We’ve Got A File On You: Guy Garvey

Peter Neill

We’ve Got A File On You: Guy Garvey

Peter Neill

We’ve Got A File On You features interviews in which artists share the stories behind the extracurricular activities that dot their careers: acting gigs, guest appearances, random internet ephemera, etc.

In the 20 years since their debut album Asleep In The Back, Elbow have become an institution of British rock music. They’re at the point now where, presumably, a band might’ve started to slow down a bit. It’s been the exact opposite for Elbow — following 2014’s The Take Off And Landing And Everything, they returned with Little Fictions in 2017 and Giants Of All Sizes in 2019. That means that their new album — Flying Dream 1, out tomorrow — is their fourth in seven years. And, characteristically, it’s another collection of exquisitely crafted and poetically reflective music.

Given, Flying Dream 1 might not have happened if not for the pandemic. The album was written with the quartet — Guy Garvey, Craig Potter, Mark Potter, and Pete Turner — sending ideas back and forth from their homes during lockdown. The forced moments of stillness led to an album that will be comforting to longtime Elbow fans, especially those who prefer them in their most introspective and hushed form. Which is also to say, Flying Dream 1 couldn’t have existed without the pandemic in another way. The long pause gave the band an opportunity to explore making an album they’d always wanted to make, but never had, one that is more consistently patient and restrained than any of their other work.

On the occasion of Flying Dream 1‘s release, we caught up with Guy Garvey, calling on Zoom from his studio in England. Any Elbow fan knows Garvey’s reputation as a great interview subject, a wry and thoughtful and magnanimous storyteller. That remained true as we jumped through all different eras of his career, from that time he was almost on Game Of Thrones to getting covered by Robert Plant and Peter Gabriel to performing at the Olympics, and more. Read our conversation below.

Peter Neill

Flying Dream 1 (2021)

Insofar as Elbow has a heavier side, Giants Of All Sizes had a lot more riff-driven tracks. Flying Dream 1 is way on the other side of your sound — the gentlest, most patient, in some ways more retrained side of the band. What was your headspace as you were putting it together?

GUY GARVEY: As with all of us, it was a bewildering time. We did these lockdown videos when we knew we couldn’t continue promoting Giants Of All Sizes. What happened with me personally, my wife’s mother, who was the actress Diana Rigg, was diagnosed with cancer — literally in the same March as the world stopped turning a little bit. She came with us to live. The world really did change in many, may ways. A three-year-old boy in the house; my darling Di, who died in September. Initially, we started with these lockdown tracks. Credited on those lockdown videos — the Elbow Rooms, they’re called — is all the fans that requested each song. They were all going after the gentler, more romantic side of what we do. That’s what they wanted from us. That’s what we really cathartically performed. When I look back at those videos, we all look pretty strung out.

After we’d done it for a while, I was like, “Should we see if we can get something out of this situation?” We could potentially lose two years here. Which, approaching 50, none of us fancied. [Laughs] All my nerves were on the outside, I’m literally living moment to moment, but I do have access to my equipment. I can go into my studio. We’re lucky enough to have neighbors with kids, so when my son Jack was out playing I’d grab a half hour in the bedroom or whatever, throwing these ideas down. At the same time as I was getting to know my darling mother-in-law Di. At the same time as watching my wife walk on water, as it says in the song. I wanted these things down.

The lads were all the their home studios. We’d been working remotely from one another for five years, because of the way we write alongside recording, and a big part of our makeup as a band musically was based on sample culture — early hip-hop, and when we got together it was trip-hop in the Bristol scene. If you listen to the first track on our first album, “Any Day Now,” that’s kind of inspired by DJ Shadow. That was trying to sound sampled. The recording has always been a part of how we work. The difference was, because of everyone’s timetables — everyone had a situation as intense as mine in their own home — we couldn’t work at the same time. Normally, I know Pete’s about to go get the kids but if I need a guitar part I can still phone Mark Potter.

