Andy Hull is a child of the '90s, so it’s not surprising that his early musical influences and contemporary references draw from the Clinton era. But Hull, the singer-songwriter of the constantly evolving Manchester Orchestra, is compelled to move on as a musician.
“I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child,” Manchester Orchestra’s debut full length from 2008, was influenced by grunge, folk and independent rock. The catchy and compelling “Wolves at Night” kicks off the album, which has many bright spots.
Much has changed over the years. Manchester Orchestra has matured. Hull’s band can be counted on for crafting thoughtful, hook-laden rock.
“It took us awhile to get here, but Radiohead didn’t figure things out immediately either,” Hull said while calling from his Atlanta home. “It took Radiohead a few years to get to (1997 masterwork) ‘OK Computer.’ It’s taken us a few years to get to make an album like this.”
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Hull is referring to “A Black Mile to the Surface,” the band’s fifth album, which is a followup to the guitar-driven 2014 release “Cope.” But quite a few of the finest songs on the release share elements from Hull and guitarist-keyboardist Robert McDowell’s experimental soundtrack to the 2016 film “Swiss Army Man.” The layered harmonies and dense soundscapes in the soundtrack are used to positive effect in “A Black Mile to the Surface.”
“It’s not like we recreated the wheel here,” Hull says. “It’s less about production and what instruments you use and more about how you use them. That’s what we did for this album.”
To further illustrate his point, Hull goes back to ‘90s Radiohead.
“Look at the song ‘Exit Music (For a Film’). “All it is is (Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke’s) amazing voice, acoustic guitar, a gnarly mellotron from the ‘60s, a fuzzed out bass and some tight drums. You can make something amazing out of a couple of conventional instruments. It’s about knowing what you’re doing.”
Hull and his bandmates, which includes bassist Andy Prince and drummer Tim Very, have a handle on their sonic situation.
“To me it’s about creating a narrative and connecting, just like my favorite bands have done, like Radiohead," Hull said. "The cool thing is that there are a number of recording artists, who are nailing it. I love Kendrick Lamar, who is the Radiohead of our time. I love the War on Drugs and Bon Iver. When I listen to a Bon Iver song, I don’t understand what (Bon Iver singer-songwriter Justin Vernon) is saying but I’m crying at the end of his song. Those (acts) are inspirational. We try to go as far as we can with each album we release.”
“The Maze,” the album’s leadoff track, is arguably the most moving song Hull has penned to date. “I wrote that for my daughter a month after she was born,” Hull says. “Emotions just poured out.”
Hull is pondering the next leg of Manchester Orchestra’s tour just before driving his daughter to a swimming lesson.
“I think everything I do as a writer is deeper after having her,” Hull says. “It’s been a life-changing experience for me, and as a result, it has changed our band.”
Even though “A Black Mile to the Surface” has been out for almost a year, “The Gold,” the most accessible song on the album, is often played on alternative satellite radio. “I never would have guessed that song would have this much life,” Hull says. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”
Manchester Orchestra has a summer tour split with festivals and headlining gigs, including its soldout show June 21 at the Cat's Cradle.
“There are two sides of it for me,” Hull says. “I love headlining because we can mix up the set. When we play the festivals we can only play the bangers. But I like playing the festivals because I can see other (recording artists). A couple of years ago we played a festival (Firefly) in Delaware, and my wife and I watched Paul McCartney. He let out a scream that would rival anyone in any rock band. I said to my wife, ‘He still has it.’... I hope I can still function as a musician when I’m a senior citizen.”
Who: Manchester Orchestra with O’ Brother
When: 8 p.m. June 21
Where: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro
Cost: Sold out
Info: 919-967-9053 or catscradle.com