirts was a feeling I’ll never forget.’’
Heaton Park – June 2015: “It was the greatest night of all time. The whole year was fucking unreal.”
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