How Manchester Orchestra Grew Up And Re-Invented Themselves On ‘A Black Mile To The Surface’

Cultural Critic
06.28.17 2 Comments

In 2007, Manchester Orchestra was invited to perform as the opening act on a tour with singer-songwriter Kevin Devine and Brand New, one of the most fiercely adored emo groups of the 21st century. It was a huge coup for the junior band from the Atlanta suburbs, formed in 2004 by the son of a Baptist pastor named Andy Hull when he was just 16. Manchester Orchestra had recently released its debut full-length album, 2006’s I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child, and was full of youthful bravado.

“I was 17 and the singer of Brand New [Jesse Lacey] was 28,” recalls guitarist Robert McDowell, who has been at the core of Manchester Orchestra with Hull for most of the band’s existence. At the time, 28 seemed impossibly ancient to McDowell. “I remember going, ‘Why are you still doing this?'”

“That’s the weirdest part of being in a band when you’re young,” Hull interjects. “It’s all so dramatic. It’s why we could go play 250 shows a year for four years straight and never stop. Because it’s not a big deal. You’re pumped.”

The irony of this story is not lost on the members of Manchester Orchestra, who now all hover around the age of 30. (Hull is 30, McDowell and bassist Andy Prince are 28, and drummer Tim Very is 34.) That’s old enough to make them grizzled veterans in a scene in which most musicians and fans aren’t all that far removed from the melodrama of adolescence. These days, Manchester Orchestra is the band that younger artists look at with a mix of reverence (because they’ve put out several strong albums and toured the world) and naive amazement (because they’re still around after more than a decade).

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