Even big bands have room to grow. With a Top 10 album, Lower Than Atlantis just went super size.
Even big bands have room to grow. With a Top 10 album, Lower Than Atlantis just went super size.
e just worry about making good music and being legends,” exclaims Mike Duce, leaning back in his chair. Turning on a frontman bravado that’s never far away, it’s exactly the sort of statement you’d expect from him. Even offstage there are still people to entertain. Maybe he’s outspoken and mouthy; maybe he’s just a little more honest than most. Either way, Lower Than Atlantis know what they want.
Very much a gang of four, Dec Hart sits next to him shaking his head while Ben Sansom and Eddy Thrower are grinning a little way down the table getting a head start on signing a mountain of preordered albums, the band have weathered, endured and grown. They’re a tight-knit group, but there’d be no issue asking them to borrow a lighter. Hell, they’d probably let you keep it.
Earlier in the day, all four were joking about getting a stamp to make the job of signing records easier, but it was just that. The band care too much about their audience to cheat ‘em because a few years ago, they were the same kids getting excited about music. As Lower Than Atlantis open the boxes containing their new album, seeing the physical copies of ‘Safe In Sound’ for the first time and pouring over the pictures, words and eagerly taking pictures to send to friends, family and anyone who’ll listen, maybe they still are.
“A lot of people use music as an escape,” starts Mike, still leaning back. “For me, I do my thinking when I go running, and I’ll have headphones on. I’ll listen to music, and I’ll escape. Whatever you’ve got going on in your life, for those three and a half minutes of a song it doesn’t matter. You feel safe in sound, that’s what the title means to me and maybe this album could be that for people. It could offer that escape. Just put it on and forget about the real world, you’re safe in sound with us. It’s kinda cheesy, but it is what it is,” he shrugs.
Even when the band are being sincere, it’s with a devil may care attitude. “At the end of the day, our full-time job as grown men is to play rock music,” laughs Mike. “You can’t take that seriously. We’re not doctors.”
“You just look like a dickhead if you take it too seriously, continues Dec. “Once the dust has settled after that first year of the album being out, you look back and question what the fuck you were saying if you take it too seriously.”
"Do whatever and fuck it."
‘Safe In Sound’, a record that’s never anything less than seriously good, just sorta happened. Building it bit by bit, the band focused on writing good songs and let the album take care of itself. There was never any discussion or well-laid plans announcing “this album needs to sound like this”, and for good reason.
“If you do that and it doesn’t go to plan you’re just going to be disappointed,” ventures Dec. “It never works like that. Just go and see what happens.
“Yeah, just do whatever,” adds Mike. “Do whatever and fuck it.”
For better or worse, it’s an attitude that Lower Than Atlantis have lived by. Drawn to music for no greater reason than the simple fact they’ve always loved it, the band have remained rock steady and determined together for a decade but “only ‘cause we had nothing else going for us. It had to work out, or that was it.”
It never works out according to plan, though. “[Success] is not what I thought it would be,” reflects Mike. “But it rarely is. The grass is always greener, but that makes us want to make it like we saw in that dream, y’know? I always thought if you’d sell out [London venue] KOKO you’d be driving around in a fucking Bentley, snorting cocaine off of someone’s bumhole.”
“Did you really just say that?” asks Eddy, laughing.
“Huffing farts out a bong in the back of a transit is the reality,” Mike continues. “When you start a band, your dream is to play The Underworld. That was the goal. Then it was to sell out The Underworld. It’s just a bucket list you keep adding things onto. You’re never quite where you want to be, which is good ‘cause you’re always achieving things in life. You’re always enjoying the journey to somewhere. Everyone’s trying to get to the top, but once you get there, the only way to go is down. You can’t get any bigger than the biggest so just enjoy it on the way up there.”
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image="38223" img_size="full" alignment="center"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Getting to this point has been hard work, but the band don’t believe they’re owed anything. “You can’t think like that,” ventures Mike. “Don’t get me wrong, there have been a million bands that have come overnight,” he says; groups with the excited hyperbole of being the new best band ever, which means LTA have to deal with talk of being shit or not liked anymore. “[But] you see those bands shoot up and then shoot back down again. The first time you see a band blow up, you think you’re doing something wrong. Something really wrong.