During the whole thing, we had to wait until the end of the day, when everybody in my house was asleep. I’d gotten through another day: I’d get myself the biggest whiskey you’ve ever seen and smoke myself stupid at the back door and listen to what the lads had been doing. Because we weren’t chatting, this was telling me how they were doing. The music was telling me how they were. The lyrics I was writing for their music were more specifically tuned to send a message to them. I could hear when I got “Calm And Happy,” for instance, from Pete, that he was worried. Knowing Pete for 30 years, I knew his main concern would be his kids. So I wrote something about my childhood and by focusing on the era and mentioning actors and actresses peculiar to the northwest of England and scenarios peculiar to England at that time, I was writing a love letter to Peter. That happened with loads of the songs. This communication was a lifeline, it was some kind of progress — the whole stopped clock element of it was freaky. It was letting us know how each of us were.

It had occurred to me, this has been a fairly prolific streak — four Elbow albums in seven years, and you had your solo album as well in 2015. But it seems like this one might not have happened if not for the pandemic, and having the opportunity for this sort of quiet, insular, nighttime writing process.

GARVEY: That’s when all the writing was being done. But also it’s like that really well-observed moment in the Spinal Tap film, when they’re trying to work out what to do next. Derek Smalls says, “What about that musical about the life of Jack The Ripper?” And he says, “Oh, Saucy Jack?” [Laughs] It’s the best improvisation I’ve ever seen. The point is, you have so many ideas over 30 years of the kind of record you’d like to make. The idea of making a quiet record for a quiet night, something you put on and just enjoy being in and being around — you can even talk over it if you like.

We love Chet Baker Sings, we love John Martyn’s Solid Air or Astral Weeks or Joni Mitchell’s Blue. In terms of a record that’s one mood, and exploring more subtly within it. Every Elbow record, on account of there being five and now four of us, has always been really dynamic, dramatic, cinematic, highs and lows. Our favorites live are the most dramatic ones, with the most energy. But our favorite songs we’ve ever written are the subtler side. It wasn’t a case of “Hey we could do this,” it was “What about that thing we’ve always talked about?” Surely now this is the time to do it. 

Right, I had been thinking there isn’t another Elbow album that is consistently this kind of mood throughout. Tell me about returning to the figure of the Seldom Seen Kid, that’s a callback to 13 years ago now.

GARVEY: Is it that long? Oh my. That piece of music was Craig’s. Craig programmed that beat — and pretty bloody well, that stuff’s good these days. So, on this new file from Craig, I could hear this gentle, jaunty, but happy drumbeat, and then these woodwinds. The first note says, “What the fuck is going on?” and the second Discord says, “Really, what the fuck is going on?” Then the next two are reassuring and a little sad. As it continues to go bravely down, with as much dissonance as not, you get every emotion that everybody was feeling in that pandemic. Suddenly I’m reminded that Craig is surrounded by his family, which is his favorite thing in the world. Of all the people I know, Craig is the most family-oriented. You only have to mention his kids and he gets misty-eyed. I could hear this man, and I could hear every positive and negative element of what’s happening to him.

So I get to sit in this beautiful piece of music for hours on end staring out the window of my garden, wondering what to put to it and just loving it. Then it unfolds exactly as the lyric goes. I was looking at flowers, there was rain outside the windows, I was very thankful for the rain. I’m looking at old pictures, and my eyes fall on Bryan Glancy, my friend who died in 2006. He was the Seldom Seen Kid. I realized what a fucking nuclear bomb of charm and fun would go off if he’d ever met the woman I married. Because, A., he loved a posh girl, and B., she’s incredibly naughty and so was he. She loved a kind of not-typically-handsome, tousled, quiet artistic type with a glint in his eye. Before she met me, that was exactly her kind. My missus talks a thousand miles an hour and she makes up phrases to fill gaps in her sentences and none of it makes sense but she communicates perfectly. She’s one of the most confident, shining, delightful people I know. And had they met, she may well not be my wife. [Laughs]

