2020 was a year like no other. And Algiers apparently saw it coming.
Algiers, the Atlanta-born-and-raised quartet released its prescient third studio album “There Is No Year” in January of last year on Matador Records. The band will be playing at Johnny Brenda’s on Sept. 12. For tickets and info, visit eventbrite.com.
It is difficult to conceive of a more aptly titled project released in 2020 (and pre-pandemic, no less) that also happens to be a meditation on the anxieties and uncertainties that people feel day-to-day. Its message resonates more strongly than ever nearly two years after its conception in the throes of an enduring global pandemic.
“There Is No Year” was recorded by childhood friends and Atlanta natives Franklin James Fisher, Ryan Mahan and Lee Tesche, as well as drummer Matt Tong, in New York alongside producers Randall Dunn and Ben Greenberg.
Fisher, whose voice and words provide the backbone of the band’s third effort, sourced his lyrics entirely from an epic poem, “Misophonia,” composed during his search for meaning amidst a protracted personal period of anxiety and lack.
“What I wanted to do is create a negative space wherein I can exist and engage but at the same time not be so exposed,” Fisher said.
PW caught up with Tesche to talk about the album and upcoming show.
Franklin, Ryan and you grew up together in Atlanta and formed the band about nine years ago. Who were some of your earliest influences? Who are you listening to now?
We grew up listening to a pretty wide array of things. Our common overlap was Nina Simone and Motown. Later, we bonded over the sounds of southern rap like Goodie M.O.B. and Outkast and things like Fugazi and Suicide.
It’s funny, we just finished recording our next record and a lot of it is a return to those influences that we first connected over. This record was really inspired by Ryan and Franklin’s connection over rap music and the cross pollination that certain scenes would have, like the late ‘70s early ‘80s crossover between proto-rap, punk and the downtown loft jazz scenes.
Personally I’ve most recently been deep into the latest The Bug record, “Fire.”
Your third studio album, “There Is No Year,” dropped in January of last year – just prior to the pandemic. How did that album differ from your first two? Did you feel a bit prophetic given everything that happened just after it was released?
Yes, that was strange wasn’t it? Our record borrowed the title from our friend Blake Butler’s 2011 novel and came out in the first weeks of 2020. I was a bit surprised people didn’t point that out more. We felt like some of the thematics in Frank’s lyrics were in line with ideas that Blake laid out and the title was a tribute to Blake, he’s a brilliant writer and lifelong friend.
I think with every record we’re trying to reinvent ourselves and try things that we haven’t before. That record we were focusing on particular moods and ideas. Every record comes together in a different way and has its own chaos element that makes it. There are elements that carry over from the first two records for sure.
What are some of the band’s highlights over the past nine years? What are some of the goals you’re still looking to accomplish?
Well, truth be told, we’ve only been a regularly functioning touring and recording band for about five or six years now. Before that, we would write and exchange music as friends when we could, but it was never fully actualized until we began playing out live. We self released a seven-inch in 2012, and that eventually led to us signing to Matador and playing our first shows in 2015.
I think we’re always just focused on making true genuine music and art that expresses ourselves and is a reflection of the world around us. That’s the main goal.
Algiers toured extensively prior to the pandemic. How excited are you now to get back before live audiences? What will your fans see when they show up at Johnny Brenda’s on Sept. 12?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure. It’s an integral part of what we do that we haven’t really been able to engage with in so long that I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like. And we were so road worn by the time the pandemic set in, that it did give us a break at the right time to refocus and regroup and work on some new music and reconnect with family and things. We’re all looking forward to this run, and it’s going to take a second perhaps to get our sea legs back. We should be back to full steam by the time we run through JBs, so hopefully we can put on a great show. It’s weird to think about, but we actually haven’t toured the U.S. in a long time. The pandemic only prolonged the holdover.
What’s ahead for Algiers? More new music? More shows?
We’ve just finished tracking our next record and we’re all very excited about it. This tour is serving as a period of reflection for us to go back and listen to everything we’ve recorded this past summer before finalizing it in the weeks after we return. Future shows will be built around when that comes out. The future looks bright.