There’s a bit of a misconception about Britain’s bell-tolling new Quasimodo-combo Editors (no “the,” thank you very much — just Editors), and guitarist Chris Urbanowicz would like to clear this up in short order. Judging by the grim funereal pall swirling around The Back Room — the quartet’s hazy debut for Kitchenware/Epic — a nice evening out for these Birmingham bad boys might involve henchman’s hoods, a guillotine, and a few hapless victims, ready to lose their heads. Is it Urbanowicz’s ethereal Bernard Sumner-meets-Will-Sergeant-on-the-scaffold drone? Or singer Tom Smith’s sepulchral Ian Curtis murmur? Either way, Urbanowicz sighs, “People expect us to be slitting our wrists one week and hanging ourselves the next.”
Ergo, Editors have earned a staunchly spooky following and a press profile that’s pegged the group as . . . “Creepy?” offers Urbanowicz, in person a very erudite intellectual with a playful sense of humor. Yes, he admits, he does happen to be wearing all black today, accented by Victorian-looking Vivienne Westwood rings and lapel badges. “But we’re not goth kids. We’re sorta like . . . errr . . . drunken. Fun. Kinda geeky. We mess about and play pranks on each other. That’s what we’re really like — we are not creepy suicidal fuckups.”
Ask him to run down a few of these pranks, though, and the axeman shakes his shaggy head. “Oh, there are way too many. We didn’t do any today, but Ed [Lay, drummer] gets the most of it. I remember our bassist Russell [Leetch] put him in three bins in Paris once. It was on one road in Paris, and Ed got put into three separate bins — you know bins, right? Like trash cans?” Why? Urbanowicz rolls his bloodshot eyes. “Because it was funny!” He goes on to describe another sinister stunt whereby Lay was urged to speak to a certain girl with her back to him at a bar, under the assumption she was his long-lost childhood friend. She wasn’t. “And the girl just looked at him with such disdain,” Urbanowicz guffaws. “You should’ve seen the look on Ed’s face!”
If this, then, is what passes for Editors wit, it’s easy to understand how these gallows-humored cynics all found each other on a U.K. campus four years ago, while taking the same dubious music technology classes. “They were real Mickey Mouse courses,” Urbanowicz recalls. “Courses with no future. But we did them to not work for three years, and we did them with the hope that we’d meet like-minded people.” Year one, he was assigned Lay as a residence-hall roommate. Lay introduced him to his pal Leetch, who was already chumming around with Smith. “And it was very clear when you were wandering around the university,” Urbanowicz notes. “Because everyone was so different from us, it was very obvious the people that you were gonna be friends with and the people you weren’t gonna get on with. So from the beginning, it was obvious that these three people were gonna be my mates.”
Dutifully, the four aspiring musicians moved in together, retreated to their respective instruments, and forged the undertaker-serious sound of Editors. Urbanowicz opted for a single Rickenbacker and a series of E-bow-ish effects pedals to sculpt his chimey sustained chords, and Smith dove deep into his lowest register to find his true singing voice. Gaslit melodic anthems came flickering out of the shared-flat darkness, like “Bullets,” “Blood,” and the somber pub-crawling paean “Fingers In The Factories.” Did the heart-pounding, barely-pent angst in these songs spring from finding your roommate in the kitchen, glugging from your household milk carton? Could be, chuckles Urbanowicz, who shared three separate digs with his band over a four-year period, until Smith finally ventured out on his own with his girlfriend, English DJ Edith Bowman.
– Tom Lanham
To read more incorrigible Editors to-dos, grab the April issue of Illinois Entertainer.
Appearing: April 16 at Metro in Chicago.
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