Editors: (l-r) Russell Leetch, Chris Urbanowicz, Tom Smith and Edward Lay
Editors first hit the U.S. five years ago with the dark post-punk blast of The Back Room, a raw record full of frenetic guitars, impassioned vocals and hypnotic bottom end. It initially put the UK group into the same revivalist category that housed other indie rockers considered to be heavily influenced by the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division, though singer Tom Smith told Boston Examiner at the time the latter had not been “an influence at all on our sound.”
“We’re aware of Joy Division and their hits, but they were never a band where we went back through the albums and examined them,” he said. “I’m not stupid; of course I see similarities in what we do with certain bands.”
Smith’s stance, which admittedly sounded odd at the time given the obvious sonic parallels to bands from more than two decades prior, was then bolstered by Editors’ sophomore release, An End Has a Start; a much more polished effort, with layers upon layers of guitars, swirling balladry and an increased lyrical depth.
But that grandeur was left in the rear-view with the advent of this year’s In This Light and On This Evening, which gets its Boston debut tonight at the House of Blues, and is a complete left turn by the group that embraces a swirl of synthesizers that if not entirely, then at least mostly takes over for the spastic guitars that once defined its sound.
There hasn’t been such a stark sonic change in a band’s third record since Black Rebel Motorcycle Club embraced a more Gospel-tinged sound on Howl in place of dirty rock and roll and perhaps before that Led Zeppelin’s III, a primarily acoustic work that no one knew what to make of on the heels of the bombastic guitar dive-bombs that dominated the first two releases.
“I didn’t want to just rip myself off, so I decided to try another instrument,” Editors guitarist Chris Urbanowicz told Boston Examiner. “I’ve written the same kind of melodies in the same kind of places but it’s just on a different instrument.”
Looking back now at Editors’ debut, the guitarist said he hears “something exciting and vibrant,” but confesses that live they now sound a little “thin and wiry.”
“But that’s the way it was written, that’s the way it was recorded and that’s the way it’s supposed to be played.”
An End Has a Start was produced by Jackknife Lee, who tends to be known more for his remixes, which explains the multiple layering that to Urbanowicz became a tad much at times.
“I do like the record – obviously, but there are certain elements of it I would’ve toned down a little bit,” he said. “But the thing is, a lot of people really love that record.”
Toward the end of the tour for that record, it started to feel like the band was hitting a brick wall when it started playing a new song live.
“It sounded ok, but we did it the way we were used to and “ok” just wasn’t really good enough for us,” Urbanowicz said. “I just needed to shake things up a bit. It’s not like I was running out of ideas on the guitar, it just wasn’t doing anything to excite me like it did four or five years ago.”
The template for the In This Light… was culled from 70s and 80s films like Blade Runner where visions of the future and apocalyptic nighttime themes have that feel of a dark, rainy alley at twilight. And after finishing up more than a half-dozen demos, Editors brought in producer Flood, whose reputation is centered on industrial, dance and electronic music.
“There was only one guy to go to who kind of pioneered that type of music with Depeche and Nine Inch Nails,” said Urbanowicz, adding that he really didn’t think about how critics and fans would take to such a musical shift.
“I think that people have just forgot to respect the bands who just want to do the same old stuff, who just churn out the same old crap over and over again you know?” he said. “I mean, I don’t want to mention Oasis but I already have so forget it; they’ve been doing basically the same old stuff for like the last four records or however many records they’ve done – it seems like 50.”
“There’s just something that’s not my interest in it. Writing is supposed to be fun and exciting and creating new sounds and new music, so we always have that in the back of our minds when we write.”
The songs on In This Light… are moody from the outset of the title track, which is basically the original demo version. Long synth notes stretch as if pulled from John Carpenter’s “Halloween Theme,” but darker, while Smith hauntingly sings about hearing “the Earth inhale / moments before it spat its rain down on me.”
The record debuted at number one on the UK charts, and the fanbase in the States continues to grow at a steady pace for the group, which has spent a good deal of time touring here over the past few years.
“It’s just a lot of word of mouth, it’s very organic,” said Urbanowicz. “People like it, and then they come again and they bring a friend and it’s kind of really broke in Europe.”
“We’re doing the same thing in America, obviously it’s a completely different market, but as long as we keep coming back our flame will stay alight.”
Editors play House of Blues Boston, located at 15 Landsdowne Street tonight with Antlers. Doors open at 7:00pm. For more information, call 888.693.BLUE.