“I’m sorry - we had a fucking massive party last night.” Driving through Liverpool on a cold sunny Saturday morning, Rich O’Flynn, current DIY Indie Dreamboat of the month, is talking about the previous night’s album playback celebrations for All We Are, apologising in advance for the band’s possible lateness. Sleepy-looking bassist Guro Gikling is picked up along the way and the band’s guitarist, Luis Santos, is prompt, already at the gates of an old school house, aka AWA HQ. Tardiness isn’t in this trio’s game.
All We Are are equally proud of their international musical heritage and their connection to Liverpool. Norwegian Gikling (Bass/vocals), Irishman O’Flynn (drums/vocals) and Brazilian Santos (guitar) first met at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) but it wasn’t until the end of their studies that they made a decision to form a band. ‘‘I think what underpins the band, what ties us together is that we’re really good mates”, says Rich. “I think the name kind of says it all. When we left uni we started the band ‘cos we really wanted to stay in Liverpool, to be mates and to make tunes. And that’s what we ended up doing.”
All three bandmates were originally guitarists, so playing together meant that Guro had to change to bass and Rich became a drummer, which by his own admission was fine - he always wanted to be a drummer anyway. “Before it was about the chords and now I always think about the groove first, before anything else,” he says.
Their sonic identity took a while to evolve, finally finding its place in the hypnotic grooves of ‘Utmost Good’, a debut single that the band consider a turning point in their musical quest. All bar one tracks on the debut album stem from that first realisation. According to Guro, it was a time when they found enough confidence in playing their new instruments to develop their own sound. All of the band emphatically agree that ‘Utmost Good’ was a very special time, a point at which they all gelled. Luis, whose contemplative voice at times veers into a gentle Irish brogue, sums up this evolution. "After playing together for some time, you don’t need to speak so much and you realise what you need to play, what the other person is going to play and what that person would like to hear.”
Despite their wide-spanning origins, Guro is clear that any specific places, like Norway or North Wales - a recording hub for the group - are irrelevant in terms of musical influences or inspirations: “The reason why we go on these trips is because we like to lock ourselves away - it’s just us. And the world kind of disappears a bit and we go into this ‘All We Are’ space.”
Creative retreats play an essential part in the band’s development, but both Guro and Luis look at Rich approvingly when he asserts their Liverpool credentials: "We’re really proud to be a Liverpool band. None of us were actually born in Liverpool but the band was born out of this city. We’re really proud to be part of this scene and it’s a fucking cool scene - we really like everyone here. We work with lots of different people. It’s a really good vibe.”
"All the lyrics - they’re personal to all of us. They’re stories of things that happened in our lives."
— Guro Gikling
An attachment to Liverpool boils down to their unofficial HQ. in an abandoned school. As well as providing living quarters, it’s a rehearsal space and a studio, where most of the album came together. Rich’s drums are the centrepiece of a large room decorated with posters, the space containing everything from golf clubs to a large old-fashioned blackboard bearing the names of album tracks. "I absolutely love this place”, says Rich beaming. "I think it’s really integral to the band story. I don’t think we would have been able to do any of this without it…
Although this creative hub was the birthplace of ‘All We Are’, the album finally came into being in South London, in the home/studio of Dan Carey (Bat for Lashes, Franz Ferdinand, Kate Tempest, Hot Chip, M.I.A.). Everyone agrees that working with Dan immediately felt right. All three seem visibly excited describing their experiences, citing an instant creative spark and emphasising Dan’s special ability to conjure up creative vibes and capture the sound. Walking around his studio and his own home, the band felt part of the family.
When asked whether the album was conceived out of their famed jamming sessions or whether there was a defined, more conceptual idea behind it, Guro confesses that “we had an idea that we wanted to make tunes that people can move to. It has this groove that you don’t necessarily want to jump up and down to, but it makes you wanna move. And I think that’s what we wanted to do.”
There’s no denying that this is a debut centred around heady rhythms and tight grooes, but there’s also a nostalgic, almost melancholy element resonating through the album. And to some extent the name ‘All We Are’ indicates an openness and fragility reflected in the sound of their smooth nocturnal groove. When it comes to the lyrics, Guro admits that they all come from their free-thinking sessions. “We’re a jamming band. And when it comes to actually writing the lyrics down, the foundations are already there. All the lyrics - they’re personal to all of us. They’re stories of things that happened in our lives. We were trying to make them a bit more universal so that everyone can relate to them and make them their own. Because we want people to feel that they’re a part of it.”
Picking out a single track is a mean task. From the violently defiant crescendo of ‘Keep Me Alive’ to the curious pulse of the xx-infused “Feel Safe’, right up to post-rock liquid mercury ‘Go’, ‘All We Are’ is an album of mesmerising beauty, backed by a sharp groove. In many respects, a self-perceived, early days description as “Bee Gees on diazepam” only covers the surface. It’s a broad musical range, echoing disparate names like Metronomy, Cocteau Twins, Liquid Liquid and London Grammar, giving the whole thing an element of unpredictability that keeps it fresh and focused.
Leaving AWA HQ for another night, Rich sums it all up. "Basically we’re just making tunes and we hope it’s universal. We feel positive about that. We're just make songs genuinely for the fucking love of it - hopefully that comes across.”
Photos: David Edeards. All We Are's debut album is out now on Double Six.