“I’m just reminding myself how to change a tyre because my girlfriend’s car got a flat tyre yesterday during a tornado warning,” Andrew Fisher begins with the same half-excited / half-nervous matter-of-fact tone that any Englishman would have when now living in a country where tornadoes occur regularly.
But, for the Basement frontman, there is no better pathetic fallacy for the whirlwind few months coming in support of their fourth studio album ‘Beside Myself’. From stretching out the summer with countless US festival dates, radio slots and listening parties then tours of both their adoptive and native homes soon after the release, Basement are just gearing up as the year winds down.
It’s fair to say that despite the frenzy, the band are ready for it. "This is the most excited I think anyone has been for a release because it's been such a long process," says Andrew. And it’s true. After releasing their last album, ‘Promise Everything’, in January 2016, Basement signed to Fueled By Ramen who called for a “Deluxe” re-release of the album in March last year and in doing so slowed the pace on what is now ‘Beside Myself’.
The decision to revamp ‘Promise Everything’ is somewhat diplomatically described as “a really nice way to understand how the label works, and it took the pressure off us, but the songs were already there." Ultimately, that delay has resulted in Basement’s best album yet.
With time on their side, ‘Beside Myself’ became more “complete” than anything Basement have ever done before. The themes introduced in ‘Disconnect’ (written now three summers ago) are cathartically, neatly, wrapped up in the closer. There are grungy reflections of their past albums and bold, bright, signals of where they are heading alongside moments of frailty and that broader spectrum to this album is all the product of having more time and an open mind for how the album should sound.
“With this record, I think everyone took a step back and let their own shit go to one side and be very open-minded to what everyone else wanted to make. And we’d get to the point with a fully finished song - even if someone didn’t really like it - because we were really like, 'Lets look at the song and where we can get with it', and not let our taste or idea of what we want to be [get in the way].”
That process resulted in a lot more songs being scrapped for ‘Beside Myself’ but, like with dreamy pop jam ‘New Coast’, seeing a song through to its end and then subtly changing it created something special, as Andrew explains.
“On 'New Coast', the chords are the same as what I gave everyone but it was really dull, and I liked it - thought it sounded cool from the demo I did in my bedroom. But when we were putting it together it didn’t feel good, and the chorus didn’t click, but someone jokingly changed the rhythm and straight out of nowhere we leapt into the chorus and then we had a song.
“It was one of those organic [moments]. I don’t think it would have happened if everyone wasn’t so open-minded to progress with an idea to the point where they said, 'Fuck, it's got to change'. There was a lot of that with this record; people were down to try things and go out of their comfort zone and see where things could lead.”
That approach is ‘Beside Myself’ is evident and in turns leaves more pressing questions about the band’s previous album, ‘Promise Everything’. Before their hiatus in 2012, Basement’s music had the same ideas in mind: post-hardcore sensibilities with a lot of heart came in abundance in ‘I Wish I Could Stay Here’ and ‘ColourMeInKindness’. However, on their return with ‘Promise Everything’ in 2016, despite it being great to have Basement back, there was something inherently different in the band. The music was livelier, more optimistic, but lyrically the album didn’t resonate in the same way as their previous endeavours.
Andrew explains: “With ‘Promise Everything’ I decided to not focus too much on lyrical content. I allowed myself to not worry on what I was saying too much and more how I was saying it. The sound of words and the way words work together, and I used a bit of artistic licence a lot of the time.
“Whereas with 'Beside Myself' I wouldn’t do that at all. I would sit down and go over a line and think, is that the best word there or am I singing it in the best way for this to sound right?”
The album is in many ways closer to those first Basement albums as it's more introspective and deeper than its predecessor.
“If I can allow myself to speak positively of something I’ve done, I’ve probably got better at writing because I’ve been writing for like two years. In those two years, a lot of things have happened to me. I’ve been reading a lot more, and I believe reading helps express yourself.
“And time; having time to think about what I’m trying to say and how I’m trying to say it. In some cases, I would completely throw away what I had at the start because someone did something and it changed the song, and it'd be, okay I don’t want this to be about this anymore, so it's different. I have got better, so I think that has made it come across more personal and emotional.”
It’s with hesitation that Andrew uses the word “mature” to describe that approach towards the album, but it's clear that by their fourth full-length, Basement have got it down to a fine art; not just as musicians but in knowing how the process works and what makes an “album” work. ‘Beside Myself’ is more emotional by design. It’s more diverse by design. The opening tracks give the first impression as big rock numbers packed with emotion and guitars; a gateway to new fans and a reminder of their brilliance to the older ones.
Delving deep into the plans behind 'Beside Myself', he says: “If I compare these songs to the ones we were writing six years ago then there is maturity in all forms. We're better musicians for a start. We’ve thought about structure and arrangement in the songs and the album as a whole - not to say that we didn’t do that before, but we really tried this time.
“We want songs to have choruses. We want to make sure the second verse is the same but is slightly different and has something that picks up to keep you interested. We wanted the bridges to be important and to say something. That was very important to us.
"We were very harsh on all the songs to be sure that everything had something. We didn’t want any filler, because we had that in the past: we wanted ten songs but only had eight so we just shoved two on. I think that’s mature in itself that we were prepared as we possibly can for this one.”
In the end, it seems that the decision to push ‘Promise Everything’ further only helped, shaping the new one to become something of a masterpiece. They allowed this album to be scrutinised and scrapped and started again, while at the same time letting it explore and grow into something more ambitious than they’ve ever attempted before.
But, despite that drawn-out process, Andrew is determined that it won’t take as long to follow up.
“I’m already writing new stuff, and I’m sure everyone else is. We said we wanted that to happen. We want there to constantly be creation as the drive for the band because that’s what keeps you excited and keep going. And when we come round to LP5, those ideas will motivate us in the creative process.”
Taken from the November issue of Upset. Basement's album ‘Beside Myself’ is out now.
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