IT'S over a quarter of a century now since The Coral first met while pupils at Hilbre High School in the late 90s.

From jamming in the basement of Flat Foot Sams pub in Hoylake to number one albums, tours with the Artic Monkeys and Oasis and working with actor Cillian Murphy, it's been quite a ride for one of the most consistently enjoyable and unpredictable bands of their era.

This autumn has seen the band continue the momentum of 2021's Coral Island, a double-length concept album devoted to memories of English seaside resort towns, with 2023's Sea of Mirrors - another conceptual work purporting to be a lost spaghetti western soundtrack - becoming the band's seventh top ten long player.

If that wasn't enough The Coral, consisting of James Skelly, Paul Duffy, Nick Power
Ian Skelly and Paul Molloy, have also released another album, under the title Holy Joe's Coral Island Medicine Show, consisting of a collection of country-tinged tracks about gamblers, thieves, and killers, which has been made available as a physical release only. 

"It's exhausted me to be honest," said James. "It seemed like a really good idea at the time to take it all on. Getting it together with the budget we had was harder than I thought but once you're deep in you've got to finish it. I'm proud of it and Sea of Mirrors is definitely one of our best albums. 

"You just want your fans to hear and it and you're relieved that it's all done but it's still a buzz especially when we've put so much into it."

While 2018's Move Through The Dawn album was well-received by the critics it became The Coral's least popular in terms of sales and chart position giving James and the band time and space to ponder their next move.

Wirral Globe: The CoralThe Coral (Image: SJM)

"We were kind of freed up in a way," said James. "With Coral Island we felt a bit like 'well no one gives a shit so why we don't we do this mad concept album?'"

The band had already begun stockpiling song ideas and then on the way home from a trip to Blackpool, they had the idea of making a concept album about a fictional seaside town. 

While the band themselves suggested the island was located "somewhere between Seacombe Ferry and Llandudno", Coral Island struck a chord with critics and record buyers alike who propelled it to number two in charts with many feeling the album's nostalgic psychedelia perfectly soundtracked the strange days of lockdown.

James said: "It's always when you least expect it isn't it? But it seems to have resonated with everyone.

"I think everyone putting their albums back during Covid apart from us really helped - it was a perfect storm for us as everyone was there looking back on their lives and the album just seemed to resonate. A lot of people were thinking 'well we're not going to go abroad again so we better go to seaside'.

"Coral Island did really well and it gave us the confidence to make Sea of Mirrors. Also we thought that we'd never get a chance again where we've got no other commitments to perform. It was like being a teenager again so we threw ourselves into it. Then lockdown ended and we got all our commitments back!"

Like a band with a second chance, The Coral grasped the opportunity lockdown gave them to not only get creative but to also re-connect with a fan base that had put them at the forefront of the guitar band revival of the early noughties with huge hits like Dreaming Of You and Goodbye and a number one album with 2003's Magic and Medicine. 

"We had to do something and our fans had stuck by us so we did the live album and the lockdown sessions album," said James. 

"You have to make what you can of the situation and we're the kind of band where I like to think everyone can come and escape by listening to The Coral.

"We don't really have an agenda and I don't see social media as a place where I can discuss my views too much. We made music and it seemed like we re-engaged with a lot of people who probably didn't even know we were still going."

As revealed at the time of launching Sea Of Mirrors, it was unplanned writing and recording sessions, with the main aim of being the last band to record an album at the now-closed, legendary Liverpool studios, Parr Street, which revealed two albums worth of new material to The Coral.

With one collection of songs pooling to form the soundtrack to the arcane film scenes already scrolling through James’ head, it was a script written by Nick and inspired, vintage foyer-card artwork developed by drummer, Ian, which became the Sea Of Mirror’s sleeve design, which concreted-in the album’s rich concept.

As well as bringing in heavyweights of stage and screen like the aforementioned Cillian Murphy and fellow actor John Simm to guest on the albums, a bonus CD finds Love guitarist, Johnny Echols voicing the liner notes for the album, again written by Nick.

James said: “Once everybody had put their parts on the track. Sean suggested we have some dialogue over the outro and said he’d done the soundtrack to Cillian Murphy’s first film, so he had a contact. A few weeks later I got an email from Cillian saying he was a fan and would be up for helping us.

“We discussed the character and how I saw it as a once great star like Buster Keaton or Bella Lagosi on the set of a low-budget B movie, looking back thinking: ‘How did I get here?’ I sent him what Nick had written and then left it up to him to do his thing and when we put what he sent us over the music it fitted perfectly.

"What he sent back was just the cherry on top - I thought he sounded like Tommy Lee Jones or something! I was made up with it."

Naturally with a new album comes the chance to tour and playing live is something The Coral have always relished whether its hits-packed festival slots or the opportunity to test drive their latest songs.

"I think we'll do a 'paisley underground' take on some of the new songs," said James. "When you play some of the album live there's a bit of Celtic soul in there too. 

"There's some that sound slightly like the Stones when they tried to be psychedelic and there's others with a Van Morrison vibe. 

"When you're playing festivals you almost get up and you want the muscle memory to take over - have a few bevvies beforehand, loosen up, enjoy it and get in the mood.

"You want 45 minutes to an hour with no bulls*** and make sure it's rocking and everyone's having a good time. That's what you're getting paid for in my mind."

From growing up in Hoylake to the influence of New Brighton on Coral Island, James and his bandmate and have always proudly trumpeted their Wirral roots and the thread its unique geography has weaved through their music. 

"I think if I was landlocked I'd go crazy so you can't really beat a peninsula," added James. "I've lived on the Wirral most of my life apart from a couple of spells in Ellesmere Port and Liverpool.

"All my family are here and it's where I grew up and my mum and dad ran pubs so we were constantly moving around so I feel like I know every nook and cranny of it really."

The UK Tour dates for The Coral are as follows:

Fri 1 December – Glasgow, Barrowland

Sat 2 December – Liverpool, Olympia

Thu 7 December – London, Electric Ballroom

Sat 9 December – Manchester, New Century

All ticket links and information on upcoming live dates are available via