Basement: Don’t Call It A Comeback
Basement caught a lot of people by surprise with the release of Promise Everything, an album that redefined the British quintet as a celebrated melodic rock band with a fresh outlook on the kind of songs that catapulted bands like the Foo Fighters to fame, or made Sunny Day Real Estate the sticker on your diary. Late last month, Basement brought their new collection of songs to Australia, as well as American Indie-Rockers Turnover, and local legends Break Even in tow, to play to their biggest audiences in this country to date. Guitarist Alex Henery took time to catch up with BLUNT to talk about Promise Everything, from its conception to right now.
It must definitely feel like Basement’s momentum over here has picked up tenfold since your last Australian trip in 2014. How are you finding this Country’s better late than never love for your band?
Dude, I’m really, really excited. It’s been so cool to see outlets like triple J and other places be so excited and be receptive to supporting us and putting our music on the radio. People seem to be excited. I emailed everyone before the tour saying, “Hey, the show in Sydney sold out!” and it was like 800-cap, and everyone was like, “What the heck is happening? This is crazy!” We do shows in Australia to, like, 100-200 people… I remember Wollongong was like a 100-cap room, if that! So it’s definitely crazy that it’s growing, and people seem to be really receptive to the new album. I actually can’t really comprehend it! It’s a stacked lineup as well. We brought out Turnover who I think people are really excited about seeing. And Break Even are awesome too! I’m just excited about the whole package. I think it’s going to be a really great tour.
So are you sick of talking about that time the band broke up yet?
Yeah, 100%! It’s boring. It’s like, so that happened, yeah and yeah, it’s over! It’s just not a big deal, y’know? It’s all written about, people know about it. It’s just confusing why people still end up talking about it. Like, wasn’t it your job to write this two years ago? [laughs]. But whatever, I get it. Maybe that’s the type of stuff people wanna hear about. But it was really as simple as, we took two years off to do normal life stuff, and then had that stuff sorted and people still wanted to see our band, so we played some shows and went from there. I just feel like it’s a small thing to talk about, yet people seem to always wanna talk about it – but it’s all good! I just feel lucky that we did it kind of first [laughs]! Not first, but I feel like a lot of bands are kind of breaking up or going on hiatus, and I’m just like, at least we got in there before everyone else did!
Tell me about writing an album when you’re living in America, and the rest of the band is in the UK. Just how different a record would Promise Everything have been if you were all in the one place?
I guess I don’t like thinking about it because I’m like “would we have made a better record?” (laughs). I guess we’ll find out with the next one because I’m definitely going to be in the UK so we can all write and practice together and make demos. I think the main thing is that we didn’t know we were gonna be a full time touring band when we went into the studio. If we’d known that, maybe I wouldn’t have pushed for us to record so quickly. In my mind we were just going to be a part-time band and just do things that pop up here and there. It’s not a regret, but I do feel like there was space for us to maybe put more time into the album. But people seem to be really stoked on it so that gets me hyped! It’s like, well, if we can do this with a short amount of time, what’s possible when we actually spend months really working at it. Or maybe that’ll be our downfall and we work best under pressure (laughs)! We recorded the album in two weeks, and Colour Me Kindness was recorded in like 9 days, so who knows? But I do think that having more time will actually help us. Everyone finishes a record and looks back at it saying “I wish that we could change that, I wish that we could do that”, but sometimes that a good thing to spur you on to the next record.
“It definitely made me miss writing for Basement, because I had these ideas and wondered if I’d ever get to use them.”
But we did make it work. Even though I was in the States and we were sending ideas back and forth, and a lot of us are on the same page when it comes to writing music. But there was a few times where certain songs were actually getting scrapped, just because people were hearing the demos and weren’t into it, then when we were actually came back to being in the same place, in the studio, and I would play the song again and kind of had the context of explaining it to them, then they were finally on the same page. It was actually really frustrating to have to fight for a song that I knew was good (laughs), but I get it. It’s hard to get the full picture from an iPhone demo.
Given the logistics and geographical hurdles in place, when you were writing, did you ever consider using the songs for something that wasn’t Basement and maybe a little more local to the city of Boston?
Every time I pick up my guitar, a lot of people play songs, but I noodle around until I find something I like and then I keep working at it until I get it to the point where I like it. It might be a riff or it might just be a few chords, but when I get to the point where I always come back to playing it I’ll just record it on my phone. I guess it didn’t even cross my mind of what it would be used for. But I would just record it and that’s about it. And then when it came back to actually being able to record something new for Basement it was like, “well, I have these ideas on my phone”, and then I started working harder on coming up with ideas for the band. Some of the ideas were really, really old! Like the song Halo, that was written in maybe late 2012 or early 2013. It’s kind of crazy that it worked that way. I don’t know if I was ever thinking about using them for a new band or anything. But it definitely made me miss writing for Basement, because I had these ideas and wondered if I’d ever get to use them.
A lot of people seem to take Promise Everything as far less a “punk record” than your older efforts, but in a really good way! Do you hear it that way?
Oh yeah, I just think that when I was writing, I just wanted to focus on the more melodic side of our band. I’d listen to our older songs in the more melodic camp thinking, we’re really good at writing melody so why wouldn’t we want to focus on that? So I was writing these songs with that in mind, but the thing with that is, I still wanted it to be energetic and enjoyable live. I still want to be able to play and have people there jumping around and being excited. So those were the two factors I wanted to focus on, being melodic but still energetic. But I agree! I think it’s more of a pop-rock record, especially with less harsh singing and shouting. Andrew felt more comfortable just chilling a bit more. I was surprised, really! I thought people would be maybe not into it that much, but so far the response has been cool.
Do you feel like these new songs have opened Basement up to a wider audience, and to playing alongside bands that might not have been a possibility in the past?
I hope so. That’d be the dream I guess! I always want to play with new types of bands and try new things. We did a tour in the UK that was like, Tigers Jaw and Alex G and I thought it was cool that we got to bring out Alex G, because he’s more of an Indie sort of songwriter. In the US we had more of hardcore based flavour with Turnstyle and Defeater, but with Coleen Green opening up. It’s cool! We went on tour with Brand New and hopefully we get to tour with a bunch of bands. I think it’s good to have a mix. I like the idea of a diverse line up and I think this one in Australia is cool because Break Even is more aggressive and hardcore based, yet Turnover is a lighter, kind of indie-pop band, which is great! And then you have us falling somewhere kind of in the middle. If the music can open us up to play with new people and try new things, we’re down!