Three years after The Underside of Power, Atlanta via London/NYC four piece band Algiers released a new album. There Is No Year is out now via Matador Records. It is produced by Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth) and Ben Greenberg (Uniform, Twin Peaks: the Return). We had a nice talk with the guitarist Lee Tesche which explained the inspiration of the album, the artwork, their approach to the live shows and much more. Check also the European dates below:
24.2 Munich, Germany – Strom
26.2 Rome, Italy – Monk
27.2 Milan, Italy – Ohibò (Postponed)
29.2 Barcelona, Spain – Razzmatazz 3
1.3 Madrid, Spain – Café Berlin
3.3 Bordeaux, France – Rockschool Barbey
4.3 Nantes, France – Stereolux
5.3 Paris, France – La Maroquinerie
Let’s Start from the new album “There Is No Year”. Lyrics sourced entirely from Franklin James Fisher poem, Misophonia. What can you tell us about this poem? And then, how did the idea of the album come?
Franklin worked on his writing for most of the winter tour in 2019, leading into the recording of the new record. He continually wrote on what became Misophonia and it was informed by so many things going on at that time, but mostly love and loss. His plan was always to use this as a sketch for the record and we tried as hard as possible to see that idea through until the end.
The track “Disposession” opens with words “Run around, run away from your America/While it burns in the streets”. It seems to have a double meaning: one which concerns the reality we’re living and one regarding the intimate sphere. Is that right?
Yes, I think you can pull any of a number of interpretations from that line and that song in general. I like to think that our art and lyrics are fairly open ended and multilayered as far as what one might take away.
In “Void”, I was also impressed from the final words “Watching Through The Looking Glass, You’ll See It Coming”. Is this a reference to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There”, where there was an alternative universe and things were contrary to the real world? It fits perfectly with the whole concept of the album.
That song is a funny one, as it’s technically not supposed to be on the album but was another single that we did with Adult Swim during this period. It was going to be a part of a follow up EP that included Can The Sub_Bass Speak? but I think that whole idea kind of lost traction and the label has been including it on streams of the record, but it definitely isn’t supposed to be the album closer. While thematically the lyrics were written during the same period and the song is from the same batch, it originally was a separate thing from Misophonia. I think any Lewis Caroll references are on point. Franklin has always said it’s about being trapped in an advertisement. And it’s great it feels like it fits with the whole concept of the record, because it’s not supposed to be part of it or a single from it, but every review talks about it as such so…
The Artwork is very interesting and powerful, from the image to the written words. How did you choose it?
For me, it was really important to involve some other voices and ideas this time around. We did that in the studio, but visually I really needed a fresh perspective as well, otherwise you continue to tread the same territory and repeat yourself. Sometimes your head is so far up your own ass that you can’t see the forest from the trees. This is more a comment on myself and design. I’ve been largely in control of the visuality and image of the band and while trends and tastes can change, I find it’s really important to get other eyes and ideas to keep it fresh. You may think you are one thing, but the whole world sees something else.
Farbod Kokabi is an incredible designer and musician that we’ve all known for a long time. I play in another band with him called Lyonnais that we formed in art school together. We both studied design and met during our course. He’s gone on to found Geographic North, this really great record label, and we continually collaborate on projects together.
Farbod, Franklin and I had many conversations about the artwork and how we should approach it. Franklin’s poem became the centerpiece and I really trust Farbod with everything he does. He’s really great with typography, so was up for dealing with so much text. We’ve been making art and music together for so long that I usually understand where he’s coming from and he really wanted to turn some aspects of our visual identity on it’s head, to present a different side of us.
The cover image was something that he had found from a Sarah Charlesworth series and it was a wild goose chase tracking the origin on the photo down. To me it conveys the idea of a photograph or image attempting to stop time, and in many ways one could apply that to documenting a moment in time in the creative process when you record an album. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about hopelessness or the end of the world when they analyze the cover, but I don’t think of it in the same way. It’s really about time to me. The idea of time and the different rates that it moves for different people and places.
Considering what you like and what you do, what is your way of giving new shape to the sound? And what is your idea of experimentation in art? Is it an important part for your path of these three albums?
We don’t want to repeat ourselves or revisit the past. We carry the past with us in new ways every time we take the stage. This is all about opening new doors, not closing others. Every new record we create should carry the same ideas about art and music and creation with us forward. This is about giving space to new voices, not silencing others.
We are constantly creating and experimenting with sound, song structure, arrangement, instrumentation. It’s a natural part of the process. We have so much that we all want to do. Sometimes it seems like we won’t actually have enough time in this life to cover the ground that we all want to as artists and musicians. There is still so much music to make.
You are from Atlanta. I’m very interested in the connection between the places we live over the years, the territorial geography of our roots and the art. How do you feel these themes are connected to your music, your way of thinking of music?
Yes, this is something that I think a lot about as well. Atlanta has definitely had an impact on us as people and musicians. There is a really incredible lineage of music history that has passed through Georgia, much of which we pull from. It also really impacted our political upbringing and how we interact with each other.
Atlanta and Georgia in general was a generally cheap place to make music and it was easy to have a space where you could rehearse with a full drum kit and definitely led into a lot of the shape and forms of early music that we played. Once we all left the city and moved to more densely built urban environments like New York City and London, it made the use of samples and electronics in our compositions a lot more crucial, purely for the fact that we had neighbors within earshot. I feel like that’s one of the bigger impacts of large dense city spaces on contemporary music.
You will start a tour soon. What is the best thing about live shows compared to studio recordings? What kind of shows we can expect from you during this tour?
Live shows are always chaotic, for better or for worse. They are such a wild card with so many factors, but that is partially why we love them. The studio is a controlled environment, and I’ve always felt that those qualities should be embraced. Whereas your sound and songs are always going to be a different beast live and that should also be embraced. It should always sound wilder and more exciting live, and in the studio you should be chasing that’s not attainable in the other setting.
The biggest factor live is the energy in the room and feeding off of the crowd. That is huge for us, when you all feel like you’re in it together. The shows where the crowd is just observing and not dancing or singing or participating in the performance, those are the ones where no one has fun because we have trouble finding that extra gear or really going for it. There are some cities that are just like that.
What are the best releases you’ve recently appreciated?
Our friends Bambara have a new record out called “Stray” that is very good. The last couple of Geographic North releases including the M. Sage record are excellent.