In Conversation with Lower than Atlantis’ Mike Duce // 16.02.17
Flashback two and a half years ago, and Lower Than Atlantis, Watford’s answer to the British rock scene, are on the verge of releasing their 4th studio album, 2014’s self-titled Lower Than Atlantis. The album was make or break for a band that had already seen the prospect of major label success come and go. Their Island Records-backed 3rd album, Changing Tune, failed to make the impact they felt the album was capable of, and didn’t take the band to heights akin to some of the other larger names within the genre. As a result, the band built their own studio and began conjuring up one last attempt with producer Dan Lancaster on board.
Flash forward to the present day, and LTA have been reborn. Multiple Radio 1 A-list tracks, a completely sold out 2015 tour, Rocksound’s #1 album of the year and their first Kerrang! cover shoot are just a few of the achievements that have been possible since the release of Lower Than Atlantis. For me, it’s during this period that LTA went from being just another British rock outfit to becoming one of my favourite bands. I’d always appreciated their releases, but every track on Lower Than Atlantis seemed to take it up to another level.
It was with delight, then, that out of nowhere I was asked to conduct a phone interview with the band’s lead singer Mike Duce. Jumping at the chance to interview one of my favourite bands, I penned an array of potential questions, got my mum to pick up a copy of the new Kerrang! Magazine (of which they are the week’s cover stars) and prepared an interview that couldn’t be rivalled by any only occasionally listening music publication.
After finally realising I was the one who was meant to be calling Duce, wasting 8 minutes of wonderful interview time, I began the 12 minutes I had left by introducing myself and revealing our mutual first names. “Nice, good name, good choice – well, it wasn’t your choice.” Duce joked. Before I knew it, I could almost hear the job title of “interviewer” following my name, and the beautifully casual interview was underway.
A few years ago on Radio 1 you said ‘Lower Than Atlantis’ could potentially be your last album – when did you realise that wasn’t going to be the case?
“It was so bizarre man – at the start of that campaign it was like our band started again. We did a club tour, but we’d already been a band for six years so it was a little disheartening. But we went from dingwalls to selling out the Roundhouse on that one album, which is just mental. If we didn’t know before, it was pretty obvious after that Roundhouse show that we should probably stick at it.”
In 2011, The Blackout, We Are The Ocean and Canterbury toured the UK together at the same time that you guys toured with You Me At Six and Deaf Havana. All the bands from that first tour have all recently broken up, whilst all from the latter are still going. Do you think that’s simply how harsh the music industry is, or is your change in style the main reason for you being able to keep at it?
“Well, you’ve got to kind of roll with the punches and grow as a band. As the rest of the world moves on you’ve got to adapt with that. You grow as people anyway, so things sort of naturally progress. I think for You Me At Six, they’re fucking huge, so why would they pack it in? For bands like us and Deaf Havana, this is it. It’s this or nothing. I think that’s why we’re still going.”
Why’s the album called “Safe in Sound”?
“Well for me, and I think for a lot of people as well, a lot of our fans, I’d say they’re 16-25 – the majority of them. I remember what it was like, and it’s kind of hard growing up, isn’t it? I think that for a lot of people when you buy THAT album, you go up to your bedroom, put it on, and you kind of escape for a bit – it blocks out the rest of the world. For that 3 and a half minutes of a song, or for that 40 minutes of an album, you’re somewhere else, and you’re not really thinking about all these problems. I want this album to be that for whoever’s listening to it. I guess that’s why it’s called “Safe In Sound”.
‘Boomerang’ is very different sonically from your other songs. Why was that one you wanted to release before the album came out?
“Just to show that it’s quite diverse, the album. The song live sounds like any of the other songs on it – it’s really heavy full band! I think with that song, it’s probably gonna be the one that attracts people that weren’t into our band before, or that wouldn’t necessarily listen to what we do, and gets them into our band. It could even be that song that gets people that don’t really like rock music into rock music. A lot of people have always slated your Busteds, and your 5 Seconds of Summers, but without those kind of gateway bands, and without gateway songs, people wouldn’t get into rock music – so I think that shit is really important.”
