|Always a band to push themselves creatively with each subsequent release, Atlanta-based Manchester Orchestra has expanded their dynamic sound to peak form on the cinematic and epic A Black Mile To The Surface. The album – featuring production by Catherine Marks (Foals, PJ Harvey, Marika Hackman), John Congleton (St. Vincent, Explosions In The Sky, Angel Olsen), and their longtime studio partner Dan Hannon – showcases a band that rethought, deconstructed, and rebuilt their songwriting process to propel their music into a new emotional arena, drawing on singer/guitarist Andy Hull and co-writer/multi-instrumentalist Robert McDowell’s unique experience scoring the 2016 Sundance hit film Swiss Army Man (directed by The Daniels).
“We’re a band that loves to use heavy, crunchy guitars,” says Hull. “We wondered how we could limit the use of that, so that when the guitars come in they can be creative and impactful. For Swiss Army Man we had to make seventy minutes of music with our hands tied behind our backs. When you’re creating all the sounds you need just from the human voice, it allows you to rethink what is possible, and determine what is really needed. We wanted to make an album in a ‘non-Manchester’ way if there is such a thing.”
Throughout recording A Black Mile to the Surface, Hull and McDowell – along with bandmates Tim Very (drums) and Andy Prince (bass) — opened up their collaborative process and pushed themselves to go against their first instincts at every turn. Lyrically, Hull found a new freedom in mirroring his personal experiences through fictional characters, examining the ultimately universal themes of family, shared history, hope, and valuing the time that we’re given.
A Black Mile to the Surface is a bold record of vision and purpose, inspired by and dwelling in a sensory and imaginative experience. It’s a reinvention of sorts – both musically and personally – and an evolution of the band, while also retaining the sweeping, melodic, and anthemic sounds for which Manchester Orchestra has become known.