Danny McNamara - Vocals, Guitar.
Richard McNamara - Guitar, Vocals, Percussion.
Mickey Dale - Keyboard, Guitar, Percussion.
Steve Firth - Bass.
Mike Heaton - Drums, Percussion, Clarinet.
Embrace are Danny McNamara (vocals), Richard McNamara (guitar), Mike Heaton (drums) and Steven Firth (bass), a quartet from various towns surrounding Leeds, who have only just played their twelfth gig together but have already come up with a sound that is as all-encompassing as their name.
The foundations of Embrace were laid eight years ago when Danny gatecrashed the family store room where his younger brother, Richard, was playing drums in a hardcore thrash band. "I just got into it by going in and telling the rest of them what to do," he smiles "and that was it really."
The two brothers started writing their own songs, recruited Mike Heaton on drums, and Embrace was born. However while Danny was singing onstage at the Heineken Festival in Leeds in the summer of 1993, he had his big Damascus moment. "As I looked out into the crowd, I suddenly felt like Ian McCullough or Bono or someone" he recalls. In those few, fleeting seconds, he realised that he didn't have to sound like anyone else to succeed. He just had to be himself.
The following day, Embrace scrapped every single song that they had written and started afresh. They spent the next two years in their rehearsal room, practising four nights a week and all-day on Saturdays and Sundays. During this period, the original bass player got religion, the band replaced him with Steven Firth, and the songs just kept getting better.
"I stopped wishing I was good and realised I was," says Danny, simply. "Rather than being contrived about writing. I just let the songs come out. I mean, you've got no choice as to what songs you write, cos they just come out of the sky anyway, and if you start getting choosy when they're at the coming out stage, they'll never appear."
Over the course of the past three years, Danny has written almost 100 songs, while Richard has come up with twice as many pieces of music. "The best way to get songs is to fall asleep," reckons the guitarist. "You put your head down and, just as you're nodding off, all this music starts playing in your head and filling up the bedroom. And depending on whether you can be arsed to get up or not, you end up with a song."
Embrace were inspired to keep getting out of bed in order to put a demo tape together in time for Sound City, which was held in Leeds last spring. Of the 30 demos the band sent out, they got 18 replies from companies wanting to work with them. They subsequently set up three showcases at the Duchess Of York pub in Leeds and signed to the Virgin subsidiary, Hut, last September. "As soon as we went into Virgin it felt like home," says Danny. "And as soon as we went up to the loft where Hut was at the time, it felt like my bedroom."
Since signing to Hut, Embrace have no longer had to worry about local promoters refusing to give them a gig because they don't sound Britpop enough - "Someone actually said to us, 'If you sounded more like Shed 7, we'd put you on'," says Danny. Instead they have been busy paring their many songs down to the 15 which they think are great enough for their debut album, to be recorded over the next couple of months. Danny pinpoints "All you Good, Good People" as "the one where we really learned how to write songs" - a huge, uplifting anthem which will be released as Embrace's first single in February.
"'All You Good Good People' has got a bit of a Barry Manilow's 'Made it Through The Rain' kind of feel to it," laughs Danny. "I didn't realise that until I heard his song about a month ago - you know 'I made it through the rain and found myself respected by the others who'd got rained on too'. It's like that but not as tacky. Basically, I'm trying to find something good in all the shit that you go through in life and I want to share that with other people." 'All You Good Good People' is filled with the desire to succeed, the will to move onward and upward, the ability to dream yourself out of one place right into another. Themes which can be heard again in the celebratory waltz of 'Higher Sights', the psychedelic mayhem of "One Big Family" and the country-stained brilliance of 'Retread'.
The fact that Embrace are a Northern band, fronted by two brothers of Irish extraction, is bound to lead to unnecessary comparisons with Oasis. They restrict their genuine inspirations to Motown, Curtis Mayfield, the Beatles, Brian Wilson, the Stone Roses and Primal Scream's 'Screamadelica' , but Embrace's big spiritual music simply doesn't sound like it could've been dreamed up by anyone but themselves.
"When I listen to music it takes me somewhere, but it never really takes the wind out of me," says Danny. "But you can affect people in that way and that's what I want to do with our music. I want to have the hairs on the back of people's necks standing up, I want feet to be tapping, I want tears to be flowing, I want the stomach to be churning, the heart to be pumping and the floor to feel like its moving up and down. We want to get people"; just get them.