Page last updated at 01:56 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 02:56 UK

Elbow enjoy slow-burning success

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Elbow
Elbow have released four albums in the last seven years

Elbow may not be household names, but they are one of the best-loved bands in the indie scene, and one of the most popular winners of the Nationwide Mercury Prize.

When the name Elbow came out of the envelope in host Jools Holland's hand, there was a massive cheer from all corners of the ballroom at the Grosvenor House Hotel, where the ceremony was being held.

The band themselves looked stunned, then stood up and embraced, their faces displaying how much the accolade means after 18 years of setbacks and slow-burning success.

Their music is heartfelt, romantic, ambitious, melancholy, grand.

Their four albums have been consistent in quality and credibility, and continually growing in confidence and scope.

They have not courted the mainstream, and have happily continued to sail under the radar of the pop-loving public.

Regularly talked up in the press, they have always been the nearly men of rock. Until tonight, that is.

We love what we do but nearly everyone we've ever met works harder than we ever have
Guy Garvey

"I suppose you could look at it in the same way that certain Bedouin tribes look at a bowl of milk," is frontman Guy Garvey's tongue-in-cheek take on the Mercury win.

"It's something that doesn't occur very often, and it's so much sweeter for it."

By turns funny, sincere and mischievous, the portly Garvey, teetering on the line between smart and scruffy, is one of rock's most treasured characters.

When he stepped up on stage to accept the Mercury Prize trophy, he didn't attempt to play it cool and hide his satisfaction.

And afterwards, he was in his element holding forth with journalists backstage.

Asked what they would do with the 20,000 prize money, the five-piece looked at each other before Garvey replied: "Charity."

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A clip from Elbow's Grounds For Divorce

The cheeky grin suggested that charity might be the hotel bar.

And when asked about the band's tough journey, he replied: "It's a bit strange to talk about music as hard work.

"We love what we do but nearly everyone we've ever met works harder than we ever have.

"Having said that, it's been a long time that we've been doing it and this is a cause for celebration. I'm just so very proud that we've been working together this long to this end."

The band formed in college in Bury in 1990, signing to a major label in 1997 and recording an album.

But they were dropped soon after and the record did not see the light of day.

That was not the only setback the band have had to overcome.

More recently, they were embroiled in a legal dispute with their record label V2 during the making of The Seldom Seen Kid, before moving to Fiction, the home of Snow Patrol, Ian Brown and Kate Nash.

And personally, the band lost one of their best friends, Manchester singer Bryan Glancy, who died at the age of 39 two years ago.

'Great friend'

The award was dedicated to him, just as the album is - he is, in fact, the Seldom Seen Kid referred to in the title, Garvey revealed.

"You don't get any more seldom seen than when you're not alive any more, and I think he would have appreciated the gallows humour in that," Garvey said.

Suddenly serious, Garvey continued: "I miss him every day. He was a great man and he should be stood here in many ways.

"That very heavy trophy there is going to be sat on Mandy Glancy's mantelpiece, his mum, because she's a particularly amazing lady."

After 18 years together, Elbow have kept going where other bands would have given up - and what's more, they actually still seem to like each other.

So what is their secret? "Are you happy for me to answer this?" Garvey turned to his bandmates, making a gentle joke about band relations.

"Respect for each other - respect and love and friendship, and we all really get a kick out of sleep deprivation, which is essential if you're going to be in a band together."

They give the impression they will be happy to continue ploughing their own fertile furrow for a long time yet.

Any awards like this will be a welcome bonus, but they don't mind being the underdogs.




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