Later this month Starsailor play one of the XFM Manchester Access All Area April gigs which see the likes of Starsailor, The Zutons, Embrace and Goldfrapp in intimate venues across the city. Starsailor will return to Jabez Clegg to perform an acoustic set, their last appearance at Manchester was a sold out show at the 4000 capacity Apollo. Bizarrely the last time Designer Magazine saw Starsailor they were laughing outright at Colleen McLoughlin at the Kanye West gig at the MEN Arena where Ms Rooney to-be spent most of her time trying to get noticed by everyone in the building with her Agent Provocateur shopping bags.

Q: If you remember Designer Magazine did your first ever interview back at the Roadhouse when you were supporting Angelica?
A: Oh yeah, bringing back memories there

Q: We saw you at Jabez Clegg last October. Was that the first time you'd done shows as small as that since pre-NME tour in the early days?
A: Yeah. The idea was to get back to our roots and get warmed up for the theatre tour at the end of the month. Jabez Clegg was a great little gig. It was always a meeting point before going on to the Academy or the MDH for a gig and it has a good vibe. Obviously playing in Manchester any gig we have a great time and it's such a great city that there's a good band on at least once a week so when you're playing at the Apollo you're one of many good bands on that month, whereas that Jabez Clegg gig was a one-off and I think everyone that was able to be a part of it felt kind of special.

Q: I know you've done the Arena with the Charlatans and venues such as the Apollo as headliners. Do you lose something in cavernous venues like that?
A: It can do. It's really weird being the support band for gigs like that because when you get to that size you get more of the passing fan, if you know what I mean, like people who peruse the copy of City Life and think I quite like one of their songs I might head down to that. Whereas when you play the smaller venues tickets get bought up pretty quickly by the hardcore fans who know every word and sing every note. They're always the best kind of gigs.

Q: How quickly did the Jabez gig sell out last time?
A: It wasn't quite in half an hour, but it was sold old the day they went on sale

Q: How did it feel do comeback this time for the new album, a time where you have to have a habit or be connected to Pete Doherty in some way?
A: It's getting harder and harder, but we're still really grateful that we've still got our hand in so to speak. There's still enough people interested in the band that we can keep at it really. I'm one of these people that has more long-term goals as well. It's hard to compare yourselves to phenomenon's like Pete Doherty and the recent thing with the Arctic Monkeys because who knows what's going to happen to these people and these bands in years to come. I'd rather look back and compare in 10 or 20 years on what i've achieved.

The Arctic Monkey's are a great band and they deserve their success I think. But I think it's hard to compete with bands like that when there is so much hype around them. I think our time will come again and we've just got to keep our hand in and be ready for it when it comes and then look back in 10 or 20 years and think at this period in time we were the biggest band around, this time maybe not so quite so big and hopefully have a colourful career.

Q: When you think about Starsailor it is just about the music and that's strange when you consider that even Keane have gone through brand management to say what clothes makes the Keane brand look right
A: I think it's getting harder and harder to penetrate the british public in a big way because there seems to be a fascination and obsession with new things. Whereas elsewhere in the world there's more of a respect for experience. Having said that we've still got a lot of fans here so we can't have too many complaints. We can still fill the Apollo, but we're ambitious so we'd rather be playing the City Of Manchester stadium or down the road at Anfield, I won't mention that other place (laughs)

Q: Surely looking back and having a number 1 record in France as well must be one of the highlights?
A: It was unbelievable. It came out of the blue. It seemed like Silence Is Easy had, excuse the pun, sailed it's course. It seemed like it was starting to die down and we were ready to do the next album and suddenly this remix became this phenomenon. We took a few months out to promote the album in France and it came back to life and in the end with the remix being such a big success the album did just as well as "Love Is Here" in some respects.

In the top ten that week there was Mariah Carey and Eric Pridz's "Call On Me" with his dancers. It was really surreal because it stayed there for a few weeks. You put it in perspective and it sold half a million singles. I don't think Sugababes have sold that.

Also, it was kinda random because it was this strange remix that Jacques Lu Cont did, so it was more surreal and slightly ridiculous than if we'd got to number 1 with our own version cos that would have just been unbelievable.

Q: How was it recording your last album in LA?
A: The weather was a big factor. I think it definitely affects your mood when you can go outside after stressful times in the studio and sit out in the sunshine instead of rainy Manchester or in deepest Wales. Of course the weekends were amazing because you'd be going up to Tim Burgess' house for barbecues.

It's an inspiring place as well because it's like from the sublime to the ridiculous. Amazing people and beautiful scenery and you go out on Sunset strip and they're the most plastic empty people you could ever meet. It's a fascinating place.

Q: You can't imagine Starsailor going out of the North, never mind LA. Why did you decide to work with Rob Schnapf (Beck / Elliott Smith producer) on this album?
A: It's funny you should talk about the north. I love his stuff he did with Elliott Smith and The Vines and I went to a gig at the Limelight in Belfast that the Nine Black Alps were supporting the 22-20s. I remember Rob said he was working with the Nine Black Alps at the time so I asked them what he was like and what he was like to work with. They said he was amazing and had about 150 different guitars so that was me sold. So we've got Nine Black Alps to thank in some small way for us ending up working with Rob.

Q: Lyrically this album has changed somewhat from the first two albums as well?
A: That's through necessity because i've exhausted a lot of my personal life, especially on the second album with getting married and having a kid. Obviously when you get married and have a kid you get quite contented and cosy in your personal life and it's not necessary what people want to hear on a record. But you switch on the TV and there's all this crazy stuff happening in the world and it seems like every week there's a new global tragedy. It was a more slightly political album, hopefully with a small p. It's by no means an American Idiot or anything like that.

Q: The thing that Starsailor have always done is reverse the syndrome that most bands do. You've actually got more energetic with each album rather than the reverse
A: A lot of is through playing live as well. We made our name playing little places like the Social in London where there's not much room to swing a cat in, so an acoustic guitar and piano would suffice. You get famous and thrust upon a festival stage  and you want to excite your audience as well as instilling emotion in them. There's nothing better than a big rousing version of "Good Souls" with a lot of electric guitar or "Silence Is Easy" with the amps on 11.

Watching other bands you just end up getting better and better. Like the Futureheads are a great live band and they really get the audience involved. It feels really communal and I feel they're a vastly underrated band. And obviously watching U2 they're the masters of live experience.

Q: The last tour you had a member of the Charlatans on tour, this one you had Richard from Echoboy joining you. Are you ever going to get a permanent 5th member of the band?
A: I don't think so because I do a lot of it myself in the studio. It's just really for the live shows to free me up to being a frontman instead of worrying about if I snap a string or hit the right pedal. I think you need someone getting the audience going and trying to be Ziggy Stardust (laughs).

We've known Richard cos he's always been around. He's done a few remixes for us and we remembered his band the Hybirds a few years back so we knew he could play instruments as well. He'd been playing bass for Spiritualised for a bit and I think that tour had just finished so luckily we managed to get him in time.

Q: So what can we expect from the XFM Access All Areas acoustic gig you're doing this month?
A: It will be tracks from the new album, but there will definitely be room for some of the old classics as well. We wouldn't want people going away disappointed because they haven't heard "Good Souls" or "Silence Is Easy". A Sugababes cover might also be in by popular demand

Words: Alex McCann
Photos: Karen McBride

"On The Outside" is out now
Starsailor play Jabez Clegg on April 25th
For more info on Starsailor
For more info on the XFM gigs and how to win tickets

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