Do you know how incredibly difficult it is to write a best-of list for a year, when you've just heard the best album of the next year? Such was the case when my ears were allowed to hear the second album (and proper debut full-length) of The Earlies, the brilliant The Enemy Chorus. I've loved this band for a long time, but even this record is a wonderful step in a different direction. Whereas the first few releases of this Texas-meets-England conceptual project were soft, delicately austere pop songs, the new album throws in a few new elements, such as beats and a bigger band, and mixes them all together in one long, continuous flow. But, then again, greatness was expected. John-Mark Lapham is a gentle, soft-spoken man, as befits the music he makes.I really love The Enemy Chorus, and even though it is your second album, it's your proper debut release. With the way you worked on your singles, how was the experience of working on the album?
There were a lot of similarities. We sort of used the same work ethic as we did when we put together the first record. I think what made The Enemy Chorus
a different experience was that now we knew what we could do this time. We had worked with all of the people who are a part of our live band and we knew what we were now capable of. Christian, our keyboardist, and Brandon, our singer, were a lot more involved this time, too. It definitely was a more complex dynamic in terms of energy and what we hope will come across in the live show.Were you centrally located this time?
Nope! (Laughs) It was pretty much done the same way as before. Brandon is married and lives in Dallas. I was living in England for some of the time, and then was back in America for some of the time, so it was really a lot like the setup we've always had, geographically. We'd mail things back and forth--we're used to it by now.That takes me by surprise, to be honest, considering the electric energy and live feel The Enemy Chorus exudes. With this method of exchanging back and forth, there isn't always room to capture the feeling of working in a room together.
We've never worked in a room together. I think between both albums, we got one track done together, and even then, it wasn't all of us. We just know how to do it now, and we make the most of the resources we have available. I don't think we could ever make an album any other way; I don't think we'd survive as a band if we all had to meet in one room and start hashing out ideas. I think our world would implode, actually. (Laughs)A lot of it has to be that there's so many of you.
There's only four in the core of the band, so that makes the decision-making process a lot easier. We all tend to work on our own a lot of the time, so when we get together we each have ideas, and then others take them and do things with them. Everyone has their strengths, and they do what they do best and pass them on, and that works really well for us.When you started making songs together, was the idea behind The Earlies strictly a studio project, with no thoughts given to ever performing live?
I think from the beginning, even from the very first single, Giles and I had a really strong vision as to what it would sound like live, and I think we both tried to mimic a live band on the first few records by getting together and discussing what we thought a live band would sound like, but, realistically, we didn't have the ability to play live, and we didn't even actually know who was playing with us, or how it would come off. Now, we are aware of what we can do, and we know who is going to be out there doing it, but we're definitely up a few layers from where we were at the beginning.When you started formulating the ideas for The Enemy Chorus, did you have it in mind that the album would flow together as one cohesive movement. In a way, it reminds me of the Earlies Secret Broadcasts you have composed.
Yeah, as far as my own input goes, that's how I approached it, because I'm the one who does the secret broadcasts. It didn't even come across as much as I wanted it to. I would have probably had things overlapping even more, but I'm still happy with the results. When you start putting songs together, you start thinking about what will come before and after, and you start thinking of ways to segue things together and make it rich like that.What prompted the change from being a studio-minded project to becoming a live, touring band?
I think it was just a natural progression. I don't think we had any choice, really. The live shows started coming together, and we'd get feedback, and it grew. It's an integral part now, as much as anything else we do. I don't think we would have survived or flourished had we remained a studio band. We needed to add that live element into our music, and I think it is a natural progression. I don't think there was a moment where we sat down and said, "I think we have to do this now." I think we instinctively knew we had to do it. Because of playing live, Brandon gained a lot more confidence and a lot more comfortable, and so he was able to put a lot more across with what he does. The first batch of songs we wrote, we did things in our bedroom, we did things on our own, and we just kind of left them as they originally were. We did that on this album, but then we went back and we listened to the songs, and we went back into the studio and rerecorded some of the tracks and added overdubs. That added a new element, a new layer to the songs, and a whole new dynamic as well. There's ore playing on it, whereas the material on the first album there was some playing, but then we looped it or we processed it and we didn't rerecord it.How much of a role did the auxiliary members of the band contribute to The Enemy Chorus?
Every song is different. We tried to build on strengths and weaknesses, because we know what we can do now, so we generally give them a vague idea of what it is we can do now, so we generally give them a vague idea of what it is we want and then we play them the material. If we have something specific in mind for them to do, we'll get them to do that, or sometimes they will start improvising a bit, and we'll go in and structure that and chop it up and work it into the song. Each song is different, but they definitely added an invaluable part to our music.Has taking the band on the road proven to be a difficult task?
Hmm, I don't think so. I'm not really the live guy. I'm the studio producer guy. Christian, he's the live-minded fellow who brought in a lot of the live members and got everyone on track, and he sort of formed our live shows into what they have become. It's really natural for him. He's been playing all his life. It is definitely hard work, though, to get everything together and get everyone organized and actually get things moving and on the road, and then to fly Brandon over or get people where they need to be. There's a lot of work in that, but it surprisingly flows rather well.So the main focus of 2007 is taking the show on the road?
I think our tour starts in March. We're playing Paris in January, but then the tour is in March. Right now, we've only scheduled European dates, but we would like to do a US tour, probably closer to the summer, but we haven't scheduled anything yet.How has the reception been for The Earlies in the United States? I know that in Europe, they're much more open to variety, but what about America?
We haven't really...I guess we've done all right here, but we've not really made any big headway in America. I think part of it was the fact that our album had been out well over a year before it was released here in the US. We didn't have a label deal, so all people had was import copies, and then when the album came out on Secretly Canadian, a lot of people who would have bought it already had it, and it was seen as old. We'd had a bunch of positive reviews for it the year before, so that kind of added to that opinion. We'll see how it goes for The Enemy Chorus
. Everything's going to coincide this time around, so we'll see. You never can tell with some of these things. What might work well for one time might not work for another. But I'm not really worried about that.The Enemy Chorus is released today on Secretly Canadian