Chalk it up to hailing from blue-collar Ipswich, England, but Basement has never been a band to make grand gestures. When they announced their indefinite hiatus in 2012, they did so with a simple statement and no unnecessary pageantry. When they returned earlier this year, they let us all know with as little as a handful of suggestive tweets and a similarly straightforward announcement. No drama, no bullshit.
Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the band decided not to leak any details about their upcoming EP, Further Sky, until now. When a lot of bands are way too enthusiastic about overhyping their shit on every social media platform ever and album leaks are almost just taken as a given, these guys somehow managed to sneak off to London for a few days to bang out three tracks (including a cover of Suede’s “Animal Nitrate”) without Instragraming every sandwich they ate in the studio, or really telling anyone what they were doing.
Because who would even think that was a big deal anyway, right?
Ask anyone with tickets to their completely sold out US tour that’s coming up, and you’ll know that for all of the band’s collective humility, it’s a big fucking deal to a lot of people. We caught up with guitarist Alex Henery (who now lives in Boston) after a day’s work at Run For Cover Records (again, no big deal) to talk about Further Sky, which country’s food would win in a fight between the US and the UK, and the possibility of another full-length down the road.
Check out the interview and listen to "Summer's Colour" below. Pre-order Further Sky right here.
Noisey: So how does it feel to be writing music again and having a new EP coming out now that you’re back from hiatus?
Alex Henery: It’s feels great. It’s really the central part of the band; writing, and being creative. So when that went away for a while… well, it didn’t really go away. We were all writing, everyone still plays their instruments. I still like playing guitar. It was last winter I went home for Christmas and we all met up and had some ideas and went to a weird practice spot and just started jamming. We didn’t really expect anything to happen, but in the end, we were like, “Well, why not record? Let’s not wait around, let’s just do it.” So, it happened.
When you first announced you were going to be going on hiatus a couple years back, it sounded like you guys had some things going on in your personal life that needed to be taken care of that necessitated putting the band on hold for a little while. So, did the entire band move to the States?
No, just me.
Does that present any challenges in how you’ll be able to proceed as a band from here?
We’ve never had any plans of being a full-time touring band. The reason why we went on hiatus was because Andrew wanted to become a teacher and he had to go back to school for a year and a half and get certified, and he did that and we’re all really proud of him. And James, his brother, is about to graduate art school, and the rest have been working on their careers. Everyone’s in such a great place since they’ve had time off to work on real-life stuff. We’ve never been a band that’s like, “This is what we’re gonna do with the rest of our lives,” it’s just a really good creative outlet and we’re best friends, so it’s great to hang out.
But yeah, problems arise. I moved out here to do what I wanted to do with work, I work for the record label we’re on right now. It’s a bummer that I can’t just hang out with everyone and practice, but luckily with the internet we can send songs to each other. I can record on my iPhone and sent it to them and they can be like, “Yeah that’s cool,” or “Nah, that sucks” and we can just go from there so we can send each other ideas. I actually sent something last night.
The main thing is we work best all together, when we’re all in the same room. It’s just so much easier to ideas to bounce off each other, and within ten minutes we might have the whole structure to a song. But, that almost makes it better when we do meet up, because we value that time way more and when I went back to record, we had two practice sessions and it was just constantly churning out ideas. We weren’t taking any of that time for granted. So yeah, there’s problems, but we can deal with it. It’s nothing we can’t handle.
Where did you go to record Further Sky? Was that over in the UK?
Yeah, I flew over. It was easiest for me to fly rather than for everyone to fly over to America. We recorded at a place called Livingston Studio 1 in North London. It was amazing. The studio has a rich history, like really good bands that recorded there. Run For Cover said we could pretty much record anywhere we wanted so we went somewhere that was kind of close and looked like it’d be half-decent. We only recorded for a few days, so we had to get to work. No messing around. But yeah, the studio was amazing.
We worked with Dan Goudie, and that was a huge risk. We had never met Dan, he hadn’t met us, and it all worked out. He got on with us super well. We got into the studio and just started working as quickly as we could and got it down in time. I was probably annoying Dan more than anything by saying, like, “Do we have enough time?” Every day, I’d be checking like, “Are we good? Are we still on time? Are we gonna make it?” But he was great. There wasn’t really any stress. It just worked out.
Did you have the songs written before you went into the studio, or was there a lot of writing during the recording process?
We practiced last Christmas and we came up with one song, like a rough layout of a song, that we were pretty happy with and that recorded on an iPhone and kept listening to that. The other song was written when I wasn’t there. When I got to the UK, we had practice, went through those two songs and we also did the cover [Suede’s “Animal Nitrate”], and it all worked out.
While you were in the writing and recording process, did you have any difficulties keeping it secret or under wraps? Any people asking, “Hey guys, why are you heading down to London?”
