12 November 2011 (released)
12 November 2011
The friendly Brooklynites of We Are Augustines, with Billy McCarthy on guitars and vocals, Eric Sanderson on bass and keys and the new addition in Brit Rob Allen on drums, have just released a brilliant new single, entitled ‘Book of James’ (inspired by McCarthy’s late brother), off their much-anticipated debut LP, ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’, which has been hailed by Zane Lowe, Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamacq alike- all good.
So here we are sat at a Thai cafe in central London as they chill out before the final gig of their UK tour, supporting Glasvegas, the experience of which they laconically state was ‘interesting’- they will not elaborate but instead mention they’d happily hop on tour bus with someone like Manu Chao- they’re big on world music.
They tell me about how cities like York and Sheffield made them feel at home during the tour, how they embrace British culture for its diverse population (our oldies are the coolest folks to hang out with, apparently) and how they see in London a breath of fresh from their local but contrived Brooklyn.
So I ask them...
How would you describe your music?
Eric- I would describe it as rock music that is soulful. It has an acoustic or folk sensibility but still it is very energetic
What would say to people who might deem it too simplistic?
Eric- Well, we work very hard for it because simplicity has become very hard to accomplish. There’s always that debate about whether musicians are really talented or what not and some people just like things to be flashy, chaotic or dramatic, while my taste is much more of the ‘less is more’
Billy –I mean, when you look at a piece of art, it’s all subjective, right? If you’ve got a photo or a painting, you don’t go and say ‘oh, it’s too red’...I hear a lot of perspectives on music and always kind of laugh at them because everybody is different.
Billy writes the songs, so Eric, how did you get involved in the process?
Eric- On this record, Bilyl wrote most of the songs, about 90% of them, but we’ve worked together for so long [ they played in a band called Pela from 2004 to 2009] that the collaboration process is not just the songs but how you make them bigger than life. Billy is a very giving and trusting person and he trusts my input and feedback, so when we work we create stuff that’s bigger than both of us.
And now with Rob, although he’s new to the game, we’ve already started working on new material together so he’s definitely a part of it.
What are the themes on your upcoming album, ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’?
Billy- It’s mainly about family and the ins and outs of how people cope with and respond to family matters during some difficult times.
Billy, are you a happy person despite what you have personally gone through lately? I mean on the We Are Augustines EPK footage, you come across as a bit miserable [and who could blame you?], so it’s great to see you so cheerful today....
I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.... I think that what everyone wants to do, when they’re creative, is to be honest with themselves inside out and I feel that we’ve done that with our music. And I’m very moved by with response it’s getting. And it’s been lot of work. I could never be sad for that.
You have been dubbed the modern day Springsteen? What do you make of these
Billy- Well, until about two years ago, I knew about as much about Springsteen as everyone else to be honest: ‘Born in the USA’, ‘Dancing in the Dark’, stuff like that was playing on the radio.
But I’ve come to respect the man and I’m happy to have someone like him in our world because he is nostalgic, hopeful and he takes care of himself. I mean, he’s 62 and managed to play London Calling without getting bottles thrown at him. All because he is serious about music.
You’ve got to respect that.
When I see all these bands doing the rock’n’roll stardom cliché, it’s embarrassing for artists: like you’ve got your 15 minutes and you want a grab attention by trashing a hotel room? What the fuck?! It’s cheap, they should just go and read the fucking Daily Mail or something.
So, ‘Book of James’... Please talk us through the video for it- 510 000+ views is not bad.
Billy-Well, it was shot in the space of 18 hours, it stars Brody Corbet [of Mysterious Skin and Funny Games US], who is a very smart sharp young man. This all happened through the director, Matt Atamo, who is based in Los Angeles, and very well connected in the film making world, which I know nothing about.
To be honest with you, the video is not something I felt super comfortable with so I completely trusted Matt with it, especially given the subject matter of the song.
It’s funny you should say you’re not comfortable- I mean your tears in the vid, they seem very real. And from watching some early promo footage, I think it was an acoustic version of ‘East Los Angeles’, I almost mistook you for Brad Pitt for a minute... Any interest in acting?
Billy-[Laughs] Well, I’m interested in every form of art, so you never know.
The single, ‘Book of James’ is out now.
The UK release of their debut album, ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’, is expected for March 2012.
Until then, We Are Augustines will return on our shores for a one-off appearance at the XFM Winter Wonderland at Brixton Academy, on the 14th December, alongside Kaiser Chiefs, The Horrors and Miles Kane and more. Tickets are still on sale.