Embrace are taking a break from recording their new album to play a short run of festive shows – including one at The Pyramids in Southsea.
The band, who had huge hits with the likes of Come Back To What You Know and Nature’s Law among others, got the taste for playing live again after appearing at The Secret Festival near Leeds in September.
‘We hadn’t done a gig in quite a while,’ frontman Danny McNamara tells The Guide. ‘I’ve been away. I went travelling last year and when I got back the only gig we had on the calendar was the Secret Festival. Then that went so well we thought it would be good to do some more before the end of the year.
‘We spoke to our manager and agent to see if we could do some smaller shows and from there it all fell into place.
‘It’s not a big planned thing or part of any campaign.’
The Yorkshire-based group have scored three number one albums and sold more than 2.5m in the UK, but took a break after touring 2006’s This New Day. They returned with 2014’s self-titled album, which saw them dabble with elements of electronica, and went top five on its release.
They’re currently in the studio working on the follow-up, which is pencilled for release early next year.
‘It’s a little bit more back to basics,’ says Danny. ‘I’m not saying we won’t do any of the other stuff, but it has to feel right. For me it’s all about the emotional content of the song, and if I’m feeling that, it’s good, if it’s not we won’t.
‘I’m not saying we won’t use more experimental stuff again, but we’re not pushing that this time – we’re just going to do what feel right and organic, and it’s going really well at the moment.’
And Danny’s experiences from travelling – he went out and spent time in many of the places he’d played in but never had the time to actually explore while touring, including much of Asia – re-energised the singer. While not directly referenced in the new material, his travels have had an impact on him in other ways.
‘I’m probably a bit less insular now than I was before. I can get a bit tunnel-vision about things, and that can be a good thing because it makes me very determined, and enables me to reach places that most other people would give up on.
‘In other ways it’s bad, because I’m not really seeing the bigger picture and focusing in on things that don’t need focusing on.
‘Sometimes, with all the best will in the world, the best things come really naturally when you’re feeling inspired. Previously I’ve locked myself in a room for 10 or 15 hours and not come out until I’ve got something, whereas now I only write if I feel I’m going to get something. Ironically, it’s resulted in things coming out quicker. And better.’
‘I wish I’d found this out sooner,’ he laughs.
‘We worked out how much time I’ve spent shut in a room with a guitar not getting anywhere over the last 20 years and it’s probably about 15 of those years! I’m learning how to work with myself to get the good stuff, which is important if you want to have any kind of life.’
Embrace has featured the same line-up since forming in the mid-90s, and while many of their peers have fallen by the wayside, Danny is determined that they retain a degree of relevancy.
‘We’ve got this album next year, and then there’s talk of us doing the 20th anniversary of (platinum-selling debut) The Good Will Out, and then after that, as long as the good stuff’s still coming, we’ll keep going.
‘I don’t want to be a heritage act. I don’t want to do the greatest hits every day. I always wanted to be creating new stuff that informs what we’re about and as long as that continues...’
And he adds with a chuckle: ‘I know everyone says it, but we’ve got the best fans, and I’ll argue with anyone you like on that – Taylor Swift, Morrissey, anyone.’
The Pyramids Centre, Southsea
Friday, December 16