Well, I think it worked out. It fell on Mother’s Day, so I went home and saw my friends and family, so that was probably the only thing that I had hoped that people were gonna know was I went on vacation to see my mum for Mother’s Day. My mum was really happy about that, and then we had just the three days to record. All of our friends came over to the studio, and that was about it. We haven’t really told that many people, so it just got kept a secret.
The only other thing is we didn’t really document it. You normally see bands posting images on Instagram or Twitter or whatever, but we just kept it to ourselves. It’s been cool just to keep it a secret and wait until everything’s done. I hate when you’ll see a band post like, “Oh, you guys aren’t ready for this” or try to hype it up too much and it gets a bit over the top. It’s been nice to keep it to ourselves. We’re writing for us, so we didn’t think like we’ve gotta prove something or give something to anyone. We wanted to do it, we had the songs, it just made sense.
So that was a conscious decision then to keep it under wraps?
Yeah, we just wanted to do everything at once rather than slowly try to lead people down a route … we just wanted to be like, “Here’s everything.” We’ve got this tour, but everyone knows about that, and then as an extra thing, how awesome would it be to bring out a new record for that tour and have a physical copy of something, because we’ve been given the opportunity because school holidays fell on that time, why not record? We have those ideas. So yeah, it was a conscious decision.
You’re going to be out on the road Stateside like you previously said supporting Further Sky for a little over a week in August, and then back in the UK you’re going to be playing the Reading and Leeds Festival also…
…which are huge festivals. Are you at all surprised by the fact that a lot of the shows that you’re playing on this tour here in the States are already sold out, and it’s a few months away at this point? How does that feel from your perspective, and do you think maybe your time away built up some hype?
Honestly, it’s just funny. I’ll text everyone over there and give the information to people to tell them what’s going on, and when I told them the tickets had gone on sale and that a bunch of them had sold out, and then all of them sold out, we were laughing. We never thought that would happen. We never thought that we’d sell out Union Transfer in Philadelphia. That’s like, a dream venue. We started out when our booking agent went to look at venue sites and we had booked small rooms, we booked incredibly modestly in all these places. We didn’t know if anyone was going to turn up. I didn’t know it was going to sell out, and now Webster Hall is sold out and all these insane places all over the US. It’s mind-blowing. I honestly didn’t think that it’d be like that… it’ll only be real when it happens, because at the moment, it’s just on paper. Until I see and play those shows, then it’ll be real.
In your experience then, what would you say are some of the biggest differences you perceive between the scenes in the US and the UK?
Hmm. Good question. Not so much. I feel like the kids are the same anywhere, but the only I noticed was in Australia, that was the first time… they’re really passionate because not that many bands go out there and the bands that go out there only go to a few cities, so that was about the only difference I could notice about the actual audience. I feel like UK kids treat American kids, to me, maybe the same as Australia because they look to the US for all these bands, and then they come over, they’re seen in a different light. I don’t know if that makes sense? It’s like up on a pedestal, “Oh, you’re from America. That’s crazy.” I don’t know if I can tell a difference really.
Scene-wise, in America there’s more going on than in the UK… there’s more VFW halls and things and outlets for DIY punk bands. But in the UK, still where I grew up there’s like no venues now. The last time I tried to do a home show I did it at a church hall, which had never been used for a gig. Maybe it’s easier more than anything in the US to book shows and have shows, possibly because of the size of the country there’s more people interested, there’s more outlets.
So I’m gonna throw a serious question out there. Between the US and the UK, whose food would you say is better?
OK, I’ll lay it on you. Let me word this the right way so I don’t offend people. America has more options. You can’t get good Mexican food, it’s hard to find good barbeque [in the UK]. And then you have the American diner kind of food, and the fast American food. There’s more places to eat out in America. People eat out in America because it’s cheaper and it’s fast food, whereas in the UK it’s a treat to eat out. People cook.
There’s more places to eat in America, so I’m gonna go with America, but English savory food, you can’t beat it. You can’t find that classic kind of meat and potatoes, good vegetables, like, savory. That’s something America lacks. You guys put sugar in your bread. It’s so frustrating sometimes to find good, wholesome food, but that’s something we look forward to when we come to America is trying to find the craziest foods that we can. But English food, like bangers and mash, English breakfast, shepard’s pie, like really good pub food, I miss it. But it’s different, you know? You end up missing stuff when you’re away for this long.
What’s next for Basement from here? Do you think we might be able to expect a full-length from you guys at any point?
Yeah. We’re constantly all trying to write stuff. On tour, our soundchecks are just going to be a writing session and find any time that we can to record. We have an extra day in San Francisco, so we might try to stop by and make something interesting happen. I don’t know if time is going to warrant that. But yeah, there will be a full-length. Definitely. We really like writing music together, it’s one of the main things of being in a band. So, definitely a full-length, and we want to travel to some cool places. We’ve had offers to places like Brazil and southeast Asia, places we’d love to go to. It’s all going to work around Andrew’s schedule as a teacher and everyone’s work schedules. We’ll figure it out. We’re going to try and tour as much as we can.
Ben Sailer is on Twitter - @bensailer
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