Elegant Look, Poignant Tunes, Heartfelt Emotion

Theo wears :Grey suit Richard James, Roll neck Hugo Boss
Adam wears : Roll neck Hugo Boss

Hurts were being hailed as Britain’s next big thing before they’d played a single gig. The Manchester based duo—singer Theo Hutchcraft and guitarist/synthesizer wiz Adam Anderson—captured the public’s imagination last summer with their first single “Wonderful Life.” The song combined a slowed down disco beat and instrumental textures that recalled ‘40s torch songs as much as ‘80s dance pop. The video’s stark black and white images perfectly complimented the dark synthesizer swells and Hutchcraft’s soulful, angst drenched vocals.

“‘Wonderful Life’ was the most DIY pop video ever made,” boasts Anderson. “It cost £20 and there was a lot of ‘push record, then run around the camera’ involved, but it worked because the idea was good. Our songs are a juxtaposition between hopeful lyrics and bleak atmospheres. That contrast extends to how we sound and how we choose to present ourselves. Hopefully, it will keep people on their toes.”

The success of Hurts’ first indie single quickly landed them a major label deal. People wondered about the duo’s history and where they got their considerable songwriting and stylistic chops. “We met five years ago outside an unpopular nightclub in Manchester,” Hutchcraft says. “While his friends were fighting with my friends, we decided to talk. We both wanted to be professional musicians, but were wary of each other, due to the situation in which we met. We talked on the internet for the first few months, until we found a musical common ground.”

Hutchcraft and Anderson started playing together in a metal band called Bureau, then moved on to a disco/death metal outfit called Daggers. “Daggers made ambitious, relentlessly excitable pop music,” Anderson says. “We were young men when we started, boys really, and just learning. We wanted to write number ones, but didn’t quite have the goods. I think of everything prior to last year as school and Hurts as the graduation. We wanted a colder, simpler sound, so we wrote songs using one instrument and one vocal, which worked well. The whole record was written pretty much
on piano. We knew the choice of slow, somber tempos might make us a sitting duck for the critics, then we heard about lento.” Lento doloroso (slow and painful) is a style of Italian club music full of brooding emotion and lethargic tempos. Hearing lento gave Hurts the belief that their approach
was correct.

Theo wears :Blue suit Richard James, His own White shirt
Adam wears : Pink shirt YMC, His own Waistcoat

Their next single and major label debut, “Better Than Love” was more up tempo, but every bit as dark. “Our songs come from the perspective that life is neither as amazing as we’ve been told nor as bad as we’ve been told,” Anderson explains. “Our music exists somewhere between the extreme. The songs are sometimes sad and sometimes hopeful, but I think that that’s what most people feel in their own lives. Those kind of emotions are realistic and tangible.”

The British press has given the band favorable notices, but not without their usual snarky comments. The UK Guardian remarked on their appearance by saying they “look as though they’ve been styled by Helmut Newton, directed by Anton Corbijn and produced by Trevor Horn on a Martin Hannett tip.” In reality the Hurts’ style and sound owes as much to the classical pop ethos of the ‘30s and ‘40s as it does to the overly facile Joy Division and Pet Shop Boys comparisons they’ve been plagued with. “It’s an English necessity to pigeonhole bands to establish a point of reference, but sometimes it does seem lazy,” says Anderson. “We like some Pet Shop Boys songs but vocally/lyrically we’re miles apart, except for the fact that there’s two of us. Joy Division were an amazing band, but I can’t hear them in our music really.”

Hurts played their first live gig in February of this year, and their hauntingly moody music translated well to the stage. They put on a live show that left the audience stunned and left no doubt about their sincerity and star quality. Anderson explains: “We treat the live performance separately from the recordings, which are more clinical and simple. It’s important to try and kick it up a notch live; that’s why we have a full band.We’ve a secret weapon in Richard, our back up singer. He’s seven feet tall and has a neck like a tree trunk. He’s a [trained opera singer and a] remarkable character.”

As for the band’s elegant threads, the look is dictated as much by their financial situation as it is by their own sense of style. “We were on the dole for a long time, which is demoralizing at the best of times,” Anderson explains. “We began to feel so worthless that the only way we could hold our heads up high was to dress smartly. At the beginning, we dressed as simply as possible so as to not allow our music to be compromised by an image. The music was too important to us. Another reason we dress like we do has to do with male pride. When we started meeting record labels, we’d travel to London on the 4 AM Megabus, with babies being sick and a load of piss heads spilling their cider on us. Instead of crying about it, we just wore suits and retained our dignity.

“I buy my clothes from a blind woman in Hebden Bridge near Manchester. She runs a clothing shop out of her terraced house, in the middle of a desolate country village. In the cellar is the most amazing collection of old clothes, none of which have price tags. To acquire a price, she feels the clothes and based on the material and cut she’ll make you a deal.

“But we’re not dismissive of modern brands and designers. Theo has a nice suit from Michalsky, a huge designer in Germany and I like Prada coats. The difficulty is that modern clothes seem so clinical and the cuts are never right. We tend to find vintage materials for hardly any money, then get them well tailored in a shop in Manchester that’s run by some Lithuanian women we know. They shout at you if you flinch whilst being fitted.”

-J. Poet
photography by Olivia Beasley

Stylist Georgina Hodson at Webber
Grooming Paul Percival at Phamous
Assistants Tom Hull and Tim Bowditch
Grooming assistant Andriani Vasiliou at Phamous
Thanks Islington Elbow Room