“It used to piss me off but once you see it happen two or three times… We’ve always been on this steady progression. You’ve just got to be confident in what you’re doing. If you think it’s good personally, that’s all you can do and,” pauses Mike, distracted by Eddy and Ben. “I can’t remember what I was saying.”
Lower Than Atlantis don’t really take anything seriously apart from their music, and they’re confident in ‘Safe In Sound’.
“The first thing, the natural thing is that we wanted to top our last record,” explains Dec. The band’s 2014 self-titled album saw Lower Than Atlantis play with the big boys. Well loved across the board, it gave their steady progression a grand leap forward. “I remember Eddy saying ‘I’m actually pretty scared’ before we started the writing process. There was this realisation that we’ve got something we have to beat now. We’ve never had that before.”
“Smashed it though mate,” grins Mike. “You smashed it out the park.”
Coming back with ‘Work For It’, the band launched ‘Safe In Sound’ with a clear focus. Bigger, better, wilder and with those big shows in mind, it’s the sort of track that makes people stand up and take notice. “It’s heavy, innit,” shrugs Dec.
“We knew we had the main stage slots at Reading & Leeds coming up, so we thought, ‘What’s a simple, catchy song that’s heavy as fuck?’ It was so glaringly obvious that it was that song. That was it really,” adds Mike. Not that the rest of the album was anywhere close to being done. “It keeps you on your toes,” offers Dec.
“It was really not done, though,” continues Mike. “We had a couple of months until it was due to be finished, recorded and everything and we were still missing five songs. It’s only a ten song album.”
A European tour with You Me At Six saw the band freaking out and pushing it to the wire. “We had all this shit to finish because the deadline was during that tour. We had to have everything done. Eddy was on the bus, sorting out artwork. We were listening to mixes on the bus, doing mix points and sending them back. It was mental, but we got it done in the end,” smiles Mike, defiant and proud.
“We’re so fucking blasé about everything. I find with this band, we need something to push against. We need that deadline. Half the time I’ll leave lyrics until the last minute. We’ll have songs with no lyrics until we’re about to record them, and I’ll just make ‘em up there and then on the day. We just work better under pressure like that.”
Ever-defiant, ‘Safe In Sound’ sees Lower Than Atlantis with their backs against the wall once more and determined to push back. “It’s just the way we are as people,” starts Mike. “All four of us are like that. We don’t take it lying down.” It also comes with acceptance, though. “We know what we are now. We know what people want from us. There are so many different styles of LTA, but we know what one is the one most people want from us, so we’re happy to just fucking be that. Well-written, heavy pop songs with guitar riffs - that’s what our band is about now. And we love it. Well, until we get bored of it and decide to become a jazz-fusion band.”
‘Safe in Sound’ sees LTA cover the most extreme ends of their emotional reach. ‘Work For It’, ‘A Night To Forget’ and ‘Had Enough’ are fuelled by a lust for life, while ‘I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore’, ‘Long Time Coming’ and ‘Money’ aren’t so sure. “I just write about my life, I don’t understand how people can write about anything else,” admits Mike. “I guess there’s political music, but I just write about myself because I’m just me. It’s always going to be reflective.” Despite the bravado, there are lines on the record that see Mike question who he is. There’s uncertainty, “but everyone does that. It wasn’t intentional ‘cause we don’t ever think about stuff too much. It just happens.”
“People like to make it up. ‘We wrote the lyrics when we created this vision when we were doing this thing at this place’. No, it doesn’t work like that,” offers Dec. “When I was a kid, I found out Dave Grohl didn’t really care about his lyrics, and I was a little bit disappointed, but as an adult, of course he doesn’t. He doesn’t go on some journey to write ‘Everlong’.”
