Editors are a British indie rock band based in Birmingham who formed in 2002. Previously known as Pilot, The Pride and Snowfield, the band consists of Tom Smith (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano), Chris Urbanowicz (lead guitar and synth), Russell Leetch (bass guitar and live backing vocals) and Ed Lay (drums, percussion and live backing vocals).
Editors have so far released two platinum studio albums, selling over 2 million copies between them worldwide. Their debut album The Back Room was released in 2005. It contained hits such as “Munich” and “Blood” and the following year received a Mercury Prize nomination. Their follow-up album An End Has A Start went to number 1 in the UK Album Chart in June 2007 and earned the band a Brit Awards nomination for best British Band. It also spawned another Top 10 hit single with the release of “Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors”.
After their continued success in the charts, sold out tours and numerous headlining festival slots, Editors were lauded as the second biggest British band of the decade after Arctic Monkeys by The Mail on Sunday newspaper. Their brand of epic, sweeping indie rock is habitually compared to the sound of bands such as Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division, Interpol and U2.
The band met while studying Music Technology at Staffordshire University, but they realised it wasn’t really the career for them and decided to form a band, playing in Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Stafford.
The band was initially known as Pilot and played its first show under this name in 2002. While in university, the band had a marketing strategy which involved placing hundreds of promotional stickers across the walls of Stafford asking “Who’s the Pilot?”. However, they realised the name was already taken by a 1970s Scottish pop group, so they changed their name to The Pride.
They made a promo under this name with the tracks “Come Share The View” and “Forest Fire” and then uploaded them onto the internet, making the songs available to listen to on BBC Radio 1’s Onemusic Unsigned. A review of the songs reads “The Pride keep things subliminally lo-fi. Refreshingly simple and restrained, “Come Share The View” is a lesson in welding hypnotic soundscapes with white noise while showing allegiance to the school of slo-mo on “Forest Fire””. The band then took its music offline in order to create mystery and anxiousness and ensure that more “Artist and Repertoire” representatives came to see them perform.
They then changed the line-up with Ed Lay replacing Geraint Owen on drums as he began to focus on his Welsh band The Heights. Under this lineup they became known as Snowfield. They played their debut gig under this name at the request of Fused Magazine in March 2003. The following summer the band self released a demo six track EP, all of which went on to become future Editors songs. Then, as it was the home of their management and the nearest big city, the band relocated to Birmingham after graduation in the Autumn of 2003.
It wasn’t long until word of mouth helped them become a popular unsigned band.The band then sent out a one track demo cd of Bullets, earning them the interest of several British labels, with thirty A&R reps coming to see them play at Birmingham. In October 2004, the group signed to Newcastle based indie label Kitchenware Records. Upon signing to the record label they decided to change their band name to Editors.
After supporting bands such as Puressence and Oceansize, Editors released debut single “Bullets” as a limited edition of 1000 copies on Kitchenware Records on 24 January 2005. The song had previously been played by BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Zane Lowe, where it earned the honour of ‘Single of the Week’. The limited run then sold out on the day of its release, with copies famously then sold later in the week for more than £30 on eBay.
The release of “Munich” followed in April of that year and gave the band their first Top 25 hit, another sold out UK tour and a place on MTV’s Spanking New Music show in Manchester. At this point, due to the band’s increasing popularity, Editors and Kitchenware signed an exclusive distribution deal with Sony BMG. “Blood” was released two months later, reaching number 18 in the UK Singles Chart in its first week, selling 5,286 copies. With these releases their fanbase continued to grow and on 25 July 2005 their debut album The Back Room was released to critical acclaim and commercial success. In its first week, the album entered the charts at number 13, selling 17,627 copies. After re-issuing “Bullets” and achieving another Top 30 hit, Editors gained a high profile support slot, supporting Franz Ferdinand in arenas across the UK and Europe.
Editors then re-issued “Munich” in January 2006, selling one and half thousand more copies than the last time it was released. The song gave Editors their first Top 10 single and an appearance on Top Of The Pops. With the single release, The Back Room also rose back up the album charts, peaking at number 2. It sold an additional 40,000 copies in the week of “Munich”‘s release and went platinum in the process. A joint North American tour with Stellastarr* coincided with the stateside release of The Back Room in March 2006. It was released by Fader Label and sold 35,000 albums after 20 weeks. The band went on to play influential American festivals in 2006 such as Coachella and Lollapalooza. Editors proceeded to perform “Munich” on the famous American television show Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
At the end of March, Editors released “All Sparks” as a single in the United Kingdom, achieving a position of 21 in the singles chart. After a European tour which included three successive nights at Brixton Academy, Editors re-issued a limited edition of “Blood”. It entered the Top 40, pushing the album up the chart 45 places. Shortly after this, The Back Room was nominated for the 2006 Mercury Prize. After a string of high profile festival shows across Europe, including slots on T In The Park, V 2006 and the Isle of Wight Festival, Editors began work on their second album.
