An Interview with Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy

Posted: Friday 20 October 2017

Orchestral pop troupe, The Divine Comedy released their 11th album, Foreverland, smashed a busy festival season and played a three-night residency at London Palladium - all in just over a year. Now they're setting their sights on conquering our O2 Academy venues. We caught up with frontman and chief songwriter, Neil Hannon, to talk about awards, what to expect from a live show and the real difference between playing festivals and venues.  

Your 11th album, Foreverland, released to critical acclaim last year and peaked at number 7 on the UK chart, you must be happy with the release and its reception?

"Delighted! Thanks for reminding me how well it did. I am blowing on and polishing an imaginary medal as we speak. Actually, they should give out medals for high chart positions, kind of like a Blue Peter badge. I know there are gold discs and all, but you have to sell a bucket load to get one and then you can't pin it to your chest or anything!"

Playing three dates at the London Palladium on the heels of the release must have been exciting. How did fans respond to new material and how did you enjoy the run?

"The Palladium shows went really well in the end, despite the fact that I developed a shocking, voice-shattering cold the day before the first of them. It always seems to happen before the big ones... but I soldiered manfully on, and people seemed to genuinely appreciate us. Because we've made a hideous number of records it's hard to fit in more than a light sprinkling from the new album. They went down very well though, especially 'To The Rescue' and 'Funny Peculiar' - for which I was kindly joined by our supporting act, the wonderful Lisa O'Neill."

Anyone listening to The Divine Comedy will quickly recognise that you’re an incredibly creative songwriter – do you think it’s something you’ve developed over time or has it always come easily to you?

"Gosh, how blush-making. I suppose I always had the necessary imagination, that's something most kids aren't short of. Turning that into listenable music has been my life's work. There's a paradox to it. When you're young you don't know what you're doing so the ideas are always spontaneous and fresh, but sometimes the songs are clunky and poorly achieved. As you get older you get better and better at framing your ideas and the technicalities of songwriting, but this can, in turn, curtail the excitement and originality. Bummer!"

The Divine Comedy had quite a busy summer and featured at festivals like Electric Picnic and Latitude. How does playing outdoors compare to an indoor venue? 

"It's colder."

Finally, your four-date O2 Academy tour hits the road this November. What can fans expect ahead of your live performances?

"Well, what can I tell you; it will be a heady mix of pop stormers and heart-warmers, paroxysms of joy, cataclysms of despair, songs of love, songs of hate, songs of transport, and me dressed as Napoleon probably. All you could ask for from a night out!"

Catch The Divine Comedy at a venue near you by getting your tickets here:

O2 Academy Leeds: Thursday 23 November - Buy Tickets

O2 Institute Birmingham: Friday 24 November - Buy Tickets

O2 Ritz Manchester: Tuesday 28 November - Buy Tickets

O2 Academy Bournemouth: Thursday 30 November - Buy Tickets