Archive is a British collective who, despite gaining success outside the UK in the last twenty years with their progressive sonorities, is still little known in their home country. Their latest album ‘With Us Until You’re Dead’ fuses orchestral and soulful elements and deserves more recognition, so, along with founders Danny Griffiths and Darius Keeler and vocalist and guitarist Pollard Berrier, we searched for a quiet central London pub to meet up and have a chat. As ‘a quiet London pub’ seems to be an oxymoron we ended up in a little cafe in Covent Garden and just like long time friends, with the help of a few beers, we chatted for hours about the music industry, America, the Pope, soundtracks, religion and even Van Gogh.
LISTENING TO YOUR ALBUMS IS LIKE GOING ON A TRIPPY JOURNEY, IF YOUR MUSIC SEND US ON A TRIP, WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS OF IT?
Danny: We move around a lot and I think that life at a very specific time is the ingredient. What you are inspired by most of all can be really anything, like sitting here listening to people’s stories. We can’t recreate that specific moment and when we do the album it is a different time and happening in our lives. We were observing a lot during the recording of ‘Controlling Crowds’ but this time around with ‘With Us Until You’re Dead’ it is more personal, it is about love.
Darius: When we do an album we don’t think about the songs as separate entities, it is all about the whole piece and I think that even if the process becomes spontaneous, we always try to do an art piece, a consistent piece of work.
Pollard: Our latest album has a very similar vibe to ‘You All Look The Same To Me’, it has atmosphere, a minimalist approach and has that space that the last couple of albums did not have. There is a strong cinematic element and it is emotionally stimulating. It is like saying something without saying too much and ultimately people has to listen to it so the ingredients are difficult to find within the band alone.
AFTER ALMOST TWENTY YEARS YOUR EVER-CHANGING LINEUP COUNTS ELEVEN MEMBERS. HOW DOES THE CHEMISTRY AMONG ALL THESE PEOPLE IN THE COLLECTIVE WORK?
Danny: It could be all so fucking wrong because we are so many different personalities. Everyone has their own ego and it could not work but it does.
Darius: It is a sort of miracle that it works, it is important that everyone has their own space and this is peculiar to the fans too. Holly only comes and sings 2-3 songs live but it is so important. Maria, Pollard, Dave as well and John our bass player has an extraordinary space.
Pollard: Bands are all made of the same format and set up. We only care about the music and making it together without caring about how we are made up.
FROM SUZANNE WOODER TO HOLLY MARTIN AND MARIA Q, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN THE FEMALE VOCALS?
Danny: It is not easy for someone to just come in into The Archive. You may feel used or something and just getting into singing the songs is not easy. In the end it is just about the way of singing. Pollard for example was very comfortable from the beginning as were Holly and Dave. There is a lot of democracy and it is like a pact of like-minded people, a netting thing.
Darius: I liked Pollard’s atmosphere immediately, I felt like I could communicate with him. It was exactly the same with Holly, when I met her I instantly knew I could communicate with her. It is not an easy thing to work with someone who make the kind of music we make so it is very important that we are able to communicate firstly and then personality. Communication brings out your way of writing. Pollard’s voice and the way he writes is different from the first time we met. Music changes accordingly as we work and communicate .
YOUR TOUR FOR THE LATEST ALBUM RECENTLY WRAPPED IN LONDON. WHY THE BELLS INTRO THAT OPENED THAT SHOW?
Danny: The bell intro was actually our tour manager’s idea, Alex. We went to Greenwich and we recorded it. I thought it was a very British thing. We did not think it would express the national identity, it was a way to kick into the first song ‘Wiped Out’, and then ‘Boom’ with ‘You Make Me Feel’. From a certain point of view I was not sure about it.
Darius: There is such a diverse group of people who do it from old women to young beautiful girls. A voluntary group of people. We filmed it and originally we wanted to show it on a big screen but Dan did not like the idea. The Catholic bells are quite sad, the priest bells are boring and dull. If you go to Paris and hear the bells at The Sacre Coeur they are in a minor key. You are going to hear the bells soon again as it is going to happen again on record. You’ll hear all the bells ringing together at one time. It is called firing.
Pollard: You would be surprised how scientific it is. They have a whole system of notations just like when you read music, about when to pull and when to pause, all the different types of pulls and swinging. There are specific rules, it is amazing there is a whole mathematical system. How they ring the bell, what tempo you have got to keep your feet on the ground at all time, it is amazing, I have a lot of respect to that. It is an European thing, Catholics are set in a way that they are not prone to change much and to scientific innovation and technology. We tried to make the bells sound all together at the same time, and it is nice to have the contrast of all of them, it builds the tension and get into the firing bit.
