Music interview: Danny McNamara of Embrace: ‘We’ve got the best fans in the world’

Embrace. Picture: Lou Barber
Embrace. Picture: Lou Barber
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In the pantheon of bands built around family dynamics, Embrace have never commanded the column inches quite like Oasis.

Then again, the Bailiff Bridge-formed quintet’s core sibling rivalry never did blow up the group at the height of their powers or achieve tabloid infamy.

Rather, the brothers McNamara – frontman Danny and guitarist Richard – have kept their focus on the tunes rather than taking pot-shots in the press; and with seventh album Love Is a Basic Need on the shelves this week, it seems that their perseverance to the craft rather than public fallouts has paid off again, with sales flashes pointing towards another top ten hit LP on their hands.

“We don’t bulls*** each other,” Danny – the elder of the two – confides, almost coyly.

“Quite often, when someone wants to give you bad news, they’ll give you a s*** sandwich with a spoonful of sugar to help it go down.

“Me and Richard have never bothered with that; we just say exactly what we feel and what we think.”

Embrace. Picture: Lou Barber

Embrace. Picture: Lou Barber

He pauses and clicks his tongue. “Every argument I’ve ever had with him has been artistic; we’ve never bickered intensely about us as people. No resentment ever builds up.”

A three-year hiatus aside where members amicably worked on separate solo projects, Embrace have never really stopped rolling on.

Their eponymously-titled sixth album was their first release for eight years, back in 2014, but it felt like they never left; Richard took on production duties alongside his role as a musician, with recording taking place in their nominal hometown of Halifax at the younger McNamara’s Magnetic North Studios.

“Richard’s learned a lot from the people we’ve worked with over the years, like Youth,” his brother notes. “He’s like a musical magpie; he’s stolen the ideas and leant the tools of the trade.”

To be able to still play big venues, across the country, and sell them out all this time later is an honour and an incredible feeling, and we owe it to the fans.

Danny McNamara

Was that a key factor in keeping production internal within the outfit again for Love Is a Basic Need?

“It just seemed like the right fit again. When you consider the journey you want to go on throughout the process of making an album, he’s the only logical choice now.”

In contrast to previous releases, the group eschewed their typical approach of taking in “a hundred or so” unfinished tracks and “hammering away at them until we have a record”, according to the singer.

“We just wanted to rely on fully-formed songs this time; we made sure that they were already a cognitive whole in the writing process before we went to lay them down.

“There’s a real buzz about it through the band; it’s all systems go for us now.”

McNamara finds himself routinely questioned about whether he and the rest of the group have any intention to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their seminal first record The Good Will Out. He states there are no plans on the table specifically for the year ahead.

“We get asked quite a lot to do retrospective stuff centred around it, fairly often. But we’ve always got new stuff coming out and you don’t want to neglect that.”

He resolutely does not see Embrace as a heritage act. “Absolutely not.

“We do share a lot of festival bills with acts who are from the Nineties or whatever, and we’ve got a bunch of them over the summer that we’ve been asked to do.

“It’s always a privilege to play them but we don’t see ourselves as a band from back then any more. We see ourselves as a band from now, because we’re still releasing stuff that is as good as anything we’ve ever done before.”

Not that McNamara is averse to the album that broke them big; he just feels that a milestone performance should be something special for the band.

“We’re looking into the idea of a twenty-first anniversary show.

“We’re really proud of that album and it was a great time for us, so we want to do it justice.”

He ruminates on the recently restored Piece Hall as a potential venue.

“We could do a The Good Will Out gig there next summer. That has potential; it’s a lovely venue.”

Twenty years is a long time to front a band, though. Presented with those thoughts, how does he feel about his career?

He laughs.

“I look back all the time and wonder how we made it this far! It’s been one hell of a roller-coaster ride.

“To be able to still play big venues, across the country, and sell them out all this time later is an honour and an incredible feeling, and we owe it to the fans.

“People like Taylor Swift or Morrissey might say they’ve got the biggest support in the world, but they haven’t got the best. That’s us, that’s Embrace.

“It’s worked out well for us in the end; we’ve just enjoyed the ride.”

Love is a Basic Need is out now.