“Normally when I’m writing a song, I’ll try and tell a story, and it’s usually something that’s happened to me or something I’ve observed,” continues Mike. “I always, for want of a better word, try and make it vague so that more people can hear it and take from it what they want. I find for me personally, lyrics are important but realistically, half the people who listen to your band when you’re successful don’t even speak the language. Does it matter what you’re saying? You want it to be about the music and the chord progression and the note choices and the rhythms. My lyrics used to be very informal and chatty, in that British way and it got lost overseas. Our music was never going to get out of Watford if I was carrying on like that. More people can get into now, I guess.
“I just do whatever, sing whatever. Don’t think about it too much because you’ll go mad if you do.” Taking a cue from the music, the lyrics reflect what the song sounds like sonically. “If it sounds like an angry song, I’ll ask myself what pisses me off. And I just write. This one sounds sad, okay what makes me sad? Well, I was sad that time because of this. It’s easy.”
But never meaningless; ‘A Night To Forget’ is the perfect getaway, ‘Could Be Worse’ is a song designed to make Mike stick to his own advice. “I wrote the song and I have to adhere to it because people are going to say, ‘Oh, could be worse mate’. That song is for me because things could always be worse.” ‘I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore’ is frank, unapologetic and to the point, tackling feelings of hopelessness and giving up. “I don’t mind sharing it because I think it’s nice if someone else is feeling like that, maybe just knowing someone else has been through something like that is enough to let them know it’s okay - especially when it’s someone in their favourite band. That’s the reason that it’s out there. And it’s a good song, so it’s silly not to release it for the sake of personal reasons. Whenever I’m writing a song, in the back of my mind, I know that people are going to hear them. I’m a career musician; my job is to write and release music.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1n9o_Vxcm0"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
“We’re just normal. Normal, but legends. Normal legends. That’s the title of the next album.”
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Through everything, though, Lower Than Atlantis have remained relatable. They sing about being skint, traffic jams and proving people wrong. They’ve opened up more on ‘Safe In Sound’, but there is still no distance at play. “That’s the thing with being in this band; we are just normal as fuck. We don’t make loads of money, we’re not hanging out with celebrities, we’re just geezers from down the pub. We’re the same as anyone else. Why would our music not be relatable to a normal music fan? That’s what we are. That’s why it’s relatable; we’re just normal. Normal, but legends. Normal legends. That’s the title of the next album,” exclaims Mike, and you wouldn’t bet against it. “That’s always going to be the case. Until we make loads of money, buy a solid gold house and become absolute wankers.”
Every year sees them more successful, but they remain the most attainable band around. There’s nothing about them that inspires doubts of ‘I could never do that’. “The whole band separation on stage really pisses me off,” starts Mike. Those speeches about ‘we love you guys so fucking much’ are bullshit. Maybe it’s because of where we’re from, but we should be encouraging the next Lower Than Atlantis instead of making out we’re from another planet, and we’re untouchable and amazing. Though we are. We’re all for encouraging new musicians and new bands, ‘cause we had that, and it’s nice.”
Despite being legends, the band still have something to prove. “What’s the point of doing it otherwise?” asks Dec. “If you think you don’t, you become Iron Maiden. You just make the same album over and over again. Sure, you’re selling a million records, but you’re not proving anything to anyone. In general, we do care. Last time we literally just threw the album out there, and we had no idea what was going to happen. It could have binned, but it didn’t. This one we thought about, but not too much.”
The band believes in little changes and keeping people on their toes.
“You’ve gotta push boundaries, continues Dec. “I think we’re known for changing, like a chameleon, all the time. I think our fans know we do that and they like it, so we get away with fucking murder now. Hip-hop album 2k18. Lower Than motherfucking Atlantis, bitch. It’s fun for us as musicians, wondering what people are going to think of it ‘cause you’ve done something new.” But reactions either way never change their minds. “If you do that, you end up writing for some kid in his bedroom who’s 25, lives in his mum’s house and is going to mug you off. You’re going to listen to what he’s going to say? You’ll go insane. It’s like looking at a tattoo and seeing the imperfections in it, which is insane ‘cause that’s on you forever. You’ve done it now, so shut up and get on with it.”
