Manchester Orchestra singer and songwriter Andy Hull is a huge NBA fan and fantasy basketball is a big part of how he keeps up with the sport on the road. “It’s a very tight, close league,” he says of the league he’s won three years in a row. “Everybody's picking up and dropping every day. It’s really fun and totally mocked by wives and girlfriends.”
But there won't be a championship four-peat for Hull this season. He finished the semifinal round in a tie with lead guitarist Robert McDowell, and McDowell advanced to the finals on a tiebreaker.
"LaMarcus Aldridge was out for seven games -- he missed three or four games during the week, which killed me," Hull explained. "And (Robert) had Kevin Durant. So that's gonna happen."
Hull recently talked about his love of the NBA and the band's do-it-yourself effort that went into their new album "Cope" –- a two-year process in which the band remodeled and soundproofed a suburban Atlanta house as its recording studio, then cut the album themselves.
“I'm definitely proud of this whole album more than anything else we've done,” he said.
How would you sum up the mood of this record from a musical and lyrical standpoint?
The mood is vital, it’s really immediate. It's intentionally immediate. And hopefully impactful. We really went broad on our last record ("Simple Math," released in 2011 ) and tried a bunch of different sonic landscapes. As we did that as a live band over the years we started to become way more aggressive yet still catchy. So we thought let’s create this super-raw, loud monster and have really nice-sounding catchy vocals over the top of it -- not like screaming my head off -- sort of the yin and yang of that.
Did you feel more pressure and expectations this time around?
I think for every record you can assign a part of your career to it. The first one can't suck, because it’s how you're being introduced. Then there's the fear of the second record -- this is what makes or breaks you. And then, when you get to the third record, you've got your fan base and you can test the waters a bit. The expectations I keep on us and band has on ourselves -- there's always a lot of pressure, self-induced, to perform at a higher level and do something that hasn't been repeated. It would be awesome to be the band that doesn't release a bad record.
How do you think pressure and expectations change the way musicians or athletes approach their professions?
It's gotta be tough to be on a losing team. I think that's the biggest difference. I get to go out every night and play and have a blast and at the end no one's booing. It's all "you're great, that was great." You can go and work so hard for three hours as a football player or basketball player, pour your heart out and lose.
When did your NBA fandom start?
It started really young, six or seven years old, and I've always been fascinated with stats and the emotion of the game. My absolute favorite thing to do is talk about it and watch it.
Did you have a favorite player or team growing up?
That's the weird thing about me and game of basketball. I don't have a favorite team and I don't have a favorite player. I just love it as a whole. It’s like a great movie to watch. I moved to Toronto when I was a kid and it was the year the Raptors started. I was in sixth, seventh, eighth grade when Vince Carter was there and that was exciting. Vince was my favorite player at that point.
Were you disappointed the way that ended in Toronto?
Yeah, it was so sad. There was that incredible series between the Sixers and the Raptors. It was the best basketball I can ever remember watching and then it just fizzled out. The next year they played Detroit in the first round and got beat and they've never been able to recover.
You never became an Atlanta Hawks fan, then?
No, not really. They're always just hurting you. When they were doing all right I was kind of into basketball, but they were always getting beaten by the Bulls in the second round every year. Then there were some really weird years. Like when they had Glenn Robinson and Jason Terry. And Josh Smith was such a frustrating individual to watch.
Do you have a problem with NBA teams tanking?
I guess I'm very flip-flopped on it. If it's a team I think would be awesome to have a great young player, that would be cool. It’s definitely a weird thing to do, but I guess I understand it. It's gotta be tough for some of the guys on the team who want to win.
Who's your MVP this season? LeBron James, Kevin Durant or someone else?
I guess Kevin Durant because he’s playing absolutely out of his mind at this point. Some would say Joakim Noah from the Bulls but I don’t really agree. You could say LaMarcus Aldridge but he’s been kind of injury-prone. I’d give it to KD, he’s averaging 32 points per game and keeping that team afloat. But I don’t think they’re going to go anywhere.
Do you think there's a parallel between the creativity of an NBA scorer like Kevin Durant and the creative process that goes into an album or performing live?
I think there's certainly something to fashioning your gift and working on your talent. And if you spend time on it you'll see that improvement in areas. I definitely see a parallel there. The cool thing about music is you can just go so far out of the box. If you want to enter a totally different world it’s as easy as writing it down. And there’s fundamentals, but I guess it's about improvising on those fundamentals which is what those guys are doing, too.
You've had a pretty big beard for a while. What kind of beard best suits an NBA player?
I love the huge beard. I love the James Harden thing. Even when I'd create players in “NBA 2K” I'd make have them have a beard. And that was before I could grow a beard!
Do you think beards work better in the NBA than in other sports?
I'm going to sound like such a freak. I think they work great everywhere. Plus, if people have a beard it means they don’t have to be at a job where they can’t have a beard. I'm always interested in what they do.
The Chicago Blackhawks have used your music. How did that work and what was it like to see that in person?
The Blackhawks used one of our songs for an entire season. After their second period montage thing they used "Shake It Out." We got to go to a game and they gave us jerseys with our names on them. It was awesome.
What was it like to hear your song used that way?
It was incredible. I just stood up with both hands raised in the air like I just won. We were so stoked. And the fans there -- I had never seen anything like it. And I grew up in Toronto. Those fans in Chicago are insane.
You're heading to the UK and one of your tour dates is in Manchester, England. Was it at all weird the first time you went to play there as an Atlanta-based band named Manchester Orchestra?
It was weird for us. We were worried people would show up and expect something different. But it was actually awesome. People knew who we were and were stoked we were there. Every time we go back it's so cool, sort of like a hometown show.