It’s been two years since the release of Changing Tune, the third studio album from Watford-based four-piece Lower Than Atlantis. The group, who are newly signed to Sony, are set to release their new self-titled album on September 29th, following an intimate tour and limited festival dates. I caught up with main man Mike Duce to talk about the band’s latest album, Japanese dates and record labels.
When we spoke, Mike was fresh from headlining the second day of Radio One Rocks, playing alongside friends Mallory Knox and Marmozets.
His tweets earlier that day bemoaned a rather sore head. “It was a rough night. We’d just got back from Japan, and the day we got back we played a corporate gig, then the next day was the breakfast show and Radio One Rocks thing.”
The band finally got a chance to relax after what has obviously been a heavy few days, as Mike explained. “Woke up this morning and there were bodies strewn everywhere! It was good, a good celebration and to say thanks to all our crew for doing such a good job…I’m feeling haggard now like.”
Considering the band haven’t played the UK in a while, it seems somewhat odd that Lower Than Atlantis are visiting Japan to debut new tracks. “We were there for a week, had three massive gigs then chilled out in Tokyo at the end of it, ate some food, visited some temples, had a little holiday with our crew.” Ahead of their July dates, Lower Than Atlantis took the opportunity given to them by their friend Adam Graham, now a guitarist for the Japanese rock band Fact. “My friend Adam is in a band – he worked for a label, and he learned Japanese in like an intensive course for a year. We got there, and no one could understand him! It was like he didn’t know anything and the accent was wrong and everything. He used to tour manage, but now he’s in the band and [in Japan they’re all fans of [Fact]. They were like ‘We’re going to tour in Japan, would you like to come with us because we’re massive in Japan’, and we were like ‘Yep!’ So, we just went out and did that. It was good to try out new songs as well when we were out there,” Mike shared. It was the first trip to Japan for Lower Than Atlantis, yet Mike revealed that it won’t be the last: “I think we’re going back again soon, ‘cause it went that well!”
The trip to Japan is certainly something that the band never envisioned for themselves. “Everyone has a bucket list in life,” Mike explained, “As a band it starts off tame – I wanna play this venue, I wanna do this, I wanna get signed. Things like that. Then, going to the USA was massive – it was a huge thing for us to tour America, then for us Western dudes to go somewhere that far away and play there…We never thought we’d do something like that, and we’re just honoured and humbled that we got to do it.”
The band have also seen an incredibly positive reception to their new material at home. Breaking the top ten rock chart on the day of release, and showing no signs of leaving it a few weeks later, single ‘Here We Go’ has been making waves. “It’s been way more than we expected, it’s strange,” Mike tried to verbalise. “We’ve had more response from this one track than we’ve had from our whole last album.”
The song has become a mainstream radio favourite already. “Yesterday, for example, I was on Radio One Breakfast show with Grimmy, then we headlined Radio One Rocks playing on Radio One. We had like 11 plays on Radio One yesterday! We got played on every single show. It’s crazy, weird. I’m blown away.” Fans are also incredibly receptive to the band’s new track, with a handful of tickets remaining nationwide for the July tour dates. Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Norwich and London have completely sold out. “We normally play bigger venues,” Mike humbly explained, “but because the first thing back we’re doing is a club tour, to take it back to when it was really fun – just a few dudes, a sweatbox, people going nuts, that’s the idea. With smaller crowds you get to see everyone’s reactions to the new songs we’re gonna play, that’s the idea.” It certainly seems like Mike’s as excited as the fans. “It’s definitely been too long! We’ve been away for ages! It just felt like I didn’t have a purpose in life, my mates were going to work every day, contributing to society – I was just sitting in a studio. But yeah, we’re back with a fucking vengeance! We’ve got something to prove again.”
Lower Than Atlantis boasts 12 tracks of various moods – anthemic track ‘English Kids in America’ lets the title do the talking, documenting the band’s recent venture into the States, whilst ‘Words Don’t Come So Easily’ follows a more emotional path. Lead single ‘Here We Go’ accurately captures the band’s desire to get back on track with their music, and provides what looks to be the atmospheric foundation for the intimate tour. “It still sounds like Lower Than Atlantis, but it sounds like a more mature Lower Than Atlantis,” Mike mused. “I know it sounds cliché, but, yeah, we have matured since our last album ‘cause we’ve got older, so I don’t know…It sounds more grown up compared to what we were doing before.” With this maturity has also come musical experimentation, as evidenced by the slight electronic element to some of the new album. “There’s only so much you can do when it’s just a couple of blokes playing instruments, so we had to spice it up a bit. We used the studio as an instrument,” Mike said, adopting a nasally tone before laughing. “As wankers say.”
