Decade old rock-quartet Lower Than Atlantis are putting out their fifth album Safe In Sound on the 3rd of February, before heading out on an eight day nationwide tour, which will conclude in our very own Students Union. I was given the (rather nerve wracking) opportunity of speaking with frontman Mike Duce, who had tweeted only a few minutes before our conversation saying “I have about 985 interviews starting at 5pm and about 7 things to do before then but I’m just sat in my car listening to my own band’s album” which sounds like a typical students day…
Thankfully he wasn’t too busy to chat, and even parted with some philosophical advice. I started out by asking him about the need for a degree in music for those looking to establish themselves as artists, to which he replied “all four of us in the band went to uni to study music and dropped out in the first year… the best way to get into or learn something is to just fucking do it,” Duce elaborated on this, explaining that for people who would rather go into music production that it’d probably be best to have proof that you know what you’re doing.
From this we talked about his expectations of being in a band when LTA were just starting out. He explained how his biggest goal in life was always to write music and perform live, both things that he has achieved. However Duce spoke about an epiphany, saying that “I kind of realised that it’s not any one particular experience, thing, job or hobby that’s gonna make you happy, it’s other stuff, that was a bit of a harsh realisation for me.” As for what will make you happy? He did not say, so the search continues. Though he was quick to add that being a part of the band is “fucking great,” in comparison to his previous job working on building sites.
With performing in mind I went on to ask if he had a favourite brand of guitar to play, which for him is a Fender Strat, but apparently this was not the case when LTA began thanks to a lack of funds, “I only had one guitar and that was how I toured for years and I used to like, sometimes chuck it at Eddy on stage or smash it up and then I’d be desperately trying to fix it for the next gig,” Duce comments on the irony of how he had to pay for guitars when he couldn’t afford them, but is now given them for free; “bit of a pisstake really!”
After mentioning the group’s more punk background we talked about nerves when it comes to releasing new music, especially with their change in sound over the past ten years. “As my mum always says it takes 10 years to make an overnight success. And I’m not so much nervous, just more excited really… you can never please everyone so what you’ve got to do is just make yourself happy and then if other people like it fucking sick, and if they don’t, fuck em!” Duce then spoke about a time they were accused of selling out by an interviewer because they were playing bigger venues and making it onto the radio, he replied with “If you think selling out is compromising your artistic integrity for some sort of gain, be it financial or whatever, then we ain’t got any fucking money so I’d hardly say we have – but if I am a sell-out then I’m a fucking happy sell-out with a sick job.”
As Lower Than Atlantis’ singer/songwriter I wondered about the feeling of having your own songs sung back at you (try saying that five times fast). “I had a bit of a moment at reading festival this year, we were playing the main stage and I’ve never seen so many people in my life. One of the songs we played is called Emily, I wrote it about my dog while lying backwards on my bed with my head hanging off, and I was thinking about that and how now I’m on the main stage playing it to all these people, and they’re all singing every word, and I fucking wrote it in my bedroom, it’s like the weirdest,”
Lastly I asked the cliché question, is there anything you’ve learnt that you wish you had known when first starting out? Duce said no, speaking about how learning everything along the way is what has helped the band to discover themselves and that figuring it all out was – and still is – part of the fun on their musical journey. “No, I wouldn’t change anything I don’t think.”
Lower Than Atlantis kick-start their UK tour for upcoming album Safe in Sound on the 10th of March in Birmingham (with a few international dates leading up to this), with critics calling their newest work the band’s redemption it is very likely that these guys have a lot more to give to the world of rock.