YOU CLOSE THE SHOW WITH ‘BULLETS’ WHICH IS ABOUT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
Danny: What annoys me more than anything is that we were told we shouldn’t have “personal responsibility” as a lyric because it was like telling people what to say, think and do and now I am glad we didn’t listen to him because, personal responsibility is exactly what it is, what do you think? It is taking your own responsibility and the whole point is listening to the song and question this thing. I am sat here drinking wine and it is my personal responsibility.
Darius: The whole ‘Controlling Crowds’ project was during a very difficult time for anyone in this strange and moral world lead by obviously moral leaders.The lyrics made sense in that time world, morally world, leaders, the lyrics made sense in that time where there was something strange about our leaders? You got me thinking now… Rome invented the Pope and that is the mad thing. I was seeing a very interesting program about Emperor Constantine, he murdered his wife and son, he was a murderer, it was a period of utter madness and then he started Christianity and used it to beat the enemy. Now the Pope has a Twitter account… brilliant. I can’t stand religion and let me tell you why, I can’t fucking stand the fact that Christians, Muslims and Jews make fun of the Greek Gods. How dare they say that it is weird that there was a Greek God of wine or of orgies? Why is there any difference or is it any more weird than they having a God with a fucking load of prophets? How can you judge all the prophecies and fables? It is madness and moreover, it makes everyone feel guilty in the end. There is some fucking twisted idea of this God thing.
Pollard: It is about personal freedom in an era that is so fucked and you want to be able to do what you want to do, that’s it. Being able to live your life the way you want to and trust yourself without being a sort of masquerade. For example the media loves to portray America as a country of freedom saying there are less murders because there are more guns… I love it there but it was Rome first, then England and now America that is ruining the world, you can take your pick where is it all started. Every single country is ruining the world.
Danny: If you wake up in America tomorrow you will be dead.
Pollard: In Mesopotamia they had terms for the words sin and evil that we use today. In aramaic the original word for sin is an archery term that means you missed your mark, try again. Whenever you said the word sin in aramaic, what Moses and Jesus spoke, they had an organised group of old people who were talking about problems that you could had and walked you through them with wisdom. Evil, is when you missed the target completely and you have to realign your life. Those are fact on the origins of those words and religion has taken it to make you feel guilty rather than you just messed up, try again, don’t think about it, you are not gonna go to hell. Something so fundamental has been turned into this.
1999’s ‘TAKE MY HEAD’ IS YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE ALBUM. DOES HAVING YOUR OWN RECORD LABEL MAKE THINGS EASIER FOR YOU NOW?
Danny: We never liked that album, it was a bad time for us.
Darius: We are working with a label that deals with independents. It is brilliant and it has an independent way of thinking. This makes a profound difference for us, I will never ever sign to a major label company ever again in my life. The freedom and the passion of the people involved who actually love music and stick with you is amazing. Companies like Warner Bros. do the first video, single, it goes to radio and then the album. Two weeks later they go like “Thank you guys, we have got the Red Hot Chili Peppers to do now” and every single band has the same treatment. We already had two videos and singles and we just recorded the third video, ‘Stick Me in My Heart’. Promotion is going on every week from different countries and they are all working really hard. To be honest with you Archive is our world and we enjoy it more than ever. We have got the new album coming out in June and we are touring next year.
Pollard: They look after us and work for us without us having anything to do for the first time. They license individually to every territory to companies and they do their best to make it successful. It is more than you can ask for especially in these days and age where there are so many 360° deals like Live Nation does and fortunately because people love our music, even if we will make it in America, we will never go for a 360° deals this is the beauty of the foundation of Archive, something so strong that we don’t have to listen to those people and hopefully we will never have to.
YOU HAVE HUGE SUCCESS IN EUROPE. DOES IT BOTHER YOU THAT YOU’RE NOT AS POPULAR IN THE UK?
Danny: We never had anything solid in the UK before. We did not know what we were doing.
Darius: No because we are excited to conquer it now with the new label. We messed up so bad in the past, we had two big deals, half a million in one record company and two hundred and fifty thousand in another so I understand they are scared. In the future we are gonna be touring the UK and playing in Ireland for the first time before a bigger tour in autumn. Hopefully we will perform at festivals as well, I hope we get Glastonbury, just a little tent. I am also very excited about Glasgow in April. When we played in Milan the first time, there were fucking 40 people, this year was sold out and next time there will be 250.000. It helps when you are playing because you express your whole as a band, it gets people, there is only so much that you can do with a CD.
Danny: The fans who are gonna turn up will love it.
See part two of the interview on Hunger TV soon.