Hurts interview: Positivity is harder for us to express
After the slightly more darker and harder tone of 2013's Exile, synthpop duo Hurts are returning to a lighter, pop-driven soundscape for their next collection Surrender.
Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson are leading the campaign with uplifting new single 'Some Kind Of Heaven'; a soaring anthem that nods back to their debut Happiness with its soft bells, surging strings and chanting refrain.
Digital Spy caught up with the band to talk about their new approach to Surrender, regaining focus after Exile, and why music snobbery is the worst. How long have you been sitting on Surrender for?
Theo: "It's finished. It was all there by the end of last year, but we just slowly finished it. It wasn't down to the wire this time. We had a bit of breathing space."
Do you enjoy the breathing space or do you get restless sitting on new music?
Adam: "We just carry on writing tunes. We never stop writing songs. Once one lot is finished we then move on. That's what we did with the last record. We wrote a super heavy album, then the day we handed it in we started writing a different type of song."
Theo: "It's just a snapshot of a period of time really, and then you've got release schedules. But with this one we're very excited about what we've made and what's going to happen with it. We've done something different in some ways, so that's what gives you the energy."
Surrender sounds a lot lighter than Exile. Was that your intention?
Adam: "Perhaps on some level a reaction to the previous one, but also it's unrelated. We just make music that reflects how we feel in our lives at that moment in time. On the one hand it's easy to say it's reactionary because the last one was quite intense, but the reality is more that we were just in a bit of a better place mentally, and that comes across in the music." And it's a lot funkier than we've heard you before.
Theo: "We don't really hide the fact that we love Prince and that sort of soul music that it references. 'Wonderful Life' has a lot of Prince's influence. It's exciting for us because we always try to push the boundaries of who we are. If there's territory that's still unexplored, that's all we want to do. If we make it, it sounds like Hurts I guess."
Adam: "If you're an indie band or a guitar band, you are basically limited in a sense to what type of music you can make. I know some constraint can be quite good sometimes, but for us as a pop band, if you don't try and explore genres and have that freedom of creativity, you're just wasting your position as a pop band. For us, because we're not associated with any particular instruments, we can do whatever we want."
Theo: "It's fun as well, which is part of our personality that we've found a way to express!"
Adam: "Positivity is harder to express. Not for all people, but for us it is. Our default by nature is probably a more sombre tone. We had Surrenderas a title at the beginning before we'd written any songs, so there's a lot about letting go of things in our approach to this album."
Your fans were uncertain about the harder sound of your last album Exile, so did that affect your approach to this music in any way?
Adam: "It's pretty dangerous if you approach music trying to please other people. We've never really been in the business of doing that. That sounds perhaps like we're cutting ourselves off, but it's not like that at all really. We're just trying to be honest about it."
Theo: "We're just trying to make great pop music and that's our plan." Do you think pop music has an unfair reputation in general? That people assume it's the lowest common denominator when it's actually not?
Theo: "I think a lot of people are confused by it. Every band that is successful has pop songs. I don't really know what people mean by it. I know what we mean and that's songs that are in the business of forever. Those songs that last. We want to write songs that sound great in 10 years' time. That to me is a pop song. People often get confused by what it means. Do they mean music that's in the charts? Do they mean Rihanna? But then if they mean that, do they also mean ELO? Or The Beatles?
"The derision comes from snobbery, which I think is the worst thing for art and music. I don't think there's any place for it and it comes from insecurity. You either like something or you don't like it. Nothing is a lower form of anything else. Classical music is a genre of music. It's no more complex or less complex than pop music or R&B. The elitism is weird."
Which means getting the opportunity to do something different like 'Under Control' with Calvin Harris must be fun for you guys, right?
Theo: "We've been friends with Calvin since MySpace, and we've got the same manager, so it wasn't so out of the blue. He makes electronic pop music and so do we. He's got a very clear vision of who he is, and it was just fun to make music with your friend. It was a good exercise at a point between albums." Can we just mention that you've worked with legendary producer Stuart Price for this album?
Adam: "Yeah, Stuart brings a precision and he produces a lot of the mess away. When we work it's usually layered. He works quick as well, and within a day you've got a tune at the point where it needs to be. Our music after the last album needed someone to slightly bring us back into focus, and he was perfect for that."
It's interesting that you say you needed Stuart to bring you into focus. At what point during the last album did you feel like you'd lost it?
Adam: "Well we worked in the same room in a rainy Manchester for about nine months, and I think after six months there wasn't much communication, and we just lost perspective in a very major way. Which is why some of the songs sound unique from that pressure cooker we were living under. For me, the second album is too layered, partly because we did a lot of it ourselves, so we needed that streamline."
Theo: "I don't think we particularly lost perspective, though, because we knew what we were doing. We knew the album we were making from the beginning - it was a plan that was executed as it needed to be. It's a very concept-heavy record and I think what happened is, because we were working within the constraints of what that album had to be, we flung open the doors."