Manchester Orchestra’s Robert McDowell Discusses ‘HOPE’ — Exclusive Interview

Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra released their hard hitting and well-received fourth studio album COPE earlier this year.

While the sounds heard on COPE are unapologetically heavy, the band discovered that the material seemed to work just as well (or even better) when stripped to their essence.

"We were noticing that all the beautiful, slow stuff was working with all the really loud and fast stuff," said lead vocalist, Andy Hull. "The seed was planted to go back and create a full circle of an album."

So last month, the band completely surprised fans with the release of HOPE, a startling re-imagining of COPE. On HOPE, hard-hitting distorted guitars are replaced with chiming acoustics, echoing piano and a delicate croon from Hull.

Manchester Orchestra will take HOPE on the road starting this Friday, and here we chat with guitarist Robert McDowell to discuss the creation of this stripped down album.

View tour dates below, and visit for more. Fans purchasing tickets for any date of the upcoming tour will instantly receive a digital copy of HOPE. The digital version of the album is available for purchase now, and it will be released on CD and vinyl on November 18.

Explain to us how the idea of HOPE came about.

It's something we wanted to do with some of our old records but never had the time. So when we finished COPE we went back into the studio and did the HOPE version of “Top Notch.” Then we realized that it complimented COPE and made the song into something really cool. So we carved out two months in between tours and dove right in to the entire record.

What was the recording process like for HOPE compared to COPE? How did you get in the mental headspace to record stripped versions of these songs?

So much of COPE had to do with creating the songs, then putting them on record. With HOPE we were lucky enough to have chords, progressions and melodies. It allowed us be in the moment and work on arrangements and production rather than picking apart a verse or bridge. Luckily we've also been making music like HOPE for a long time, so it was a pretty easy switch to turn in our heads.

Are there any songs in particular that you feel work better in the stripped down HOPE style? Any moments during the creation of HOPE that were surprising?

At this point the songs feel separate to me. Each version of each song took days and days of work. So when I listen, I associate them with different experiences. When I hear COPE it makes me appreciate what's on HOPE and vice versa. We were very lucky to finish both and still be proud of all 22 songs.

Tell us about the upcoming HOPE tour. What can fans expect?

We are currently in the studio learning how to be the Manchester Orchestra that plays HOPE. So far it's been really fun. It's definitely a less abrasive sound but I think fans will enjoy hearing everything. It's exciting to play these crazy places and be able to sing off of the natural sound of each room.

Tell us about some of the acoustic guitars played on the record.

Our main acoustic guitar was a Martin DC-16GTE. Its a guitar that can cover everything. We had a DI signal, a Neumann u89 and one of our tube or ribbon mics on it at all times. Once we started adding more parts, we could choose how we wanted it to sound. Some songs have a natural sound while others we got to re-amp and really mess with the tone.

Manchester Orchestra HOPE Tour:
10/31– Memphis, TN – New Daisy Theatre
11/04– Austin, TX – Scoot Inn
11/06– Tempe, AZ – Mesa Arts Center
11/07– Los Angeles, CA – Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever
11/08– West Hollywood, CA – Troubadour
12/03– Chicago, IL – Irish American Heritage Center
12/06– Philadelphia, PA – Temple Performing Arts Center
12/07– New Haven, CT – Center Church on the Green
12/08– Somerville, MA – Arts At The Armory
12/09– Brooklyn, NY – The Bell House
12/11– Charleston, SC – Memminger Auditorium
12/12– Durham, NC – Hayti Heritage Center
12/13– McMinnville, TN – Volcano Room of Cumberland Cavern

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Acoustic Nation

Acoustic Nation is written by Laura B. Whitmore, a music industry marketing veteran, music journalist and editor, who has contributed to, Guitar World, and others. She has interviewed hundreds of musicians and hosts the She Rocks Podcast. As the founder of the Women’s International Music Network, she advocates for women in the music industry and produces the annual She Rocks Awards. She is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Positive Grid, making the world safe for guitar exploration everywhere! A guitarist and singer/songwriter, Laura is currently co-writing an album of pop songs that empower and energize girls.