Manchester, UK electro-pop duo Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson. Formed in 2009, elegant and enigmatic HURTS have their sharp suits, slick hair and stark visuals. Theo and Adam present a striking contrast to the glow-in-the-dark pop stars who have run amok across the charts of late. Looking like they would rather be on the cover of Vogue Hommes than NME or Smash Hits, the pair resemble Tears for Fears as shot by Anton Corbijn. Hurts have recently released their first single “Better Than Love” and are touring the UK and Europe during the summer of 2010.
Before HURTS, singer Theo and synthesiser Adam were in (scruffier) bands Bureau and Daggers, the latter of which supported Gary Numan. However, on a trip to Italy, they discovered “disco-lento” (slow disco) and became fixed on a more austere, and stylish, European aesthetic and Hurts was born.
Musically, they construct melancholic 1980s-inspired electro-pop with songs that they say are inspired by the British mentality of being “not too bad”.
“How are you doing? Not too bad. For a while you think that’s not very interesting,” Theo says. “But it can be very interesting because it’s on a knife-edge of hope and despair.”
Theo Hutchcraft, aged 24 (August 30, 1986) – vocals
Adam Anderson, aged 26 – electronics, guitar
01 Silver Lining
02 Wonderful Life
03 Blood, Tears & Gold
08 Better Than Love
09 Devotion (feat. Kylie Minogue)
11 The Water
is an interesting title choice considering the somewhat melancholic undertone present throughout the album. Hurts, consisting of singer Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson, on synth, are a British synthpop band signed to RCA and their debut album is, well, a triumph. At first listen I was completely overwhelmed by the sounds of the opening track ,“Silver Lining”. It stirs up such an industrial atmosphere. Any type of music/song/genre that paints a picture in my mind is, in my opinion, incredible and this most definitely does.
“I won’t le you drown when the water’s pulling you in”
“Silver Lining” is a very fitting track name too, as I find myself seeing the colour grey when I hear it.
“I see lightning”
Listen to the track here…
The way the hook infuses choral vocals into the song creates an almost ghostly ambience, which then grows as the song climaxes. It ultimately comes to an end in a rather hauntingly beautiful manner. I can see this song scoring a scene in an action film or a trailer for a movie…
Hutchcraft and Anderson are geniuses. “Wonderful Life” is one of those songs that is instantly recognisable and artist defining. It’s well, simply put, a wonderful song. It has such an epic feel. The chorus and its lyrics resonate in my mind and I LOVE the choreography in the video for the song. By the third track, the tone of the album is really set. “Blood Tears & Gold” continues to build on the band’s identity.
“I’m more afraid than I’ve ever been, so stay with me”
“Devotion” is another standout track, which opens with a French flavour, before launching into a pulsating beat, which is complimented by piano, thus giving it a gentler edge. Kylie Minogue features and her vocals blend beautifully with the song’s synths. Another favourite moment is ”Unspoken” from 2.50 onwards. I love the piano and strings. If only songs were edible.
A very consistent album.
The album closes with “Water” (and a hidden track that you stumble upon after Water ends) and it is much more stripped in its sound when compared with the rest of the album. It has a ‘Charlotte Martin’ essence to it and the melody that Hutchcraft sings is compelling. He sounds like a seasoned pro and his vocals evoke a lot of emotion.
From the thumping bass lines (“Sunday”) to the quirky chord progressions – where you think it’s going in one direction musically, but then it unexpectedly changes key – Happiness has you hooked from the start. I’m making it sound like a drug…ha. There are musical moments that remind me of the likes of MGMT and OneRepublic and for some reason, “Evelyn” makes me think of “Evanescence”, but it is clear to hear just who Hurts are.
Thumbs up. Two thumbs up indeed!
"SOUND OF 2010!"
'Band of the Day'
'Style and gravitas are all very well – if Hurts could also have been consistent with the substance, Happiness would have trounced its 80s counterparts and many of its contemporaries, too.'
'Ludicrous on the heroic scale, yes, but love them or hate them, you cannot deny they've got the tunes'
'Clean-cut Hurts duo classy pop songs.'
