Hurts' locker offers emotional rescue

The duo hailed as one of the bands of the year before they even had a record out tell Charlotte Cripps why male fans love their music

At the beginning of the year the electronic-pop duo Hurts were the surprise inclusion on the BBC's Sound of 2010 list. They hadn't actually released a record. Yet this was the list which in previous years had predicted stardom for Mika, 50 Cent and Little Boots.

Since then things have moved quickly, and the stylish Manchester-based singer Theo Hutchcraft and keyboardist Adam Anderson have headlined an NME tour, and released their first single, a ballad, "Better Than Love". Their second single, "Wonderful Life", yet to be released in Britain, has provoked strong reaction across Europe. Their label was forced to release digital downloads of the song in Denmark, Russia and Greece after the band posted a home-made video of the song on YouTube, before they were signed.

The pair, when I meet them, are wearing vintage tailored suits and braces from charity shops. They have perfectly slicked-back hair, as if from another era. Anderson, 26, who has a particularly deadpan expression and doesn't smile once, leaves most of the talking to Hutchcraft, 23, who as the melodramatic front man, has a tantalising stage presence, even if he doesn't always live up to it in the flesh.

Simplicity and minimalism is everything to Hurts – from their neat and tidy MySpace page to their slick monochrome videos – but this is in stark contrast to the soaring emotions in their melancholic electro pop songs.

Inspired by the 1980s synth pop of Depeche Mode and Ultravox as well as disco lento, a slower version of 1980s Eurodisco, Hurts inhabit the edge of despair and hope, and claim to have found a middle ground emotionally. Hutchcraft tells me: "Hurts is about that fine line between happy and sad. We make emotional music but we are honest about it. We are trying to show that there is an alternative to chasing that unattainable idealistic emotion in so much pop music right now."

Hurts formed in 2009 and were signed to Sony imprint Major Label, in July 2009, after a tug of war with German record companies. Their aim, they say, is to bring honest emotion back to pop music.

Previously they were part of the five-piece hyperactive party band, Daggers, who churned out Eurodisco tracks and once supported Gary Numan. Eventually they burnt out musically, finding it impossible to evolve musically within the framework of the band's euphoric songs. "The music was relentlessly excitable," says Anderson, "but it was a learning curve for us." Daggers was an "apprenticeship", for them, as they explain. "We were intense and colourful for a while, and then we became calm and simple."

The curtain fell on Daggers in 2008 after a disastrous show alongside Beyoncé's sister, Solange Knowles. "The drummer failed to turn up, the sound was bad, amongst other things, but it was a relief it all went wrong," says Anderson. The duo called it a day and went off to Verona – apparently because "Ryanair were doing cheap flights", where they discovered disco lento, "slow disco", which had been influencing them long before they even knew of the genre.

Bonded by a common desire to "get real", the pair found instant relief from writing songs that were "emotional authentic" and "connected to joy" says Hutchcraft. "Songs that capture the middle ground between happy and sad are a lot more powerful for people. Part of the charm of Europe is the atmosphere of openness and honesty in music. In the UK and America people are afraid to let go emotionally, because there is a fear of the word 'cheesy'."

They set about creating sombre but heartfelt songs, including "Blood, Tears, and Gold", which became their second home-made video, also posted on YouTube. Their "Wonderful Life" video, which cost them just £20 to make, shows them performing the song on a sparse stage, with a random woman, dancing awkwardly in the background, wearing a black lace mini-dress and high heels. Hutchcraft explains that he was trying to capture a look reminiscent of the women in Bob Fosse's 1972 film Cabaret.

Manchester-born Anderson and Hutchcraft, from north Yorkshire, met five years ago outside a Manchester nightclub. "We were on the dole, claiming £56.40 a week, on and off for a couple of years, interspersed with odd jobs," reminisces Anderson, who filmed greyhound races at Manchester's Belle Vue dog track, while Hutchcraft worked backstage, building VIP tents, while touring with the British Superbikes racing series.

They had not considered careers as pop stars until they met and started to exchange backing tracks and vocals via email. Hutchcraft had studied acoustic engineering at the University of Salford – which "is the science behind what we do". He was obsessed by what made a pop hit and listened to Prince and Michael Jackson in his pursuit of the answer.

Anderson hadn't even bought a CD until he was 18 years old: "I rented OK Computer by Radiohead from the library and, seven days later, I took it back a changed man." Now they consider most current pop music "patronising" and "emotionally insincere". "People require a celebration of reality. We've had our fair share of fantasy. People are aching to be valued and to feel intelligent."

With a strong work ethic, they didn't leave their dungeon-like studio, in Manchester, for six months as they perfected their sombre but hope-filled songwriting skills.

Their debut album, which is released in August along with the single "Wonderful Life", was recorded in an abandoned radio station in Gothenburg in freezing conditions, as well as in Manchester, in January. "There is always an undercurrent of hope in our songs," says Anderson. "About five or six song titles on the album allude to hope: "Silver Lining", "Happiness", and "Illuminated", which are set to a bleak atmosphere."

Onstage they are always joined by "Richard", an opera singer, as backing singer, which adds a totally original dimension to electro-pop. They will perform at the MAD Video Music Awards, the Greek equivalent of the MTV Awards, in Athens on Tuesday where they will have 50 dancers at their disposal. Then this summer they are set to perform at many of the big festivals – including Lovebox Weekender, Camp Bestival and V Festival.

And they have had "Wonderful Life" remixed by New Order remixer/producer Arthur Baker – it also became a Top 10 iTunes hit in Denmark earlier this year.

But while their emotional music resonates with European audiences, does Britain really crave this brand of emotional electro-pop? "I think the emotional honesty in our music is refreshing," says Hutchcraft.

"A lot of men want to be this open and music helps you to express it because it's not something men do on the surface. At gigs when you see men singing along to our emotional songs, you can see that is their only outlet for that emotion. Regardless of what country you are in, it offers emotional release. It resonates with the female audience too because they are interested to hear men singing about being emotionally honest."

'Better Than Love' is out now

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor