MANILA -- American indie rock band American Football, which released the album "LP3" to critical acclaim last March, is headed for Manila for a show at the Power Mac Center Spotlight in Circuit, Makati on Friday, August 2.
The Illinois-based band is on an Asian tour with stops at Japan, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia.
The four-man band, consisting of vocalist and guitarist Mike Kinsella, guitarist Steve Holmes, bassist Nate Kinsella, and drummer and trumpeter Steve Lamos, are in their second act as a band.
During their first go-around from 1997-2000, their self-titled debut, now called “LP1,” was touted as one of the best emo and math rock albums of its time. The band reunited in 2014 and since released two more acclaimed albums.
We got to speak to American Football drummer and trumpeter Steve Lamos as the band embarked on their Asian tour (as of this writing they are in China) about the new album and playing in Manila.
Q: Can you kindly share about the band's refusal to name the albums that are instead called 'LP1,' 'LP2,' and 'LP3'? Is there a story to that? There seems to be continuity at least for the first two albums in terms of the album cover? The first two covers, in fact, are said to have bolstered emo tourism in Urbana, Illinois. Why deviate for 'LP3'?
Steve Lamos: Laziness and sarcasm, I suppose. More specifically, the record was supposed to be the last, so 'American Football' seemed like a perfectly fine title for it. When it came time to name the second one, we couldn’t land on anything that we all liked, and then we remembered that Sunny Day Real Estate had an LP2. (So did Led Zeppelin and Van Halen and a gazillion other bands.) That was that.
By the time 'LP3' came up, we figured that we needed to keep the joke going, Spotify be damned.
Maybe the next one will be 'LP5' or something.
As for your other question: I do think that there is continuity across the three 'LP' album covers, at least in the sense that Chris Strong shot all of them. But the third cover does a much better job, we thought, of showcasing the expansiveness of the music than any third return to the house could have. And we all loved the pastels from that shot. ('LP3' is my absolute favorite cover, personally.)
Q: "Every Wave to Ever Rise" is such a lovely song. I know that Elizabeth Powell hails from Montreal but she isn't French-Canadian, is she? Nevertheless, I love the simple use of the French language (which in my opinion is the most romantic of all languages). Was that use of French by design or did Elizabeth chip that in?
Steve Lamos: Mike had some lyrics in French already, and he was hearing a woman’s voice in dialogue with his. That’s where the song started. And we knew Elizabeth a little bit from having played with Land of Talk the previous year. I love what she did with the lyrics and the part itself: her contributions are some of my very favorite on the album.
Q: Are you guys Pink Floyd fans? How did "Uncomfortably Numb" come about?
Steve Lamos: I’m actually not sure whether we’re all fans per se —but, if you play any sort of popular music, then you know Pink Floyd and what they’ve done. (I will call myself a fan of 'The Dark Side of the Moon' and 'Meddle' actually and I listen to both of those records fairly often.)
The song itself started with a Nate riff, I think, to which I think that I added the basic drum part. It really took shape, though, once Mike came up with the 'as a father, I blame the booze' line along with the harmony that pays tribute to 'Comfortably Numb.' I’m not always a fan of punny music, but I love what Mike did with this lyric and melody.
Q: I love how you also had Rachel Goswell guest for "I Can't Feel You". In some ways, this album," LP3," feels like some weird cousin to Slowdive's last album, the self-titled one in terms of mood. How did you pull this off -- getting Rachel, and then Elizabeth and Hayley Williams? How do you perform the songs live without the three ladies?
Steve Lamos: I talked a bit about the Elizabeth collaboration earlier. In contrast, the Hayley and Rachel collabs were a bit more like shots in the dark: we reached out to Hayley because we were fans and because we had seen social media posts where she expressed her appreciation of 'LP2.' We reached out to Rachel solely on the basis of her work in Slowdive. We’re incredibly lucky that both said yes.
We do play all three songs live: when we can, we have guests sing with us — including Sarah from Illuminati Hotties, Sarah from Pure Bathing Culture, and Sara Beth from Tomberlin. (We should do some sort of Sara/Sarah sweepstakes or something.) Otherwise, Nate sings those parts.
Q: The album exudes a mysticism, a forlorn feeling. In fact, seeing the cover for the first time, I felt it was like some weird cousin to Roxy Music's 'Avalon' or even Mogwai's 'Les Revenants' soundtrack. How does the band find its inspirations for such beautiful and even moving music?
Steve Lamos: Thanks! I think that we all like vibey music these days, and so much of the forlorn feel doubtless comes from that. I also think that we’re writing stuff that moves in the direction of mantra: lots of repetition, slowly moving parts, bashing rhythms on the drums. American Football has always had those elements, but I think that we’re maybe especially focused on them these days.
I’ll say, too, that I listen to more and more instrumental stuff myself these days, especially anything by Bill Frisell, and that I am increasingly drawn to music that captures the vibe of mountains and hills like the ones near where I live. As I get older, I look more and more to the comfort that this kind of music provides for me.
Q: Chris Strong took the photographs. Did he listen to the music first and then shoot the pictures or he did it on his own? I guess the band is particular about simply yet expressive imagery that is open to interpretation. Any comments on that?
Steve Lamos: I think that he was listening to demos as he shot the last couple of records. But I also think that he’s known the band for 20+ years now, which means that he likely has a sense of what to shoot anyway. We’re lucky that he continues to work with us!
Q: How does it feel to have fans all the way on the other side of the globe?
Steve Lamos: It’s equally exciting, humbling, and cool: we’re really flattered to think that people around the world have identified with this music. It’s also, frankly, a bit weird for us: each of us is much more likely to be ignored in daily life than to be listened to, and so these gigs are always a treat.