Words by Max Feldman
Photos by Tom Bunng
There’s something for everyone on Hurts’ debut album, Happiness. It has all the tragic potency of The Cure at their most monolithic, or Depeche Mode before they got old and kept writing the same song about pretty and fragile things being corrupted by opiates. There’s also something almost uncomfortably X Factor-esque about it too – a shiny, golden pop coat that lends it mass appeal as well as indie credibility. Their smart suits, their Dapper Dan haircuts, their high-cheekbones are all definite ’80s signifiers, but they somehow manage to transcend double denim mediocrity. This is largely done because all of their songs have massive hooks. In addition, listening beneath the surface of the glossier bits of their production reveals something a bit venomous. It’s like a musical curve ball. To the untrained ear it might like syrupy shite that, 20 years ago, was introduced by Dave Lee Travis. Instead, Hurts twist these nuances into a bittersweet glitch brew. Hurts are going to be huge, and it would be unwise to resist. ‘SUP spoke to the synth playing half of the duo, Adam Anderson about their meteoric rise this year.
You’re teetering on the edge of stardom. Having only played your first gigs in January, it must have been like one of those ‘emotional rollercoasters’ you hear about on TV.
We’ve had some quite good adventures, I won’t lie to you. We played to 11,000 people in a basketball arena in Greece. That was quite exciting! We were asked to appear on the Greek version of Pop Idol, but it didn’t work out in the end. They asked us to go out there and mentor their three finalists, and we went out and one of them had some sort of nervous breakdown, so it didn’t happen in the end. So, instead, we played this arena and performed a song that we wrote while we were on the dole to 11,000 people.
Is that the biggest crowd you’ve played to so far, or was Lovebox festival bigger?
Lovebox wasn’t quite as big as that, but in Greece there was a sea of people singing a song back to us about a suicide attempt in Bristol.
That’s probably cleared up quite a bit of geographical confusion about the Severn and Temple station. Why do you think you’re so big in Greece?
It’s probably the lyrics. At the time, Greece was going through quite a bit of turmoil and I think that the lyric “never forget it’s such a wonderful life” makes sense there. But maybe they like big pop tunes. Who knows?
The album is called Happiness. Why?
The reason it’s called Happiness is because we listened back to all the songs and we realised that every song on there, in one way or another, is about the road to happiness or the pursuit of happiness. When we started the band, our quality of life was pretty bad. We didn’t have jobs, and we didn’t have a house to live in, but we still wrote very hopeful music. I think that idea of hope, or of the pursuit of happiness, is what holds the album together. It wasn’t ironic – it was genuinely what we felt.
Like so much of your music, the album wasn’t leaked for a long time. Do you feel like a well-kept secret or like a Soviet supply of nuclear arms?
Even though it’s only been a few months in the making, this album feels like it’s been going on for a lot longer for me and Theo. When it comes down to it, releasing the album puts a full stop on the hype and you realise that we’re either good or bad, so I’m looking forward to it. As long as people go about it in the right way, we’re looking forward to people hearing our songs soon. I can’t wait! I suppose that we get a bit sick of explaining ourselves, so once the album’s out, people can listen to it and make up their own minds.
Since it hasn’t been released yet, you’re still somewhere in between being a niche band and being a pop phenomenon.
“Wonderful Life” has just recently come out, and it’s interesting because it’s a song that we’ve taken around the world with us. That song has got a story in every country, before we even brought it back to England. It’s strange bringing the album back to the country that we were born in, having played it out internationally for six months. It’s a strange feeling.
Did you get a similar reaction wherever you took it?
It had a different reaction everywhere, which is what is so exciting about it. It’s #2 in the charts in Germany, which is unbelievable! It’s sold 100,000 singles there. In Germany, I think that they like the bleak atmosphere of our music. This sort of bleakness is built into the heritage of German music. We’re big in Scandinavia as well. I think that they like the cleanliness of the production, and the simplicity of it all. Maybe Greece takes the hope. Everywhere seems to take something different. Who knows what England’s going to take?!
People were swaying around in some romantic reverie when you played at KOKO. What was the reaction like at festivals this summer?
We played V Festival, which was the best festival crowd we’ve had yet. Festivals are a tricky gig for us, and we always have to try and impress people. Obviously, people weren’t going to know the album tracks, and “Wonderful Life” has been on the radio quite a bit, so at V Festival it finally felt like we had a devoted fanbase.
