Our Content Editor Evie Kissack chats to Rick McNamara, the incredible guitarist, singer and songwriter of the four-piece Yorkshire band Embrace, ahead of his appearance at Shiiine On Festival. 




Is it sunny up in Yorkshire? 

Yeah, it’s roasting!

Can’t say the same for here. 

It always seems to be raining when I go to Brum. It has it’s own microclimate. [Laughter]

How’s your day going?

It’s all going good, just sat in the garden at the moment. I’m trying to set up a label at the minute and have lots of gigs coming up…I’m in about three bands at the minute!

 
Really? What other bands are you in apart from Embrace?

In a band called EEVAH which is an electro duo, and I’m in a band called One Sided Horse and I have produced Evil Blizzard – they’re like maniacs with masks on I think there’s like five bass players and a singing drummer?

 
That’s crazy! How have you managed to keep up with all of these projects?

[Laughter] I’ve got a really, sort of, level head. It all seems to bounce off me, which is good. 

 
I’m jealous – I’m the kind of person that tries to do three things at once and it all goes wrong…

[Laughter] Oh I’m only saying I can multi-task - not that I’m good at it!

 
[Laughter] You’ll be performing at Shiiine On festival in Birmingham this September with Embrace as part of a pretty stellar line up. Are you looking forward to coming to Brum?

Yeah, yeah! We did Shiiine On in Butlins last year didn’t we? That was great and we got asked back to do it again at the NEC and we thought, ‘why not?’

 
Your new album ‘Love Is A Basic Need’ reached the Top 5! Are you still celebrating?

Um, yeah I’ve been on a bit of a bender for about five weeks to be honest! [Laughter] I’ve been trying to get myself back into a healthy routine, it seems to be harder than it usually is – I don’t know if it’s my age or what? But, yeah it’s great that we were in the Top 5 – we were hoping for Top 10, and then we found mid-week we were at Number 2, so it was an amazing result. Obviously our fan base rushed out to buy the album because they still buy records. Then we had the tour off the back of it playing out of our skins, getting great responses and since we’ve been getting more and more festival offers…I’ve just started putting songs together for the next record. We can kind of take our time over it a little bit, because next year we are going to tour ‘The Good Will Out’ which was our first album. It’s been 21 years since that came out! And in the second half of the year we are talking about touring ‘Out Of Nothing’ – we want to tour the big albums – as that will be the 15th anniversary. So, we do have a bit of breathing space to write the next record but we are on with it already. 

 


Fantastic. I imagine those tours will get an amazing response from fans. 

I hope so, yeah. We are kind of putting together a preliminary tour at the moment, which is a little bit bigger than the tour we’ve just done, and then if the demand is high we might end up taking it out twice and doing bigger venues…it’s always nice to play bigger shows because they have nicer showers in the dressing rooms.

 
[Laughter] That’s always a bonus. You might even get a mini fridge! With the new album you seem to have revisited your musical roots, would you agree with that?

Yeah. Because it’s been so long since our last album we had loads of different ideas about how to push ourselves and revisit what we were before - even with ‘The Good Will Out’, you know? I think we went for the Joy Division/Cure-type sound and then Brit Pop came along and we were fans of that. We gravitated towards that. But, with the album before the last one, it all became a little ‘electro’ and we found we were second-guessing ourselves…trying to reinvent the wheel. On this album, because of my personal situation, I didn’t have as much fight in me, and we just let ourselves be what we were. We almost have this muscle memory that ends up sounding like Embrace – at which point I normally say, “Well we’ve f****** done that we need to do something else!” and make life hard for everyone. I kind of let this album breathe as it was and I slotted into my position as a supporting role as a guitar player and it wrote itself almost really. 

 
It’s definitely worked – it has the signature Embrace sound but it doesn’t feel like it’s already been done. It feels fresh and new. 

I think we have this thing going where our music tugs at your heart a little bit. I think that’s when we’re at our best. We got it on about five of the new songs.

 
A lot of the lyrics are very heartfelt. The track ‘Where You Sleeping’ – did you perform the vocals for this? How did this come about?

I sung the first single off the last album ‘Refugees’. It’s more formed for me, when I bring songs, rather than when Danny brings them - just in terms of production and stuff…we have two completely different styles. His style is more melodic, Danny - rhythm-wise - well he’s not a rhythmic guy really, so I’d sing it and he’d sing it back completely differently and couldn’t tell the difference. He’d be like, “I literally don’t know what you’re talking about.” [Laughter]

 
[Laughter] So you were like, “I’m going to take this one”? 

I said, “Well, when you sing it, it sounds melancholy and sad, but when I sing it it’s almost angry and I think that’s a stronger way to do it.” So he came back to me and said, “Mate if you want to sing it, you sing it,” And then he said, “I’m off home,” [Laughter] “Get me out of here.”

