To the outside world, it might appear as if Manchester five-piece Elbow are late bloomers. After all, it was way back in 1990 that the boys from Bury first got together to form a band, and it wasn’t until 2001 that they released their first studio album of five, Asleep in the Back. However, despite the introspected resonance of frontman Guy Garvey’s lyrics making them the darlings of the music press, Elbow were never quite deemed to have cracked the wider public consciousness. They were instead regularly, and lazily, labelled the industry’s best kept secret. Lazily because they were far from secret thanks to their first three albums still making the UK top 20. Either way, that all changed in 2008.

That was the year fourth album The Seldom Seen Kid was released, a record that launched Elbow up into the stratosphere. It won them the Mercury prize before seeing them named best band at the Brits the following year, while a succession of other gongs served to keep their mantelpiece crowded. Now undeniably one of Britain’s biggest acts, last year’s Build a Rocket Boys! has led to another best band nomination for February’s 2012 Brits.

The immensely down-to-earth band, however, are taking it all in their stride, as guitarist Mark Potter (pictured second from right) explains. “Our lives haven’t really changed at all,” he says. “Yes, we’re a little bit more comfortable now, and Guy is quite famous, getting recognised probably anywhere in the UK, but what it’s done for us more than anything is allowed us to do exactly what we want to musically now.”

On their recent rise, he adds, “yeah, it’s accelerated over the last few years, but we were never unhappy. With the first few records we were still making a living out of music. We weren’t a household name or playing arenas but we didn’t have to hold down other jobs to do what we loved.

“I mean, really the success since Seldom Seen Kid, we hadn’t done anything different, it just connected. It’s very odd. What the five of us do in a little studio in Salford, and the places it takes us, well, we feel very privileged.”

I for one am pretty relieved to discover Elbow’s famously easy-going nature is not the stuff of legend. After a mix-up with times finds me taking the call several drinks into a visit to the pub, Mark shrugs off the 10-minute delay with a joke, before explaining that “we’ve never really bought into the celebrity thing”.

“Like with the Brits. It’s lovely to be nominated, but none of us are into the glitz side of it. We’ll turn up, but it’s more a chance to give a little back to our wives, buy them a new frock and get them on the red carpet.”

More importantly, the band are enjoying being back in the studio, working on both a new album, which promises to “open a new chapter”, and the official BBC music for the London Olympics. “Writing the Olympics music was an amazing experience, as well as a real honour and challenge, that just made us want to get writing again,” explains Mark. “It was a different thing for us. We had a brief and a lot of meetings, like you needed a sort of winning moment, crossing the finish line, and a sort of sad moment, but creatively it was very much in our court.

“It’s quick soundscapey stuff. It was a joy to do as we’ve always wanted to do soundtracks. I think our music lends itself to that kind of thing.”

Bizarrely, Elbow are also enjoying success in a very different field right now, as a Build a Rocket Boys! beer is taking Manchester’s pubs by storm. “Ha, yeah, somebody seemed to think we like drinking,” explains Mark. “We were invited to look around local Stockport brewery Robinsons. It turned into quite a drunken afternoon and by the end of it we’d agreed to launch a beer! Initially it was going to be a limited edition release, but it’s selling really well in a lot of Manchester bars and a lot of supermarkets.”

Elbow, supported by Bombay Bicycle Club, play Melbourne (Mar 21), Adelaide (Mar 22), Brisbane (Mar 24) and Sydney (Mar 26).

January 30th, 2012