After parting ways with their major label, post-hardcore upstarts Lower Than Atlantis considered walking away from music completely. But then they built a studio – and recorded their most ambitious album yet.
Ahead of their return, frontman Mike Duce spoke to Mark Butler about proving people wrong, chaotic times on tour, and how their new single could become a World Cup anthem.
Hi Mike. How’s things?
“I’m very, very, very jetlagged, but soldiering on anyway. I flew back from Japan about three days ago and I’ve had no time off. We had a rehearsal the day we got back, and then I was on the Radio 1 breakfast show. I had to be up at the crack of dawn.
“But it’s all good. I’m currently enjoying the hot weather and wandering round outside.”
How was the Radio 1 Rocks show this week?
“It was great. They can sometimes be a bit weird those things, because you’re in a studio and it’s not really a gig atmosphere. But it was a good laugh. Our fans are great.”
Your new album is billed as being your most ambitious yet. How have you changed things up this time around?
“Every album before this has been recorded in a matter of weeks, between tours. We were primarily a live band, and the albums came after.
“This time, we took a year off and spent some real time on it. We have our new recording studio now and it was all written on the computer. It was meticulous. At the end of each session, when we had a demo we were happy with, we’d walk through and re-record each part piece by piece. We really built up each track, and we’d never done that before.
“It used to be just four blokes in a room playing.”
It sounds like it was a particularly turbulent time for you guys when you started working on the new material?
“Yeah. I’ll tell you the whole story, shall I? We were signed to Island Records – for some reason unbeknownst to us – and when we released an album with them we’d had to do something similar to our previous material, otherwise everyone would have accused us of ‘selling out’. It didn’t sell as well as they’d have liked, so they said: ‘Look, we can either release another album for you, but spend no money promoting it, or you can take the money and run’. So we took the money and ran.
“Then we built a kick-ass recording studio and set about making people eat their words. Hopefully we’ll now see a lot of words being eaten.”
How would you describe the new album?
“I’d describe it as ‘f***ing brilliant’. But then again, I am biased.”
You’ve talked about how you’ve had to ‘grown up’ a bit in recent times. Was the new music directly affected by your fresh outlook?
“We had something to push against, to fight for, and that definitely comes across I think.
“It was a really scary time, because we pretty much called it a day after the Island situation. All our friends were buying houses and had good jobs, and we were considering walking away, but we decided to do one more album and see how it went. And I’m so glad we did.”
Does the whole growing up thing mean there won’t be as much wild partying on the road these days?
“Yeah. We definitely still party way too much, but it used to be ridiculous. We went through 50 tour managers. I’m not exaggerating.
“Now we strike a good balance between having a good time and taking the actual business of performing more seriously. It’s important to really respect the people coming to your gigs, and put on a good show.”
Your upcoming tour takes in 15 shows in just 17 days, which is a pretty hardcore undertaking. How do you keep yourselves motivated when you’re on tour?
“I dunno. It does get really tiring man. But you think: ‘You know what, I could be working in ASDA’. The thought that we actually get paid to do this feeds us fuel. That, plus a bit of adrenalin and a few whiskies, and you’re on your way.”
What can fans expect from the new shows?
“They can expect us standing on a stage, playing compositions. No! Only joking.
“For these club shows we’ll be playing some of the old hits, plus some older songs, B-sides and rarities that we’ve never played before. We’ll also be trying out some of the new material of course. It’s for the hardcore fans really – to give something back.”
Any places you’re particularly looking forward to revisiting?
“Where are you based again?”
“Oh yeah. Yorkshire’s going to be great! Love that place.”
While we’re on the subject, you’re playing Leeds and Reading Festivals again this year of course. What would you say is your dream plan of how the weekend will pan out?
“Big crowd. Everyone singing along. Then I go off to watch Bombay Bicycle Club, and have some beers with friends in other bands who I haven’t seen in ages.”
Do you have any particularly amazing or bizarre memories from festivals past?
“Yeah. We were at a place called Hevy Fest in 2010, and it was the first ever gig where people actually showed up. There were even people wearing t-shirts. We looked at each other and went: ‘F*** man – we’re rock stars!’ That was the turning point for us.”
You released a Christmas single a couple of years back. Did you consider turning out a World Cup song this summer?
“It was talked about. Our new song ‘Here We Go’ is actually perfect for it. It’s heavy, punchy, and it goes ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’.
“I’m hoping it becomes a stealth anthem.”
‘Here We Go’ is released on July 21, and the band’s self-titled new album comes out on September 29.
Lower Than Atlantis tour the UK next month:
Jul 15: Aberdeen, Tunnels
Jul 16: Glasgow, King Tuts
Jul17: Newcastle, Cluny
Jul 18: York, Fibbers
Jul 20 Manchester, Deaf Institute
Jul 21 Hull, Fruit
Jul 22 Nottingham, Rock City
Jul 23 Stoke, Sugarmill
Jul 24 Birmingham, Temple
Jul 25 Gloucester, Guildhall
Jul 27: Cardiff, Ifor Bach
Jul 28 Bristol, Fleece
Jul 29 Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms
Jul 30 Norwich, Epic Studios
Jul 31 London, Dingwalls