"We've arrived now and we deserve people's attention" – hmv.com talks to Augustines
New Yorkers Augustines emerged in 2011 as We Are Augustines with their debut album Rise Ye Sunken Ships, an album made for loose change and without much hype at all behind it. Gradually word got around about the band and they soon found themselves in demand, leading to an extensive tour and lots of appearances at festivals all over the globe.
Now shed of the 'We Are' from their name, they’re back with a self-titled second album and we caught up with singer Billy McCarthy to find out all about it…
So your album's due out on Monday (February 3rd), how are you feeling ahead of its release?
"I'm thrilled that we're finally able to get it out. It's been a long time coming, I think the band really pushed themselves on this album and the feedback's been great. We worked really hard on this album so that's very gratifying."
This album is coming out under the name Augustines, rather than We Are Augustines, why is that?
"That question is central to the spirit of this band, it's who we are. Our name was Augustines, we performed under that name, but, to deal with residue from the past and after we got some really unpleasant emails, we modified the name to stop that. But when things took off, we decided to take our name back, we earned it back, the change is a triumph for us."
You worked with Peter Katis who's worked with The National and Frightened Rabbit in the past, what was he like to work with?
"Peter's amazing. He's direct, extremely talented and you have to come into his studio on form, he expects a lot from you. The work he did with Jónsi (Sigur Rós guitarist Jónsi Birgisson whose solo album was produced by Katis), it was the best thing I've heard, sonically, in the last five years, what they accomplish in that record is unbelievable. He co-produced it with us and it’s come out great."
You recorded in a converted church, what was that like?
"We worked for five weeks solid and the weather was so bad that after a while I just gave up travelling back and forth to New York and just stayed with Peter at his house. His house is full of scraps of lyrics from all the amazing bands he's worked with and reminders of all the records he's done, it's like a museum of modern rock music. It was pretty remote there too and there wasn't a lot of contact with the outside world, we got a lot done quickly."
The album's self-titled, did you decide to name it in this way to make a statement?
"Yeah, I think we've arrived, the first record was more of a recording project, we kind of assembled the band after the record, we'd have been happy to do one tour. We've arrived now, and we deserve people's attention. I hope people think it's an interesting record."
You've said in the past that this record has been inspired by travelling the world, where did you go?
"I got on my motorbike and I biked about 6,000 miles in all, went through 23 countries, including parts of Asia and Africa. I don't feel like I've reconciled my relationship with New York, I haven't had a flat there for two years, so this was a way to stay on the road. I get off tour, I get on my bike, I get back on tour, it'll stop eventually, but you see my passport man, it's running out of room for stamps."
Which places did you find particularly inspiring? Can you trace the songs back to particular places?
"Let's see, 'Nothing To Lose But Your Head' was written in a terrible hotel room in Puerto Rico, 'Cool City' started out in Kenya and 'Walkabout' came together riding down Highway 1 in Northern California. I remember coming up with 'Now You Are Free' in this church in Canada and '(I Touch Imaginary Hands)' was written in Washington. Some of it came together in Turkey too, everywhere man."
You've also said that the first record was more of a personal record and this is more of a helpful record, can you explain why that is?
"The first record is a bit more of a concept record in that it had characters and stories, but a lot of the people in those stories were people I could do nothing for, I could just describe their lives. This time, I feel I can offer a lot more hope and I'm not afraid of making something more optimistic. I feel like we're going somewhere. The last record was more 'Come on! Give us a shot!', this is more like a statement."
What kind of stuff were you listening to?
"I'm pretty passionate about African music and lots of music from around the world. I get bored with rock n'roll quite a bit and I don't like to listen to music that's like the music we make, I don't want to be influenced by that."
What's the plan for 2014? Lots more touring and festivals?
"Yeah, now's the time, I see no reason why we should be off the road for the next two years."
Augustines' new self-titled album is released on Monday (February 3).