TAP Interview: Andy Hull of Right Away, Great Captain!

You might know Andy Hull as the frontman of the Atlanta based alternative rock band Manchester Orchestra but have you ever taken a listen to his great solo project Right Away, Great Captain!? Andy’s been working on this project for six years with 2006’s “The Bitter End” and 2008’s “The Eventually Home” and is completing the trilogy with a tour in support of “The Church Of The Good Thief” (iTunes) just released last month. Andy’s on tour now with The Dear Hunter’s Casey Crescenzo and took a few minutes to chat with TAP’s Matt Arena. Read on and catch him live this Tuesday at Maxwell’s in Hoboken and next Sunday the 22nd at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn.

How’s it going, Andy?

It’s going great, man. It’s going really great.

You just recently hit the road, how’s the tour going so far?

We started the tour a few nights ago in Chicago, did Michigan last night, and we’re on our way to Akron, Ohio right now. I haven’t played a lot of this material live before so it’s a totally new experience for me but I’m really enjoying it.

You’re one of the hardest working guys in the music industry. Since 2004 with all the different bands you’re involved with, you’ve released over 10 albums/EP’s, so do you manage to stay so creative?

It’s just really fun for me. I consider it a job but it’s a job I love doing and I certainly don’t consider myself as hard working, it’s just something I really love doing.

You co-produced one of my favorite albums last year, O’Brother’s Garden Window. That was a fantastic album.

Thank you, I think that album’s a masterpiece. I love it. We’ve taken O’Brother out with us as often as we can, they were able to use our studio and they’ve were at it that record for a really long time. They continue to work on their craft and get better and that record was a really difficult album to make, it took us a long time to do it. Because we wanted to make sure we were doing it right and really give it the time it needed to evolve and sound great. They were really open to letting Robert and I get in there and kind of become members of the band for that record, rather than just a producer saying “let’s do that take again.” We were messing with song structure and vocal melodies; it wouldn’t have worked with any other band because you’ve gotta be close to somebody to let them do something like that.

With all the work you’ve been doing between producing and working with all the different bands, do you ever worry about burning yourself out?

Yeah, for sure. When that happens, I certainly don’t ever force anything, it comes when it comes and just recently Manchester certainly burned ourselves out on touring so we took the last 6 months off. We’ve been building a studio at home, we’ve got a house and we gutted it and soundproofed it and now we have this house that’s close to where we live. Nobody’s living there it’s just a studio so we make sure we take time and that’s certainly something we needed this year.

Being involved with so many different bands do you ever find yourself recording for one group and then getting ideas for another? For example recording a Manchester album and stumbling upon a Ride Away, Great Captain! song.

They’re pretty divided. With the latest Bad Books record, which comes out in October, there were a few songs that started as Manchester songs in my head and ended up becoming Bad Books songs. I was able to bring them to Kevin and mess with them to put a Bad Books spin on it. I think with Ride Away the story is so specific that there’s really no way I could mix that stuff up. But when I’m generally writing I don’t really think about it for a specific thing, it just usually makes sense.

For Church of the Good Thief, there’s a great vinyl package that encompasses all three albums, can you tell me a bit about where that idea came from?

For me it was something that was pretty obvious that I wanted to do it. I’ve never really printed up stuff like that and I knew that eventually I wanted to put the culmination of all these records together as one package. It was cool being able to finish something like that, a trilogy that took me six years to do. It was really fulfilling.

It strikes a perfect balance between embracing the digital age without disregarding physical vinyl releases.

I think that people like things that are tangible that they can hold and as long as the quality is there people are willing to do it. When I started making music I never thought I’d have a record that would be on vinyl. Obviously the digital thing allows people to be able to get music faster, without it being a totally insane procedure, you can just click and get it. But it also takes away a little bit because you don’t’ really have to search it out since it’s all there at your fingertips. There are positives and negatives to both of them. I love CD’s still, I like buying records and putting them in my car. But I also buy a lot of stuff on my iPhone, it’s easier to just click and listen to. I still find myself buying something digitally and burning it so I can listen to it on a CD.

I love the running story through this trio of albums. Is it something that you find yourself coming upon with other work or was it relegated to Right Away, Great Captain!?

I think that the next thing I do will have something to do with that because I love writing stories and I like the idea of something that spans over the course of several albums. The new Manchester record will probably have a lot more storytelling on it and be a little bit more character based. With Right Away it was more like an exercise to see if I could do it. When you start something when you’re 19, you never really think about what it’s gonna be like when you’re 25 and finishing it up. It was cool to watch that evolve.

Since you started it young and as you get older the way you make music changes, was it difficult to keep it cohesive musically?

The last one for me was sort of the feeling like having homework due for 4 years. I felt like I was late on a project for 4 years. Every time I’d release an album with Bad Books or Manchester I’d feel even more guilty that I hadn’t finished it. Like I was saying earlier, I don’t ever want to force anything so it wasn’t that I found it difficult to be cohesive, because it’s just me and an acoustic guitar. That actually lent itself to the benefit of the album because as the character grows, the songwriting grows and I feel the songwriting got better over the course of 6 years.

The story within the albums is so well thought out, are there any plans to bring it to another medium? Whether it’s a short story or a series of music videos?

I’ve always been open to a lot of that stuff and that would be really cool to do. I don’t really know how I’d do that, I’d love to see a movie made of it but it might be a boring fucking movie. There’s part of me that still wants to work on that story, maybe with other characters but at the same time I think a fresh start’s going to be really important too. I let things grows the way they’re gonna grow. With other mediums it would be super cool to do but I’m not in a rush to do it.

Touring with an album that’s very musically different from the last tour with Manchester, what kind of adjustment is there?

It’s cool. The reason the third Right Away record is so stripped down musically had to do with the story in part and that there was so much shit happening on Simple Math. They compliment each other the same way live shows do. Playing big venues is fun but there’s something really great about playing to a room of people and it being dead quiet. You can see everyone in the room and they all feel like they’re a part of it rather than being separated from them by a sea of people. I love doing both of them and feel very blessed to be doing both.

Does it help keep the touring experience fresh?

For sure. I haven’t done a lot of these Right Away shows, I do a lot of solo shows, spot gigs here and there, but I’ve never done a tour like this. It’s definitely a cleansing of the palette, it lets me play these songs that I’ve never played live before and I love it.

One last question, since Church of the Good Thief brings the story to a close, is that the end of your work with Right Away, Great Captain! or are there more ideas to explore?

As of now that is the conclusion and the ending. It’ll be a long time before I come back and revisit it. I also don’t want to Stars Wars it and totally fuck it up, ya know? Just because people like it doesn’t mean that I have to keep doing it. The story sits where it is, obviously he’s dead so there really isn’t a lot you can with that.

You can always pull a George Lucas and do a prequel trilogy.

(laughs) Yeah exactly, I could. As of now I feel really great about exactly where it is.

Awesome. Thanks for taking the time to talk, I appreciate it.

Yeah, man. Nice talking to you.

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