Ahead of Embrace’s Saturday night headline slot at Shiiine we caught up with guitarist Richard McNamara to talk about their new album, their best festival moments and what the band have in store for you…
Hi, Richard. You’re headlining the Saturday night at Shine. Are you looking forward to the show?
Yeah man. Fucking buzzing! They said that we’re going to get a chalet each so we’ll be able to party into the night, have a bit of a wild one! It’ll definitely a bit of an experience, I reckon.
Indeed! So before Shiiine, you’ve got the small matter of the stadium shows with Coldplay. You’ve got a long-standing relationship with Chris (Martin) going back to the beginning days of each other’s bands. Have you stayed friends since then?
Yeah. Initially, Coldplay supported Embrace at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool. We did a couple of nights there. They were a band that Danny had spotted, when I think they were on their first or second EP. When they supported us I think it was my Dad that actually went up to their dressing room and invited them down to our room, to come in. They were all kind of shy walking in and really, sort of, humble about it. Danny and Chris really hit it off and it’s a friendship that he’s kept. He got a phone call from Chris recently and he was saying that he’d been listening to Embrace for the last week and he could really hear the influence that it had had on his song writing and his band’s music. He said he wanted to honour that and he thought it’d be a really nice thing if we did the main support of one of his shows. We were bouncing round the room, you know. A good news day that was!
When you play shows of that size, do you ever get any nerves before you go on stage, or is it all positive adrenaline?
You get the same feeling every night before you walk on; you just want to do well, you know. You’re kind of excited to get out there and it’s when you’re in your element. I guess there will be probably a heightened sense of tension before we walk on in front of 57,000 people instead of 5,000 people, but it’s the same thing really. I mean, the hardest thing to do is to sit in front of one person and play them an idea, that’s, that’s the hardest.
Once, once you’ve mastered that you can play in front of anybody?
Yeah, we’ve been asked to do all kinds of things; done, secret gigs in front of five people, there’s been gigs in the pitch black; we’ve done gigs on a yacht; Big Brother house, all over the shop, so we’re carved out of wood when it comes to playing. I did the Tsunami Benefit gig (also at the Millennium Stadium) and I’ve actually got a picture of me backstage just before I went on and you can see the fear of terror in my eyes! I’m playing with my hair! And just as I walked on, our guitar tech shouted at me from the side and said, “I’m not ready!” But they’d already introduced us so I’m like, “We’re going to have to go mate, we’ll have to go!” You’ll have to watch the, watch the footage on, on YouTube of us playing the Tsunami, the guitars like, I’m out of tune.
So are you working on any new material at the moment?
Well, believe it or not, we’ve finished our next album.
In record time for us too. Very early on we realised that we’ve got a muscle memory when we play together; it creates a sound that we always fight against a little bit. Because we’re always trying to push our own boundaries and stuff, but we felt we’ll settle into this. Let’s just see what’s actually there and it’s kind of slow brooding, melancholy. Every song’s all about the feel, there’s no attempts to rock out unnecessarily or no attempts to be fancy or experimental unnecessarily. It’s all just lush, beautiful sounds. It could be coming out this year, but it’s probably more likely to be next year because it’s best to get a record deal in place. Then they have to set it up and both of those things seem to take three months for some reason.
How have you found recording this album different compared with others?
I think Danny’s focus now is mainly his songwriting. So he trusts me to get on with things, whereas previously he likes to be in control quite a lot of the time, you know. You wished he’d just let go of the leash a little bit whereas this time he’d come in, he’d have an idea, he’d play the song and then we’d get up, start doing our bits and the moment that we were starting to faff around like we do, we’d say, “Right, I’m off, give us a bell when you’re happy with it and you’re playing what we’ve got…” and he’d either go, “Yeah, I like it…” or, “No I don’t.” So, it’s been a pretty much throw everything up, and let’s not fuck about with it too much let’s just sound natural as we are. Which I think the fans are going to love. I think it’s going to rekindle a lot of love that may have been lost along the way.
Are you planning on touring around the release and any shows around Shiiine as well?
We’re trying to lock in as many festivals as we can this year; we’re playing quite a lot of little boutique things. There might be a little tour if we get a little couple of EPs out maybe do a bit of tour around each of those. There’s no tour planned yet, we’ve got to just gauge it just right and if we play too much then, you know, people just get bored. We were talking about doing, a 20th anniversary next year of The Good Will Out but we’re thinking that this album’s probably coming out next year, so we’re talking about doing the 21st anniversary! I mean, our, our main thoughts is to get this album out.
Will you be putting some of the new songs into the set at Shiiine?
