With their potent blend of psychedelia, folk-rock, Merseybeat and spaghetti Western guitars, The Coral have proved to be one of Britain’s most durable bands.
Their forthcoming album Distance Inbetween is their eighth in a career garlanded with plaudits from music writers and fellow musicians such as Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher and Robert Plant.
This disc is the Wirral quintet’s most eagerly awaited yet, coming at the end of a five-year hiatus during which individual members pursued solo projects.
Keyboard player Nick Power agrees with singer James Skelly’s assessment that The Coral “hit a brick wall” in 2011 and they needed to take a break. “I’d say that was true. We’d been doing since we were about 16 and we’d kind of not stopped,” he says.
“I was about 28 at the time and I think we’d had one year off in between at some point – it wasn’t even a year, it was just where we didn’t record an album or we didn’t do a tour.
“It was more creatively, being in the band felt like going through the motions. We tried to make an album, actually, on the Butterfly House tour but we just didn’t have anything to say sonically or lyrically.”
I think sometimes the decision to stop can be as important as to actually do something; it benefits it so much to really take stock of it and go and do other things and have different experiences so there’s a sense of an actual journey there.
Skelly has also described the temporary break-up as “the best decision” the band could have made. Power concurs. “It’s sort of like when you step back from anything. I think sometimes the decision to stop can be as important to actually do something; it benefits it so much to really take stock of it and go and do other things and have different experiences so there’s a sense of an actual journey there.”
In Power’s case, that involved working with Irish duo The Lost Brothers and fulfilling a long-held ambition to publish books of his poetry. “I started off doing that,” he explains of his fondness for verse. “I didn’t have much to do creatively so I thought I’d do that. I actually submitted it anonymously, I didn’t say I was in a band or anything, but a publisher wanted to publish it.”
The release of The Coral’s ‘lost album’ The Curse of Love in 2014 was to prove a starting point for band members to start talking about making another record together.
“The response was really good,” says Power. “It’s one of those albums that’s got no singles on, it’s got nothing that you’d ever expect to get on the radio but most of our fans really loved it.
“I think the climate’s different now and it’s more sympathetic to different ideas and experiments, people are more open to it because of the internet.”
Distance Inbetween pushes those experiments further still, with a heavier sound than before. Rhythms were to provide the basis from which they built songs.
“We were doing this without our normal rhythm guitarist [Lee Southall], he started with a project and he needed to see it through,” explains Power. “So when we started rehearsing it was just a four-piece, we’d just be one guitar, a synth, bass and drums – that was before we drafted Paul Molloy in on guitar – so there is a lot of space in the songs, more so than ever before.
“I think it’s the best we’ve ever sounded, to be honest.”
The songs were recorded live to keep their spontaneity. “It’s kind of an old way of doing it, rather than a modern way of doing it,” Power says. “There was a big emphasis on doing something that would be easy to replicate live for the first time in a long time.”
The album is dedicated to the late Alan Wills, founder of Merseyside record label Deltasonic who released The Coral’s first six studio albums, who was killed in a cycling accident in 2014 aged 52.
“It’s hard to really state the impact he had on us when we started,” Power says. “He was the only person who believed in us, he could spot the enthusiasm and talent, he was just our mentor, really. He really was an enigma, one of those balls of energy you’d sort of only read about.”
Distance Inbetween is released on March 3. The Coral play at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on Monday March 7. For details visit www.thecoral.co.uk