Anathema's Vincent Cavanagh on Concert Film 'A Sort of Homecoming': 'It Was Such a Special, Special Night'

Vincent Cavanagh of Anathema
Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images

Vincent Cavanagh of Anathema performs live during a concert at the Postbahnhof on Oct. 30, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. 

It has been almost two years since U.K. progressive band Anathema toured the United States with Finnish rockers HIM, and frontman Vincent Cavanagh is looking forward to when the band returns. The trek with HIM is only the second time the band, which formed in 1990, toured the U.S.

"I always loved playing in America. I think we've got a potential huge audience [there]. So we'll try our best to get over there but we'll see," says Cavanagh, chatting by phone past midnight U.K. time during an early December evening. "At the moment we're writing new music, and let's see how this new music takes us. Maybe we'll release something first or we'll come over there first … we'd like to make a big impact on America."

As far as album cycles go, it hasn't been very long since Anathema’s last album -- it released Distant Satellites, another band exploration of eternal love and magnified consciousness, on Kscope Music in 2014. But in the meantime Anathema has released A Sort of Homecoming, which arrived in late 2015. It's Anathema's second concert film, after 2013’s majestic Universal, that captured a September 2012 show the band performed at the ancient Roman theater of Philippopolis in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Whereas Universal was Anathema to nth degree -- performing electric instruments under the stars with the support of a full orchestra to a crowd of several thousand people -- A Sort of Homecoming is grand on a different scale. This time Anathema performed acoustically at Liverpool Cathedral, which holds 1,000 people.

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"It was such a special, special night," recalls Cavanagh. "The whole thing felt like such an honor. This band is not religious at all. None of us are, but at the same time, when you invite a crowd into a place like this, everybody behaves themselves," he says with a laugh, noting that he would love to do an acoustic tour of America in similar venues.

The night was special because Liverpool is Cavanagh’s hometown and Anathema did its first photo shoot outside of the cathedral. Cavanagh, who calls Liverpool "a very important place to us," sees the evening as "a bunch of working-class guys coming home. They've just come home in that place, in that particular cathedral, and it's so difficult for people from Liverpool to create a reality for themselves. We're one of the few people to do it. We're actually not that well known in Liverpool, because we never played there, and all of a sudden we book this cathedral and it sold out immediately. We can't thank everybody enough."

Watch "Untouchable Part 1" from A Sort of Homecoming:

Anathema hasn't released a proper music video since its earliest days; the majority of its content on YouTube is fan-made. According to Cavanagh, there are several reasons the band has opted for movies, the first one being that he sees its music as lending itself to film. "Anathema has a few different sides to its sound. The acoustic side is one thing. Obviously we have the rock stuff and then the orchestral stuff, and we're bringing more the electronic side to everything, so I don't really see any restrictions on what we should do."

He also feels that Anathema has always been about being a live band, so it wants to capture those moments in the best possible light. "We're very protective of our art, and if something is not right then we won't put it out … I'm definitely open to a video; we just haven't found the right formula yet. I think we might figure it out for the next album because I'm ready to make a music video."

As far as A Sort of Homecoming is concerned, Anathema apparently found the right formula with mixed-media artist Lasse Hoile (Steven Wilson, Opeth), who directed the film and its predecessor. "He's an artist, so you know you're in good hands with him," observes Cavanagh. "I find it very difficult to watch live footage of myself. I think a lot of people do. But I know I'm in good hands with Lasse."

The care Anathema invests in its visual presentation is also related to Cavanagh being a music consumer, one who buys a lot of vinyl and appreciates the experience of buying a piece of music, bringing it home, and absorbing both its sound and the artwork it's wrapped in.

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"You pour yourself a glass of wine or whatever, you sit back, and the whole ritual of the thing," he explains. "I will smell the record, I will devour all of the information that's on there, especially if it's a gatefold. The more information, the better."

Cavanagh can trace his love of vinyl and music back to one of those few groups who made it big out of Liverpool, and the full-circle connection is another reason why the film is called A Sort of Homecoming.

"The very first record I ever played, I was about 3 years old, and I wanted to hear 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' by The Beatles. My grandmother had the original f-ing single, and she had one of those huge wall-size sideboards with the record player attached," he recalls. "She would hold my hand and put my hand on the needle on the stylus on the seven-inch, and then I would dance. I would dance to 'I Want to Hold Your Hand.' That was my introduction to music: The Beatles and vinyl. That's magic."