Britain’s explosive pop duo, Hurts, has released their much anticipated new album, Exile. The record is a follow-up to their debut album, Happiness (2010), which sold over one million copies and entered the top ten in over twelve European countries. Theo Hutchcraft sings his way through hit singles, while Adam Anderson blends instrumentals into chart-topping music. Together they are Hurts, and in the interview below they discuss their growth as musicians, the making of their new record and dressing for the limelight.


How did you feel on the evening of the release of Exile?

Theo: I think every time we put something out – whether it’s a song, a record or anything else – it’s like a baby. Once you do it you put everything in to it, and if you’re happy with it, you’re happy with the way it is, you’re content about how you feel about everything, then you just have to watch it go.

Adam: It’s exciting for us. This is the best moment. It was the first time as well, although we were a bit more nervous the first time. I think we feel that we’ve made a really confident sounding album that reflects what it was like to play live the two or three years we were on the road.

What, personally, does Exile need to achieve to be a success?

Theo: It’s amazing for us that we’ve got to make a second album because we always had that underdog mentality and we were amazed that we got to make a first one. It was a dream, even two years ago, that we’d get to make a second one. So we’d just love to continue living the dream really, because we get to do amazing things in our lives that other people don’t get to do.

It’s just a pleasure for us to be able to make music and take it around the world, and we just want to carry on like that.


This time, did you make a record with playing ‘live’ in mind?

Theo: I think we made the record with playing live in mind. Last time obviously we hadn’t played a show – we didn’t know how things would translate, which was great for the sort of coldness and starkness of the first record, in a way. This time we’d had all of these musicians on stage. We knew how to write parts for them and we could see what they could play. We could see how they would work, and we became more comfortable with live instruments. At first we very much wanted to be solely an electronic band and try and use electronic sounds to create emotion, whereas we became comfortable with how guitars and drums work, and how they can mix together, so it’s good. Also writing melodies and lyrics with huge audiences in mind, and putting moments in songs that you can visualise was really fun. It meant that we could try more things and get excited about the prospect when we were writing the songs.

Adam: I think this album is more made to play live. With every song on it, we just imagined what it would be like to play live, which was the complete opposite of the first album where we never gave it a thought, and we ended up headlining festivals. I remember we headlined a festival in Bulgaria and we played every song that we owned: all the B-sides, demos – we played everything because we just had to fill the set. So obviously with this album we really considered this a lot more. And yes, it’s a much heavier album. When you listen to the album you can almost feel what it would be like live, which is really exciting for us, instead of having to make very sombre, sad songs that have this impact.

The album had to have guitars on it. It’s an instrument I started with when I was younger, it’s my natural instrument. When I play it I feel that I know what I’m doing. With the piano, we just happened to write the first album on piano, it’s just how it worked out. I had to learn really, whereas as soon as I put on a guitar I know my way around it. So it was only natural really that this album featured more of it and it has the best moments live for the two of us. We connect more when I’ve got a guitar on.

Image: Facebook

Have you grown as musicians?

Adam: I think both of our individual capabilities have improved when it comes to song writing. Our songs are always a product of our two personalities and the songs just wouldn’t be the same without those two sides. I think Theo and I have tried to improve our individual abilities, and the musicianship on this album is much higher. The arrangements are more intricate and certainly I feel that the production is denser, more detailed, and that was the type of album that I wanted to make. So from my point of view I feel it’s definitely a step on from the first one. On the first one we worked more heavily with a producer, whereas with this one we took a lot of the responsibility ourselves.

Theo: Yeah, I think we did well. Lyrically and vocally I’ve improved, my ideas improved and Adam’s programming and his vision for sound got immensely better. The musicianship got better. We wrote more songs on piano and we wrote more songs individually – complete songs which we’d never done before. I think we got the confidence to do that.

We were self assured in the beginning – we had to be – there was no plan B, we had to believe we could do it.

A lot of that is tainted at the back of your mind with ‘maybe people won’t like it’ or whatever. This time round we knew that people understood what we were trying to do and got where we were trying to take it, and what we were trying to express. Writing songs was more fun. We were like ‘we can do this, this is what we’re good at, this is not what we’re good at, this is where we could go’ so that was the exciting part – having a bit more confidence.

How does Exile follow on from Happiness?

Adam: I think with Happiness we’d just come off three years of being unemployed and I really hear that when I listen to that album. And for that reason I think we should always be proud that we captured a moment in time. It was a snapshot of what our lives were like at that moment and what we’d been feeling for the years prior to that, which was mostly misery and unhappiness – and in my case poverty. I think you can hear that sorrow and sadness in the first album. Albums should be like that. You should be able to listen back to the album and be reminded what your life was like at that time. So with Happiness I think it’s great that we captured that moment. With Exile we had to capture a different emotion, otherwise it wouldn’t have been authentic really because we just don’t feel that way any more. There are more extremes on this album. The first one is very soft sounding I always think. The emotion is mostly about love and sorrow, whereas with this one, we’ve been around the world for three years and we’ve led a sort of roller coaster of a life and you have to put that in your music. We were determined towards the end of touring the last album that we were going to put that in this album and I feel like we have.