While I was thinking about how, fuckin’ hell that’d be a riot had they ever met, I imagined him dancing. I thought, that’s where that pitter-pattery drumbeat is taking me. That’s where this happy but melancholy chord progression is taking me. What my emotionally fluent, artistic friend Craig Potter had done with that piece of music was take me somewhere right in the middle. The most beautiful part was when I’d reached the image of them dancing together, which had to be the conclusion of the lyric, because it’s the most romantic thing — your best friend dancing with the woman you love, it’s only about trust and love. The rest of the guys in Elbow knew and loved Bryan Glancy, and they know and love [my wife] Rachael Stirling, and they know and love me, and they reacted musically to what they knew about that scenario. So the whole thing is a really symbiotic thing that would’ve never happened if one of the pieces was missing.

Asleep In The Back’s 20th Anniversary (2021) And “Scattered Black And Whites” (2001)

So that song calls back to the album The Seldom Seen Kid, but your debut, Asleep In The Back, also turned 20 this year. Was there anything on your mind about that milestone?

GARVEY: It was very significant. I’ll be completely honest with you. Whenever I look at anything prior to Little Fictions, there’s a note of sadness because I’m not in touch with [former Elbow member] Richard Jupp anymore. He’s present, and of course, a fifth of all those things. I was also able to celebrate that record in my mind, listen back to what we were doing then, what I was feeling then, how we were then.

I was so worried. We finally had this opportunity. It isn’t like it is now, where you finish a recording you like and you commit it to the internet and it’s out. For better and for worse, you spent a long time working on a record before you put it out. Because we made the album twice before it was released due to label stuff, it meant that I’d had about four years to consider all the things that could go right or wrong with that record. I remember all those anxieties, all those joys. It ended with being nominated for the Mercury which was the ultimate “fuck you” to everybody that had tried to get in its way.

We managed to keep the vitriol we felt and the anger we felt off the record. We managed to do what we intended in the first place, which was to write as artistically as we could at the time about where we were from and who we were and what we wanted. I listen back to it now, and its ambition — from the opening phases, that’s what it’s saying, “Let’s get out of here, let’s do this.” I love listening to it. I’ve not quite found my singing voice on that record. My vowels haven’t quite flattened to pure Northern as they have these days. It’s just emulating the greats until you do settle into your peculiarities.

With “Scattered Black And Whites,” the first album almost ends with a blueprint of what Elbow would become.

GARVEY: On that record, for all of us, for every reason, it’s still the one. Which is saying something, you know? You got “Powder Blue” and “Newborn” and “Any Day Now” on that record as well. But “Scattered Black And Whites”… it was such an enormous leap for us. It was brave in its simplicity. The drums and the guitar are an unchanging loop, going back to what I was saying about sample culture. The bass is as spare as it could possibly be. And the piano’s deliberately broken. On top of that, I was writing about my childhood for the first time.

I realized I actually had a really lovely childhood when I was writing that song. I fell out with my parents in my late teens. I was kicked out when I was 17. I was still resentful about that when I was in my early twenties. Basically, now — anybody over 30 still talking about what their parents did or didn’t do needs to get to fuck. It’s such a waste of time. But at that point, I was still thinking “They made me this! They took away that!” But in writing that song, when we were far away in France making that record, I realized how much I missed, and what I missed, and that I’d actually had a really lovely time. The teen angst was a divorced thing, had nothing to do with my childhood. As you can tell from the lyrics on this latest record, I’m still remembering my childhood very, very fondly.

You still never admitted which sister it’s about, right?

GARVEY: They all know that it’s about them. [Laughs] I always say it the same way, “Don’t tell the others it’s you.” It’s the way they all ask, they all have their different way that betrays parts of who they are. One of them is like, “I always assumed that was me.” Another’s like, “That was Louise, wasn’t it?” [Laughs]

Peter Gabriel Covering “Mirrorball” And Elbow Covering “Mercy Street” (2010)

It’s one thing to meet your heroes, but seems a bit different to trade songs with each other.

