ALBANY (from l-r): Jim De Ath (rhythm guitar), Chris Fletcher (bass), Matt Duke (vocals/lead guitar), Dan Sharratt (drums)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
In recent years, some have questioned why there have been no bands to establish themselves, in a big way, on the British indie-rock scene.
One outfit determined to see that change are Lincoln four-piece Albany, who have generated much buzz and excitement within their genre with a powerful, rough-edged sound, drawn from a broad range of influences, coupled with lyrical content dealing with life in general.
The quartet’s frontman, Matt Duke, spoke to me recently about their journey so far, how 2018 has gone for them, and what they hope to achieve in the near future.
How did the band form?
It all started in 2008, around The Enemy years, and it was a three-piece semi-acoustic thing we had going on in Coventry, but this disbanded after a couple of years, and I kind of slipped into a hiatus from music.
However, after three years, my best mate who was the bass player in Coventry got engaged and asked me to play a 45-minute live set at his wedding reception.
At the time, obviously I didn’t have a band, so I literally had a year to find some musicians and decide on a set, but I’d been out of the game for a bit, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull it off, but I advertised online, and the first person that got back to me was Chris, the current bass player.
We started rehearsing, along with a load of other randoms I pulled together, the set went great, and it went from there really. During those rehearsals, I’d been toying with the idea of getting the band back together because I’d found I was a lot better than I was at uni, so it kind of gave me a bit of a spark to do something with or try; so I asked Chris if he’d be interested, which he obviously was, he knew a drummer, we got together, banged out a couple of songs I’d written for the old band, which sounded incredible, and after a couple of months or so, we found a rhythm guitarist, and after an overhaul last year with another axe man, here we are today. The rest is history.
How did the name Albany come about?
It’s named after a pub and a road in Coventry, close to where I used to live. At the time, in 2007, there were a lot of bands called “The” something…..so I wanted just one word that was clear, simple, effective, AND something a crowd could chant easily when we’re about to blow their heads off live.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
Just wait for them to happen. You can’t force it, I can’t anyway, it’s just how I learnt, and sometimes, it’ll be a month before anything comes, but it’s always worth the wait, so I just don’t chase it too much.
If I sit down and try and MAKE myself write a song, nine times out of 10, it won’t happen, and therefore, it’s a waste of time, and to the frustration of the others, it doesn’t work in rehearsals either. They’re desperate to come up with something together, but my head just doesn’t work like that.
I’m an average musician at best, and to come up with something on the spot, it would have to be a massive stroke of luck. We get intros and outros for our show easily, but song-wise, they have to wait, but most of the time, it’ll come to me out of the blue; whether I’m driving, or at work, or, to my girlfriend’s annoyance, in the middle of the night; she has been known to lose her temper at 3am, but when songs like ‘Kingpin’ get written, I wouldn’t change it, but wherever I am or whatever I’m doing, I’ve got to get it down on my phone, otherwise I’ll forget it.
From there, I’ll go find it on the guitar, tweak it, and get the music down pretty quickly, but yeah, a lot of people at work think I’m bat crazy, as they’ll walk into the toilet, and I’m sat there in the corner singing into my phone.
What inspires the band lyrically?
Relationships, love, heartbreak, getting stuck in queues, people annoying me, whatever happens or is happening at that time, it tends to get written about, but this is all down to what I’ve said from day one; all great songs tell a story, and that’s because, in one way or another, people can relate to them somehow, and so they have more appeal, but again, it’s like the music, there has to be something going on in my life to inspire the song, otherwise I’d be writing about old women in a jacuzzi, and nobody wants to hear about that.
One of the EARLY songs we did was called ‘Push It In’….get your head round that! Clearly, that never even made it to rehearsal.
You all have a passion to resurrect the anthemic British guitar appeal. Why do you think that has declined in recent years?
Lack of inspiration, I think. I think the last 10 years has been dire, guitar-wise, and it’s annoying because every decade has always had something or someone big defining it.
Back in around 2004/2005, there was a new wave of guitar bands after the 90’s thing, The Killers, Kasabian, The Libertines, The Enemy, Razorlight, etc…that was great. I call it “jingly jangly” indie, but when it was time for the next “big thing” indie-wise to make a noise, around two or three years, there was hardly anything, and I think that’s why all the big bands are either still going or are getting back together and becoming bigger than ever in 2018, because there’s still a huge want and need for it.
See, I adore the internet, socials, YouTube, all of it, but it’s Catch-22, because it has ruined the industry, and more to the point, has made it harder for bands like us to be acknowledged, which adds to the fact that the industry is boring because the same shit just keeps churning out.
Nowadays, it seems to be more about how much traction you get on Instagram than the actual music, but I guess it will change, as everything comes full circle eventually, and hopefully, we’ll be the ones to get the ball rolling. It’d be nice.
At the start of 2018, the band signed to the UK’s largest independent indie label, SoundHub Records. How did that come about?
They found us, I guess through our socials, and said they loved us and wanted to get involved, as it was up their street, and they wanted to help make the next EP, so we talked, gave them a live showcase of, I think, three songs…. and no word of a lie, they said it was “one of the best showcases they’ve had“, and last year, we released anything we did independently, so we needed the right people behind this one to make it worthwhile, and they know their stuff, they’re bang on, and our kind of people as well, so as anything goes when you click with someone, it was pretty easy.
And I can imagine you were all feeling good when you signed the contract with them.
Well yeah, because someone was finally listening. I had been writing for three years, as a band we’d finally found our sound, and at gigs, especially local ones, we were going down a storm, so from our point of view, it was, “Right now, we’re talking! Someone gets it…AND we don’t have to start singing about getting drunk in a Lego house to get noticed“.
Recently, the band brought out a new single, entitled ‘Kingpin’. How was the recording process for that?
A lot of fun. See, we do things the wrong way round, in my eyes, but it’s great at the same time, because it lets us have a bit of room for playing around with it.
I’ve always seen it as, you write a song, work it out, record it, and then when it comes to rehearsals, work out a live version for gigs, but we work backwards, and I guess that’s how a lot of bands that need to fund themselves are… because we always end up playing the song live for however long before it even makes the studio!
Therefore, a lot of times, we end up with two versions of songs. ‘Kingpin’ didn’t change structure-wise, the magic with that came with the guys at Soundhub, their input to it, and what they added to it…and the other tracks too, which all sound incredible, but working this way, I guess, gives us the best of both worlds and the fans too, because it lets us have a choice as to how to play a song live….and that’s how you keep things interesting…it’s like a relationship….keep changing it up, keep them on their toes, make things exciting, don’t become predictable, and you’re onto a winner.
How has the reaction been to the track so far?
Mega, and from our fans and the people that follow us, really, really good. I mean they had been lucky enough to hear it live a couple of times before we went into the studio with it, and we’re quite lucky in the sense that a lot of people that come to most of our gigs do come and talk to us afterwards, if they can, and if they’re talking about a song; they either love it, it’s okay, or they’re not keen. They say how it is, and I click with that.
With this one, people who have messaged us have said that they have put it on loop, and they can’t get enough.
I mean, I knew the moment I got the hook, “Can you see it now?” that it was gonna be a banger, but how it has turned out, we couldn’t be happier, to be fair, and with a couple of changes that were made in the studio when we came to playing it as a band, it came to be what it is, which was an in-your-face, straight-to-the-point, driven indie rock belter.
And will ‘Kingpin’ eventually lead to a third EP, or debut album release?
See, we thought we were doing a third EP, but the guys at SoundHub suggested we recorded three singles and released them all separately, so that’s what we did, and it kind of made sense because rather than releasing it all in one go like we have in the past, riding the wave, and then it’s all over, with this, we could light a fire with ‘Kingpin’, and then as and when we could, keep stoking it with the next one and the next one, get a bit of long-term momentum going, but this song’s big enough to keep itself burning for a few months yet…and then we’ll hit it with another. It’s all mapped out.
This year, you played at Camden Rocks, as well as embarking on an enthusiastically-received 10-date UK tour. How were they as experiences?
We’ve had a great summer, yeah. Loved it. We played 2Q in Lincoln, we headlined The Platform at The Engine Shed as part of This Feeling, Joefest, which is a well-known local festival that we opened up on the BBC Introducing stage for, we played the British Superbikes at Cadwell Park, which was a hot messy one, and yeah, Camden Rocks.
It’s all been great, but Camden was massive for us. We were all twitching for that, I mean we’ve played London before a few times, at The Fiddlers Elbow, but Camden Rocks felt like a step forward for the band, because we were on the bill with other well-known bands, bands that we are fans of, and the reaction we got drove us to keep going; we packed the venue out, the crowd were bouncing to every song in our half-hour set, and the festival’s asked us back next year.
I mean, to me, that speaks for itself, there are people out there that want it.
And how is it overall, for the band, performing live?
It’s why we do it. No better feeling, especially at festivals and big stages, as you get to see the whites in people’s eyes! Rehearsals can be a ball ache, not because we don’t enjoy it, but because we all work full-time, and by the time we get there, we’re all knackered….and sometimes we don’t get anywhere because of it, but it’s all worth it, especially when you’ve got a string of dates in front of you.
What are your plans for the near future?
We’ve got our last gig of the year on November 30 in Lincoln at The Rogue Saint, and after that, I’m going to sit in a dark room for a week, and get my head down for a bit.
I’ve got three or four songs that are massive, so we’ll be laying them down throughout December, get through Christmas, and then it all starts again.
I can’t give much away, because not everything is confirmed yet, but we’ve got a busy year ahead.
And finally, what is the band’s long-term aim?
To rescue indie rock, I guess, and to give the people back what they want, and hopefully inspire a few of them along the way? I don’t know. We’re just taking every moment as it comes, every opportunity as it comes, and making waves where we play, to as many places as possible, if not for anyone else, giving ourselves a bit of hope that guitar music is still alive.
There’s no quirks or confusion with us, it is what it is, and we love what we do; we just need a leg up, and with a bit of luck, the best case scenario, by the time our thing’s gone full circle, will hopefully be us riding our own wave, in the middle of the sea, on a yacht.
‘KINGPIN’, THE LATEST SINGLE FROM ALBANY, IS AVAILABLE NOW, VIA SOUNDHUB RECORDS.
FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: