ALGIERS: Open Challenges

Interview with Algiers

Atlanta experimental act Algiers returned in January with the release of their third studio album entitled ‘There is No Year,’ out via Matador Records. The quartet plays this year’s Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands on Saturday, April 18. Drummer Matt Tong speaks about the album and more in an interview for Prog Sphere.

Describe the musical frameworks your recent album There is No Year explores.

Hmm. I think we were just trying to make something a little more concise and cohesive than The Underside of Power; there wasn’t a particular set of genres we were specifically pulling from, at least nothing more than what you have already heard on our first two records, and I don’t think that means we were less ambitious this time round, we just felt there were some unexplored aspects of our existing identity that we wanted to probe. But ultimately what we were doing, I think, was trying to combine the monolithic aspect of the first record with the more expansive songwriting of the second.

Tell me about the ideas that inform the album.

This record represents a shift more to the personal (which, of course, is still always political) from the political. Franklin [James Fisher] wanted to expand his own mythology and that of the band by not serving his ideas neatly plated. His long form poem, ‘Misophonia’, which he worked on during most of last year’s touring formed the template from which he pulled his lyrics from. The poem forms a key part of the album sleeve art and in lieu of a lyric sheet, it’s more of an open challenge for listeners to divine how the poem’s sprawl was consciously adapted to fit the mood of the album. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation: did the words or the music come first? Damned if I know, and I was there.

Algiers - There is No Year

How do the diverse, complex rhythmic and global musical influences serve the storylines of the record?

Our genre experiments, I suppose, fit in with the overarching hope that is sort of buried in some of Franklin’s lyricism that we can overcome the fear of the other. I think we’ve also taken a little joy in juxtaposing what is an angry and at times defeated sentiment with music that is not quite as aggressive as people are used to hearing from us.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and lessons learned during the creative process?

Getting the damn thing finished in a timely manner. To that end, we were kind of kept separate from each other in the studio, which did cause a lot of trust issues to build up within the band. Looking back, it was necessary and our big takeaway was that we need to come to the next record with songs fully worked out and demoed and a much more unified sense of what we want to achieve.

Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?

It hasn’t changed much, but I think we recognise that if we are to progress then it absolutely has to change. We’ve toured so much that we’ve become a different entity as a live band and we haven’t quite been able to fold that back into what we do in the studio, mainly due to logistical concerns. We have solid chops, particularly Franklin, and I’m not entirely sure to what extent people know that about us. I think if we can incorporate what we do on stage into our next body of work, we may end up surprising a few people.

What types of change do you feel this music can initiate?

Ah. Who knows? Hopefully we have opened a few minds and brought like minded people together, that’s all we can ask for really.

Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?

Not really. Well… enthusiasm, focus, determination, confusion… then frustration, abject misery and nihilism. Then relief.

What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

The usual suspects. Black Panthers, Malcolm X, MLK, Hegelian dialectics, Marxism before the USSR fucked it up for everyone.

You are scheduled to play at this year’s Roadburn festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands. What are your expectations from playing this event, and what visitors can expect from you?

We’ve been excited to get on this bill for a while. We’re hoping we can get ourselves in to some new, curious ears. It’ll be the start of a new European run for us, so we should be fresh and powerful and the new stuff will be sounding tight and settled within our existing oeuvre.

What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?

Well, we’re a bit long in the tooth at this point, so we’ve seen a lot of things come and go and a lot of changes in the music industry. It’s pointless trying to chase a living because something will just come along and upend you, no matter what. Just try and focus on something that feels true to you and please, please, please try to take some joy and pride in what you do because you’ll have more bad days than good, but savour the good because if you love music when you have a good day in music, there is nothing else that comes remotely close to that feeling.

There is No Year is out now via Matador Records; get it from Bandcamp. Follow Algiers on Facebook and Instagram.

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