GARVEY: I couldn’t believe it. I know Peter Gabriel and I know his crew at the studio and the labels — I know them well enough to know that it could’ve been oversight that I didn’t know he was doing that song. [Laughs] It’s a very relaxed atmosphere there. It could’ve been, “Did anyone tell them? Oh, no!” But I’d like to think he knew it was going to blow our balls off and decided to keep it until he was done.

I can’t describe it. I’ve met Peter a few good times before I heard it but… hearing our stuff treated so respectfully and throned with a brand new very detailed orchestral arrangement. And the vocal arrangement as well, so different. The places he went sonically with the lyric, it was astonishing. In many ways I still can’t believe it. It’s one of the most amazing things that’s ever happened to me.

I remember how it sounded. I had a pair of Yamaha speakers and they’re reference monitors really. They’re not hi-fi, but they’re heavy reference monitors. When you listen to an orchestra through them, you hear everything. I put it on and I heard this [sings intro orchestration] and I thought, “That’s not ‘Mirrorball,’” and then the opening line — and I just turned the volume up and slid my chair back. I was laughing my head off with tears rolling down my cheeks. If you didn’t know the original and you had a listen to what he did with it, it’s an extraordinary piece of music. The fact that it was based on something we’d done, just unbelievable.

Covering U2’s “Running To Stand Still” (2009)

Is it true that, similarly to Gabriel, U2 hand-picked you for this?

GARVEY: I think they did. I can’t quite remember the details, if I’m honest with you, but I think that was the case. We certainly cite them as an inspiration, especially in the early days. When I met Mark Potter, he had a Joshua Tree poster on his wall and an AC/DC poster on his wall. When we were driving in his dad’s Volvo, picking up the equipment and making the rehearsal happen, yeah, we were only ever listening to U2. We covered “Running To Stand Still” back then when we were learning to play together. We’ve supported U2 a couple of times as well now. They’re an example of a bunch of friends who still play together after many years. They’re a nice bunch to meet and a nice bunch to nod to.

I didn’t actually think about that — not only a musical influence but a spiritual forebears in that way for Elbow, childhood friends sticking together.

GARVEY: When people start giving you business advice and etc., we were told everybody in U2 has a different job to do within the band. I heard a story off a road crew dude, that one member didn’t show up for a tour once on account of problems he was having. They dresses up his guitar tech or drums tech depending on who I’m talking about — you see how great I’d be in court? They dressed him up and he completed the tour for him and got his share of the money. That’s the kind of justice that would be meted out in Elbow as well.

You’re not going to tell me which tour this was.

GARVEY: It might be bollocks.

I always loved the arrangement you guys did of “Running To Stand Still.” It felt true to the song but also brought it into Elbow’s world.

GARVEY: We played it as close the original as we could originally [when we first started the band]. But for the cover, we wanted it to be a little bit different, a little bit interesting.

Robert Plant Covering “The Blanket Of Night” (2016)

Unlike Peter Gabriel, it’s not as obvious that Robert Plant might’ve found his way to Elbow, and “The Blanket Of Night” is not as obvious an Elbow song to cover.

GARVEY: We just heard he was doing it. I was curating the Meltdown festival that time, he was going to come and perform it with a choir of refugees. But it was around the time they were famously in court concerning the rights to “Stairway To Heaven,” so the dates conflicted and he couldn’t do it. But he was very gentlemanly about it, and we still correspond he and I. Again, it was massively flattering. We grew up loving Led Zeppelin. They’re a rite of passage for you, for your kid. I’ll have to explain some of the more adolescent lyrics to my son one day, I’m sure. But he was an adolescent when he wrote them! [Laughs] Nothing you can do about that. I got to tell him when I bought Jack Led Zeppelin IV. I got to email Robert Plant and tell him it’s still a rite of passage.