How did the video for “Wonderful Life” first come about? Do you prefer the new one or the old one?
The first one came about because we had a budget of £20 because we were on the dole and we needed to eat. We needed a dancer, so we put an advert in our local post office, and we turned up at this venue thinking that nobody was going to come and that, if they did, they were probably going to nick all of our gear. After waiting for three or four hours, in walked this bird in a black dress with her lesbian lover (but that’s a different story). We asked her to dance, and she did. Half an hour later, that was the end of it. To be honest, at first, Theo and I didn’t think much of the video, but then it took on a life of it’s own. The girl has become a legend in her own right, but we lost her! We have no idea where she is and we can’t get in touch with her. We made a new video as a tribute to the first one.
If you need to find her, she’s stuck in a picture frame at the bottom of an Ibizan swimming pool.
What’s the reasoning behind the opera singer?
It’s something different, isn’t it? A lot of the choices we make are based on looking around us, seeing what other people do, and then doing the opposite. So we thought about how far we could we push this in a live show. Eventually we thought ‘fuck it’, and we got an opera singer. So Theo went to see Pirates of Penzance with his grandma and spotted this seven foot giant, so we wrote him in. He’s called Richard. He’s a terrifying character, with a neck the size of a tree trunk! He’ll eat you alive, but he’s got a heart of gold. We don’t know too much about him, either, and that’s how we like to keep it.
Does that ethos extend to the dapper suits, too? Is it a conscious choice to create an aesthetic or does it just look good?
Funnily enough, it comes from a strange place. The reason we dress like we do is because we were on the dole for three years. It was a demoralising experience, and the only way to get through it was by going to the dole office and wearing a waistcoat. We managed to claw back a bit of dignity in the face of feeling like a total loser. I think the smartness comes from that time. Also, it was about simplicity. We wanted to make sure that the focus was on our music and not how we looked, so we dressed very simply. It was a mixture of male pride and denial, deception, whatever you want.
Have you got any Disco Lento recommendations for us?
Disco Lento was good for us, because we went to Italy and we had very little direction. In Manchester, we were writing these long songs, and we had this feeling that what we were doing was going to completely alienate everybody. Our Italian experience was pretty rubbish – we got a really cheap EasyJet flight and stayed in a shitty hotel, but one night we went out to this nightclub and met a guy who told us all about Lento. He gave us a lot of confidence, and we went home with renewed vigour.
There’s also a sweeping, omnivorous ’80s feel about your music.
For us, there were only two bands in the ’80s: Tears For Fears and Depeche Mode. There was a lot of shit in the ’80s, but it was also a world of discovery and there was lots of brilliant musicality. It was a great era for progression in electronic music, but, apart from those two bands who really influenced us, there wasn’t really much. Prince and Michael Jackson are a given, but I just think that Tears For Fears and Depeche Mode were very influential on the style and the atmosphere of our records. But now it’s 20 years on, and we were 5 or 6 years old, and we lived through the whole of the ’90s, and the last decade has completely shaped who we are as people. It’s not just the ’80s. Often it’s anything but.
Do you feel a part of the Tears For Fears cult following now that they’re not in contemporary favour?
I think that they’re one of the best bands of all time. Songs From The Big Chair is my favourite ever album. They made the most incredible pop songs and they really pushed their production. If you write a song at a piano and you really get the bones of a song together and you know it’s good, you can really push the production as far as you want, and they showed that you can get away with that, and that’s what we try to do as well.
Do you start your songs on a piano and build it up from there?
Theo and I often sit opposite each other in a dark room, stare each other in the face, and wait for something to happen. Quit often it doesn’t happen and we end up going home. But sometimes, it does happen and, when it does, we grab hold of it for dear life and work on it until we make it good.
Do you have any intention of getting rich, becoming celebrities, and moving to Primrose Hill?
I don’t know about that (laughing). I think I might stay in Manchester because every time I go back I feel like I’m meeting a long lost family member. It’s always an emotional time, so I’ll never leave. God knows where I’ll end up!
Are you one of those Mancunian ideologues?
The place is in my veins. For me, it’s the perfect city. I find that London, as much as it’s a brilliant place, doesn’t represent England for me. The further north I go, the more warm my heart feels, especially when I pull into the station at Manchester. I’m definitely a Manchester boy.