Die US-amerikanische Band Algiers bietet derzeit einen ganzen Haufen Gesprächsbedarf: Schon mit dem selbstbetitelten Debütalbum konnte das damals noch als Trio agierende und als politische Band geltende Projekt unmengen an Lobeshymnen und Features absahnen, was wohl sowohl an der inhaltlichen Dichte, als auch am einzigartigen Sound der Band liegt. Denn während die Musik eine Mischung aus Soul, Rock und Electro ist, behandeln die Songs Themen wie die Verbreitung von rassistischer und institutionalisierter Gewalt, die immer größer werdene Kluft zwischen Reichen und Armen, den schleichende Faschismus und die sich immer weiter verbreitenden Fremdenfeindlichkeit in Europa. Ordentlich Holz also und eine Steilvorlage, um sich auf ein ausgiebiges Interview mit Frontmann Franklin James Fisher und Ex-Bloc Party-Drummer Matt Tong zu treffen – umso mehr, da die Band derzeit im Vorprogramm von Depeche Mode hierzulande Stadion spielt und diese Woche ihr neues Album The Underside Of Power via Matador Records veröffentlicht!
– Name: Algiers
– Bandmembers: Franklin James Fisher, Ryan Mahan, Lee Tasche, Matt Tong
– Founding year: 2007
– Location: Atlanta, New York, London
– Album: The Underside of Power
– When did you meet and decide to form a band?
Franklin (F): Ryan Lee and I were friends in college. Our bands would play the same circuits and we ran in mutual circles of friends. Algiers was born from the breakdown of those bands and our bond as friends.
– Your music seems like a mix of different styles and a complete new creation, like a child of alternative rock, soul, jazz, gospel with electronic sounds – what influences do you have and how would you call your music?
F: The four of us have such different tastes that it’s almost impossible to list our collective influences. Algiers’ music happens when our influences overlap. We don’t think too much about genre or classification; which are limiting and restrictive to creativity if anything.
– Besides the sound – you often get the label „political“ band? How do you like that and do you feel yourself that you are a political band?
M: If we’re a political band because we explicitly address the inherent injustices of power structures, then so be it. In 2017 it kind of rankles that this is exceptional simply because labelling and categorisation are so often used to disempower and to negate the essential complexity of the human condition. If we were to make an album of love songs next, would that completely undermine our work up until that point? Would people start calling us a “love band” instead?
– When you have the political situation in America and Europe in mind – how important is it for art, artists and bands to be political and what do you try to effect with being political?
M: It would be great, wouldn’t it, if all art reflected our times, our culture. But I will say that showing you’re not blithely indifferent to the world around you means you then have to be direct and explicit about every single thing. I think you can make great, disquieting art that critiques our times that doesn’t spell everything out to its audience. For instance, I’d like to think that our listeners can also make the leap beyond what we say in interviews or how we present in a live setting and play guessing games and search for the easter eggs within our musical output. Our role is to be part of an open discourse, and/or a rallying point or just a soundtrack for those of like minds and this is what we try to effect by addressing politics.
– How do you feel about Donald Trump being „your“ president and what are your hopes for his legislation?
M: We don’t feel particularly good about it and our hopes for his administration is that it ends prematurely, but we also accept this is wishful thinking. It’s too easy and tidy to draw parallels with Watergate. Let’s stop looking for analogues because they don’t always hold up. Let’s remember so many thought that he wouldn’t even win the election.
– You also seem to have a big connection to Europe and a big fan base, especially in Germany – how and why do you think did it come to that?
M: We seem to be popular in Spain and Italy as well, two other countries that went down an extremely dark path in the 20th Century, so maybe there’s a connection to be made there.
– In your bio there is also an quote from Berthold Brecht – a German lyric & writer – was he also an influence for you, if yes, how did he influence your work?
F: Brecht is a huge influence on Ryan who brought him to the rest of the band’s attention. The particular quotation about the singing in the dark times is particularly resonant for us.
– You have a new record out in June – could you describe a bit how it came to life, how you worked on it and what was the best and what the worst moment during production?
F: We worked with a lot of people and had to step outside of our comfort zone for this record. It’s hard to categorize the experience in terms of best and worst moments but some of the highlights included getting to work with Adrian Utley who is one of our biggest influences and meeting Ben Greenberg and Randall Dunn who are now close friends of ours.
– For Underside of Power you did also work with Adrian Utley from Portishead – how did you get in contact with him, how would you describe his working style and how did he influence the record?
F: Adrian and his production partner Ali Chant had an existing relationship with our label, having produced Perfume Genius’ last record.
– For us the song The Underside Of Power kind of stood out of your work, as kind of the easiest connectable song you’ve done up to now. How was it done, is there a story behind it and did you try out your own boarders of having something more „pop“ on purpose?
F: Underside wasn’t any deliberate attempt to appeal to a broader audience. It came together quite organically. Lee and Ryan wrote two songs during the demoing process which happened to both be northern soul-inspired tunes in the same key and tempo. I suggested we fuse the two together and the melody came naturally.
– Before recording this record Matt Tong, former Bloc Party drummer, joined the band – how did you get to meet him and was it easy to have him as a full new member, what parts does he bring in besides the drumming?
F: We met Matt through our friend Tom Morris who produced our first album. He and Matt are good friends. Matt has been touring with us for as long as we’ve been a touring band and it feels like we’ve known him as long as we’ve known each other so his joining the band is a completely natural progression. He’s an incredibly intelligent and reflective person and his versatility as a musician and multi-instrumentalist is as impressive as his drumming–which is obviously incredible in and of itself.
– You’re also supporting Depeche Mode in Europe in some days – how did it come to that, did you already meet them and what are your hopes for that shows?
M: We found out some time ago that Dave Gahan had been saying complimentary things about us in the press and through our connections to Mute Records via their management arm we benefitted hugely from Daniel Millar putting in a few nice words for us. We haven’t been formally introduced yet but we’re hoping we’ll be able to meet them and express our gratitude for asking us to tour with them. As for our hopes for the shows, we’re under no illusions, Depeche Mode has a very devoted fanbase, but hopefully we’ll be able to reach an audience not already attuned to what we’re doing, moreover I think we’re hoping to learn more about what it takes to develop a lasting career. Depeche Mode are kind of exceptional in that they play football stadiums but they have reached this pinnacle with their credibility still intact and they’re still relevant.
– You have your very own and unique sound – what are your plans for the next record, will you change, adapt more or what are your aims sound wise?
F: I would personally like to explore our live sound further and elaborate on instrumentation and our dynamic as a live band but as with most things in this band…there’s never one direction nor is there one mind that guides things.
– What did you learn in 2016?
F: That 2017 is going to be worse.
– Which song makes you dance makes you dance every time?
F: Just about anything by Michael Jackson.
– How would your Bedroomdisco look like?
M: Probably me asleep in the corner on a bean bag with my bucket hat on and Lee trying to fix the lava lamp.