“You can’t please everyone,” adds Mike, “but you can please yourself. So fuck everyone, basically.”
Lower Than Atlantis are taking the band more seriously nowadays, if not themselves. “There was a wake-up call when the shows got bigger. Kids are saving up their pocket money to come to these gigs. There are a lot of people coming now so we should rehearse and put some effort in and maybe not be wasted when we go on stage. Be the best band we can because people have spent their hard earned cash on coming to see us. They could have gone somewhere else, and they haven’t. They’ve come to see us, and it’s what we’ve always wanted to do, so let’s do it properly. That’s a thing that we only realised in the past few months or so.”
The band may not talk about politics on stage - “Everyone has an opinion. I like your music, but I don’t care what you think about politics. ‘The government is bad, and you’re doing naughty things to other people, and we don’t like it’. Yeah, great.” - but they do know they’re in a position of influence and have to watch what they say. “Only because some of the shows are 14 plus, and there are parents there. It’s a bit awkward if you’re 14 and you already feel embarrassed your mum’s taken you to a gig, and the singer starts talking about snorting cocaine out of someone’s arsehole. It could probably get quite embarrassing for you, so I don’t really say things like that anymore. And because we’re professional musicians and we take things very seriously.” [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image="37982" img_size="full" alignment="center"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]With the likes of Brixon Academy and their biggest ever headline tour on the horizon, there’s a confidence to how Lower Than Atlantis are approaching things now. But hasn’t there always been? “If we weren’t confident in what we were doing, we would not have been pursuing it for ten fucking years, living in vans and having to nick food to survive.”
“We could have booked a smaller venue and sold it out in two weeks, but that’s a bit boring, innit?” asks Dec. “It’s so safe. If you know you’re going to sell it out, why bother? It’ll take two years for you to get around to do the show you actually want to do then you might not even get there, and you’ve gone and wasted two years of your life.”
“This could be the biggest our band ever gets,” adds Mike. “I’d rather just go hell for leather and have it out instead of playing it safe and doing the big show at the end of the tour. I’d rather put that Brixton show on sale and just sell it out by the skin of our teeth than wait until we can sell out two of them and then just put one on sale and be like, ‘It’s obviously going to sell out’. That’s not very exciting, is it? If you don’t take risks, it’s never going to pay off. We’re big risk takers.”
Sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don’t, but Mike doesn’t regret anything. “You learn from your mistakes, and you move on. You grow as a human, Regretting something once it’s done, what can you really do? Unless you’ve got a time machine.” The band’s growth has gifted Lower Than Atlantis more freedom, though. “It takes some pressure off. We’re older and all we’ve got mortgages, and we all want to have families one day and stuff like that. This band is four peoples’ lives and the bigger we get, the less pressure there is. It becomes fun again,” beams Mike. “My life has got progressively less shit as I’ve got older and this band has been a massive part of that. We never thought things were going super well, we always just enjoyed the moment, but when you look back...” he pauses with a smile.
“We’re seasoned rockers. We’ve been round the world a few times, met a lot of people and we ain’t got time for drama. We just want to make good music and play good music. And want other people who like it to share it with us and have a laugh. If you want to cause drama or be a dick head, you can fuck off. People make up deep and meaningful bullshit to say to magazines, but honestly, don’t take anything away from our music. If you like it, put it on all the time, and fucking enjoy it. If you don’t like it, don’t. There’s nothing to take away but good music and good songs.
“I want people to make memories to it. Most albums I like now, I listened to fifteen years ago and are probably fucking shit but I remember being on road trips in friends cars or at house parties and those songs being on, and that’s why I like them so much. I want this album to be that for people. And for people to make some memories with these songs on in the background.. Get fucked up with your friends with it on, do dumb shit and let this album be the soundtrack. We’re not expecting anyone to take anything away from the music or the live show; we make good music, come and have a good time at one of our shows. That’s literally it.”
Lower Than Atlantis’ album ‘Safe in Sound’ is out now. Taken from the March 2017 issue of Upset. Order a copy below.