Success has come slowly. After years of releasing solid albums that have been met with polite interest, the band's 2008 Brit pop showstopper "The Seldom Seen Kid" won the vaunted Mercury Prize. Its follow-up, the more minimalist "Build a Rocket Boys!," hit the British charts at No. 2, giving the positively geriatric Elbow their highest chart entry to date.
In advance of the band's Thursday night show at the 9:30 Club, bassist Pete Turner got on the phone to discuss the perils, and the pleasures, of mid-career success.
Is it a strange feeling, that your album entered the charts so high, after sucha long career?
The funny thing is, it's just been a slow growth. In hindsight, you always want to have success very early on, but the fact that it kind of eluded us turned out to be quite the thing. It's worked well for us.
Does success feel more real this way?
Possibly in a way it is. You're never the next big thing, so you're able to do things on your terms. We all said that we were an album band and we were in it for the long run.
Having the last one do so well, how does that affect how you do this one?
I suppose a lot of people assumed that doing this one would be like doing a second album, that the pressure would be on. But it was really straightforward. We were all in a good place, all really happy and quite confident that we could follow up. We wanted to do something that would appeal to people who bought the first album ... We all knew from the beginning exactly what we were working on.
So the reviewers who said the album was a return to your roots, they wereonto something?
I think so.
Everyone expected you'd follow up with an album of stadium-type hits. Did that ever occur to you, to make it bigger?
Oh, absolutely. We didn't want to alienate people who liked [the last one]. There's nothing worse than your favorite band that has a measure of success and goes too far to keep that success. We didn't want to do that. That's where we were coming from.
You also don't want to make the usual pretentious art-rock follow-up that everyone will hate.
No. Absolutely no. That's completely definitely what we didn't want to do. We all kept saying, What would we want to do next? If we weren't in the band, what would we want to hear? And that's kind of where we went with it.
You've toured with U2 recently. Did you ever ask them for advice? Or would that be too much of a geeky fanboy thing to do?
We kind of focused on ourselves, really. On what feels right for us. That's how we've always been, and it seems to work. I wouldn't be troubled asking someone's advice, but we've got each other in the group, so that's how we work it out.
Can you believe you're in your third decade as a band? Does it feel like it?
It’s great, it's really lucky. A gang of friends. I think we all find ourselves quite lucky. It's not something that any of us question, really, I don't think ... We just enjoy it, have a good laugh.
So no one's backstage beating each other up or anything?
Nah. We're all too lazy.