The Pigeon Detectives’ moment is now. Last month, they released their fourth album, a formidable achievement for any group, and over the past few weeks have announced a shedload of UK tour dates for October and November.
I interviewed the band’s bass player, Dave Best, on the phone just before the release of the album. Dave was very positive about the upcoming release: “We’re all just excited to release a fourth album. A lot of bands don’t get this far so we’re definitely excited and we can’t wait to get back on the road again.”
The run-up to the release of We Met At Sea brought with it an exciting buzz, with the lead single, ‘Animal’, reaching almost 100,000 YouTube views. Dave told me that the anticipation around the release had heightened the band’s fervour even more: “I mean we just write these songs, us five, all together, and we just hope it connects with people. The fact that people responded to ‘Animal’ really positively is good for us because you can never know how long you’re going to hold people’s interest, but yeah the reaction to ‘Animal’s’ been brilliant so we can’t wait to get the album out and see what everyone thinks to the rest of it.”
The most common criticism levelled at the Pigeon Detectives is the claim that their sound has never evolved. Pondering this, I asked Dave whether fans of the previous albums will notice any sonic development in the new record. “We try to write it for the live show as much as possible as we’ve always been a live band. We’ve always felt most comfortable touring and being on stage. Our first album was basically like a live set put onto CD that we’d been playing for a year or so. We wanted to take it back to that after a very much studio-based third album. We wanted to try and write an album that would come across live really well, because that’s our favourite part so there’s a lot of high-tempo, energetic songs that people can jump around to and there’s a couple of anthemic ones and I think it’ll go down really well live and we’re really happy with it.’
“We’re trying to relate to as many people as possible. We’re not going to write songs about songs about pink elephants”
Despite positive expectations for the album, it peaked at a disappointing 41, and was out-of-sight of the charts the following week. And to add to their woe, the album wasn’t stocked in HMV until the Saturday after its release, the official charts are calculated – surely a major photo factor in its underwhelming chart performance.
Beyond hindrances to physical sales the album itself isn’t overwhelmingly good, which perhaps explains why it exited the charts so soon after its release. The overused formula which worked so well on their debut album, Wait For Me, was wearing thin by Emergency, and is now like the musical equivalent of a bad rom-com where the two main characters get together very predictably.
It’s listenable, but you might not remember any of it after hearing it three times. Dave spoke to me about the band’s ambitions when creating the album: “When we first started we kind of wrote about growing up, getting drunk and going out with mates and stuff like that, all about being a kid our age. We’re a bit older now so themes are a bit broader but it’s still the Pigeon Detectives, we’re still trying to sing about relatable things that people can kind of recollect in their lives and stuff like that. I think it’s kind of a more broad sort of, this is what it’s like today, and we’re trying to relate to as many people as possible.
“I think that’s what made the first couple of albums so successful. We’re not going to start writing songs about pink elephants, it’s not really our style.”
In spite of a recent slump in album sales, the band still has a large and enthusiastic fan base. For the video for their second single, ‘I Won’t Come Back’, they saw an opportunity to acknowledge the support they receive locally. “We involved lots of our fans in filming a new video in Leeds yesterday. We just put a little invitation out seeing if people wanted to come and the tickets went within a couple of hours. We’re excited, we’re going to play a couple of songs for them as a thank you and we’ll keep it very much on a Leeds basis – we’re from Leeds and it’s like a little thank you to all the people who have always come to watch us, and stuck by us. If they’ve taken the time to turn up it would’ve been a bit of a boring long day but we’ll try to make it as entertaining as possible, try and put on a bit of a show for them.”