You’ve played Brixton before, supporting Blink-182. How does it feel knowing you’re going to be headlining these huge venues for your next tour?
“Yeah… this sounds really bad, but we’ve been rehearsing for once! We never really rehearse. We’ve been rehearsing our arses off, man! A lot of those kids are quite young and they’ve saved up their pocket money to come and see our band play. People spend their hard-earned cash on coming and seeing us play when they could’ve spent it somewhere else, so it’s our duty to put on the best performance we can every night. We just stepped up our game in general as a band. The set is fucking sick, and there’s like a cohesive – sort of – piece of music. The set flows brilliantly, and we’ve worked on it really hard. [We’re] making it more of a show production-wise; you’ve gotta step it up a little bit when the venues get bigger. I’m not gonna give too much away mate, you’ve gotta come to one of the shows!”
How do you go about choosing what songs get in the set?
“It’s normally the best hits. It will be the hits essentially. I sound like a fucking cab driver, or a dad… but it’s like the best songs. You know, the singles and a couple of self-indulgent ones.”
What current unreleased songs from the album are you most excited for people to finally hear?
“There’s 2 of my favourites – they’re almost like a nod to the World Record Lower Than Atlantis era – a song called ‘Could Be Worse’, and one called ‘I Would’. It’s like a modern take on what we were doing back then. I really like those two songs so I can’t wait for people to hear those. One of them’s got a really good message. You know, essentially, it could be worse. Whatever’s going wrong, it could always be fucking worse. That’s just kind of the message in the song, a “thank god it ain’t” sort of thing. Then the other one is a love song, but it’s not your typical cheesy, metaphor-laden love song. It’s all the crazy things you do to be with the person you love – like eating broken glass, swimming with sharks.”
I laughed and said “I hope that’s just a metaphor”, to which Mike replied: “Yeah… it’s not,” as awkward laughter ensued.
“It’s just all the mental shit you’d do for that person. Have you ever been in love? It’s quite a weird one for blokes ain’t it, like you’re not supposed to talk about it. Whatever, it’s in the song!” Mike Duce, completely smitten it seems, ladies & gents!
You get lots and lots of comments about your accent. Do you prefer it when people sing in their own accent as opposed to putting on some strange americanised one?
“Yeah! I always find it so weird, man. People are always saying to me, ‘You sing in an English accent, why is that?!’. I say, ‘Cause I’m fucking English!’ If I was singing in a Chinese accent, then ask me that question. It’s even weirder that people sing in an American accent – I’m not sure where the fuck that came from. I just sing and that’s how it comes out, cause that’s the way I talk. I always find it so weird people ask me about it all the time.”
Final Question: I know you love Star Wars. What do you think of Episode VIII’s title, “The Last Jedi”?
“You know what mate, I actually walked out of Rogue One.”
At this point I exclaimed, “WHAT?!”, and begged for reasoning.
“I feel like I’m not a fan of the Star Wars Franchise; I’m a fan of episodes 4, 5 & 6 for nostalgic reasons. I could literally cite you those films from start to finish, every single line word for word. I had them on VHS and I watched them every day. I don’t know, the newer stuff seems a bit contrived. Or maybe I’m just jaded and old, not fucking 8 anymore.”
We used the final few seconds we had debating this, and talking about things that would sound nonsensical to a non-Star Wars fan. Eventually Mike (sort of) came around:
“They’re still good films, obviously they ARE Star Wars films. But they’re not what Star Wars is to me.”
Lower Than Atlantis’ 5th studio album Safe In Sound is released on the 3rd of February on Easy Life Records. Catch them in March on the following dates:
Mar 09: Norwich UEA
Mar 10: Birmingham Academy
Mar 11: Manchester Academy
Mar 13: Leeds Academy
Mar 14: Newcastle Academy
Mar 15: Glasgow ABC
Mar 17: London Brixton Academy
Mar 18: Cardiff Great Hall