“We’re a live band. That’s where we cut our teeth, that’s where we’re most comfortable, that’s where we have the most fun. That’s where we made our name.”
These are the words of The Pigeon Detectives singer Matt Bowman, speaking as his band have just completed the recording of their fourth album, We Met At Sea. You might wonder why you’re reading a passage about how great the Leeds five-piece are live at the top of a biography that comes tagged to the band’s latest studio offering. The answer is simple: for this one the band – having already garnered a reputation as one of the most raucous, thrilling live acts in the UK – have siphoned this rip-roar on-stage energy into their most honest, immediate album yet. This is not a ‘live album’. But it is their most alive…
“For the third album we almost went against our instincts at times,” Bowman concedes, speaking of 2011’s Up Guards, And At ‘Em, which followed their 2007 debut Wait For Me and 2008’s Emergency – both Top Five hits. “We reigned ourselves in. On this one we just wrote what came out, really natural, we didn’t force anything, and if something wasn’t good enough we just threw it away. Where possible original live takes were used – there’s errors left in it it all adds character, It just made sense to us to write a record that will translate live and create a rock and roll atmosphere at our shows.”
The results shout for themselves. Recorded in the band’s home city Leeds at Cottage Road Studios with producer Matt Peel and their sound engineer Andy Hawkins (Kaiser Chiefs, ¡Forward, Russia!, Hawk Eyes, Pulled Apart By Horses) – brought in to ensure the live energy was captured perfectly – We Met At Sea sees The Pigeon Detectives abandon their polished indie-rock for something more plugged in, unpredictable and real.
“We probably started doubting ourselves a bit after the last album,” guitarist Oli Main admits. “But we isolated ourselves from the world and re-found the belief in ourselves. We felt a bit smug when we finished it… that’s probably not a good emotion! But we felt like we’d been written off. We know it’s good, we’re proud of it and it couldn’t be any better – we’d kind of abandoned what we were good at before: three-minute pop songs. We’d become a bit scared of it, so we embraced it more this time. We feel a few people may owe us a few apologies…”
The new album may be rawer in sound, but this shift has not been undertaken at the expense of the back-of-the-cab everyman lyrical wit that the band made their own on their previous offerings. ‘Hold Your Gaze’ is a universal break-up song that hits the throat hard, ‘Light Me Up’ is an untethered Friday night chaos song, ‘No State To Drive’ melodically wags the finger at that fuck-up friend who always go too far. “We don’t try to be too specific with lyrics,” laughs Bowman, when asked about the inspiration. “We’re not the kind of band who preach.”
It’s an unconventional approach, but it works. And on a broader scale, the fact is that, five years after their debut album, The Pigeon Detectives still work so naturally. Having been unfairly lumped into the “landfill indie” bracket following their 2007 breakthrough, while most of their peers are in the gutter now, they’re still standing strong. We Met At Sea is evidence of why. But the band know there’s more too it, too.
“First and foremost we’re friends first and band members second,” Bowman explains. “The sales of the third album may have been a disappointment compared to the first two – and that’s where cracks may appear in some bands. But we’re just a bunch of mates, we picked ourselves up and got on with it, and because we’re such a good live band, the fans are still here. People don’t want to watch bands staring at their shoes and going through the motions, they want to jump about. People want to go and see a rock and roll show – and we’re determined to put out something bigger and better this time. We’redetermined to go our own way.”
Main concurs. “We’re not a stereotypical kind of band, we are like a gang,” he says.“And we’re more like brothers than friends.”
The Pigeon Detectives aren’t just still standing, they’re about to embark on their most honest, raw, real and exciting phase yet. We suggest you get on board.