Following the collapse of the label Poptones (under the Universal Records umbrella) shortly after the release of its debut album Exits, London-based indie rock quartet The Boxer Rebellion decided to throw caution to the wind and do things independently. This proved to be the right move, as the band recently released its fourth album, Promises, the third on its own Absentee Recordings. We chatted with guitarist Todd Howe about how things are going.
Your publicist was telling me you just drove from one side of Canada to the other. How was that? [Laughs] It was long. It took us three days from Toronto to Edmonton. Most of Canada’s been pretty flat; we haven’t seen a hill yet. We’re going to hit the Rockies tomorrow so it’s going to be a lot more scenic.
How has the tour been? It’s really good to be back out on the road. Up until our first show, we hadn’t done a show in a year. We took the whole time out doing the new record.
Was the first show back difficult? It was different this time around because we wrote and recorded Promises without a thought of actually playing the thing as a band. The first time we played everything together was January when we went to L.A. to finish the record off with [Garbage’s] Billy Bush. Having said that, we haven’t been this rehearsed for a tour, so the new stuff’s sounding wicked.
I read that when it came to Promises , you were inspired by playing The Cold Still live. What part of performing live inspired you? We did The Cold Still live with Ethan Johns, which was an amazing experience, but that was just how we’d written the songs and how that album had evolved. This time around, we built our own studio in London [and were] able to write and record straightaway and develop ideas from beats or tempos. It’s a polar opposite of the way we did The Cold Still. The two albums sound completely different.
How was working in L.A.? It was amazing actually, mainly because London was so gray [laughs]. After nine months, we needed a change, something more positive. The sunshine, the whole vibe in L.A. really helped us finish the album. It’s a more positive-sounding record. It’s definitely more upbeat, probably the most upbeat record that we’ve done. We’ve worked out that there’s no one way of developing an idea. You learn with each record that you do, just pulling on those experiences is going to make the next one better as a result.
What’s it like to see how far you’ve come as a band? It’s really good, actually. It’s incredibly refreshing to be in complete control of everything that we do. There’s a lot of bands out there that don’t, and we were one of those with our first record. That experience has ultimately proven to be a good thing, as hard as it was at the time; it steered us in this particular direction of wanting to be staunchly independent. It’s served us really well.
What does the rest of the year look like for the band? After this tour, we’re going back to the U.K., have a gig in London with the Rolling Stones, and then on to Australia. We’ve got quite a bit of promo and festivals over the summer, and we’ve got stuff planned for next year as well. It’s getting busier, that’s for sure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.