Editors recorded their second album An End Has a Start with producer Jacknife Lee in Grouse Lodge, Ireland over a two month period beginning in late November 2006. It was released on 25 June 2007 and went straight to number 1 in the UK album charts, selling 59,405 copies in its first week. The album was preceded by the Top 10 single “Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors” on the 18th. The song was Editors’ highest-charting single at number 7, also earning them their own Making the Video episode on MTV.
Smokers Outside the Hospital” was the first single from Editors second album An End Has A Start, reaching number 7 in the UK Single Charts.
Just after its release, Editors played at the Glastonbury Festival with a second from top slot on The Other Stage. They also played many other festivals such as Oxegen, Lowlands and Pukkelpop over the following weeks, as well as playing their first ever tour dates in Australia and New Zealand. They then released the album’s title track “An End Has A Start” in September to coincide with their North American tour. Editors went on to play the song live on American television shows such as ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ and ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’.
Upon returning to the U.K., the band contributed a cover of The Cure’s “Lullaby” to the Radio 1 Established 1967 compilation, which was released on 1 October 2007. Shortly after this, Editors played a 75 minute set for the BBC Electric Proms at KOKO in London with backing from a classical string quartet. In November, they released “The Racing Rats” as the third single off the album. Editors played it live on ‘Friday Night with Jonathan Ross’ and it helped the song reach number 26 in the UK Charts. It also reached number 12 in the Dutch Top 40, the band’s highest ever single charting outside of the UK.
For the first two months of 2008, Editors played 30 shows on a tour across America and Canada. During the tour Editors were nominated for a Brit Award, in the Best British Group Category. As a result, one of the dates had to be cancelled as the band returned to London to attend the prize ceremony. A month later, Editors announced “Push Your Head Towards The Air” to be the fourth single from An End Has A Start. This release was a limited special edition which was ineligible to chart. Along with this release Editors engaged in their biggest and most extensive British tour to date. They played arenas such as the 12,000 capacity National Indoor Arena in Birmingham and two sold out dates in London’s Alexandra Palace.
In June, they released “Bones” as a download only single in Continental Europe to coincide with the summer festival season, the video of which was directed by the band’s bassist Russell Leetch. Shortly afterwards, Editors played at the Glastonbury Festival, playing on the pyramid stage for the first time. The set included new song “No Sound But The Wind”. The song had only been played for the first time a day previously in a secret warm-up gig in Frome. The band then played their second major support slot of their history supporting R.E.M. on a 16 date summer tour across Europe alongside their festival dates which included the headlining of the Lowlands Festival in August.
Lead singer Smith has revealed that the band will explore a new direction on their next album, pursuing a new, rawer sound. As of July 2008, Editors have written ten new songs for the new album and they have been described as some of the most synthetic, raw and anthemic songs they have written to date. They are planning to go to the recording studio in October, again working with Jacknife Lee.
Editors’ own variation of dark indie guitar rock draws on influences from both older and contemporary bands. Their influences include Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division, The Strokes, The Walkmen, R.E.M. and Elbow. The band draw their musical style particularly from the latter two bands’ debut albums Murmur and Asleep in the Back. While often compared to Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen by the media, the band have indicated that those bands are too old to have a major impact on their musical style. Upon Editors’ first appearances in the British music scene, they were also heavily compared to American indie band Interpol; however both bands have strongly played down the associations.
Editors’ first album The Back Room was described as having a wiry and raw sound, which led it to being famously dubbed ‘dark disco’ by the NME. This sound was created by the use of synthesizers, catchy guitar riffs and simple, ambiguous lyrics. An End Has A Start showed progression to a new ‘bigger’ sound. This new sound was created by adding more textured layers to the songs as well as incorporating new forms of music into them. These include the adding of a choir in “Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors” and the inclusion of the sounds of the band playing Hide and seek in the song “Spiders”. Lead singer Smith has revealed that the band will explore a new direction on their next album, pursuing a new, rawer sound.
Smith writes the lyrics and chords for the songs, but the overall song writing is a collaborative effort. The song writing starts with Smith on the piano or acoustic guitar where he records them and sends them to the other band members where the song is turned into a full ‘Editors song’. The lead singer has said that he makes the lyrics purposely ambiguous in order for people to draw their own conclusions.
* The Back Room (2005)
* An End Has a Start (2007)
Special thanks to Keith Law for content.