Albert Hammond Jr.’s new solo offering Francis Trouble dissects an intense and deeply personal topic – the stillborn death of his twin brother, Francis. The Former Strokes guitar grandiose explores the lingering effects that this tragic event has had on his life and music to date…
“Phone interviews? Yeah, I mean, it’s kinda half and half. If I’m in a certain place, in person or if I am traveling on the phone. Yeah, phone interviews are just a way of life!” Albert sighs as he realises that he has a schedule filled with eager journalists and mundane trivial questions regarding The strokes.
I ask Albert how he feels as the album edges closer to its release day, “I am beyond excited, it’s only one song that has come out so I just really can’t wait for the other ones and the album you know?” Hammond is grounded, focussed and brimming with an enthusiasm that you wouldn’t stereotypically associate with someone who is aging into his late 30’s.
Having just debuted ‘Muted Beatings’ on Conan, Albert is still dissecting the experience. “That was special… he [Conan] is just a lover of music and a really awesome guy” he explains. “So to be able to debut that song there was amazing and he was really kind to me after, when the cameras where like turned away after the song, he was really happy and excited”.
‘Muted Beatings’ is the first single to be released from his upcoming record, having released some of the biggest records around, Albert is somewhat taken aback by the response to his new single. “Unbelievable!” Albert exclaims excitedly. “By far the best response to any music I have put out via whatever way I could you know, shows, opening for The Killers and the new songs went down, in front of an audience who didn’t know who I was, they went down amazingly. That’s really the biggest sign for me when someone claps louder at a new song that they don’t even know”.
On March 9th, Hammond is releasing Francis Trouble, his fourth solo record and his first full-fledged solo release since 2015’s ‘Momentary Masters’. Despite the sprightliness of the man who’s voice manages to deliver infectious warmth and passion over the telephone, Francis Trouble comes with a denser press packet than the majority of albums.
“I never took this as something that was sad, I knew it all my life that I never knew certain aspects of it until I found out, I was like ‘Why didn’t someone tell me this before?’. I just feel like it might have changed my life when I was younger a little bit. I always had a feeling that, I had certain feelings that now make sense now that I know that information”. Albert discloses a more tender, reflective side about the topic of this record. An area that very few would venture into, never mind produce music about.
The music on Francis Trouble isn’t what you’d call spacey. It’s a new chapter that still exists in the same universe as the other music Hammond has produced in his career. This record feels more muscular than past records, Hammond’s voice is richer, the ideas influencing it of a more mature and engaging quality. “It eclipses everything by a mile and I feel like I have strong songs and when I play live they are still fun to play and me being better as a singer and a frontman, they come across even better now. As a whole, as an album, it’s something I feel like I can go around and be like this is great as a whole. Every part of it from the artwork, photos, lyrics, melodies are just great.” AHJ proudly states as the sense of achievement oozes from his voice.
I explain to Albert the tracks that made a significant impression; both ‘Far Away Truth’ and ‘Set to Attack’ are deliciously warm and enticing tracks filled with the youthful angst of New York underground rock and roll. “I’m playing both of those live and just started playing ‘Far Away’. I’m happy that those two are the ones that pop out to you because they are ones that I wrote in a way that had it. This whole record has songs that were done, how I felt they should be. Gus and I and the mixture just really brought it all together into something cohesive. So the fact that it comes across that way or someone likes your songs means a lot”.
His response to this is intriguing and I go on to ask if he is particularly fond of a specific track or melody in Francis Trouble. “I can’t pick a favourite. Favourites aren’t apart of my culture. I just have moods and it depends what mood I’m in. I feel like whenever I’ve picked favourites, not just in music, I feel like I’ve limited my options.” Laughs Hammond in a playful manner as if he is recalling specific memories of when picking favourites has taught him a lesson in life.
Albert heads out on tour with Franz Ferdinand this month, judging by the tone and expression in his voice, I can envisage Hammond shuffling around in excitement and anticipation to be playing live. “I feel like every night is a growing experience of building more confidence. I’m excited for friends coming to that show that might know me, might not know me. Maybe wouldn’t have given me a chance on my own show. So I feel like I’m going to convince them to come to my own show and I will be playing the same places because of it…It’s always fun to go out and start a tour of music that you have just put out. It all starts with a little spark that keeps you going.”
AHJ rolls into Newcastle on the 16th of February, I explain that there is a palpable sense of excitement for this show. I also ask him if he has any fond memories of Newcastle for some hometown gratification. “I have a funny one of Newcastle, last time I was there. We saw these two people having sex outside. It was hilarious! I still have the video on my phone!” As the conversation is interjected by his representative looking to progress onto the next caller, I waste no time in asking what fans can expect from these shows. “I feel like I will warm up the crowd, get them nice and juicy for Franz to close the deal. I think that’s my job and I take it seriously.”
Immediately after, we exchange pleasantries and the phone call ends. I linger for a moment. Making sure all of the recording equipment has successfully saved. For a moment, I’m outside of the fact that I just had a phone call with a member of one of the most important bands of my generation.
Photo – Autumn de Wilde