UK trip hop trio Morcheeba are now in their 18th year and are still kicking on, having recently dropped their eighth album, Head Up High. On this latest offering, Skye Edwards and the Godfrey brothers, Ross and Paul, haven’t strayed too far from their pioneering sound, blending pop, hip hop, jazz and electronica – except for perhaps an added dose of maturity and a slice of inspiration from their teenage kids by way of some post-dubstep.
“Paul has two teenage kids who are really into dubstep and he mentioned Skrillex – and it wasn’t like we were going to go off and start doing dubstep, but we did take that on board,” says vocalist Edwards on the phone from her home. “We kind of listened to what our children were listening to and took tiny little elements, which you can hear in songs like ‘To The Grave’ and ‘Make Believer’ – a bit of a new production style.”
It’s morning in Surrey, England – just gone quarter past ten, to be exact – and the chatty Edwards hasn’t yet had breakfast. She’s just dropped the kids off at school and she’s sewing: making a winter coat. It’s not very rock’n’roll, but it’s refreshingly homely – the antithesis of the glamour you see from Edwards onstage and in the video clip for catchy single, ‘Gimme Your Love’.
Morcheeba’s making of this album, and of their previous 2010 effort, Blood Like Lemonade,have very much fit around their individual lives and families. With Paul living in France and Ross in Los Angeles, the process of writing and collaborating has been a mostly online affair; very different from their early days spent smoking weed in the Godfreys’ London apartment.
“Before we started writing anything new we had a few meetings, and when me and Ross were on tour and over near where Paul lives [Paul doesn’t perform in the live shows] we would talk about tempos and the kind of album we wanted to write,” Edwards explains. “We all agreed we wanted it to be more up-tempo – Paul described it as ‘Morcheeba with a pulse’, and so he went away and got together with the drummer and recorded lots of different rhythms and beats, and then edited those and sent us copies of 20 or 30 or so.
“Then Ross would put the guitar and chords on them and then I would write a melody for it, and it would go back to Paul and he would write lyrics and then I would record a demo version. So there was a lot of emailing and passing the baton until we were happy with each song. Once we had about 15 or so tracks we went into the studio”.
“I guess we communicated more because it was really important to keep on emailing each other and letting each other know what we were thinking, and then when the time came we would get together and record the bulk of it. In the past – going back 18 years now – Ross and Paul lived together, I would go over to their flat and it was just getting stoned with a guitar and writing that way. But we all have our own lives now outside of the band, so it works well this way.”
It also worked this way with most of the guest collaborators on the record, including Chali 2na from Jurassic 5, who’s over in America; Ana Tijoux from Chile, whom Paul approached after hearing her on an episode of Breaking Bad; and the interesting collaborations with White Denim guitarist, James Petralli. “It’s just the nature of the world now – it’s really possible that we can do it that way and it works well,” Edwards says.
After a falling out with the brothers, Edwards departed Morcheeba in 2003, releasing two solo albums and a third last year. The Godfreys made The Antidote and Dive Deep with a range of guest vocalists. Edwards talks openly about that difficult time.
“They didn’t beg me, they asked me to come back,” she laughs when I suggest Morcheeba just wasn’t the same without her and the brothers had finely come to their senses. “After they did The Antidote they asked if I would like to do a couple of songs on Dive Deep and I said no, and then they asked again via management if I would like to come back and I said no again. It took a lot of convincing and my husband… we had a lot of arguments over it and I really didn’t want to go back, but I’m glad that I did actually. I really am happy to be back … and I think it shows with Head Up High that the relationship is pretty strong.”
Why didn’t she want to go back at first? “We didn’t like each other, to put it bluntly. There was a lot of hurt there still. I didn’t want to go back to that, but they were sorry and it’s all pretty cool now.” In any relationship, you sometimes just need a break. “Yeah, exactly; it’s pretty much like that. It’s like a marriage. And I had two husbands and then a messy divorce and we fought over the kids – which is the studio or whatever – and then they got a couple of new wives – which were the new singers – which was a little bit weird and it didn’t work out and now we’ve resolved our differences. We’ve not been through counselling, but I dunno, maybe they’ve done their own counselling and we’re back and happily married.”
BY RACHEL DAVISON
Morcheeba play Metro Theatre on Thursday April 17 with support from Chali 2na. Also appearing alongside John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band, Erykah Badu, John Butler Trio, Jack Johnson and more at Bluesfest, Byron Bay, Thursday April 17 – Monday April 21. Head Up High out now through [PIAS] Australia.