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Andy Burrows of Razorlight: ‘Bands are complicated beasts’

What do Johnny Borrell, KT Tunstall, Tom Odell, and David Brent – Ricky Gervais’s unforgettable comic creation – have in common? They’ve all had drummer Andy Burrows in their band, and now he’s back with Borrell in Razorlight.

Razorlight. Picture: Johnny Picks
Razorlight. Picture: Johnny Picks

Memorably bursting onto the scene in the early 2000s, the indie rockers enjoyed a string of hits, including Golden Touch, Somewhere Else, In the Morning and America, although personal differences led to three members of the quartet – including Andy – walking away, leaving Borrell as the sole member from the classic line-up.

Now, all of the members have patched up their differences and the band once again consists of singer/guitarist Johnny Borrell, guitarist and keyboard player Björn Ågren, bass player Carl Dalemo and Andy on drums – plus keyboard player Reni Lane, who joined in 2019.

Andy was speaking to the Cambridge Independent from KT Tunstall’s tour bus, having just completed a short tour of Ireland with the Scottish singer-songwriter (“the crowds for her in Ireland have just been phenomenal,” he says).

He reveals that they had just come off the ferry into Holyhead and were due to play Standon Calling, a music festival in Hertfordshire, the following night.

Andy, 44, will be back with Razorlight when the band headline Audley End – part of the Heritage Live series of concerts – on Sunday, August 13.

Recalling his stint playing drums in David Brent’s reformed version of his old band Foregone Conclusion in the 2016 comedy film David Brent: Life on the Road, Andy says: “I think it was the most I’ve laughed during a work scenario in my life, or maybe it was the most I’ve laughed...

“It was an amazing and excrutiatingly funny period of time, it was brilliant. You’re trying to get through it, and obviously me and the band we’re not actors so it was painful trying to keep it together. It was unpredictable, for sure.”

Andy, who co-wrote Razorlight’s biggest hit, the anthemic sing-along America, with Johnny Borrell, quit the band in 2009 and rejoined in 2021. How did this rather unexpected reunion of the four members come about?

“Somebody was making a film about us,” he explains. “There’s a director called Ben Lowe; he made a film about us which has still not been released, which is slightly odd…

“He was making a film about us and I think Johnny had suggested that he would be up for a conversation with me, which was odd because we hadn’t spoken for a long, long time.

“I thought it was off the table, so when I got that call from Ben about this film and about Johnny wanting to potentially meet up, it was quite a shock.

“But we met up for the first time on camera just outside Biarritz, so it was very surreal indeed. But that’s how it came back together.”

On what caused the pair to fall out in the first place, Andy says: “I think it was just maybe a bit of a breakdown in communication…

“Without meaning to be over-dramatic, and obviously it was a long time ago, but I felt like everything was just taking its toll on me.

“I think I was struggling with it, that’s all, and I just had to not be in it anymore – basically I couldn’t really deal with all of it anymore, it got a bit too much.

“It’s complicated, which is why I won’t bore you with it too much, but it wasn’t as simple as musical differences, or any of the things that you try and come up with to try and put things into a neat box.

“It’s just the way that it was – the amount of touring we were doing, and it was really full-on. We got big really quickly and it was a really full-on five and a half years and essentially I found it too much, so I jumped ship.

“I never did not love it with my whole heart; I guess to put it simply, I just wasn’t coping very well with everything that was going on.”

The other Razorlight band members coming back on board was the result, Andy says, of “a good six-month period of phone calls and emails with each other, trying to see if this was something we could attempt to do”.

He adds: “Everybody lives in different parts of the world and obviously we broke up, so there were all sorts of complications to overcome.”

He says that “maybe about seven or eight months” after contact had initially been made was when things started to happen, and recalls that when the foursome first got back together to play, it was as if no time had passed: “Oh, absolutely, from a musical point of view it really was – everything just came flooding back.

“It was really wonderful, that’s the power of being in a band together and having made music together. That feeling when we started playing, it was instantaneous – it was awesome.”

So it’s maybe fair to say that the Razorlight boys are probably closer now than they’ve ever been? “I think in many ways, yes,” says Andy, a drummer since the age of eight.

“There’s always going to be slight niggles – bands are complicated beasts and I think we were particularly complicated in a lot of respects… but I think we definitely feel very close at the moment. We just recently completed a tour of the UK, and it was pretty moving.

“It was amazing to be out there playing and getting a lot of love back; it was very, very special to experience that as a four.

“It felt very broad, in terms of the crowd that were there. I felt very grateful to be playing those songs again to such an age range – it was quite spectacular.”

Razorlight were one of those post-millennium acts that managed to ‘get in’ just before everything in popular music changed – when the charts still mattered, when people still bought CDs, and when programmes like Top of the Pops were still essential viewing (though perhaps not quite as essential as it had once been).

Andy says he feels “very happy about that on a personal level” – because that’s what I grew up with. I grew up watching Top of the Pops once a week and listening to the charts and buying the NME.

“So to have been able to experience all of that stuff, and in the way that we did – it was completely bonkers really – means a great deal.

“I feel like these days I’m not sure how it works. It’s like there’s so much noise and there’s no focus – and I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing, it’s just very different.

“So I do feel very grateful that we were around to enjoy what was probably the last part of that era, that was probably 40 or 50 years of the way it was – it was just a very magical time.”

That said, Andy believes there are still some great new artists around today. “I like this band Hearing Aid Beige – they’re an awesome band I like at the moment,” he says, “but I feel like there was a real energy at that time [the early 2000s], a lot of bands that were around were making a lot of racket.

“It’s just a different time, isn’t it? I really like that band Chappaqua Wrestling; their album came out a few weeks ago. They’re a brilliant band, I love them, but again I think that was a particularly brilliant time.

“The ’90s seemed like an amazing party to us fans and then something happened again from The Strokes onwards; it all seemed to pick up again for seven or eight years of just endless brilliant bands. It was just awesome to be a part of that.”

Talking of the ’90s, Andy describes himself as a “Blur obsessive” and was also a fan of The Simpsons. “I much prefer South Park these days,” he observes, “but back then I think it was The Simpsons.”

Appearing on the same bill as Razorlight at Audley End will be Embrace, The Feeling, and Toploader. Andy, who reveals that the band have been working on new material for the last 18 months, says there will “definitely be one or two new songs” but adds: “I think it will most definitely be a greatest hits set, for sure.”

On stage, he notes that he especially enjoys performing the song Vice off the band’s first album, 2004’s Up All Night.

“That’s probably my favourite song to drum to live,” he says, “but obviously playing songs that I wrote with Johnny is always very special – playing America is always a moment, so I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it always feels pretty fantastic to play that song.

“But the whole set’s pretty high-energy and it’s a lot of fun – and I think we’re working harder than ever, which is quite funny, 10 years later.

“But it does feel like we’re playing really well, and it’s just a total joy to play to people at the moment – especially after those couple of years of no one being allowed out of their house.”

Razorlight will be headlining a huge outdoor show in the grounds of Audley End House & Gardens on Sunday, August 13, with special guests Embrace, The Feeling, and Toploader.

[Read more: Razorlight announced for Heritage Live’s concert series at Audley End, Heritage Live announces Soft Cell as the first of the Audley End series of concerts for 2023]

For more information, visit heritagelive.net. For more on the band, go to razorlightofficial.com.

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