Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Engineers are a group who ardently believe in the restless, symphonic power of music. They’re driven by the same impulse that compelled Dennis Wilson to write ‘Pacific Ocean Blue’ or Talk Talk to forge ‘Spirit of Eden’. When so much around them is prosaic and mundane, the Engineers want to create music of immense depth and scope that combines the experimental with the emotional. Or, as their guitarist and keyboard player Dan McBean rather more succinctly puts it: “We want to turn the lights down, get stoned and then blow our heads off.”
Engineers are a band of substance over style. A London-based four piece (Dan is joined by Simon Phipps – vocal/guitars, Mark Peters – bass and Sweeney on drums) who’ve been together since March 2003, they’re inspired by everything from Brian Eno and The Cocteau Twins through to Todd Rundgren and Spiritualised. They’re interested in the music they make and little else.
The last 12 months have seen them working with feverish intensity, spreading the word via high profile supports with the likes of The Music, The High Llamas, and The Hope of The States, as well as a series of critically-acclaimed records (when their mini-album ‘Folly’ was released in September 2004 NME hailed it as “a work of unrelenting beauty”’ giving it 9 out of 10 in the process).
Alongside this, the band have also been painstakingly working on their sensational debut album proper. Pieced together over the course of the last 12 months (although the very first guitar sound you hear on it was recorded in Wigan 5 years ago), the self-titled masterpiece has seen them collaborate with Death in Vegas’ Tim Holmes (he worked on the album’s second track ‘Wave On’), as well as producers Jonathan Quarmby and Kevin Bacon (‘Forgiveness’ and ‘Home’) and, more unusually, Chris Billington and Phil Rutter – aka the Highbrass Jazz Orchestra.
“We got them in because we were aiming for the sound that Dennis Wilson had on a track like ‘Morning Christmas’ ((i) from his great ‘lost’ album ‘Bamboo’ “explains Mark, “and I think they really helped us get close.”
The result of all these different people and places (the album was recorded in three different studios, The Depot, RAK and Death In Vegas’ Contino Rooms) is a record of astonishing melody and resonance, a multi-layered and beautiful successor to the likes of My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’ and ‘Spiritualized’s ‘Ladies And Gentlemen’ We Are Floating In Space’.
“It’s weird that people say that,” laughs Mark, “because although I like those bands I don’t think our album is anything like that. There are so many influences on it that don’t have anything to do with that music. “What we’re doing is different. We’re not influenced by what’s current. We’re just digging for great records. That album by John Phillips ‘The Wolf King Of LA’ is a favourite at the moment, but we’ve also been really getting into a lot of Greenwich Village stuff like Tim Hardin and Fred Neil.”
How would the band describe what they’re doing then? “I really don’t know”, smiles Mark. “A friend of mine was talking about another band recently and was saying how they captured the feel of a rainy day in the north. And I guess that’s what we’re about – that sense of melancholy.”