What a year it’s been for Blackpool’s Boston Manor. From a main stage spot at Download Festival to their first headline tour of America, and dropping their spectacular sophomore album ‘Welcome To The Neighbourhood’, the five-piece have been growing bigger and better.
So, to get the lowdown on what has undoubtedly been a hectic and incredible year, and to dig into their new album, headline UK tour and everything else, we sat down with guitarist Mike Cunniff before they hit the stage on the Glasgow date of their tour.
DP!: You’re on a UK headline tour at the moment supporting your new record. How’s it been going so far for you?
M: It has been absolutely amazing. We’ve not headlined for a while now, and it’s just great to see that the fanbase has been growing quite steadily and that people seem really excited by the new record, with everyone knowing all of the words.
DP!: Your new album ‘Welcome To The Neighbourhood’ shows a different side to Boston Manor. Have you adapted the way that you approach live shows to accommodate your new sound?
M: Yeah. I think the songs are a little bit more mid-tempo, and they’re just at a nicer pace to play. I feel like we can move a little bit more freely and be a bit more fluid on stage, and the sound just seems to be a lot bigger and heavier. We also get to use a lot of cool effects and guitar pedals and stuff like that, so it’s been a lot of fun. Because we’ve been playing the ‘Be Nothing.’ album songs for a long time, including fifty odd days on the Vans Warped Tour, every single day, it’s nice to have some fresh stuff to play.
DP!: Are there any songs in particular from your new album that you love to play live?
M: I feel like when we had the album recorded we all had favourite songs, but like when we started playing them live that changed, and, for me personally, I love playing ‘Flowers In Your Dustbin’. It’s a really good one to get the crowd going, and ‘Stick Up’ is really good song for me to play as well.
DP!: The new record explores a fictional representation of your hometown of Blackpool. Where did the idea for that come from?
M: I think it came from whenever we were home, we always felt a little bit down and were really stuck for anything to do. We actually did a little bit of shooting for the previous album and our EPs in Blackpool, but we looked around us and looked back on that and thought that this place is so fascinating, so weird and dark. I guess the album is thematically based around Blackpool, but it’s also more an example of any single one of those towns that you could live in and feel that you don’t get the support that from it that you want; when you look around you and you see poverty, drug abuse, violence, and all kinds of things like that.
DP!: The album is Boston Manor as we’ve never heard you before. How was this transition for you as a band, were you aiming for a statement piece or staying true to yourselves?
M: A bit of both really. We wanted to also show other bands and other people that we were capable of something much more, and to show other bands as well maybe that you can do whatever the hell you want to do musically and creatively, and always push yourself. It was more of a selfish thing and it was more us wanting to do this. We wanted to make this record for us. This is for us to listen to. We didn’t just change our sound for the sake of it.
DP!: So if we go back a bit, when you came out of the ‘Be Nothing.’ cycle, what were you thinking going forward?
M: I think we just wanted to free ourselves of all the rules that we may have set up unintentionally beforehand. Coming up in a pop-punk world, you feel like you do have those constraints tightening around you. We felt like we had been boxed into a corner a little bit, and that wasn’t the way that we felt musically. We’ve always listened to different music, and we wanted to make a record that was our favourite album and shows off the influences of all the bands we used to listen to growing up.
We just said there’s no rules, let’s just make a record and whatever happens, happens. We ended up using a lot of synths and stuff like that, and we experimented. We bought some MIDI keyboards and brought them home, and we were experimenting with those and making some really cool sounds. Then when we got into the studio we managed to get our hands on some analogue synths which were really expensive, and we got to use those which was pretty sick.
DP!: There are so many parts of the album that are really effective, but particularly, the guitars really stand out as an integral part of the unsettling nature you were trying to convey. Was this something that you strived for in your sound?
M: When we got to the studio we worked with Mike Sapone, and he is just the pedal king. First of all, we started tracking the record and we had to shoot out guitar amps and find out what we liked initially with the clean and distorted sounds, but a lot of the sounds that we actually got were from guitar pedals. There must have been about 80 guitar pedals that we were putting into different categories and zones, and we were choosing which ones should we use. We found this one called The Fonz, I think it was by Old Blood Noise, and we basically scooped the mids out on it. I know this sounds really nerdy, but we got that really gnarly, almost metal, Deftones-like tone that you can hear on songs like ‘If I Can’t Have It Then No One Can’ in the chorus where it’s just a solid wall of metal sound that we absolutely love.
For everything else, it’s just a lot of chorus and reverb, and then on top of that there’s a lot of synths. We used this thing called the Nord, which is a drum pad, and we got loads of samples in, and even used stuff from the demos that we made back at home in Logic. Certain sounds that we had created that we found so interesting, we couldn’t beat them in the studio. There were no rules, so we just took things from the demos and added it in there. There was all kinds of stuff.
DP!: There’s more than just a rock influence too, there’s also some slight hip-hop and nu-metal influences that creep up on the record. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
M: To be honest, I feel there’s a mutual understanding of what music we wanted to make, but I feel like every single member brought their own influences. We all grew up through the nu-metal era with Linkin Park, Deftones, and Nine Inch Nails being big favourites of ours. But then obviously there’s a lot of indie sensibilities like Radiohead, Bloc Party, and Placebo as well. There’s all kinds of stuff in there, and then some like hardcore and hip-hop as well, especially early 2000s hip-hop we like a lot.
DP!: Your writing and recording period seemed quite interesting. How did New Jersey and Mike Sapone help get the record to where you wanted it?
M: We did pre-production with Mike Sapone, and we had one of the studio engineers engineer the pre-production sessions, and then, when we went back, we had Mike Sapone and Brett (Romnes), who plays drums in The Movielife and I Am The Avalanche. He was engineering, but he’s a music lover as well, and both of them together work so well. Both just want to create art.
Sapone is one of the sweetest people that I’ve ever met. He was so nice, he even bought us a care package filled with food and snacks for the studio, and we would always go out and watched movies with him in the cinema or went out for dinner, and we had a lot in common with him. We’re all quite big movie nerds, and so is he. Sapone in particular likes Stanley Kubrick, like, he loves Stanley Kubrick. We just had such a fun time with him, it went by so fast. I feel like normally recording a new album is so stressful as you’re thinking there’s just so much to do, but the whole process was just so smooth and he’s just so in control and he lets you do what you want to do. We just bounced off each other and it was really exciting.
DP!: This year has been pretty good for you guys; main stage at Download Festival, a fantastic second album. What have you taken away from the past few months?
M: I think doing the headline shows in America was incredible, because a lot of those shows sold out and that was a big milestone for us. Also, playing Electric Ballroom on this tour was amazing, and I think recording the record for all of us was just a really good time. It was weird as we were kind of trapped in a studio, snowed in and everything, but it was amazing.
DP!: What’s your vision of Boston Manor going forward from this point onwards?
M: I think we’re going to focus on honing and expanding our sound. You never want to put the same record out twice, but at the same time we feel like with this record we became a lot more confident in ourselves. It’s a massive bonus that everyone else seems to like it as well, and I feel like there’s no real limitations on what we want and what we can do. Hopefully we’ll keep releasing more records like this one.
The band’s new album, ‘Welcome To The Neighbourhood’, is out now through Pure Noise Records.