Few things come off as beautiful as when a band steps back and finds new meaning to songs. It’s replenishing; like a breath of fresh air on a summer’s morning or the first sip of coffee on a short winter afternoon.
And that’s what Manchester Orchestra’s latest release, “HOPE,” does upon first listen. It seeps into your mind through your ears and works its way down your spine, reverberating through each sense found in your body. It lights the brightest, strongest energy inside you — on the darkest day. The notes of the songs don’t just resonate; they form life inside you through innate beauty, the calming nature of a collection so pure and so beautiful.
“HOPE,” a collection of songs taken from the band’s earlier 2014 release, “COPE,” contains stripped down, re-imagined and re-released music. The record is comprised of songs listeners have heard before, but in an aurally new fashion — as though “COPE” is the long, late-night out and “HOPE” is the morning after when the sun creeps through the window nudges you away.
“We knew what we had done with “COPE” and we knew it was a hard-hitting record and I think our fan base likes both sides of our band,” said Chris Freeman, Manchester Orchestra keyboardist and backing vocalist. “We wanted to be able to give that to them — give that to the people who were missing the softness musically. It seemed like a really good idea. We like quiet as well as being loud, so we figured we could do both.”
“HOPE” isn’t a just an acoustic record in the sense that Andy Hull and co. simply tuned down a set of acoustic guitars and ran through their latest record.
No, “HOPE” using a set of instrumentations that plays to the musicianship and composition the band is capable of delivering. Songs like “Choose You,” and “Girl Harbor,” are as musically deep as the original version — just delivered differently.
Freeman said the band wanted to utilize Hull’s vocal delivery more — whereas guitars took precedence on “COPE.”
“We wanted to bring his vocal performance to the forefront and have it be a very intimate process,” Freeman said. “We just wanted to be able to do something a little bit different. “COPE” was a difficult record for us to make and “HOPE” was a new way for us to come at it. It’s different. We had the confidence of a finished record already being done. We were able to run with the idea of being imaginative instead of trying to create something new.”
Freeman said he feels reception to the new take on the songs has been warm.
“I think people were happy to hear it in a new light,” Freeman said.
“HOPE” came as a surprise to many fans. The band announced the record in September to fans without giving any prior information that the project was in the works.
He compared doing the record in secret to ‘going back into the lab.’
“We were doing our own thing,” Freeman said. “It was fun. You feel like you’re doing something important and special — that people are probably going to enjoy. It’s nice.”
Re-inventing an entire record comes with challenges. Freeman said that the band did face challenges, but the process was fun overall.
“It was more fun,” Freeman said. “COPE” was hard, “‘COPE’ was difficult. We had a lot going on and I think that [with “COPE”] we got out the anxiety of writing a record. I think all those songs are very interesting and it was fun to come at a different angle with it. It was a very simple process, really. There was no pressure.”
Manchester Orchestra are on tour this season to support “HOPE.” Instead of filling large clubs from city to city, the band is populating intimate venues to fit the aural appearance of “HOPE.”
“We just wanted to do different places,” Freeman said. “We wanted to do something interesting. Beautiful rooms to accommodate something that’s much more gentle than what we’ve typically done. We just wanted to be able to go to some places and play this pretty music in a pretty environment.”
11/08– West Hollywood, CA – Troubadour
12/03– Chicago, IL – Irish American Heritage Center
12/06– Philadelphia, PA – Temple Performing Arts Center
12/07– New Haven, CT – Center Church on the Green
12/08– Somerville, MA – Arts At The Armory
12/09– Brooklyn, NY – The Bell House
12/11– Charleston, SC – Memminger Auditorium
12/12– Durham, NC – Hayti Heritage Center
12/13– McMinnville, TN – Volcano Room of Cumberland Cavern