MONEY front-man Jamie Lee is open about his discontent with the band’s 2013 debut album ‘The Shadow of Heaven’. “There were four of us trying to pull it in different directions” he admits, frankly. In his determination to avoid making the same mistakes twice, he moved away from the band’s birthplace of Manchester and back to South London with his mind set on becoming a better songwriter.
“The first one was maybe laziness on my behalf. It was just easier to turn up every day to practise and try and make music together but I think that is a long-winded way of doing things” he explains. This time he vied with a more traditional writing process, presenting a developed song to the rest of the band and then figuring out “how best to compliment it with other parts”. The result – their forthcoming album ‘Suicide Songs’ – doesn’t elicit quite the same niggling concern. “I feel a lot better about this one. There are other things I want to do on the next record, which we’re gonna start doing quite soon, but for what it is I’m happy with it. It sounds more like music!” he laughs.
It’s a beautiful album that is bleak yet resplendent, morbid yet euphoric. It evidently came from a dark place, starting life in Jamie’s “alcohol-riddled head”. “I didn’t feel good enough for lots of kind of artistic reasons and I wanted to push my limits to see what I was capable of, basically” he acknowledges, before stressing that this was “really stupid, and no-one should do that - ever - but I did that. The thing is, at the beginning of the descent into alcoholism and trying to live freely and not care, it’s quite fun, and then the fall-out of that is seeing and realising the havoc and destruction that you’ve created and coming to and suffering from alcohol withdrawal, and depression, and having a bleak outlook towards life, and being a child still, and then having to realise all the stuff that’s happened.”
‘I’ll Be The Night’
"I don't feel very good about what I've created."
— Jamie Lee
“So I look back on this record - and especially the title - and I don't feel very good about what I've created,” he continues, “because it's not necessarily… it's not a bad message, but it's not a wholly good one either and I think it's quite dogged down by its dogma of negativity from the outlook on the surface level - but the songs are actually quite uplifting I think.” Whether or not its creation has been a therapeutic process personally isn't clear cut. “It's therapeutic and a host of other more sinister things for me,” he reflects. “But that will end after this album cycle is done and the touring is done and we can make another record and start again.”
Living down the road from the studio, Jamie settled into a “good little routine” in the making of the album. “I'd go into the studio and then I could go out in Brixton and have a sit down and think about where it was all going and whether that was where I wanted it to be and then I'd come in and we'd start all over again.” Whereas the debut was self-produced, the follow-up is the combined effort of the band and the producer - and recent BRIT Award nominee - Charlie Andrew.
“From the start we realised that Charlie could do things that we weren’t capable of doing and taking it into a place we wouldn’t have thought of necessarily” he recalls. Another of Charlie Andrew’s collaborators, Marika Hackman, even provided backing vocals on two of the tracks. “I gave her the words and she just went in and started singing on the track and made it sound absolutely amazing. She's just so talented; it was quite humbling.”
‘You Look Like A Sad Painting On Both Sides Of The Sky’
"I wanted to make art because it just felt like life was more than what it seemed."
— Jamie Lee
The curiosity with death that runs throughout ‘Suicide Songs’ stems from Jamie’s own troubling thoughts on the matter. “One of the reasons I wanted to make art or write or create was the recognition that, ‘God! I’m not going to be around forever! How does that make me feel about life firstly? And, secondly, I think I was quite disturbed and worried about that and I looked around and I didn’t feel like anyone else was that worried! I was like “Fuck guys, come on!” he exclaims, laughing. “No, that’s a completely naïve statement but that was the moment I wanted to make art because it just felt like life was more than what it seemed and I wanted to make people feel that, maybe.”
As such, it follows that he was moved by the “shameless expression of joy and jubilation” witnessed on the streets of Brixton following the death of David Bowie. “I think that goes to show how much of an impact he had without necessarily knowing what he was doing. He was a force of good and people came around to celebrate life and celebrate - not celebrate escapism - but to escape itself which is such a gift to give to people I think.”
With the time that has passed between the writing of ‘Suicide Songs’ to now, there is a disjuncture between the thoughts and sensations that fed into its creation and Jamie’s current frame of mind. “I would love to not go on tour and make another record instead because so much time has lapsed but that’s the problem of getting into this album cycle routine,” he says, obviously raring to get stuck into writing new music. “It's very difficult to be honest artistically I think, to find an aesthetic and a style that you are happy with that demonstrates how you feel truly as a person about the world and that takes time. I don't think I've got to grips with that yet but hopefully on the next record it will be closer to that.”
MONEY release 'Suicide Songs' on January 29th via Bella Union.