Synth-pop duo Hurts found their (sizable) audience thanks to the far-reaching virtues of the internet – in addition to their pop song crafting chops. There is more than just a sniff of the early 1980s about these two: from the impeccable Bros inspired wardrobe to the ultra-mournful melodrama of their lyrics and the super-clean polish to their pop tunes, Hurts read the rule book established by the likes of Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Tears For Fears and Joy Division and played accordingly. Pedestrian caught up with Hurts vocalist Theo Hutchcraft who told us about the importance of having a good tailor, the difficult art of the ’emotional’ pop song, tips for maintaining dignity when visiting the unemployment office, memories of traveling to Darwin in a caravan as a kid and the band’s plans for an Australian visit later this year…
Hi Theo. You have an album which is coming out at the end of August right? Yeah, or more the beginning of September.
How are you feeling about putting out the new album? Its exciting really because I think when you gain a bit of height there’s a lot of expectation and soon we’re going to be either good or bad which is kind of exciting haha! It’s good to finally be judged I think because we’ve put our life into the album I think it’s about time that we gave it away now. But yeah it’s good and it’s really exciting.
Ok I’m going to ask you a really obvious question but how did you guys get together? Well we met about four years ago and we met outside a terrible nightclub in Manchester. And I went outside and my friends were in the middle of a huge fight with a load of other people and it just so happened to be Adam’s friends and Adam wasn’t fighting and he was nice so we decided to talk and eventually after a lot of arguments we said that we both wanted to make music. We then started making music over the internet – even though we lived in the same city – and we make music over the internet for a few months because we were sort of professional about it straight away. And then we started some bands and we learned a lot – and we learned what not to do which is important I think; and then about 18 months ago Hurts was born and it was kind of a reaction to everything we’ve been doing in the past. And then after 18 months lots of massive things have happened and its all been developing as we’ve gone along really.
So you’re from Manchester and it’s known to have a rich history of breeding musicians, how much has the environment influenced you? Actually its interesting because the more I think about Manchester, the place itself has been very inspiring and its a very forward-thinking and modern place which has helped us with music but its funny with the musical heritage because one thing that you notice when you’re there is that all the bands that have come from there are very different. The only common ground is that they’ve all made this distinctly Manchester music to help take them away from Manchester. It’s a very ‘second-best’ place because of London, people don’t really pay attention to it so it inspires you to make ambitious music to kind of help you escape and that’s what its done for us. But I mean it really is great to know that place because a lot of our favourite bands are from there.
Are there any specific bands from Manchester that you’ve looked up to or that have influenced you? Well I like The Smiths mainly. The Smiths would be my favourite band.
You guys have a very distinctive dress style. Does music inspire your fashion or is it the other way around would you say? Well interestingly enough when we started the way we presented ourselves and the way we made the videos and things was a kind of ‘substance over style’ really. We wanted the music to be the life and the colour and really shine so we presented ourselves in a very simple and minimal kind of way which we thought was important for the music but as its gone on we like music in a very cinematic kind of way and it helps to create a world around you. But yeah it’s a funny one with that because the way we dress comes from a completely opposite situation which was when we were kind of unemployed for two and a half years and every Wednesday we had to go to the unemployment office and explain why you were a loser hahahaha but if you go in a suit they actually listen to you and you can leave with at least a little bit of dignity. Every week when we used to go in I used to dress up insanely smart just so I’d come out with some pride left.
Do you have style influences because you’re kind of reminiscent of new wave 80s bands like Tears For Fears and The Human League, do you have any influences like that? Well for me I think that comes from old people! Old men seem to dress very smart for any occasion whether it’s going to the shop to get milk or its going to the pub, so I’m just kind of fascinated by how much effort old people put into dress which most people don’t anymore. And also its a reaction against everyone else because people don’t dress smart anymore! It’s ‘cool’ to look scruffy which isn’t cool, I don’t think.
Do you wear any specific designer brands or have any favourite designers? Not really. This is the thing, we discovered tailoring which I think is a god send. There’s a shop in Manchester which has 10 ruching girls working in it, and what I do is you can buy any suit, whether it fits you or not, as long as its good material and a good colour and you get it tailored and you’ve essentially got a perfect suit. So all our clothes we get are like that! I’d like to buy new clothes but I can never find any that I like. I don’t really have that many clothes, I just have a small selection on constant rotation.
Have you done any recent collaborations or do you have any on the cards? No, its something we’d be interested in doing in the future. We’ve always wanted to write music for the people and when we first started we didn’t want to be in a band we wanted to write music for people to sing so that’s something that maybe in the future we’ll look at. I quite like the idea of collaborations as well, I like the idea of two different things [coming together] because that’s essentially what Adam and I do, we collaborate. It’s about two different ideas that come together so yeah that would be interesting though! That’s if we get a spare minute to do it though!
