Losing a band member is hard. Losing a band member who's been part of the line-up for 10 years is even harder. Sometimes, however, these things just have to happen. On the day we speak to Editors, they're on the cusp of releasing the lead single from their new album, The Weight of Your Love, and drummer Ed Lay is in particularly talkative form.

There's plenty of talk about the band's new formation, but rewind a year or so and it seems remarkable that Editors are still a band. He maintains that the split with Chris Urbanowicz, former lead guitarist of the band (and their keyboard/synth player, so vital to the band's operations that there were two people brought in to replace him), was amicable, but in hindsight it seems that something definitely had to give. "It was fairly traumatic" Lay admits. "We got to a stage where we were trying to work through new songs, and when your band's breaking down around you because you can't communicate and nobody knows what they want to do, it's like cracking your head against the wall. At one stage, we felt like we weren't going to carry on, and that's a pretty scary thought when it's all you've been doing for the last 10 years."

The communication breakdown led to the band splitting into different camps. "Russell [Leetch, bassist] and I were finding ourselves in rehearsals, without the other two guys, trying to work through Tom [Smith's, lead singer/guitarist] songs, trying to whip them into a shape that everyone would be happy with... without them even being there. It was a terrible lack of understanding about what we wanted to do with the next album, but then we sort of had a choice to make; we could have ended it, or we could have carried on and tried to make a record. We thought it probably wouldn't come to anything, or anything that anyone particularly wanted to do. It would have been a compromise. So we said, 'we have to change the structure of the band, how we work, what we do with each other - we've got to have a huge think about it and move on.' That's what we chose to do." At that point, some of the new material had been worked on with Derek Flood, who produced the band's more electronic-leaning third album In This Light and on This Evening, but the songs weren't going anywhere. "We're not blaming Chris for the failure of the band, but we had to do something [after he left], and we chose to reinvent the band and bring some more people in.

As the chorus of their 2005 single 'All Sparks' put it, "all sparks will burn out in the end," but Editors didn't feel it was their time to burn out. They made the necessary changes, and it seems to have paid off: "We've got two new people in the band, confidence is sky high - we've become a proper band again." The addition of Justin Lockey and Elliot Williams helped set them on the right track again. "Justin was recommended to us by Flood; he'd worked with him on some other projects [like Yourcodenameis:milo's album Incognoto] - he's got a drive to make music which was just what we were looking for. Elliot was in a band called Airship (though they're changing that; they've got a new record to promote later on in the year) - they shared our management. We knew him already - we toured with them a bit - and... I dunno, it just worked out!" he says, sounding every bit as surprised now as he must have been back then. "As soon as they walked into the room, we were talking and laughing and getting work done. Everyone was vibing off the songs that Tom had written. I know it sounds corny, but it was a match made in heaven." Things were coming together quickly for the now-quintet at this point, and their newfound energy fed into the new album sessions.

"Ideas were coming all the time, and not just in terms of the instruments they were brought in to play - sketches of songs, different parts, the way we presented ourselves... I mean, Justin makes music, so to hear him enthusing about that side of the business, or that side of the art - it was cool to see everyone so enthusiastic - it had been a long time and a long struggle, and to see that freshness coming back was fantastic for our working environment. They're great to have around, and they pushed us in terms of our relationships with each other as well."

Such momentous changes caused the band to push themselves further; one example of this is the copious amount of strings on the album. "We've always hinted at doing things like that, but on this occasion, we figured that we'd get real strings in, rather than relying on samples or synths." Their presence is felt most strongly on new track 'Nothing', which Lay refers to as the album's 'centrepiece': "We wanted it to be a special moment - it started life as more of a straightforward rock song, but we weren't getting anything particularly special from it when we recorded it. It went down incredibly well live, but it takes more guts to look at a song like that and say, 'it's not special enough - we need something else'. We played it live a few times last year, but when we broke it down, nothing really was sticking. We figured we'd drastically change tack, and I'm glad we did."

Lay sounds like he had fun during the album sessions as well: "It was great recording the drums for this album. It has such a big sound - we were in an amazing studio with access to incredible vintage gear. We had a discussion at the start with Jacquire [King, producer] about where we wanted to go with the songs, and then we chose the gear and got our mics set up. It was great fun, and I learned how to get the most out of an acoustic set. On record three, In This Light..., I was trying to get sounds from a box... drum machines, and we wanted to get away from that."

