The OK Coral

Duncan Forgan | 08 Oct 2007

SF: James Skelly waxes lyrical to Duncan Forgan about the rejuvenation of his band and their distrust of the great southern Metropolis.<br/><br/>PQ: ""You look at modern popular culture these days and you can easily tell who is sucking corporate cock or not. Sometimes you just think that civilisation is going to shit."" - James Skelly

Ah, giddy London, home of the 'brash, outrageous and free' if you believe the old Morrissey lyric. Problem is, as Mozzer was archly hinting at in the subtext to his prose, those three adjectives, as interpreted by the seemingly ceaseless armies of scenesters who stalk the city's streets, actually make the capital as appealing a prospect as a week spent mainlining Chas and Dave records.

You certainly won't catch James Skelly adopting a fake cockney accent and teaming up with Mark Ronson to extol the questionable virtues of life in Britain's largest conurbation anytime soon. The Coral frontman may, at 26, be of relatively tender years, but after six years of exposure to the scabrous demands of the music industry, he is more convinced than ever that his still watertight connections to his home city of Liverpool represent an umbilical chord to reality that he is emphatically disinclined to sever.

"I love it up here man," he tells the Skinny, "It helps keep us grounded and keeps us away from the bullshit that you get in bigger cities like London. You look at modern popular culture these days and you can easily tell who is sucking corporate cock or not. Sometimes you just think that civilisation is going to shit. You look at Lily Allen who is rubbish and then someone comes along who is even shitter. We haven't sucked any cock - maybe licked a few - but never sucked."

Aside from his well documented and fervent support for Liverpool football club – "I reckon Torres is going to be some player for us this year," he says of new Anfield record signing Fernando Torres – Skelly's attachment to his birthplace is founded on musical and spiritual grounds as much as anything else.

Bursting out of the affluent surrounds of Hoylake on the Wirral peninsula and onto the radar of the general public in 2001 with a string of EPs blending classic beat-group chops with odder nuances such a pronounced Captain Beefheart influence and a penchant for bawdy sea-shanties, the Coral signalled a thrilling return to basics without sacrificing their esoteric tendencies.

A Mercury Prize-nominated self-titled debut and a chart-bothering follow-up in Magic and Medicine seemed to signify the advent of one of the decade's great bands. However, things were starting to go slightly awry behind the scenes in the aftermath of the release of third album, the Invisible Invasion.

Skelly takes up the story: "It was well received at the time and it's a record that we're all still proud of just like all our records. However, there was a certain amount of it being a bit of a struggle to motivate ourselves after it. You just get really knackered and pissed off, it happens to every band."

The upshot was the temporary departure of guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones, a defection that nearly caused the band to call it a day according to Skelly. A timely rest back home, not to mention the vocal support of Noel Gallagher and the Arctic Monkeys, saw the band right however. With Ryder back on board, this year's Roots and Echoes represents a successful step back into the breach. Starting off in relatively straightforward mode, the album veers off midway into strange psychedelic territory, the direct result, Skelly, says of prolonged exposure to another faintly mystical great north-western musical city.

"We listen to a lot of stuff from San Francisco, you know," he adds. "Moby Grape, Country Joe and the Fish and the Grateful Dead. The thing with a lot of those bands is that they, like us, lived by the sea. You just get a different kind of feel to the music that way; a kind of foggy but relaxed atmosphere. Not uptight in the way that bands that live in a gridlocked city sound."
The Coral play ABC, Glasgow on 20 Oct
The single, Jacqueline, is out on 1 Oct via Sony BMG/Deltasonic http://www.thecoral.co.uk