That song was from the point of view of a refugee couple crossing the English Channel at night, which is something that is happening today. It’s still used as a divisive political tool. There’s still a couple of bodies involved on a weekly basis. It’s perhaps the most damning evidence of “out of sight, out of mind” where human beings are concerned. Everybody knows it happens, everybody knows it’s happening. The language gets more and more divisive and negative. Then somebody publishes a photograph of a baby washed up and everybody remembers what’s happening. The spin involving refugees, in your country as well as ours in recent years, is just appallingly untruthful. We can afford to rehouse and look after anyone who wanted it in the whole fucking world. But any time… it’s just one of those things, a forever thing. It’s our home secretaries making their name in this country by being tough on immigrants.

Massive Attack’s “Flat Of The Blade” (2010)

GARVEY: We wrote a song called “Snowball,” which was a B-side eventually. The whole song was picturing Tony Blair, the former primer minister of Britain and the co-author of the second illegal war in Iraq which cost so many millions of lives. It was just after that had gone on, and I’d been a part of the biggest protest the UK had ever seen, which was in opposition to that war. Which he ignored so he could play big boys with Bush Jr. The song is written, picturing him in a bath chair and wishing him, in his final moments, visited by the souls of the millions of people he killed. I still wish it upon him. The chorus was, “The biggest of mistakes can be forgiven/ But a snowball of little white lies will crush your house.” I know it was his arrogance and his vanity that stopped him doing the right thing.

Rob Del Naja, 3D from Massive Attack, heard that song and through my manager I get, “Rob from Massive Attack wants to talk to you.” I’ve never met him. Obviously we’re huge fans. He called me and he said, “I really like that song, and do you want to sing on a Massive Attack record.” I was like, “…Yeah.” He was like, “Well, we don’t work very traditionally, so do you want to come to Bristol or should we come and see you,” and I said, “I’d love to see your studio, I’d love to have a nose in.” He says, “Well, we just usually get a singer in a booth and we fire them our ideas and get them to improvise.” I started laughing, and at this point he started laughing. And he went, “It’s worked so far.” We both started really laughing. I was like, “Well, I’ve got journals full of ideas I’ve never had a chance to use,” and he said, “Yeah, bring ‘em down, we have loads of loads of ideas.” More laughing.

Now this is a nice side story. I get on the train with all me journals from the past four years. I didn’t want to go any further back from that, because the quality dipped. [Laughs] I had a highlight marker, and marked anything that was any use. During this Tom Barman from dEUS calls me up. We loved dEUS and we’d done a tour with them. He phones me up and he’s shouting. He’s a frenetic, brilliant character, Tom. He’s like, “HEY IT’S TOM BARMAN.” He’s never phoned me before. Like, “Oh! Hi!” He goes, “I got this fuckin’ tune man! It’s a great tune but the vocal’s just not cutting it! Do you wanna do a BV? I need it by tomorrow!” I was like, “Uh, well, I’m just on my way to Massive Attack’s studio, so I’ll see if they’ll let me have half an hour and I’ll get it right back to you.” “THANKS MAN!” I get to the studio and it’s a really good look for me. “I’m really sorry to be presumptuous, but Tom Barman needs me to throw a quick BV, can I used your studio for half an hour?” They’re like, “Yeah.” I go in, I put four or five variations of this thing on Tom’s thing and send it back. I immediately get a text back saying, “This is great, I’m using all of them.” [Laughs]

Quite frankly, two of my heroes in one afternoon — my ego was pulsating. They put me in the booth and they started throwing ideas at me, and I think maybe if the Tom Barman thing hadn’t happened I would’ve sheepishly picked through the lyrics. But I started bellowing everything that came to me. Long story short, I was in that booth for about 11 hours with a couple of breaks. Every time they said, “That’s fucking great,” I’d say, “Have you got any more?” and they’d say, “Have you got any more?” and I’d be like, “Yeah.” I’d written “Flat Of The Blade” — it was an instruction given at the Peter’s Field Massacre, which was a famous massacre in Manchester where the local guard suppressed the peaceful anti-poverty march in the 1600s. The “flat of the blade” was a little bit like a rubber bullet: “Keep them down by any means necessary but we can’t actually give that order.” And of course, loads of people were killed. That’s where I got the image.

