During a performance at March's South by Southwest music confab, Editors, a fast-rising Brit quartet, were "building up a nice head of steam," according to an account by Fort Worth Star-Telegram scribe Cary Darling, when singer Tom Smith "inexplicably threw down his mike and guitar and stormed off stage, with the remaining three members following." Darling had no idea what set them off, but concluded, "Guess it's hard out there for an English rocker trying to pimp his music."
Smith, who's quite amiable in conversation despite having been dubbed a "gangly gloomhound" by the New Musical Express, agrees with that assertion, even though he thinks the SXSW incident was less than met the eye. "I lost my voice halfway through the set," he reports. "I probably could have dealt with it better, but I had to leave the stage." Fortunately, he adds, the general public didn't bear witness to his departure, since "it was the wankiest of wank parties we'd ever attended -- an industry piss-up, with everyone drinking free Red Stripes. So if there was ever a show to walk out on, that was the one."
In some ways, Smith finds it strange that his combo, which co-stars drummer Ed Lay, bassist Russell Leetch and lead guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, had to take a ten-hour flight in order to perform for "people we already know from the U.K. music press, who'd seen us a thousand times before." Still, he understands that such shows are key components in the gaining-a-foothold-in-America drill. "It's more about the queue outside the door than it is about the music on the stage," he allows. "It's all about making a buzz."
Editors' debut, The Back Room, has generated just such a reaction. Yet it's also divided listeners, who tend to either praise the disc for its strikingly melodramatic sheen, or charge the musicians with borrowing their sound from acts such as Interpol and the Killers, who are themselves heavily indebted to danceably sinister styles that first emerged from England in the late '70s and early '80s. (For another take on the disc, see page 66.) For the most part, Smith brushes off criticism of the latter sort unless "people are overly cynical and question our integrity. That gets to us, because we've never done anything other than get in a room and do what we do, and we're very passionate about the music.
"Everything you hear is some kind of reaction to what's gone before, whether the bands know about it or not," he continues. "All you're doing is taking in songs and experiences and spurting them out in your own way. So of course there's going to be similarities to other bands. It's very hard for a band to be 100 percent original." Not that achieving such a standard is one of his goals: "We want to be a band that people fall in love with, and we've never copied anyone -- and we're not going to. But I don't strive for anything totally, totally original. Nine times out of ten, that's shit."
And if anyone at a music-industry piss-up disagrees with him, he's outta here.
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