The Last Shadow Puppets are Rock Stars, and they want you to know this.
Honest to god rock stars are a rare breed these days. That's not to say there aren't great rock artists; we're overflowing with them. But the rock artist that intentionally cultivates the classic 60s/70s mythos of the hypersexual, hedonistic rock god is going the way of the dodo and the American buffalo. But for better and also infamously now for worse
, Alex Turner and Miles Kane are the last of a dying breed.
When we showed up at the Bowery Hotel to chat with Alex Turner (the Arctic Monkeys) and Miles Kane (formerly of The Rascals) of The Last Shadow Puppets, it was like stepping back into the 1970s. Miles was wearing a leather jacket with cheetah print lining, and his entire personality for our chat was cartoonish, exaggerated masculine bravado. Alex Turner showed up a couple minutes into the conversation having just woken up from a nap although from the way his eyes were glazed over until tea showed up for both him and Kane, I'd wager he was a bit hungover as well. Alex was also in a leather jacket and leather pants and his hair was in the iconic Turner pompadour. And the interview was as much a bit of a performance as a traditional Q&A.
"We finish each other's..."
The Last Shadow Puppets' second record, Everything You've Come To Expect
, is out today on Domino Records. It is a massive, swaggering collection of retro-inspired baroque rock and lush theatrics that recall the best of the 1970s, a sonic lineage that Turner and Kane were very much aware of.
Miles: "It first started when we first discovered those records, like Scott Walker, before we wrote and recorded the first album...he just sat on my finger. We always had this idea of imagining a band that was doing songs that were quite dramatic, classic, almost like a film, like James Bond-ey, Scott Walker-ey, Bowie-ey...but imagine it was a bit more rock and roll.
Alex: "We were aware the first time we did it that it was the music that, perhaps, we weren't supposed to be making. With the strings, there comes a sort of elegance, sophistication that's sometimes opposed to the lyrics and other things in the songs...It opened up a new door in our minds when we first heard the records. To hear these abstract lyrics with the rock and roll side of it as well, it was the combination of those two things...the theatrical side of it as well. It really got the blood going."
We've had a chance to listen to Everything You've Come To Expect
, and Turner and Kane's description of the record is very apt. If you have any love for Village Green
-era The Kinks or baroque rock in general, it's worth more than a couple spins. There's a decent chance that Turner has managed to top the last several Arctic Monkeys records with this new material.
As indicated by that "falafels" bit from earlier, Miles and Alex have a natural rapport and camaraderie when they're around each other and they seem to be constantly attempting to one-up each other in the charm/humor department, and it led into the creative process for the record.
Miles: "I think it's the understanding. I think, sometimes, no words need to be said. Especially Al can see a vision of something that wouldn't be there and once we tap into it, it can become a good song."
Alex: "We had a collection in the beginning. People have told us me and him have complementary skills/ flaws...You hear it on the record, I suppose, just with the types of songs we sing."
Miles: "Even though we're similar, we can deliver a tune quite different I think. There's things that Al shines in in certain songs, and things that I shine with in others. Like the way he takes on a song like 'Sweet Dreams, TN' where it's sort of dramatic, and I can have a snarl on 'Bad Habits' or something. There are little individual things, and when you put them together, you can take the world on, man."
Alex and Miles also had a lot to share about the production process of the record and what it's like writing an album together after an eight year hiatus between new music from a project.
Alex: "'Who's going to be on the stool?' I guess we'd started writing a few songs before that were gonna be for Miles' record, like the song 'Aviation.' I did the harmony on it, like a vocal harmony idea. We were working on this 8-track, and we were experimenting with this harmony idea, and I then heard the sound of our voices together coming through the speakers and was like, 'hang on a minute.'
Miles: "'Oh my god, wait a minute.'"
Alex: "'This sounds like Puppets; you wanna do that again?' That's what happened. We decided to write some more and did so over a two-year period. I think we were looking for another list of records like the ones we mentioned before, with the stimulus, if you like, for the first record, and were like, 'maybe we need more than we had before,' but kind of realized that it's not gonna work like that. That last one was the sixties one, and this time we did the seventies, and all those ideas went through his head. But I think in the end it was just like, 'well, let's just write songs together.' We won't make it as much about the reference material because we can't. We're not as naive approaching it. It just seemed ludicrous to think about trying to find another thing to do that wasn't there."
Alex and I also had the chance to chat about the title of the record and how it fits into his often playful approach to naming records ala the cheeky Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Alex: "I was concerned for a moment that it added a bit of this snottiness of that other album you mentioned. They assured me it didn't, so we went with it. It's playful; I think it's a joke. It's playful in the sense that this thing has strings on it. It seems like it inherits this sophistication or elegance or something. It's kind of amusing, that idea. The title's a joke in that I think it could be on an old brandy advert in a men's magazine or something. Even the idea that anyone would expect something out of it, that anyone has any idea judging by the other records we've done or something. It seems like it would be on an old Cognac advert or something. Everything You've Come to Expect
...it's like trying to invent a relationship with the audience or something. We played on the idea that it's sophisticated. Also to draw attention and make that song the centerpiece. That's the thing it all orbits around in a way."
Everything You've Come To Expect
is out today, and The Last Shadow Puppets will be taking the material on tour including a marquee slot at this year's Coachella music festival later this month.