There’s other tunes on that album as well that use my words. For about three or four years afterwards, Robert would phone me and say, “Remember the one we called ‘Red Light’?” I’d be like, “Nope.” He’d say, “You sing something like this, Martina Topley-Bird’s gonna sing that one,” and I was like, “Oh, cool!” And then down the line I’d get paid for it. I think it was the most lucrative day’s work I’ve done.

Playing Steve On Car Share (2017-2018)

GARVEY: When I turned 40, I wanted to try a lot of things. I decided I wanted to do a solo album, which I did. Write a book, which I started. A couple of other things, one of which was to do a bit of acting. I did some in high school. I think I was studying it at the secondary level when I met the boys. There was always something there in the back of my head. My younger brother is an actor, and of course my missus is an actor as well. So I just kind of put it out there. I requested — actually, at the time, Game Of Thrones had just had Gary Lightbody on, and Ed Sheeran, and Jonsi.

Elbow would’ve made sense on Game Of Thrones.

GARVEY: Well, I think so! Yeah. I sort of said, “Why don’t they invite me onto Game Of Thrones?” And they did. They offered me a part in fact. It turned out we were touring in Australia when they were filming and I didn’t end up doing it.

Who were you supposed to be?

GARVEY: Well, that would be a disservice to the man who did it. [Laughs] Because he did a great job. Let’s say it was a brief, but noisy role, and it would’ve been a lot of fun.

[Car Share writer/star] Peter Kay is a friend of mine. I don’t know if he’d seen that I’d asked to do a bit of acting or what. But he phoned me when I was on the train one day and he said, “I’ve written this part and I think it’s you. Whenever I’m writing, I think about you. Do you want to be in the second season of Car Share?” And everybody had loved the first season so much. Without a moment’s hesitation I said yeah. Then I told my wife. My wife was in a comedy called Detectorists, another BBC sort of short episode, charming comedy. Very much a rival in all the awards. Only after I accepted did I think, “Should I have asked her if she minds me doing this?”

I said, “Rach, I’ve been offered a part in the second season of Car Share.” She said, “OK, big part?” I said, “No, it’s a little part, but it’s in every episode.” She said, “OK.” I said, “I just thought, you know, I’d dip my toe.” And she said, “Dip a fucking toe?” [Laughs] It being her passion and career and etc., she wasn’t that happy with that phrase. But I went ahead and did it. It showed me how much more waiting around there is in that game, even than in music. Lots and lots of waiting around. For that reason, I don’t think I’d choose it professionally.

Is it still something you’d want to play around with in the future?

GARVEY: It’s more like with Peter. If somebody saw me for a part, but I wouldn’t want to get into the game of competing for roles. And also, when I watched it back, I was alright. [Laughs] You know what I mean? I won’t be taking my place on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. And actually, when I see people stepping out of their box like that, I normally think, “Oh, right, calm down.” Like, I’ve got a book of Lou Reed’s photography. [Winces]

That Time A Naked Fan Stage Crashed An Elbow Performance (2017)

Some years ago, there was an incident where a naked fan ran onstage and rather than everybody reacting negatively, you ended up slow-dancing with him. Which I thought, in a way, kind of spoke to a gregariousness you usually have as a frontman.

GARVEY: [Laughs] Well, my first thought was, “How the hell has he got up here?” My second thought was, “He’s in danger.” I used to work on the door at a nightclub, not as a security guard but I used to be in charge of the security guards. One thing all those boys have in common is they spend their whole time afraid. They don’t know what’s coming at them or what they got to deal with. Security at a festival is no different. Not necessarily just afraid of big muscular people coming at them or psychopaths coming at them, but of what might happen on their watch sort of thing. So they tend to be full of adrenaline, and when men in particular are full of adrenaline, they tend to be heavy-handed.

