Since they produced their last album Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking? in 2005,The Like have changed their line up, their sound and their style, but will their sophomore album Release Me achieve the success that bypassed their first album?
The commercial clout of producer Mark Ronson would certainly suggest so, although when asked about working with him the whole band roll their eyes and groan. Tennessee, the drummer, explains: “Every single interview starts with ‘so…what was it like working with Mark Ronson?’”
No wonder they groan; whilst they have spent the past five years putting their all into this album, their time with Ronson in the studio totalled two weeks. It must be even more annoying for Tennessee than the rest of the band, as his ex-girlfriend. Was it awkward? “It was weird when it ended, but we were still going out when we made the record,” she says… awkwardly.
This sentiment isn’t exactly subtle in the album, which feels like a break-up in a 60s mini dress. Z Berg, the captivating lead singer, explains: “The album is written about many of my particular break-ups and there were break-ups over the course of the record being made and all the chaos is reflected in the way it was made and the state we were in.” Tennessee jokes, or half jokes: “Yeah we were like crying when it was being made, it was a surreal girl group scenario.”
As for men out there, they’ll know certain songs out there are about them, with Z explaining that: “There is a charming thing when you’re a song writer and you have boyfriends and you have to lie to them, ‘no this isn’t about you this is about a friend, don’t worry.’” And what of the rumour that their debut single off the album ‘He’s Not a Boy’ is about Johnny Borrell? “No comment,” they squeal, and collapse into giggles.
Z and Tennessee started making music together in high school and it must have been strange to have the necessary addition of two new members. Tennessee agrees: “It’s like interviewing someone to be your best friend.” Both the new members recall an instant connection, where one drink and a chat turned into ten drinks and an offer to join the band. Laena, the new bassist, explains: “It’s a really cohesive thing with the four of us.”
But surely touring with four girls all together must be overwhelming? “Actually,” Z counters, “it’s pretty fucking awesome…when we share rooms we stay up all night talking. For some reason people don’t want to have sleepovers anymore, and it’s, like, why not? We get to do that every night.”
Despite speaking so fondly of their own experience as a girl band, they haven’t had much experience of touring with others, playing largely with male bands such as The Strokes and The Arctic Monkeys. Can they keep up with them? Z laughs: “Oh they’re tame!” It certainly seems as if the band can hold their own. Laena reels them off: “Well Z had to be carried into the hotel a couple of days ago, and we got into a physical fight in Leeds and…” “Let’s just say we keep up” cuts in Z.
The entire nature of the band seems to have been transported back half a century. From the ethereal creatures on the cover of the first album we now have a look straight out of the sixties with the twiggy haircuts and shift dresses to match. Z claims to have tried so many looks over the years that friends don’t even recognise her. “We were so confident in the way this record sounded and the music we were making that we wanted our aesthetic to be equally recognisable, coherent and cohesive.”
Tennessee suggests the new look is “being more pop, more caricature”. She goes on to criticise “the mish-mash thing that’s going on right now that’s just kind of vintage and kind of vague”. Z chimes in, with what might as well be the motto of the band: “Vague is the enemy.”