 


When did you decide to create an orchestral version of ‘Love Is A Basic Need’?

Well, it’s something we’ve done before - we did it on the first album. The orchestral version is pretty much stripping everything else back, everything that’s not orchestral instruments. So, if you take the mixes as they are – like we did on the first album – and leave the strings in there obviously and the piano and the vocals, then add a few extra little bits…there’s something about when the strings are louder than all the drums it seems to become more emotive. It’s a way of getting more content out there for the label too. 

You’ve worked with Kerri Watt for this album too, haven’t you? How did this collaboration come about?

Yes. She was managed by a really close friend of ours called Dan [Ickowitz] Seidler; he is the owner of Propaganda nightclubs. He asked our Danny to come down and he was looking for a producer and Danny said, “Our Rick’s a producer and you could do a lot worse than to get his help on it.” [Laughter] 

So, he sent me through what Kerri had done so far, and I had a meeting with her over a curry in Leeds and asked her to send me all the songs that she thought were the best ones she had, and she sent a song called ‘Long Way Home’, which was brilliant. It was just a case then of getting her down to the studio every couple of months to record a few tracks. On top of that, at the same time going on in the background, Danny and I were writing songs to pitch (which is when you write songs for other people and give them to your publisher) and ‘Never’ was one of those songs. So, at first we got my daughter to sing it, Ella, and it was her singing on her own. The publishing company were getting responses from big artists that were interested in covering it - I won’t bother going into which ones as it’s ‘name-drop city’ –

 
[Laughter]

And they were asking, “Hiya, can you make this go higher?” Or, “Can you make this go lower?” and it get’s a bit frustrating so, we decided to put it on the album and get Danny to sing it. We thought that sounded great, but felt it sounded a little weird with Danny singing with his niece – who was 14 at the time. [Laughter] We thought, what about Kerri? She has an amazing voice and could knock this out of the park – so she came in and sang the other half. But I think in the meantime she was also trying to do it on her own as a single. [Laughter] We recorded that single five times I think! So I’m losing track of the chronology of everything! So Kerri came to do a version, which seemed about five semi-tones higher than where we did it. That sounded amazing. Then she got it mixed by a Swedish guy and we thought it sounded great, and then Danny sung it...[Laughter]

 
Oh my god…but you’ve now ended up with this phenomenal track that seems well worth the lengthy process.

It’s quite a cathartic process I think. It’s like when everything in your life seems high pressure on the surface of it, but it works out eventually.

 
There’s a song on the album of the same name – how did you decide on the title?

Well, the title was an idea of Danny’s. I think there’s a list of basic needs – I can’t remember the names of the guys who came up with it – but there’s ‘shelter’, ‘food’, all those kinds of things. And Danny thought, well ‘love’ should be on that list, and ‘companionship’, because we all need that. It came from that really. We released an EP to coincide with our Secret Festival, which had it on it. I think it’s a brilliant title. 

 
Is it true that your guitar amplifier actually once wasn’t plugged in at a festival, and because the crowd were so loud you didn’t notice?

Yeah I think that’s a story about T in the Park back in 2000. We were headlining the tent, but Muse’s flight was delayed so we agreed to go on before them. But that was good for us in the end because Travis were at their peak at the time and they were on the main stage. So, the tent would have been half full because they’re Scottish – so our tent was absolutely rammed and everybody was singing every word to every song. I think about half way through the third song my amp blew up. Basically there was smoke coming out the back of it! [Laughter] I couldn’t even hear it because of the singing. 


Would you say that would be a career highlight, then?

That’s definitely up there. There was a point when we released ‘All Of Nothing’ and I was on holiday during the week it was out. I spent the week abroad getting the calls like, “Oh it’s at Number 1…oh at Number 2…oh back to Number 1!” [Laughter] Because we were in the situation at that point that we were all basically bankrupt…I was selling everything on eBay to try to pay my bills. We went Gold before it was actually released, so that period - when we were absolutely s******* it that we might have to sign on again - to then going Gold…

The album then went to Number 1 and we decided to do a secret gig at one of our friend’s houses in Mallorca, he has a yacht, we went to a bar after, the whole celebratory few days after that were just f****** off the scale. 

 
You must have felt incredible.

I felt relief, you know, “Thank god for that!”

 

Catch Embrace at Shiiine On Festival this September. For more details, and to purchase tickets, visit www.shiiineon.com/one-day-festival

 

Shiiine On: Birmingham

8th September 2018

02 Academy 1/2/3, Birmingham

16-18 Horse Fair, Birmingham B1 1DB

 

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