Since forming in the mist of Hertfordshire’s hardcore scene in 2007, Lower Than Atlantis have marched their music from the pillar of the niche, to the post in front of the rest of the world and planted it there nicely for all to see. After three records of pounding anthems, coarse lyrical subjects and not being able to do it exactly the way they wanted it – the latter of the three giving them huge hopes on a major label – the Watford four piece have just completed the finishing touches to a fourth and potentially final record that is full of energy, force and realisation of mortality. We caught up with frontman Mike Duce to discuss the bands potential swansong and the enigma that is their self titled new record.
You took a year or so out to make this record, how does it feel to finally have it ready to show the world?
M: That’s an open question – just good in a word. Every other album we’ve made has always been written and recorded in between tours in a rush, just to get it out and get it done and stuff and we didn’t have a label, we didn’t even have a manager for most of this album, so there was no pressure. There is nothing we would change about any of it. You usually find with albums that there are things you would change here and there, but not on this one, I can’t wait, I just can’t wait to put it out and see what people think about it; even the people that don’t like it, I wanna know what they don’t like about it and why. Just really excited, can’t contain myself – just gunna do a little bit of a piss. [laughs]
Given the time you’ve spent on it, is it, for you, the best LTA record that you’ve made to date?
M: It is and that’s why it’s self titled – because it’s the sound of Lower Than Atlantis. It is definitely, without a doubt, musically the best written album we’ve ever produced.
You previously said that ‘there is only so much four guys can do with guitar bass and drums, it’s time do whatever we wanted’ taking that what can fans expect from the new record that they haven’t heard before from Lower Than Atlantis?
M: There’s a little bit of an electronic element, don’t get scared because we’ve spent a lot of time on it! It’s hard though, to pull off that sort of stuff off tastefully, but I think we’ve done it. Again having all that time and having our own recording studio helped. Along with the electronics, there are some string sections in this one song called ‘Criminal’, which again took time to pull off and not sound too cheesy, which I think we’ve done, but we’ll see won’t we?
Having heard some of the record it is evident that there are a range of different sounds on it, what things, artists or experiences set the tone for how the record was going to sound?
M: Well, as I’ve said before, we treated this as though this could be our last record. We were signed to Universal and it came to a point where anyone that sold under 150,000 copies were gunna be dropped, which would’ve been us, trust me they wanted to drop us, but they’d already picked up our second option. We’d already signed the contract and they’d already given us our advance, so they gave us the option of releasing the album with them, and they weren’t going to put any money into it and they weren’t really bothered about, or taking our money and going elsewhere, which we did and bought our own recording studio with it. We said that if this is our last album, is has to be done right. We wanted it to sound perfect, we wanted to be proud of it. It was also a really scary time for us, because we’re not getting any younger and we were worried that we’d have to get fucking jobs or something, which contributed to the sound of it because we had that drive, we had something to prove again and I think you can hear it on the record. But the electronic element and pulling stuff off tastefully definitely came from Bombay Bicycle Club, who do it really really fucking well man.
As it has been from day one in LTA, your lyrics are seemingly very raw and personal, does it ever feel scary to almost bare yourself to the world?
M: Yeah, I wasn’t thinking about it at the time , I never normally am, ‘cos it’s kind of like a therapy to me or something – I can write about something and move on, it gives me closure on the subject. It isn’t really like that on this album man, I mean the lyrics are personal to me, but they’re open as well. You can take from it what you will and relate to the lyrics in your own way and I’ve tried to make it so that on first listen, you can hear the lyrics and what I’m singing about. So yeah, I haven’t really done that on this record, because the pressure was off. Normally I’d spend so fucking long writing a song and end up freaking out and having like a panic attack because I’d be like ‘shit someone is gunna read this and think this of me’ but then on the flip side I’d be like ‘fuck ’em’. But, yeah I didn’t have that with this album, which was really really nice. It was more about writing the music than writing the lyrics.
What is your favourite song or favourite lyric from the record and why?
M: Favourite lyric would be from ‘Time’ because it’s weird innit? There’s one thing that’s inevitable and it’s that we’re all gunna die, it’s constantly ticking on and there’s nothing we can do about it. You can be the most rich and powerful guy – or girl, in the world and there’s nothing you can do and I just wanted to write a song about it. ‘time time ticking by/the one thing we spend/but we can never buy’ is the lyric. Favourite song is so hard man, I love all of them – every single one of them, there’s not a song on the album that I don’t like. We wouldn’t of put it on there if we weren’t all 100% on it. Nah, I can’t pick one man, it’s like having kids you can’t pick your favourite. [Laughs]
In the process of writing this record, you took some time writing for/with other artists such as 5 Seconds of Summer and Luke Friend, did it help you explore different avenues on how to write your own material?
M: It didn’t mate, no. That’s why they came to me, they must’ve wanted some of what I was already doing I guess. The way I thought about it was a ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ attitude; I can sit in my small flat, driving a banger all day complaining and having my integrity, not that I’ve compromised any artistic integrity for financial gain or anything like that, but if I didn’t do it, then someone else would have and then who’s the real mug there?
You’re playing reading for the third consecutive year this year, how much of the new material will you debuting?
M: Well it’ll be after we play the intimate shows coming up and I think one of the things I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s facial expressions first hand and getting to see what works and what doesn’t. So, judging by the reactions, we’ll be playing those new ones and of course some of the classics for the fans, nahmean?
Is has become a growing trend in the last year or so that Rock music has come back and infiltrated the charts, does this give you hope that your record can do the same and even hit the number one spot?
M: Mate I don’t need motivation, I’m happy doing something that I like y’know? It’s great that people are picking up on it, but if they don’t like it fuck ’em, we like what we do, but don’t get me wrong it would be so great to have a number one album, we’re not even expecting it, even a top ten which is just unheard of, but I don’t even care man, it would be great, but we’re just gunna do what we do. If people like what we do, crack on, if you don’t, go fuck yourself. [Laughs]
Does the success of this record have any bearing on if the band carries on at the end of its cycle?
M: I think it will, but I dunno man. This band is my life, I don’t have anything else and it did get quite scary when we were thinking about breaking up or carrying on and making another album, but I dunno, I’m not saying anything. It’s not a scare tactic like ‘oh if you don’t buy this album we’re gunna break up’ but we’ll just see how it goes.
If you do decide to call it a day at the end of this album, will you do the ‘done thing’ and come back in ten years time for a reunion and how would you do it?
M: I dunno man. I’m a completely different guy to the one I was yesterday, so fuck knows what I’ll be doing in ten years. Now Mike would say, I dunno make an album? But I dunno, it’s hard to say.
Lower Than Atlantis’ self titled fourth record is released 29th September 2014