Interview: The Pigeon Detectives lead singer Matt Bowman talks ahead of The Sunflower Lounge gig in Birmingham

The Pigeon Detectives are known for being typical Yorkshire lads.

Interview: The Pigeon Detectives lead singer Matt Bowman talks ahead of The Sunflower Lounge gig in Birmingham

Matt Bowman and the band chose to work with Richard Formby for their new album

They are also known for being big football fans and were the first band to play live in the Soccer AM studio. So I start with a quick football chat – lead singer Matt Bowman’s club, Leeds, had just beaten ex-Wolves boss Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich 2-1 – and I was still celebrating The Wanderers’ 3-1 win over Brentford.

It was 2013 when we last spoke to The Pigeon Detectives on their extensive promotional tour of their most recent album, We Met At Sea.

Matt tells us what they have been up to since: “We had about 12 months of promoting We Met At Sea. Interviews, touring, you know, and then straight off the back of that we started working on the next record.

“It probably doesn’t seem that way. I think to a lot of people it seems to have taken us three years to make a new record but it hasn’t.” Fifth time round the band are taking a slower, more methodical approach to recording. Matt explains: “We have had to genuinely sit down and decide what we want to do – what do we want this album to represent?

“Especially if it is our last, which we are not saying it is, but five albums in we are going to become a bit of a drag for people. If it is the last album we want to make sure we have thought about the last set of songs we are going to be leaving behind for people.” He is definitely being a little hard on himself. The Beatles’ fifth album was Help! but the boys have put a lot of hard work in before beginning to record: “Deciding what to do was harder than doing it. There was around six months where we were writing songs and then deciding whether they were right or not. If they weren’t we started again. We repeated this until we had three or four songs to use as the back bone of the album and build the other songs around them.

“It’s a long process but really worthwhile.” Bloggers, journalists and imminent thinkers will tell you the album is dead in the 21st century. The Pigeon Detectives will tell you otherwise as they aspired to make one complete piece of art: “What we would perceive as the ‘best’ songs didn’t make it onto the album because it was more of a case of having the ‘right’ songs on there to create a feeling, which was continued and could last throughout the record.

The Pigeon Detectives
The Pigeon Detectives’ album is on the way

“We wanted to make an album that was one complete work not just a collection of individual songs which are played back to back on a record.” Their new album consists of 10 tracks, which were whittled down from what Matt estimates was around 100 songs they had written for the new album. Plenty if they don’t plan to make this their last. Their 2013 album was a very stripped back affair. It felt like the band were allowing the music to do the talking and giving it more space to breathe. Matt tells me what we can expect from the next: “I think we were a bit blindsided on the last album by people outside the band steering us towards capturing the magic of Wait For Me. In the studio it was the producers who were aiming for that and the record company certainly wasn’t going to steer them away from that direction. I think there was a lot more we could have done with those songs. We could have been more adventurous and that’s what we’ve done on the new one.”

I was just 14 when Wait For Me, their first album, was released in 2007 and from my perspective they really did, as the saying goes, burst onto the scene.

Everyone had a favourite Pigeon Detectives track; usually one from Romantic Type, I’m Not Sorry or Take Her Back. Matt said it took a while to sink in for them: “We didn’t realise how much of a success that album was until much later on, when we were doing interviews for the second album. I mean at the time you know we’d just come off-stage at Glastonbury or we were about to play Reading and Leeds festival or we were just flying off to America. It came in the midst of being told where to go, what to do, what time sound check was, what time our plane was. You know among all that we’d get occasional ‘oh your album’s gone silver’, ‘your album has gone gold’ and ‘you’ve gone platinum’.

“It was just the norm. It’s not until now we have been able to look back and go wow maybe we did make a big impact and it feels good to recognise we were a part of pop culture.” Fame was never something they chased though, as Matt explains: “We never classed ourselves as famous. We never put ourselves in the bracket of celebrity. We were never more than five lads stood on stage who were polite enough to stick around afterwards to sign autographs.” 

For their upcoming album they deliberately chose to work with producer Richard Formby, who has worked with Wild Beasts and Ghostpoet, to give an indication of his style. Matt said: “At no point did he let us take the easy option. He was constantly challenging us, constantly breaking the songs down to their bare bones and then we’d work together to build them back up. We’ll maybe spend a day-and-a-half looking at just 20 seconds of one track but it is a day-and-a-half well spent. It means the decision we make is considered, it is there for a reason and means something.”

Richard Formby is known for being particularly left-field, which is why they chose him. “He knew we didn’t want to go over previously trodden ground,” added Matt. “It had to be different, it had to be new or innovative in some way. It has all the little eccentricities that we probably weren’t brave enough to put on the previous record. The little kooky ideas we wanted to put on the last one but were talked out of doing. It is layer upon layer of ideas and expressions we wish we had done on other albums but veered away from. It is a brave record and is certainly not one you will get on the first listen. I think the fans will fall in love with it.”

The Pigeon Detectives are one from that 00s indie boom who have managed to adapt and stay relevant. You can catch them on stage at The Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham on Wednesday.

By Bram Welch

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