Elbow's Guy Garvey tells Andy Welch why honesty is always the best policy.
Anyone who's met Guy Garvey, the towering lead singer of Manchester stalwarts Elbow is sure to tell you what a nice bloke he is, while it's virtually impossible to find an article about the man that doesn't feature some reference to his famed affability.
Open and honest, he cuts a refreshing figure, and during our conversation, mixes deep, serious moments with light-hearted anecdotes and jokes - filthy jokes.
"That's just my sense of humour. But you cannot quote any of it," he says, laughing.
The band formed after Guy met guitarist Mark Potter at sixth-form college in 1990. Mark asked Guy if he'd sing in a band he was trying to get started with bassist Pete Turner and drummer Richard Jupp. The quartet soon became a five when they roped in Mark's brother Craig to play keyboards.
In 1997, they were signed to a major label and recorded an album, but due to a buy-out, they were dropped and the album never saw the light of day.
They then released a handful of well-received EPs, and by the end of 2001, were hailed as one of the best bands in Britain thanks to their Mercury Prize-nominated debut album Asleep In The Back.
Cast Of Thousands followed in 2003, and in 2005 the band unveiled their third set, Leaders Of The Free World, both to rapturous praise from the music press. Elbow's record sales, however, have yet to match the heights of their reviews, or the affections of their loyal fanbase.
But The Seldom Seen Kid, the band's forthcoming fourth LP, is being tipped as the album to change their commercial fortunes.
They've already clocked up an appearance on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross with current single Grounds For Divorce, getting them all-important exposure, and the song is also playlisted on the nation's biggest radio stations. The signs are good, but does Guy think 2008 could be Elbow's year?
"It's all been said before," he says, smiling, "so I don't take a lot of notice for that very reason.
"For me, the nicest thing is seeing bands who've come after us taking influence from our music. Sometimes they'll admit to it, but other times, I'll just hear a lyric in a song and I just know that it's been inspired by something we've written," he continues, before explaining the way things work on the Manchester music scene.
"I remember being helped out by Doves in a big, big way in the early days, and I remember [ex-Stone Roses bassist] Mani shaking Pete's hand for the first time and bowing to us very publicly. That meant a lot.
"Manchester bands look after each other, so it's nice to be in a position now where I can help people through. It's so much better than slagging each other because everyone realises it's so hard to get to the point where you release a record.
"I met Liam Fray from [hotly tipped Manchester band] The Courteeners the other week, he's a very nice fella, I like them a lot.
"I'd also watch out for Liz Green, Josephine Oniyama and Nancy Elizabeth too. There's loads going on up there to buzz about."
The music of The Seldom Seen Kid might just be their most epic-sounding yet.
From the album's opening Star-lings, then The Bones Of You, through to closing track Friend Of Ours, there's a veritable feast of orchestration, layering of sounds and Garvey's trademark soaring vocals.
One critic remarked the Bury-born frontman could sing a gas bill and make it sound moving, and it's hard to disagree.
Thematically, the album is a contemplative affair, largely due to some tragic circumstances affecting the band.
"Yeah, a friend of ours died at the beginning of making the album. Far too young and it was a total shocker for us all," he says, frankly. "Elbow have also been busy having babies - the Potter brothers have two sons each, and Richard has a son too.
"The negative and the positive things that have happened since our last record have one thing in common - they've all made us contemplate our place in the world and how long we're going to be here, so we're asking a lot of big questions on this album, about life, death and all that stuff.
"I think it's fine to ask smaller questions than that, too, like what time are we going out, or what are you drinking, or do you want to go to the chippy, but we're an album band, and we've made a great big album."
Lead single Grounds For Divorce is a rootsy stomp, on which, according to Guy, guitarist Mark is thankful for finally being allowed to rock out a little.
"Lyrically, it's about... There's a tendency for me to crawl into a local bar, normally The Temple on Oxford Road, when things are going wrong," he explains.
"In the aftermath of losing my friend, that's exactly what I did. It's also about a very rare occurrence, which was that I fell out with the idea of living in Manchester for a while.
"I love the place so much and write about it an awful lot. I'm very proud of the city and proud I'm from here, but for a time there I wanted to be far, far away.
"It's about contemplating mortality again, inspired by the fact everyone around me started splitting up. Long-term partners split up, or people moved away, or changed jobs, or started drinking heavily, or stopped drinking at all, and it was all in reaction to losing one of our very dear friends two years ago.
"Ultimately, it's lovely to feel the wheels turning again after being cooped up working on the album for so long. And some of the reports coming back almost make hanging around in a little studio for two years worth it." * Elbow play Birmingham Academy on April 10. The Seldom Seen Kid is out on Monday