Years After 'The Killing Moon,' Echo & The Bunnymen Still At It

The band Echo & The Bunnymen has released its first new album in five years, called Meteorites. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks with frontman Ian McCulloch about the release.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Kelly Mcevers. So if you grew up in the '80s or '90s like I did, your mix tapes might, at some point, have included these guys.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE DANCING HORSES")

ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN: (Singing) Bring on the dancing horses - headless and all alone.

MCEVERS: Echo and The Bunnymen, who did this song from the movie "Pretty In Pink," or this one, "The Killing Moon," which was probably the band's biggest hit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE KILLING MOON")

ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN: (Singing) Under blue moon, I saw you.

MCEVERS: It's been a few years since then, but the Bunnymen are still at it. And bandleader, Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant have released a new album.

(SOUNDBITE OF ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN SONG)

IAN MCCULLOCH: (Singing) Take me to the (unintelligible). Take me to the sky - don't know if I want to...

MCEVERS: It's called "Meteorites" and it's out now. And while a lot of people might like the band for nostalgic reasons, McCulloch told us he's been through a lot since the '80s and that comes out in the music. He calls one major period of depression a trough.

MCCULLOCH: It was a tough one to get out of. It was something that I'd become used to at this time. It lasted a year or even longer. That feeling of melancholy that used to swoop in and swoop out pretty much as quickly as it came.

MCEVERS: One of the times McCulloch told us he was most bummed out was when Echo and the Bunnymen kind of fell apart in the late '80s.

MCCULLOCH: I convened a meeting, as you do. I said, you know, it's time. Well, what I should've done, with hindsight, was say, let's have a year out with this or just say what I thought at that point. And there was resentment towards me for basically writing the songs even though they got equal shares. I seem to do everything on the creative side, but because they did more sound checks than me, they thought that they were entitled. So I actually said, you know, we'll split up, and then - it was only a few months. Three or four months later, I got a call from Will saying he wanted to carry on with the other two. And I assumed with a different name, you know, and I said, well, fair enough, do what you've got a do. But I'd assume that they'd call themselves something else like most bands would, you know, like Jaw Division (ph), Tenants, and New Order. I know that there was a death involved there but...

MCEVERS: Right. And then instead they kept the name and put out an album without you.

MCCULLOCH: Well, I don't - this is another thing I don't sweat about otherwise I get so pissed off. I want to go and kill Will Sergeant. But it killed me, you know, it's like it worse than - it was like being cuckolded or betrayed. You know, it was disgusting. So, but I scare no one.

MCEVERS: You're working with Will Sergeant again, and you guys still your call yourselves Echo and the Bunnymen. Why keep that name? Why not be a solo act?

MCCULLOCH: Because - well, I do solo albums separately because the songs are different. It's a fine line between a Bunnymen song sometimes and a solo song. But I think I just feel a bit cocky when it's a Bunnymen song. Like, is this a bloke down? It's - I've only ever sung it or even written it if that was a solo album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IS THIS A BREAKDOWN")

MCCULLOCH: (Singing) What do I want? What I need? What have you got to make my eyes bleed? What can I take? What can I steal? What's gonna make me feel like you feel? Is this a breakdown?

MCEVERS: You're sitting down to write a song about a breakdown, and the fact that you're writing it as a member of a band makes you write it differently than if you were you writing it as one guy?

MCCULLOCH: Yeah. Maybe I found that was where because it wasn't a solo song that was where I found it edgier because if I would have wrote like other subject on a solo and record, I might've not have answered with the, I know. I would've left it rhetorical. And it was kind a good because I think that helped as well as like, OK that's one way of channeling where I'm at. And hopefully one way of getting out of the trough I was in. You know?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IS THIS A BREAKDOWN")

MCCULLOCH: (Singing) Is this a breakdown? I don't think so. I don't think so. I don't think so. I don't think so. I don't think so. I know. Breakdown breakdown. Breakdown breakdown. Breakdown breakdown.

MCEVERS: You guys were so huge 20 years ago and you keep making records. And it's a different thing now. I guess I want to know why. What do you get out of it? What do you get out of continuing to make albums?

MCCULLOCH: Well, to me it's like sometimes you're painting your Mona Lisa's and your Sistine Chapel's. And you can't do that every time, you know. I think I finally realized that. But I think with this it's a lot like "Meteorites." I prefer "Meteorites" and I prefer "New Horizons" because it's about something that you can slip down. And it helps me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEW HORIZONS")

MCCULLOCH: (Singing) If I got distant from all the gifts that heaven sent every missed and misspent wish. Every instant, every twist was different. Not every lip sent kiss meant.

MCCULLOCH: It's still those early, formative years in my life. You can't escape them. You kind of - it makes you who you are. And for all, you know, the fact that it was muttered to me about popularity. Obviously I would love to sell 30 million albums and then go and buy southern islands which I wouldn't even go to. But I'd still like to sell the 30 million albums mainly because it'd 30 million people listening to us. And hopefully getting something from the songs. I'd be lucky enough to have had maybe five people in the last 35 years come up to me and say, they didn't kill themselves because they had "The Killing Moon." And maybe "Meteorites" one day, you know, somebody might hear "Meteorites" say, that song stopped me. You know, because that's happened five times and I count those five occasions as making everything I've done in this world is this worthwhile.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "METEORITES")

MCCULLOCH: (Singing) Hope. Where is the hope in me? Can it be found among all the ghosts in me?

MCEVERS: Ian McCulloch fronts the band Echo and the Bunnymen. Their new album is called "Meteorites" and it's out now. Thank you so much, Ian.

MCCULLOCH: You're welcome, Kelly.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "METEORITES")

MCCULLOCH: (Singing) Life's lost soldiers on the march leaving their trenches now.

MCEVERS: And for Sunday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Kelly McEvers. Check out our weekly podcast. Look for weekends on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on iTunes tunes or on the NPR app. And you can follow us on Twitter @NPRWATC. We're back next weekend. Until then thanks for listening. Have a good week.

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