It’s cliche to say that a band have had a year filled with ups and downs. But, it’s also cliche for a reason, which is a statement that, in itself, is now becoming a bit cliche. Is that too much? Let’s give this some context.
Lower Than Atlantis were written off by many after being dropped from major label, Island. Pair that with what many would consider to be a pretty major change in direction with the release of their self-titled return, and it’s not likely that you’d put your money on them making it through what is a very difficult age to be in a band. Fortunately Mike Duce doesn’t care.
The frontman seems to think that their eponymous effort went down pretty well, and with good reason. “It’s without a doubt been our most successful album,” he states without hesitation, before reeling off his reasoning. “Critically it’s the most well received, the shows are bigger than ever, it’s sold more than all of our other albums combined and it’s been kicking off at radio and TV,” he says, before adding “not that we give a fuck about things like that.”
“It’s a nice pat on the back, just to let you know that other people think what you’re doing is cool,” says Duce of his band’s acceptance into the fold of BBC Radio 1 and their ilk, “but we’ve never cared about that shit man,” he affirms. “When we started out this album campaign we’d almost regressed. We’d gone from playing Shepherd’s Bush Empire to playing clubs and we don’t really give a fuck. It’s nice in the same way that when you dress yourself in the morning you think you look good and if someone compliments your outfit you think, ‘oh right that’s cool’, but if someone says you look stupid you’re not going to get fucking changed are you? I mean you would if you’re a dickhead.” It’s that unabridged confidence that’s ensured Lower Than Atlantis have made it through the other side of this turbulence, stronger than ever.
Asked how accepting he thinks their fanbase are of their chosen musical direction, he fires back: “Our first album, ‘Far Q’, was about being broke, being sad and being angry. I’m still most of those things, but it’s a very negative album and it seems to just be the people who like that album who are outspoken and rude, not all of them obviously, but those people a lot of the time are the ones that are like ‘oh you’ve sold out, play ‘Far Q’ again’,” quotes Duce with a sense of sarcastic disdain. “But it’s mainly just a handful of people.”
“The definition of selling out is ‘compromising artistic integrity in order for financial gain’,” he states, as if it’s a topic that the band have been called up on a fair few times. “We haven’t compromised anything. We like all types of music and loads of people are very narrow-minded, you know, saying ‘rad’, carrying skateboards and wearing hats backwards, which is a fad. We’re not a fad band, so they can fuck off anyway. With every album you pick up new fans and lose some fans. You can never please everyone. So just do what you want to do and if people like it, cool, and if they don’t, they don’t have to listen to it. They can go listen to Neck Deep or whatever they like.”
It’s statements like that where Duce sounds like he’s putting the world to rights. He is unashamedly comfortable with doing what he wants, for his own reasons and he’s not going to change that for anyone. Not even if he’s travelled halfway around the world to try and win some people over. “The one thing I would say maybe doesn’t translate [internationally] is the way I am onstage, because I pride myself on being the same wherever I am. I don’t think I’m a bad person so I don’t think I should be some kind of comedian. Like if I’m in America I’m not going to be like ‘thank you guys so much, we love you’,” sarcastically slurred in the phoniest American accent he can muster, “or if I’m in Japan I’m not going to be bowing after we play a song. I’m very much a normal bloke from down the pub, which maybe doesn’t translate. Australia gets it, but in America they want a show show, but I just want to play music and have a chat.”
But he’s not afraid to point the gun at himself either. On a retrospective look at the self-titled album Duce says, “The only thing I would change is that a few of the songs on there weren’t necessarily for this band. Like I’d written them for other artists, maybe boy bands and stuff like that. I don’t think a couple of them really fit; your ‘Emily’s and your ‘English Kids In America’s. I think they’re great songs, but maybe the album could have had a more cohesive feel and they sort of detract from that; but it’s still good.”
This is the first glimpse into what could be the next chapter of Lower Than Atlantis. Are they looking to go down that route in order achieve a cohesive sound? “Not even man! The best-received song is ‘Here We Go’. It still goes down the best live, it’s the most fun to play live and it’s probably the heaviest on the album. Second to that is ‘Criminal’ which is heavy and ‘Get Over It’, which is a like a drum and bass song essentially, but it’s pretty heavy too. So I think that’s the direction we’re going to go in.”
“I mean I haven’t spoken to anyone about this,” Duce remembers to add cheekily, before dropping himself and his band mates in it. “You’re the first person, but yeah I think heavy is the way.”
Luckily he doesn’t have to have that conversation quite yet. There’s the small matter of a Deluxe release of their recent album to deal with first, ‘Lower Than Atlantis – The Black Edition’. “Basically, when the album was released there was a physical version, an iTunes version, an Amazon version and they all wanted bonus stuff. It’s really annoying because when we release B-sides and bonus tracks they’re as good as the songs on the album. We always put 100% effort into writing songs; all songs. We never go ‘oh that’s a B-side, don’t worry about it’. We don’t do that. So it was a shame that a few of them got lost. Since the album came out we’ve done a couple of Live Lounges, so we wanted those to go somewhere with the bonus material. Then we thought if we were going to release it we might as well record some extra stuff.”
That extra stuff includes a cover of ‘Strong’ by the one and only Robbie Williams. Who saw that coming? “It sounded to me like an LTA song already for some reason; I’ve always thought that. That’s why I picked it. I knew we could turn it into something if we took away the acoustic guitar and, you know, ‘rocked it up’ as your dad would say. Lyrically as well it’s basically my life.”
Yet this is still all before thoughts turn to the album cycle being end-stopped by the band’s biggest UK tour to date, including a show at London’s iconic Roundhouse, and they’re as excited as you’d expect them to be. “Yeah that’ll be sold out any day now, which I was worried about to begin with. We didn’t think we’d do that at all,” Duce admits.
“I hate that in the UK rock world, if you don’t sell out your London show you’re deemed as a failure,” Duce adds bitterly. “That really pisses me off because the people that deem you as a failure couldn’t sell out their fucking birthday party. We are going to sell it out. It’s a great achievement for everyone that works with the band and for us ourselves. It’s also a nice big ‘fuck you’ to anyone that wrote us off when we got dropped from Island on our last album campaign. So it’s going to be a great big happy ‘fuck off’”. Is there any other way you’d expect Mike Duce to finish this?
Lower Than Atlantis’ new album ‘Lower Than Atlantis – The Black Edition’ is out now.