Moving the conversation to more serious tones, we discussed the lyrics of the new record. Lower Than Atlantis are a band that pride themselves on the stories they are able to tell through their songs – ‘Another Sad Song’, ‘Wars With Words’ and ‘Scared of the Dark’ from 2012’s Changing Tune being prime examples of this. With Lower Than Atlantis the band have appeared to mix it up. “Lyrically on this album we decided to go for something different than before. [Changing Tune] was very reflective and it was very personal to me, but with this album it’s more about the music as opposed to the lyrical content. First listen, you hear what I’m saying, you kinda know what it’s about but you take what you will from it, and that’s the idea with this album. It was a nice change for me.”
Consequently, it appears that there’s less emotional ties to specific songs. “It was such a selection of tracks – there was a hell of a lot more tracks and we really whittled it down. There were fifth and sixth drafts of songs – we spent a lot of time getting them to the way they are now. I like so many different songs for different reasons – I couldn’t pick one! I love the album as a body of work, it’s my favourite Lower Than Atlantis album by far!” Mike proudly stated.
It has certainly been a turbulent year or two for Lower Than Atlantis, leaving their Island Records deal and self-recording their new album in their own studio. “Basically, we were signed to Island Records before – it got to a point where they were they’d already picked up the option for the next album, and already signed the next album and got the advance. Then, they called us in and were like ‘Look – we’re legally obliged to release your next album, but we don’t really want to. So, you can do it with us and we’ll do a half-arsed job (essentially), or you can take the money and run’. So we were like ‘Fuck you, see you later’, built a recording studio, wrote and recorded this album, spent ages on it, then signed to Sony a few weeks ago.” Things certainly seem to be looking up on the label front – “Our manager, who’s been a friend of mine and Ben’s [Samson, guitarist] for about ten years now, he now works for the label as well, which is like nuts! Our project manager, he’s been a fan for years and he’s about out our age [mid-20s], loves all the same music as us! We just go up his and talk about music and stuff, it’s great, I couldn’t ask for a better label!” Mike quickly brings himself back to reality with a somewhat interesting metaphor, “I say that now, but we always get shafted, so we’re gonna stay lubed up just in case.”
Following their intimate tour dates, Lower Than Atlantis are set to play just a couple of festivals – Leeds and Reading, as well as one which Mike revealed accidently. “Hang on, that hasn’t been announced yet! I didn’t say that!” he quickly retracted. Back to Reading/Leeds, however, and Mike’s as excited as ever to play. “The first time we played was the Festival Republic Stage – we just couldn’t believe we were playing Reading/Leeds! That was on the bucket list as well. It was great, everything was great. Last year we played Main Stage”, Mike continued, yet not as enthusiastically. “I don’t know…it’s just so exposed. The only time it rained was during our bloody set, typical. The wind was blowing about everywhere, but this year we’re inside a tent again and it’s just great to be inside that sweaty gig atmosphere in the dark, you know. People are more relaxed and it’s easier to get away with being yourself in the dark.” Festivals, in general, appear not to be Mike’s favourite thing. “You have 15 minutes to get on and have everything perfect. A lot of people are just walking past and might not be that into it – it’s quite scary, quite intimidating. I’m not too fond of festivals.”
Some condolence this year appears to be found in two Reading/Leeds bands in particular. “BOMBAY! BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB!” Mike raved, “They’re one of the favourite bands! I saw them a couple of years ago and they were great, I really wanna see how the new record translates live!” Although the line-up means that Lower Than Atlantis are unable to see Blink-182, Mike states that Blink “is the reason I play guitar, and the reason I’m in a band.” Having toured with the Americans two years ago after sneaking backstage at a gig and giving Mark Hoppus a copy of their album, Lower Than Atlantis found themselves playing to thousands of people after being asked to tour with Blink.
This year, however, plans are not so set in stone. July’s tour, August’s festivals and September’s album release look to be littered with single releases, but none confirmed. “The plan is constantly changing”, Mike admitted, “I have no idea what exactly is happening.”
Fans can catch LTA on tour from July 15th– 31st before Lower Than Atlantis drops September 29th.