The Coral have shared details of their spooky new single ‘Faceless Angel’ and talked exclusively to NME about their forthcoming thematic double album ‘Coral Island’.
Fuelled by their own fairground memories and fantasies, 10th album ‘Coral Island’ sees the band soundtracking bustling seaside towns in the summer on the first half of the record before waltzing into the lonely lives of characters who inhabit the island during the cold winter on the second. To get a taster of what’s to come, the band have shared launch single ‘Faceless Angel’.
“It came from this idea, inspired by the sort of pre-Beatles around the time of Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers and Joe Meek’s ‘Johnny Remember Me’, that type of thing,” frontman James Skelly told NME. “We had this groove within that. But the song is about the celebration of mystery. The ‘Faceless Angel’ was sort of meant to be a ride. I got the idea from the Hellblazer [graphic novels]. It’s like a fallen angel and a pulp mystery, based on old comics.”
The track comes with visuals directed by Edwin Burdis, the man behind Arctic Monkeys‘ ‘Four Stars Out Of Five’ video.
“My brother knew him from an Arctic Monkeys gig and he just put me in touch with him about doing a video and then I told him about ‘Coral Island’,” said Skelly. “So I started sending him a lot of the photos from these books I had about the circus. He then said he can build an actual, massive coral island and he went ahead and did it.
“He completely oversaw the visual side of it. That would inspire me and I would send him songs and that would inspire him so it’s quite a collaboration. The model is almost like Ray Harryhausen [legendary visual effects artist who created stop motion model animation in movies such as Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans] crossed with Llandudno. It’s got this King Kong stop-animation vibe about it.”
The album also comes accompanied by a fully illustrated book written by keyboardist Nick Power, so we spoke to him and Skelly filled us in on their so called ‘White Album’, all the fun of the fair, and how they were responsible for kickstarting the Sea Shanty craze.
Hello James and Nick. ‘Coral Island’ seems to be based on your own seaside memories at places like Rhyl and Blackpool. Is that the case?
James Skelly: “Yeah, definitely. That’s just engrained in you, isn’t it? But my dad also had a burger van when I was a kid and I used to work on it with him so we’d pop up at fairs and shows on the Wirral. When we were setting up in the morning you’d see everyone putting all the rides together. When you were at fairgrounds you’d always feel that anything was possible and something was gonna happen. There’s a magic there, there’s a smell there and people are coming from other places. You can feel it.”
Nick Power: “They’re all places that we like as a band – especially Rhyl. I used to go all the time as a kid. The one thing that is still clear in my memory is how the waltzers had a really strict soundtrack with the likes of Joe Meek and Gene Vincent, British rock ‘n’ roll with a bit of Pink Floyd thrown in there for whatever reason. If you go round quite a lot of waltzers, they actually stick to that soundtrack. It’s not the same playlist but there’s a chief DJ, who’s gotta play spooky rock ‘n’ roll on the waltzers. It’s like an unspoken code that none of them will break. Most of them are like murder ballads or songs about being haunted by girlfriends who have died in a drag race crash.”
What’s this about the album being based on Bruce Springsteen’s double LP ‘The River’?
James: “It was, but it was also to do with Arctic Monkeys‘ last album [‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’] in the sense that there was another world but it was thematic. I also liked [The Kinks‘] ‘Village Green’, The Ogdens and [The Beatles‘] ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’. A full concept album is when it goes into [The Who‘s] ‘Tommy’ or something like that. It’s not quite that, it’s more like a theme.
“It originally started off as a concept that ‘Coral Island’ was a place where our ideas came together, but then it started to grow from there. We were like, ‘We’ve never done our ‘White Album’. I also saw that Springsteen documentary [The Ties That Bind] about ‘The River’ and he said the rock ‘n’ roll songs were like the bands playing on the boardwalk and the slower ones were the characters who lived in those places. We got this idea that Part One of our album was the soundtrack to the rides in the summer and Part Two was about the characters.”
What gave you the idea for the book?
Nick: “I started the book as we were coming towards the end of the album. I did a tour diary which came out with the last album and we just thought it’s a good thing for fans to have as well. It references characters and things in the songs and expands on that world. It’s a mixture between old Coney Island stuff mixed with [film] Brighton Rock, British seaside literature, comic books, in that classic tradition but with more of a modern take on it. I spent about eight months just doing it, non-stop.”
Are the characters in the book embedded in the songs as well?
Nick: “A lot of the characters came from the album, it’s like a comic book or something you’d pick up at a fair. But there are personal songs on there, it’s not just songs about death slides and candy floss. You get love songs on there too. There are a wide range of emotions in that [‘Coral Island’] world. Loads of the place names on ‘Coral Island’ are named after places we grew up on in the Wirral like New Brighton.”
Bill Ryder-Jones wrote a bit of music for the book. How did that come about?
Nick: “I just asked him, he lives down the road from me. He’s done a classical album before and we speak quite often so I was just like ‘Can you knock that up for me?’. He did it in about 20 minutes.”
Any chance of him rejoining the band for the tour?
Nick: “Nah, we don’t talk about it really. He’s doing his thing and we’re doing ours. We meet up with him though. He’s a good mate.”
What are your thoughts on the Sea Shanty craze with Nathan Evans about to go into the Top Ten this week?
James: “We were 20 years early weren’t we? If only we’d done ‘Spanish Main’ and ‘Shadows Fall’ now we could have been Number One. Nah it’s always been there, with The Pogues and Small Faces, you hear a bit of that. Fair play to him, I’d rather see Sea Shanty go to Number One than whatever else.”
‘Coral Island’ is released on April 30, 2021.