If you could collaborate with anyone in particular, who would it be? Ummm, I don’t know. I think about this a lot actually and I think it would have to be with someone that’s the same or completely opposite… But that’s a tough question, I don’t really have an answer unfortunately. One day when I get the answer, I’ll try to make it happen. Your going to have me thinking about that all day now!
Ah well it gives you something to aim for. If you keep thinking about it, it will happen. Stevie Nicks, what’s she doing these days? haha!
What is the significance of the name Hurts? Well the simplest answer is that it looks cool and it sounds cool. But the music we make is quite dramatic…and it seems like the cover of a book. If you had a book called ‘Hurts’ you’d have a rough idea what it was about but wouldn’t tell you everything.
How many videos have you made? Well we made two ourselves a long time ago and then we’ve made another two since then. We just finished one of them, but when we started the ones we made were black and white and were just me standing behind the camera, pressing record [on the camera] and then running around the front.
And the other clips have been with directors? The other two were great because we’ve always had big ideas but when your standing behind the camera yourself and you have to run around the front you cant really imagine that but yeah the last ones we’ve done with directors which is great because the video’s very important to us because its a visual representation of the music so I think its an important instrument. Its something we enjoy doing but at the same time it helps the music, but a lot of the time your just in a foreign country surrounded by women hahaha which is great!
How did you go about choosing a director that would be able to translate your music into something visual, because you guys seem like you have a really specific aesthetic taste as well? Yeah it was really difficult actually. It was something that we spent a lot of time on trawling through directors and interviewing them because the hard thing is we do have a clear idea what we want but at the same time we do want the collaboration so its very tough. But the “Better Than Love” video was directed by a guy named W.I.Z. and every video he’s ever done I’ve always loved and when I spoke to him we had a lot of the same influences in film and stuff like that. And he had to hand over an idea which is something that you’ve got to have a lot of trust to do but yeah it’s exciting to see how other people take your vision and that’s all a part of it. I think if we were too insular we’d never progress so it’s important to share your visions.
What other influences do you have on your music and how is it reflected in your music? I think musically there’s been a lot of different bands and we’ve taken a lot of different things really. Bands like Tears for Fears, we’ve just learnt a lot from the sounds that they used and they often put very hopeful songs in very dark environments and we looked at that a lot. But also I think we look at a lot of the visuals for music, we look at a lot of films and the soundtracks, because a lot of the music is very emotional as well and that was one thing that we wanted to achieve which was this overly emotional music which we felt was kind of the thing pop was missing. We also took a lot from modern American music because American’s are very sincere with their emotions I think and I guess we tried to beat people at their own game.
And what is the essence behind your new album? Well we call it ‘Happiness’ because, I think, looking back it’s an album about the pursuit of happiness which is often quite hard and sad and low really. Hopefully we’ve written a very emotional album that is very dramatic and quite intense… we wanted it to kind of be bold and ambitious and so I think the common thread is that. And yeah we’ve also tried a lot of the electronic sounds. But we wanted it to come alive and not be so cold because that was one of the things I never really liked about electronic music – the cold and detached nature of it – we wanted to really try and make it warm. But all of that just sounds convoluted that a pop album could be emotional.
Is that what you want your listeners to experience? What kind of experience do you want them to have? Yeah I think its an emotional honesty that we’ve tried to put into it and its a very melancholic album too! But at the same time its a pop album which is important for us because we’ve always written pop music and we always wanted to write pop music. I think that, that is what we’re very proud of, that we can write pop music but we’ve tried to do it with some sort of individual perspective or integrity and thats when pop music has appealed to me the most, when its individual.
And what’s on the cards for the future, besides getting through this tour and the album? Yeah we’ll do the album and then we’ve got a UK tour and then a European tour AND THEN towards christmas time we’ll be coming towards your way!!
Oh really?! Yeah I think so! Its interesting because we’re all over the place in Europe but we seem to slowly float around so I’m looking forward to it because I grew up in Australia.
Did you? Yeah I grew up in Perth and I lived in Perth for about 6 years. And I traveled around Australia when I was a kid in a caravan with my parents… I can remember traveling and places like Darwin and things like that. I remember certain things and I remember the freedom. I definitely remember the freedom that Australia gave me when I was a kid! Its just such a massive place and I remember coming back to England when I was 8 or 9 and feeling sort of claustrophobic because I’d grown up with that freedom in Australia. But yeah I’m excited I’m coming back…