So, getting hold of him, to be honest with you, was to stop him getting squished or battered. Also, you don’t… I’m not sure Elbow’s music naturally encourages that level of exhibitionism. I assume there was either something temporarily or long-term wrong with it. So I got a hold of him and slow-danced with him, and then when I heard the crowd’s reaction, I grabbed his bum for their amusement. Which is never something I’ve done on a dance floor for real. [Laughs] Then as I very gently gave him to security I warned them all down the microphone to be very careful with him, and they were.

Elbow Appearing In 9 Songs (2004) And “Brave New Shave” (2003)

Speaking of nudity: There was this movie in the early ‘00s called 9 Songs, which featured a bunch of scenes where the actors are actually having sex, interspersed with concert performances. One of those was Elbow performing “Fallen Angel.”

GARVEY: Oh, god, yeah, yeah. That’s right. Yeah, man, that whole episode left a bad taste in my mouth.

Why’s that?

GARVEY: Because I’ve seen Michael Winterbottom films and really loved them. He’s made some really, really great work. That wasn’t some of it. I’m not sure it was for everybody in the film… I don’t know enough about it, but it felt pretty sensationalist shite to me. I wonder how the participants now feel about it.

Was it something that was pitched differently to you and the other bands before you had gotten involved?

GARVEY: There was no lies. It was like, “Michael Winterbottom’s filming a romance. One of the scenes will be at one of your shows, and all you have to do is say yes.” That’s all that happened. We knew they were in [a show], we knew which night they were in, and that was it. Yeah, it’s a shame. It could’ve been great art and we’d be having a different conversation. As it turned out, I think it was soft porn with good music.

This goes back to the era of Cast Of Thousands, when you were still early on in releasing albums even though you’d been a band for quite a while. Were there other decisions from those early days you now regard as missteps?

GARVEY: I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. But yeah, sure, everybody makes mistakes. There’s at least one B-side out there which, we all hide under the bed when it’s played. I can’t tell you which one because it’ll be somebody’s favorite. [Laughs]

I wasn’t going to bring this up but: There is a B-side from that era, “Brave New Shave,” that I always loved and then was perplexed it wasn’t included on the Dead In The Boot compilation. Is that the one you’re talking about?

GARVEY: No, I don’t mind that one. And in fact, the first time we heard TV On The Radio we were like, “That sounds like ‘Brave New Shave.’” It kind of does. It was about Tony Blair, I think. No, that’s not the one I regret. Not one of the better ones, but not one I regret.

This is like your sister in “Scattered Black And Whites,” I’m never going to get the answer out of you.

GARVEY: No, you’re not. [Laughs]

”Gentle Storm” Video Featuring Benedict Cumberbatch (2017)

This is a homage to an older video, “Cry” by Godley & Creme, and it features Benedict Cumberbatch as one of the faces. He’s a friend of yours. Did you just call him up and ask if he wanted to be in an Elbow video?

GARVEY: Yeah. [Laughs] Yeah it was. It was lovely to make that video. Kevin Godley — of Godley & Creme, who did the original video — he was in it as well. I got to meet him. He was in 10cc, who I was a huge fan of. A couple of the people in the video were in the original. My wife’s in the video. She was heavily pregnant with our son when she was in it, and she couldn’t stop crying on account of the lyric being about her. It’s a sweet thing to look back on.

Has Cumberbatch ever invited you to a Marvel set or anything like that?

GARVEY: He’s always inviting me over. The problem we have is we’re both so busy. We keep in touch though. I get lovely notes from him now and again — he’s been reminded of something or listening to something. He’s got loads of kids now as well. When he’s not working, he’s got his head into his family life. But we’re constantly trying to get together. We’ll manage it this Christmas, I’m sure. He and my wife are very, very old friends. They’ve known each other since they were teenagers. We met at his wedding. We both went to his wedding solo. [Pause] Y’know what I mean? We were both dating people but we both went to his wedding solo. And, uh, yeah, there you go.

If you’re ever going to do more acting, I think you’d be a good fit for a sorcerer in Doctor Strange. Almost like Game Of Thrones.

GARVEY: You’re trying to guess at what my role was in Game Of Thrones.

No, I was really just trying to picture you as a sorcerer in Doctor Strange now!

