Two weeks before his last appearance at Latitude Festival, Ed Harcourt decided to go sober. When he says sober, he means not only no drink, no drugs and no smokes but no coffee, no meat, no sugar, no carbs and no fun. It was this last appearance at the much loved festival that reminded him why sobriety isn’t such a good idea in the world of rock and roll. "I lost about a stone and a half in two weeks and looked like Zoolander by the end of it, then… I went a bit crazy" Says Ed. "That last show at Latitude was the final straw…"
Six years on, the quintessential master of melancholy returns to the sleepy town of Southwold appearing in the film and music tent on 18th July.
Ahead of this, WJ caught up with him in a backstreet pub in Dartmouth Park to find out exactly what he’s been up to. A lot it would seem. The year started with a new album Back In To The Woods followed by the perplexing pastiche Wizard Bounce. "People thought this was a real album…" Chuckles Ed, who announced the release of his '7th studio album' ahead of a more legitimate follow up to BITTW earlier in the year. Ed slipped in Wizard Bounce as a free download with the description:
The dam of change is leaking and I’ve cut off my thumbs. It is time to put a stop to all this mopey, floppy haired balladry & throw the piano overboard & man up. Wizard Bounce is my lucky 7th album and you are witnessing a well kindled rebirth, a sexy dissidence, a timely scream in the face of pompous boredom & meandering mewling.
Followed by the statement:
Sorry that I treated you like a fool. An April fool. Most of you cottoned-on, but in case you’re one of those people hassling my manager to buy a copy on vinyl, let me be clear: Wizard Bounce is NOT my seventh album, it was a (somewhat elaborate) hoax.
If you find this confusing, check out the album itself.
Naturally, in between his own albums Harcourt is not one to sit and thumb twiddle, so in recent weeks has set up camp in the leafy sprawl of Richmond to write and record with long time friend Sophie Ellis Bextor. “It’s been a fantastic experience, she’s just got one of those voices that works with anything” says Ed who is producing and co-writing the record. “Loads of our friends are involved, it’s going to be folky and really interesting… not what you’d expect.”
Expect the unexpected seems to be Ed’s mantra, a co pro deal with Greggs should really be on the cards with the amount of pies this enterprising troubadour seems to have his dexterous fingers firmly planted in… Nestled between a bevy of albums he’s even found time to make and market his own Beer. “A really good friend of mine runs The Stag [swish boozer in NW3] and my local, The Parlor. We’re going to be launching it soon". He’s taken to Facebook to ask fans for their name suggestions, fancy having go? Click here!
Perhaps next time you see Ed Harcourt live, the merch stand will be conveniently positioned next to the bar… unless that is, you’re a punter at his up and coming tour which takes in numerous stops at churches around the country. Do they have bars? “I just think my music sounds better in churches” says Ed. “It’s a geeky sonic thing and as an Atheist I’m looking forward to it!” One would have thought the red tape of the cloth might scupper any chances of access to the delights of the UK’s regional churches to which Ed replies “I just let my manager Sean deal with that, he’s amazing.” Before the release of In To The Woods, Ed joined forces with Drowned in Sound founder Sean Adams. “I played him the record just to see what he thought and he turned round and said well why don’t I manage you? I was so surprised but was like Yeah OK!”.
With a jam packed summer ahead Ed Harcourt seems constantly on the brink of over loading, but in his own words is an extremist. With six and a half critically acclaimed studio albums under is belt, Ed is one of the UK’s diamonds in the rough, a song writer whose ability to tug heartstrings, elate minds and intrigue with stories puts him gracefully at the top of his pile. Now however it seems he’s stood at the foot of more than one.
To see what all this babble is about, head to the serene fields of Latitude Festival from 18th – 21st July, with their painted sheep bleeting to the likes of Bloc Party, Foals, Modest Mouse, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Alt-J and of course Ed Harcourt.
WJ: "So Ed, what can fans expect from your set at Latitude?"
EH: [Takes a deep breath] "A brutal, brooding, dusky musky, sanguine, serpentine clusterfuck of clarity."
What more could you want?
As we leave the pub, Ed stops to pat a small fluffy creature that’s been pacing the room throughout our stay. “Dogs and Children” he says. “They can sense evil”.
Words: Ben Welling