Lower Than Atlantis
As Lower Than Atlantis wound down thecampaign for their third album, Changing Tune, the band found themselves atsomething of a crossroads.
To the outside world, Changing Tune –LTA’s 2012 major label debut – had been the breakthrough record for this mostbeloved of British rock bands. It cracked the UK Top 30, helped the band fill venues thesize of Shepherd’s Bush Empire with delirious fans, made waves in America andestablished frontman Mike Duce as that rarest of rockstar breeds: one inpossession of equal amounts of mouth and trousers.
But, behind the scenes, things lookedless rosy. Changes at their label saw LTA – always slightly surprised to findthemselves on a major – returned to independence, albeit with a few quid in theirback pockets for their trouble.
But weighing heavier on the band’scollective mindset was the thought of exactly where their lives were going.Mike was dealing with a relationship break-up and, as LTA – completed byguitarist Ben Sansom, drummer Eddy Thrower and bassist Dec Hart – entered theirmid-twenties contemplating what looked like a return to rock career square one,many of their friends and peers were settling down with steady jobs and youngfamilies.
“We were thinking, ‘Do we want that?’”admits Mike. “‘Cos if we do, now’s the time to probably call it a day…”
Thankfully, Mike had been in this sortof situation before. Before he formed Lower Than Atlantis in 2007, he worked asa labourer. His boss would regularly offer to pay for him to go to college andget his bricklaying qualifications. Equally regularly, Mike would turn himdown.
“I needed a shit job that I hated andpaid me fuck all, to give me the drive to do what I actually wanted to do,” hesays. “I lost some of that drive along the way, but now I had something toprove again…”
And Lower Than Atlantis’ fourth,self-titled album provides all the evidence Mike’s ex-girlfriend, former labeland the wider world will ever need that this is a band about to take a majorstep up. The band invested their post-major label exit windfall into theirstudio and into self-financing another album and Mike – who had already beenhoning his writing skills composing for pop acts such as Five Seconds Of Summer(their #1 hit), an X Factor contestant and more to come– set about constructingthe songs that will, in his words, make them or break them.
“We treated this album as if it wasgoing to be our last,” he says, conviction pulsing through his every syllable.“We threw caution to the wind and thought, ‘Fuck it, we’ll just make an albumthat we want to make’. It’s probably our last shot. If things don’t go big,then I guess we probably will think about calling it a day…”
Fortunately, the band shouldn’t have toworry about that for long. Recording at their own pace in their own studio inWatford, and re-teaming with producer (and Mike’s non-LTA songwriting partner)Dan Lancaster, who had helmed the band’s much-cherished 2010 Far Q debut, Miketurned emotional and vocational uncertainty into LTA’s most convincing set ofsongs yet.
So Lower Than Atlantis positivelyfizzes with musical ambition, lyrical wit, crossover potential and carpe diemspirit. And songs, brilliant songs. From the us-against-the-world bravado ofEnglish Kids In America (likely to become the anthem for any homegrown gangtouring the US) to the reflective closer ‘Number One’, Lower Than Atlantis isthe sound of a band determined to give everything they’ve got in search ofglory. It’s reflective of a band who’ve grown up (“I’m 25,” says Mike, “It’stime to stop acting like a fucking child – I’m definitely less of a nutter”)without growing old (“Don’t worry,” says Mike, “I won’t stop being mouthy – Icalls them as I sees them”).
And, whether you’re looking forbrilliantly accessible rock anthems (Emily, Here We Go) or heartbreakinglydirect break-up songs (Ain’t No Friend Of Mine), LTA delivers. Mikeunflinchingly documents his unhappy experiences, both professional (Criminal)and personal (Words Don’t Come So Easily), but in a way that anyone andeveryone will relate to. And, just as his lyrics have become more universal,and as LTA’s melodies reach peaks of infectiousness rarely scaled by punk rockgeezers from Watford, so the band’s musical palate has expanded.
“There’s only so far you can go withfour blokes playing guitars, bass and drums,” smiles Mike. “And now was thetime to do whatever the fuck we wanted.”
Consequently, an electronic edge snakesthrough the album, while the addition of strings, dance beats and even – at onestage – some convincing neo-rapping elevates LTA far above most of their rockpeers.
And that’s exactly where Lower ThanAtlantis, after a year of teetering on the brink of oblivion, want to be.Buoyed by a new label deal with Jamie Osman’s Sony-affiliated Easy Life Records,Mike may be reluctant to define his commercial aspirations for this album, buthis determination to make a genuine impact is stamped on every one of its 12songs.
“I know this sounds reallyegotistical,” he grins, “But I would hate my existence on this planet to justbe another cog helping society tick over. I need to leave some sort of mark orimprint, otherwise I might as well just not be alive.”
And against all odds, LTA aren’t justalive, but kicking harder than Solange Knowles in a Met Ball elevator. And,with the rock album of the summer under their belts, Lower Than Atlantis arefinally ready to go higher than the sun.
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