Theo: When we finished Happiness we were one-hundred per cent confident and we didn’t think that we could have done any better. I still look back now and when I listen to it there’s nothing that I would change. Even playing the songs live all these years and trying other things out with them, I still see it very much as a contained piece of work which reminds me of lots of things. But at the same time, the songs still carry much more weight to them. Songs that have been about personal things to do with me and Adam now are about so much more than that and that’s why they’re so exciting and I listen to them in a fresh way. It always felt like part one. We almost pressed pause after the first record and we could’ve written more, but just at the end we went, ‘right, stop it there; we’ll pick up where we left off on the second record’.


After the huge success of Happiness, did you feel any pressure making Exile?

Adam: I think Theo and I deal with pressure quite well – surprisingly. We work really hard and we pressure each other. When we were making this album in Manchester, it was always whoever went to bed first, lost. We always used to out-last each other in the day – see who could go to bed later – and when we handed the record in a few months later we knew that we couldn’t have worked any harder. We worked every single day for the past year. So if you do that it alleviates pressure because you’ve done your best.

Theo: I think we felt pressure in ourselves and from each other to make something special and not be lazy or complacent, because we could have done, after all this time. The drive and the hunger for it are what have kept us going. Thinking about when we were trying to stay up later than each other and trying to work longer than each other is funny to look back on now.

Trying to prove to each other that we’re working hard, so you don’t feel like you’re letting the other side down is a way that we tend to work, which can be quite stressful.

There was also pressure that people are now attached to our music and what we do. We had to look at what people cared about and why people had given us this chance to go around the world, and reward them with something that we thought kept things exciting and challenged people a lot of the time because I always like confrontation in music, and to do stuff that pushes people a little bit.

Will Exile feel like a big change for Hurts fans?
Theo: Yes, there’s a diversity on it which is probably more extreme than the first album. We like to make music that has enough depth in it and people can treasure and listen to for a long time because they’re the records we like: records that are instant and that are pop records but after a year maybe you hear something different. We put a lot into them. The songs start with piano or they start with a melody – very simple – and then the layers that we try and put into them, we try our best. I mean that’s our ideal scenario. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. There are certain moments that are slightly terrifying in parts. We wanted to make it dramatic in that respect. There are others that are very blissful. It’s more intense and more extreme in its emotion than the first one, in some parts.

Adam: We’ll always carry sadness on our backs and our music is just inherently sad – that’s just how it is so that’ll be the consistent thing. We don’t seem to be able to write songs that aren’t like that. I think we were listening to a lot of heavier music. We listened to a lot of industrial music like Nine Inch Nails. I was listening to albums like OK Computer by Radiohead that were quite multilayered and every time you listen to it you hear something new. So for me it was things like that. But at the same time we listened to loads of pop music. We love the charts and that’s just the nature of our band. If the song’s good we like it, whatever the reason.

What’s your personal favourite from the record?

Theo: I think ‘Help’ is the song that I always wanted to write, the type of song that I always dreamed of being able to write. There’s nothing particular about it, it’s just very classy. It sounds like a proper song, if that makes sense, that just came to us. Emotionally it’s very genuine, because it has a choir made of fans from all over Europe at the end. The fans are very much part of the songs now, but it was a great thing for us and for the people who were involved. For us it was really important to share that with people and to feel that emotion of other people that we feel every time we play on stage. But yeah, I’m very proud of that moment. Others for different reasons and for specific vocals or ideas, but that one is a song that’s majestic.

Adam: I think probably the most important song on the album is ‘Miracle’ because when we set out making the album, we desperately wanted to have some songs that really showed what it was like when we played live. With ‘Miracle’ we decided to strip back the production and try and make it sound like a live band with a very simple soundscape. It was drums, guitars, vocals – very traditional. We wanted to see how we’d get on with an arrangement like that. So I think that’s a really important one for us from that perspective, as it showcases what we’re like when people come and see us.

What were your artistic inspirations this time?

Theo: There’s a lot we’ve drawn from on this record. Weirdly, it came during the process of the first record. A lot of the influences on this record came out towards the end of that period. But we just didn’t have the ability to achieve them. When we were on the road, we listened to a lot of darker music. People like Massive Attack, Nine Inch Nails, obviously Depeche Mode, Interpol, people like that, and we sort of got a grasp on what those bands do and how they do it and learnt how to push in a darker direction. Also, listening to people like Scott Walker, but then people like The Killers. Anything with a darkness in it. At first it seems very elusive how people do it, but we learnt a lot more and talked about it when we were on the road. Even a band like Glasvegas for instance, is one of our favourite bands. There’s something that they do, there’s an emotional quality to it. We feel very aligned with what they do, but there’s also a grand nature. So there was lots of stuff. But when we started making the album, production-wise and mood-wise, we used to listen to lots of Nine Inch Nails and The Cure. As we were making the record we were listening to those records and things like Disintegration (The Cure) and The Downward Spiral (Nine Inch Nails) and that sort of stuff. They’re great pop records and there are songs like ‘Into the Void’, ‘Closer’ and ‘Head Like a Hole’ – they’re great pop records but there’s something in them that gives them a real quality and a real excitement that gives them integrity, so that’s where we were looking I think.

What are your thoughts on…

Social media?

Adam: Social media has been incredible for us. It seems our band just came along at the right moment to take advantage of these things. I mean, YouTube for example. We made this video for twenty quid, put it on YouTube and the next week we were in Berlin. So it’s really helped us and united our fan community around the world. There’s a connection between them all. Things like Facebook allow us to connect with fans directly which we try and do. We couldn’t exist without it.

Foreign lands?

Adam: We have incredible shows in places like Russia where they really appreciate the fact that you go there. We played ten cities in Russia. I don’t think any bands go to these places. So when you do that they really show you how much they appreciate you. So Russia’s a good one. In Germany we have amazing success and the fans are always brilliant.

We’re lucky because we have a level of devotion with our fans around the world and no matter where we go they always give us a great response.

When you play all these shows and you see the audience — when you look into their eyes and you can see them singing the words — you realise the responsibility involved, we never thought about that. We always just made music for the two of us. Theo and I are constantly amazed by the amount of requests we get from fans in countries that we haven’t been, places like Mexico or Brazil. Places in Europe, I think Georgia is one we’ve not been to and we get a lot of requests to play there. It’s definitely on our minds to make sure that on this album we’ve been to every country in the world rather than just eighty per cent of them. I think America is definitely something we’d like to pursue with this album, because with the first album we sort of ran out of time because we spent so many months and years in Europe. So I think America was at the back of our minds with the first album. Certainly, this time I think we should definitely go there. Australia and South America, we didn’t get chance to go there. So those are the three we didn’t get the chance to do and they’re sort of uncharted territories for us. When I listen to this album I hear America a little bit more somehow, so it’d be great to get the chance to go there.


Are you a British band or an international band?

Theo: I guess it’s very strange. It sort of goes in waves in how we see ourselves, because on the one hand we feel very much like a ‘band of the world’ if that makes sense. We feel like we belong to every country that will have us, really. We feel at home in places like Finland and Germany and Russia, and we feel like the music has got a home but on the other hand, we get to travel the world and talk about how great Manchester and Britain are, and to talk about the places you come from, like Richmond in North Yorkshire. So that makes you feel very proud that in some way you’re representing a portion of how people view Britain and British music, which is an amazing thing because we never really thought we would see ourselves as ambassadors for anything.

Adam: We consider ourselves to be an international band, definitely. We came from Manchester, but we left very quickly and went to Berlin within the first month of writing ‘Wonderful Life’. Ever since then it’s sort of sent a precedent. In a way that’s why we called the album Exile, because we feel like we’ve been on the run for three years.

We’ve been to fifty countries and you see the way people feel, it’s like your songs belong to them, whether you play in Taiwan or Reykjavik or Berlin.

For that reason you can’t consider yourself as a localised act any more. We feel like we’re a band for the people everywhere really.

Album artwork?

Theo: The first album cover was the first photograph we had ever taken of us as a band.

Adam: The album artwork this time certainly reflects the mood of the album. We didn’t want to make another black and white cover. The first album feels quite black and white and, like I said earlier, it reflected our lives well. For this album there had to be a directness again, but we had to let it reflect the extremes of the album and involve more colour. I think it was an important development for us to make.



Theo: It’s interesting, when we get asked about clothes. People sort of separate music and fashion, and go ‘how do they go together?’. For us it’s just a means of expression. I think for everybody, whether you’re interested in fashion or not, you’re interested in it by default – even if you have no interest in it. So for us it’s just a part of who we are. We’ve known each other for seven or eight years and our tastes have grown together, as well as the visual element of our music. At first it was like ‘this is the sort of stuff we like’, ‘we like these visuals’ and ‘we dress like this’, and the music had much more colour and life in it than perhaps how we came across to other people. So how do we put them together? The answer was just to put them together and see what comes out. It’s important to us I think. It makes you feel good about yourself, makes you feel good about the world. I essentially just want to live in a film the whole time.

Adam: There’s certainly been an evolution in the way we dress. I remember with the first album, Theo was wearing a suit that cost twenty quid on the cover, not that he’d tell anyone that. But there had to be this time. I think we’ve slimmed down our colour palette from three colours to two, so who knows. Next time, maybe we’ll just do one!

Describe the mood for the first two videos from Exile.

Theo: We always like to be brave with things. I think that’s the point, I have a bit of a problem with people who play things safe and don’t want to push things – who don’t want to be exciting and do things that are going to at least get a reaction from people. That’s the whole reason you do stuff. It makes you feel alive when something makes you react in a certain way. But there’s a darkness to it. I think it can only get darker, which maybe it will later on down the line.

Interview courtesy of Sony Music Africa