In The Middle with Embrace

Remember Embrace? That band from the late nineties and early noughties, possessing choruses with more power than George Bush, the muppet who marred the same era. Chris Martin has regularly noted the band as one of Coldplay’s biggest influences, and the song structure Embrace uniquely embrace (if you’ll pardon the pun) has been utilised by many bands since, yet often gone unaccredited. “A lot of people thought we’d split up” Mike Heaton informs me, after 8 years in the lurking in the shadows before releasing their sixth studio album Embrace, which peaked at number 5 last April. “We’ve been in the studio for four and a half years, working methodically and taking our time, making the album we knew we wanted to make.” The result is an album with a darker and more electronic approach, yet still maintaining the vast melancholic sound that placed Embrace firmly in the hearts of so many. “I don’t think we’ve got any rules… at times we thought we’d pushed it too far, but it still has what Embrace is about.”

It’s a little recognised feat that Embrace have maintained the same lineup since 1997, an achievement not celebrated by many bands. “Our secret is having time away from the band as well as the intense time together. We never did the intense full on 18 months around the world, and that worked in our favour, probably saving us.” Embrace have spent their time together so far away from the limelight that most under-appreciate their expansive influence over pop-rock over the last twenty years, whether that be writing World Cup anthems, releasing three number one albums or providing the creative spine for others who value slow burning emotional ballads; Snow Patrol and Travis to name a few.

“We’ve been in the studio for four and a half years, working methodically and taking our time”

Most may remember Embrace for writing England’s official soundtrack for the 2006 World Cup, aptly named ‘World At Your Feet’, incidentally one of their last offerings before 8 years away. I asked Mike if Embrace would ever do the same, especially following the lack lustre performances England have displayed recently: “No. ‘World At Your Feet’ raised our profile massively but dropped our sales. It had both a really positive and really negative effect on the band. It was definitely an interesting experience but not something we’d ever do again.” It’s a shame therefore that James Corden didn’t slip away after producing ‘Shout’ back in 2010. When I remind Mike that ‘World At Your Feet’ was significantly better than Ant & Dec’s abrasive effort with ‘We’re On The Ball’ four years earlier he can’t help but laugh, saying “he bloody well hopes so.”

Embrace have always claimed to be a band for the people. With that in mind I asked Mike for some tourist information to test just how much they can live up to that claim, as, after all, Embrace are West Yorkshire born and bred. Naturally, Mike highlights the importance of visiting the plethora of great music venues in Leeds, with particular emphasis on the Belgrave and Brudenell. “It’s really hard to make a venue pay for itself, and we want as many to stick around as possible. Bands earn very little from sales nowadays, it’s all about playing live and merchandise.” Mike also co-owns The Hop, a real ale and music venue under the arches, which naturally he encourages all Leeds Students to go to. If it’s as anything as good as his music I think I’ll take him up on that.

Dom Edge


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