They did so in a literal sense, decamping to Nashville to record with King, who's worked with the likes of Dawes and Kings of Leon. In recent times, Smith has said that there's an Americana feel to the new material. "Yeah, definitely" Lay agrees. "Having said that, it wasn't all about where we were. We rehearsed the songs and got them into good shape for recording before we left [UK] shores. The sound of the new record came naturally to us, but having [re]located somewhere with such heritage as Nashville, and camped there for six weeks, working on the record non-stop - we were purely working for it; no distractions, no family or friends down the road to take our minds off it. That's more of an American way of doing things: work hard and work extensively on a project, then you can move on to the next one when you're finished that. In the UK, you'd have your friends and family around you as well, so you could get a little bit distracted, but the whole idea of recording in America just excited us."

From there, we move on to discussion of another of the new songs, 'The Sting' - more specifically, taking it as an example of how the new material changed from its original live versions to the studio recordings. "It's an old song - we first played it at the Royal Albert Hall gig about... oh, god, two-and-a-half years ago? [Close - March 2011]. It was a cool song, but I don't think that version ever touched on what Tom had envisaged when he first wrote it - and this is part of the reason why the relationship in the band broke down. We weren't getting what was fulfilling the songwriter... to be honest, half of the band." He prefaces his next statement with some dry wit: "I don't mean to sound, you know, old, but... when a band plays a new song live, there's an expectation - it's instantly out there. Every fan can download it, go on YouTube and see it, and you can't keep things back for development anymore. You develop everything in the public eye when you choose to play a song, and it wasn't satisfying for us. We ended up reworking it over the next couple of years with a couple of different line-ups, and what it got to was something very different from the original - that's not to say it wasn't any closer to the vision Tom had for the song."

The band went into the studio with 14 songs, in the end - 11 made the album, and three ('The Sting' among them) are on the deluxe edition of the album. Fans looking for further b-sides may be disappointed: "We've got what I call a very good 'shit filter'. Maybe in the future we'll have skill to make little bits of songs into something we'd actually like to listen to, but before we went in to record, we'd only had the band together since... March or April of last year, and now the album's coming out. That's a very short time, and we've been away a lot as well. We wanted to keep a tight schedule on things - there wasn't time to record anything else. I don't know if we'll have time to record more new songs, either - we have such a busy touring schedule! Who knows? The thing is, I don't think anything will be put out physically. There's... maybe a limited-edition press of our first single, and that's it. Everything else will be released to radio; singles aren't what they used to be, but that's just how the industry is. A lot of our fans are collectors, and they'd want physical things, but the thing is that record companies haven't got the money they used to have. They can't necessarily afford to do that anymore."

Things have certainly changed in that respect in recent years, but this is the same band who put out a huge box-set collection a couple of years ago. Albums, b-sides, new songs - the lot. The Unedited collection has long since sold out. "People can be quite cynical about that - "Oh, they're just looking for more money!" - but it cost us a fortune to do it. Maybe it was a tiny bit of a vanity project, but at the same time, we just wanted to do it."

It drew a line under the band's first three records, too - from the straightforward post-punk of The Back Room, through the more grandiose An End Has A Start, and then stripping everything back for their previous album. We reckon The Weight of Your Love is a cross between An End Has A Start and something entirely new for the band, and Lay agrees that they do share similarities. "They're big songs with big hooks and big lyrical themes, but this time around, we've concentrated on getting a purer sound out of our songs. We didn't want it to sound overproduced, and ended up getting real power from what was essentially five guys playing in a room. We were able to embellish some songs with some dramatic strings and brass, and provide a bed for the best vocals Tom's ever given us."

Smith's definitely pushed himself, going as far as to sing in falsetto for 'What is This Thing Called Love', and when Lay's asked if these vocal strides may catch fans by surprise - those more used to his usual baritone, at least - he says that he hopes so. "That song is an out-and-out pop ballad; we'd never tried to attempt anything like that as a band before; we'd always found it a bit scary, like maybe it wasn't for us. We felt ready to push our own boundaries, not just in terms of singing, but the way we arranged the songs. Surely, it should be about experimentation - it's a rock record, and there's quite simple instrumentation on a lot of the songs, but we grouped together 11 songs which are all quite different than each other. I'd like to think people would want to listen to an album like that, rather than 10 similar-sounding songs and a ballad. That song in particular, I'm most proud of it - anyone could listen to it and have an opinion on it. I'm also really fond of [penultimate track] 'The Phone Book'; it's beautifully recorded... it's just a timeless song for me. We kept it really simple."

It's quite clear that Editors have pushed themselves in creating the album which was nearly their undoing, but with all that behind them, Lay says that they're just happy to be getting back on tour. "We'd been away for a long time, and to get back to playing these shows after we nearly finished as a band is a great feeling." As he said before - and as becomes clear throughout the course of our conversation - confidence in Camp Editors is sky-high. They're not just back with a new album; it looks like they're back with a whole new philosophy.

The Weight of Your Love is out now on PIAS Recordings.