Art is a fluid thing, at least to Ian McCulloch of seminal Liverpool rockers Echo and the Bunnymen.
It’s part of the reason why his band have released a new record that features reworkings of their most popular back catalogue cuts, in the shape of The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon.
It’s not strictly a greatest hits package, with a few new songs tucked in along the way; instead, the vocalist says, it’s a chance to take stock of where he and guitarist Will Sergeant stand with their history, much of which they crafted half a lifetime ago.
“A lot of these songs are, if not 40 years old, then getting on that way,” the frontman explains in his warm Liverpudlian accent. “People can be quite happy to leave songs as they were, because that’s the sound of their legacy. But me and Will… it’s not that we’re not interested any more, but we feel differently about many of them now. It felt like time for a rejuvenation.”
McCulloch admits that part of his desire to re-record – or transform, as he puts it – many of their classics, such as Lips Like Sugar, The Cutter and The Killing Moon, came from a dissatisfaction with his own performance decades ago.
“There’s songs on the early albums where I just don’t like listening to myself any more. I want them to sound more real nowadays, a little more European in the sounds they conjure. I’ve always loved the cobblestones of Paris and Brussels.
Tracks that I wrote without fully understanding now totally make sense, or at least have gained additional relevance.Ian McCulloch
“I guess the genesis lays in that; I obviously don’t sound the way I did when I was 21, 22.”
The meanings have changed too for McCulloch and Sergeant; the songs they crafted in the early Eighties now bring additional resonance that they didn’t quite expect.
For the singer, it gives him extra gratification all these years later that he’s still discovering new meanings to his work.
“Tracks that I wrote without fully understanding now totally make sense, or at least have gained additional relevance. I always tried to write lyrics that were universal, that could be applied to the rest of my life and anyone who cares to listen to them too.
“I never wrote specifically for me in that moment. I always quite liked the twist of emotion you could deliver through your words.
“I mean, you can never get it completely right, I guess. But you can try.”
Echo and The Bunnymen play at York Barbican on October 22. www.bunnymen.com