Lower Than Atlantis: "We felt free to do whatever the fuck we wanted"

Interview Lower Than Atlantis: “We felt free to do whatever the fuck we wanted”

When their third album didn’t quite go to plan, Lower Than Atlantis very nearly called it a day. But despite it all, they’re back with the follow up.

The music biz is a difficult place: bands are sucked in and spat back out on a daily basis. It’s a tough world out there, when push comes to shove. Watford four-piece Lower Than Atlantis know this better than most. For their third album – their cleverly titled ‘Changing Tune’ – the band signed to a major label and prepared themselves to dominate the charts. Everything was meticulously mapped out, but it didn’t quite go to plan and they quickly had to learn who their real friends were.

“We weren’t sure what was going to happen,” begins the quartet’s frontman Mike Duce. “We didn’t have a label, we didn’t have a manager. Everyone had kinda jumped ship and it was almost as if no one had the faith in us anymore. It was as though we had something to prove.” Lower Than Atlantis have never been ones to just roll over and give up, and so the band made light of their new circumstances and continued on their own terms: their new self-titled record was born.

“We weren’t even sure if we were gonna be a band anymore, or if we were, if we were gonna take it seriously. But now,” he continues, “there was no pressure, there was no time limit on anything that we were doing. We felt free to do whatever the fuck we wanted because it might not have even seen the light of day. It was just for us, it was just for fun. All you can ever do when you’re in a band is write music that you would like to hear yourself. We did that, and we had a lot of fun with it and then, it came out well.

“Before, we felt a hell of a lot of pressure, being this little punk rock band signed to a major label too early - or at least, I think, too early - in our careers. We were never going to achieve what people were asking of us. Then, as soon as that pressure was taken away, it became fun again immediately. We’re all mates anyway, and we’re really lucky that even if we weren’t in this band, we’d still all be best mates hanging out so that makes it fun.”

"It’s a lot harder writing for yourself, than it is for other people."

— Mike Duce

Having returned to their home town, their first plan of action was to build their own studio. A task that proved as hands on as that implies, it did become a key part of bringing the four-piece back together. “We really got down to the nitty gritty,” he assures. “We had a couple of builders but we were like labourers really, we did the stuff like the painting together. It was great to just hang out outside of the band atmosphere and to all be working towards a common goal; to have our recording studio at the end, which is the fucking coolest thing ever.”

With their own working space now a reality, the band were free to write and record as they saw fit. In fact, it was only much later in the process that they were given any sort of time constraints, when they signed a new record deal with Sony RED. By that time, it worked as more of a blessing. “It’s hard to say when something’s done,” Mike shares. “I always imagine that an artist or a painter, they know when [their piece] is done, but I guess you kinda don’t. There was no time or pressure on anything until the end, until the album had to be delivered. We’d signed when the album was finished in semi-form, but when it came to re-recording stuff in the demo sessions, it was nice to have something to push against. They were like, ‘We need the album by this date’, and if we hadn’t had that, we’d still be going now I think.”

Thanks to their lack of inhibition, the band have managed to produce arguably their best album to date. Still packing the rough punch of their previous records, their latest effort comes packed to the brim with huge hooks and massive choruses. A rock full-length through-and-through, it’s also not shy to dally with the boundaries of the pop mainstream; an area that Duce himself has become more aligned with, thanks to his recent experience in the songwriting world.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot from doing the pop writing,” he readily admits. “I’ve gotten to work with a lot of prestigious people who have done a lot of crazy shit, so it was more of just taking what I’ve learned from that and applying it in ways. I mean, when I’m writing pop stuff, I feel a lot more free because, at the end of the day, as long as the artist is happy with it, that’s the main thing. It’s a lot harder writing for yourself, than it is for other people.

“Even then, there was no particular mindset of, ‘We’re gonna do this’, ‘We want to sound like this.’ We’ve never had that. If ever a song came out sounding like something we hadn’t done before, no one would ever say it didn’t sound like our band. If it sounds good, it sounds good.”

"The way we see it now is to just enjoy ourselves."

— Mike Duce

If their successes so far are anything to go by, there should be few worries ahead. Even the first song to be revealed from the album was a runaway success - ‘Here We Go’ boasted a staggering five weeks on the BBC Radio 1 A List. “For that song,” Mike laughs, “after the album was done, we went to record four b-sides and had three written, but ‘Here We Go’ wasn’t. We went in, and I told our producer Dan, ‘I’ve written a bunch of riffs, the chord progression and the top line, but I haven’t stitched it together yet.’ He was like, ‘For fuck’s sake, man! Be prepared.’

“So, we wrote it and did the demo that day. The second day, we recorded it properly and laid down some real drums. Then, we sent it to our manager and radio plugger. Our radio plugger was like, ‘This is a single.’ We were just like, ‘Really?! We wrote it yesterday and just boshed it out…’ She was like, ‘No, seriously, it’s a single.’ We re-tracked the vocals and then the day after that it was sent to radio. On the Monday, it was written, on the Tuesday, it was recorded and on the Wednesday it went to radio. It was crazy!”

Therein lies the beauty of their latest record: despite being born amidst chaos, it’s so far managing to prove all those who lost faith in the band wrong. “With this album, and with this band as well, that one song has surpassed any of our expectations so anything from now is just cool. We’ve been in this band for seven years and the way we see it now is to just enjoy ourselves. All of our crew are our friends so we just wanna have a laugh and see what happens. Like I said, we’ve already surpassed our expectations, so...”

Taken from the October issue of DIY, out now. Photos: Phil Smithies. Lower Than Atlantis’s new self-titled album will be released on 6th October via Sony RED.

Tags: Lower Than Atlantis, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

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