GARVEY: [Laughs] I’ll say this. This won’t give it away too much. I was a master of ceremonies.

”One Day Like This” (2008) And Performing It At The Olympics Closing Ceremony (2012)

It seemed to be I heard this song in the atmosphere, even in America. You’d see sports montages, inspirational things, whatever. Then the apex of what it became is the band actually performing at the Olympics closing ceremony in London.

GARVEY: The history of that song is pretty amazing. When we were making the album The Seldom Seen Kid, we had everything but that song. We were signing to Fiction, through Polydor. Our manager was trying to get us off one label and on to this label for two and a half years, and it was nail-biting for us. We were watching the coffers slowly empty while we were making this album — which we knew was good. We knew we had something good.

We’d finally signed with Jim Chancellor, who’d been championing us. A lovely man. We wouldn’t play them anything until they signed us. We were playing this game of chicken: “Sign us on our past merits, and you can hear the new material.” They did. Literally the night of signing, I gave this music to Jim and he loved it and he passed it on to [label head] David Joseph and David phoned me up and he said, “If this is the album, we’ll do you proud and we’ll sell more records for you than you’ve ever sold before. Make sure we get your music out there. Get you some new listeners. But do you have another song that could help us at radio?” I said, “Given that the 10 you have there have taken two and a half years, I doubt in the next two weeks we could write something like that, but I’ll certainly give it a go.”

Pete and Jupp were out of town at the time, playing with our friend Stephen Fretwell. Me and Craig and Mark got together and started kicking ideas around. I’ve got very detailed files of the writing of that song. And it started in the bath. It had no melody. I just had this [sings “One Day Like This” drumbeat] going around my head. I’m listening in the bath going, “Drinking in the morning sun.” Then the melody develops, and in one of these voice memos you hear me come up with the idea of the string intervals, which are I think what defines the song. We nailed it in about three days.

I don’t know if those feelings, that subject matter, that sort of release, would’ve been there had we not finally signed a record deal. Had we not had this body of work we were all so proud of. It was like the sun had come out again in all our lives. I mean, it meant a lot to me, but the rest of the boys had kids to think about. It was literally “go back to being short order cook and auxiliary nurse” time. There was this elation, and there it is in that song. When we realized we could do that “Hey Jude”-type choral thing at the end, I remember looking at the lads. I was like, “Can we do this?” In terms of, “You know what’s going to happen with this song if we release it.” We knew it was going to be popular. Do we want this? We mulled it around for half an hour and then all of us sort of said: “Fuck it, yeah.” This feels authentic. If it connects, it’s because it’s honest.

We’ve had a couple attempts at songs like that since, and for one reason or another they’re not resonating the same way, and then we gave up trying to do that thing. But [“One Day Like This”] suddenly exploded. As you say, it was on every sports montage. I even watched a program on bell-ringers. It was great big, beery blokes jumping up and down in slow motion. The man boobs going for it. [Sings “One Day Like This” string part] Like, fuuucking hell, really? And then of course, the Olympics. Danny Boyle — who organized the opening ceremony, which was also an extravaganza — asked us to perform there as well. We were potentially going to be on either end of the Olympics, and neither party minded. They were like, “Yeah, why the fuck not!? That song!” We had to say, “We think that would be overkill.” [Laughs]

By that time, it had been out and it had been popular for four years, and that of course was another resurgence for it. It’s taken its place amongst those songs. It’s such an amazing thing, another unexpected thing, to have in your career. To have one of “those songs.” Now it’s an old friend. It’s the last song we play at every concert, as long as we’ve got strings with us. It’s the one the crowd really throw themselves into. It feels like a beautiful ceremony. It’s a tradition, at our concerts. Given that so many people throw themselves into it, particularly during this last tour we did in September in the UK. It never gets old.

    more from We've Got A File On You

    Hi. It looks like you're using an ad blocker.

    As an independent website, we rely on our measly advertising income to keep the lights on. Our ads are not too obtrusive, promise. Would you please disable adblock?