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Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008

The Importance of Being Earnest

Editors hit the road with big dreams, good manners.

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Ed Lay, drummer for Editors, is living the high life, and he knows it. He’s not about to jinx it with an off-color remark, a run-in with the tabloids or a fistfight with Interpol. He’s terribly earnest, in fact, as the band warms up for its 2008 U.S. tour in posh, sunny Florida—a far cry from the bleak winters of the band’s home in Birmingham, England.

“Everything has changed,” he says genially of the band’s recent vault to indie-rock stardom. “We tour the world for a living now, which is such a blessing.” These remarks are pretty warm and fuzzy for a band that made its mark with dark melodies and lyrics such as “You’ll speak when you’re spoken to” and “I wanted to see this for myself, these dark paths.”

Don’t get the wrong idea, though, Lay warns: Editors are no pansies. In fact, the band chose its name to give listeners a sense of the raw core that lies beneath. “We had a pretty wet, lame name before”—The Pride, followed by Snowfield—“that kind of had soft-rock connotations. It didn’t suit us at all,” he explains. “We liked ‘Editors’ because it conveys strength and suits the aggressive style of the music.”

The strategy seems to have paid off. Shortly after changing names in 2004, the band was signed by the British label Kitchenware Records. Their first album, The Back Room, was released in July 2005 in the United Kingdom, where it went platinum and eventually reached No. 2 on the charts. FADER Label released The Back Room in the United States in March 2006, selling more than 35,000 copies in 20 weeks, followed by the band’s sophomore album, An End Has a Start, in July 2007.

An End Has a Start delves deeper into the dark corners of The Back Room, revealing a poised and practiced band with big ambitions. “The difference can be seen onstage,” Lay says. “There’s a self-assurance and a comfort with performance that wasn’t there before.”

Though An End Has a Start debuted at No. 1 on the U.K. charts, Lay remembers the band’s jitters during the U.S. tour for their first album. “We were quite nervous when we were touring The Back Room,” he says. “We’re far more confident now.”

This confidence, he says, comes not only from being the top of the pops at home but from the breadth of material the Editors are ready to perform. “We have two albums of material to pick and choose from, and we just got into our stride at rehearsals,” he says.

An End Has a Start is the product of increased experimentation by the band and its new producer, Garret “Jacknife” Lee, the man behind albums by Bloc Party, Snow Patrol, U2 and, most recently, R.E.M. The process of making An End Has a Start involved a shift in production values, a new blend of recording methods and a greater variety of instruments than The Back Room, Lay says.

The result was a bit of a surprise, he admits. “An End Has a Start was not as rehearsed as our first album, which was as live as we could get it,” he says. “A lot of the writing for the new album was done in the studio, while we were recording, which gave us a sense of grandeur and a depth of songs we didn’t want on The Back Room.”

This sense of grandeur may also stem from the Editors’ humble beginnings in England. There, in a nod to Nigel Tufnel of This Is Spinal Tap, Lay and band-mate Chris Urbanowicz peddled shoes to make ends meet. “You learn how to deal with people, about the little things in life,” Lay says of the experience.

However, he doesn’t miss the world of retail at all, he adds. “We’re very happy to be here, to be recognized,” he says. “It’s a world apart: We’ve always believed in our music, but in a way, we can hardly believe what’s come of it.”

The Editors and Hot Hot Heat play the Pabst Theater with Louis XIV on Sunday, Jan. 27.