Shiiine will be the greatest hits, we might chuck one or two on it if we’re feeling it but it, it’s going to be what people want to hear. We’re not one of these bands that, plays the new album front to back and then play and then tags on a hit at the end. Those things piss everyone off. We’re going to play all the songs you want to hear really. Depends how long the set is suppose?
You’ll have over an hour. With your set you could just have anthem after anthem; people’s hands could just be in the air from you going on stage to you coming off stage pretty much couldn’t they?
Yeah! Just put your hand in the air when we walk on and put them down at the end.
It’s 20 years since you come out with One Big Family EP. How do you look back on those times?
I look back and think, “I wish I knew then what I know now.” I guess, like everyone does, but it was a great time. We were riding the crest of the wave and we couldn’t seem to put a foot wrong. You can, sort of go up your own arse a little bit when you’re in your 20s and everyone’s telling you you’re amazing. But, yeah, just amazing times, amazing shows. Getting on a tour bus for the first time and touring around, playing Glastonbury and all that, it was like a whirlwind.
Have you got any memories of the show at the Leeds Town & Country Club when you first started out. James, the promoter of Shiiine says it was in his top 5 gigs he’s ever been to…
I think I’ve actually got that on video somewhere, we filmed the whole thing. I think that was towards the end of the tour and I had a really bad flu. But I remember we all played out of our skin. I couldn’t believe how well we’d played when I’d got off, then it was party chaos afterwards!
So what, what sort of stuff are you listening to at the minute?
I’m just listening to Ryan Adams pretty much on a loop. I’ve got his new album and I just, I mean I love the guy anyway but just having a new album out at this particular stage in my life is really helping me through. And a new band I’ve worked with a band called The Fronteers.
Oh yeah, the lads from Hull?
Yeah, a cracking bunch of lads; great singers. And another band I’ve been working with is called Evil Tenors. Four bass players and a singing drummer! They’re, kind of, like, it’s hard to describe what they’re like but somewhere between Black Sabbath, Pill and Hawkwind. They’ve got masks on and all that sort of stuff and a, a pig with a clever, and a guy with a mop and bucket and I’ve got up a couple of times myself with a duck head on as well! They’re brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
What’s the best festival set you’ve ever played?
The best would be T in the Park, 2000. We were headlining the tent; it was pissing it down outside and it was absolutely rammed in there and the audience sang the songs back at us so loud that I didn’t realise that my amp had actually caught fire and had stopped working. There was smoke coming out of the back of it but I couldn’t tell because I couldn’t hear it over the crowd. That was a pretty immense feeling.
And the worst one?
Worst one was probably, I think it was the V Festival when we first did that in, 1997/98. I’d stayed up all the night before reading a Brian Wilson autobiography and then we came to do the gig and I just couldn’t concentrate. My leads were falling out of the guitar and everything went wrong and I went into the dressing room afterwards and kicked all the drinks everywhere. It still got a great review though!
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a festival?
Our bus got stuck in the mud at Glastonbury and a tractor came along with a chain and our tour manager got underneath the bus in the mud like a, like a paratrooper, hooked it up and then the tractor pulled forward. The chain snapped and came straight through the window of the bus and shot straight to the back. If anybody had been stood in the middle, it would probably have cut them in half. So that was pretty strange. I think that was the same night that we had two topless women come on stage!
Oh, I’ll tell you what else is strange. Ian Brown came up and asked me if he could have his picture taken with me, because his niece was into Embrace. Well, I were that star-struck that I that I didn’t bother to ask him for one in return and I’ve fucking regretted it ever since! And then later on that same day, I think it was Steve out of Athlete, was climbing on the dressing room roof and I just saw Ian Brown going, (puts on many drawl) “Come down mate, you’ve got to come down. I’ve been there, you know. They’re going to dock you fees. You’ve got to get down….” You’ve got to get down!
If you could pick a festival line up, what would your ideal line-up be?
I’d get Nirvana headlining, probably get The Smiths on there, get REM on there, when they were rocking. Get the Bunnymen on there. Suede were amazing, get them on, get Oasis on there. All the Shiiine bands! I used to be one for the House of Love actually, they were a great band for me back in the day. Iron Maiden too, they, the song, the song Aces High is what got me into playing guitar.
Top. Ok then, just before you go, have you got a message for the fans coming to Shiiine.
Yeah get the Embrace Greatest Hits and learn all the words and you’ll have the night of your life!
Embrace headline the Saturday night of the Shiiine On Weekender, at Butlin’s Minehead arena. Remaining packages are available HERE.