We catch up with ALL WE ARE ahead of the release of Utmost Good on Obscenic Records, after a slight shift in artistic direction from the trio.
“We don’t see ourselves as a folk band.” This might not be the first thing you’d expect to hear from All We Are a band who have spent the past year and a half having people tell them they’re a melodically-driven folk band but, as Guro Gikling (Bass, Vocals) from the band explains, “That element of us is gone, as far as we see it.” There’s another, even more convincing explanation that comes in the form of a song called Utmost Good, the band’s next single, which will be surfacing during May. It’s a giant of a single: simple and unassuming, yet so instantaneous and euphoric that the slowly warping bassline which bleeds into the rest of the psych-tinged track will be lodged into the brain for many a month. Pointedly, its woozy three minutes of left-field pop are far more indebted to Metronomy than Bon Iver, yet more important than this transition is the fact that the single’s understated brilliance really sounds like something special.
The trio seem aware of the appeal of the song, too: “Most people who have heard the song come back to us and sing it back,” says Luis Gustavo Santos (Guitar, Vocals), before Rich O’Flynn (Drums, Percussion, Vocals) summarises that “We just like to write earwormy tunes that stick,” as if any more proof of that were needed. The band are quick to emphasise that it hardly represents a conscious change in direction though. “Our development in that direction is really very natural,” explains Rich. “Our style is certainly evolving and changing, but it still retains the core of All We Are – it’s really strong melodically and has that psych element as well.” There’s a lot of truth in what he says, too. Utmost Good may sound a world away from the ethereal soundscapes of the We Hunt EP, but they’re now just taking those expansive guitars, strong hooks, and psychedelic edge, and doing something more groove-driven with them; a case of the core elements of the band being re-arranged, rather than re-imagined entirely.
So if the band are adamant that the transition to their new sound was organic, then how did it come about? “I think a lot of it has to do with the drum kit,” comes the answer from, of course, the drummer, Rich. But there’s a lot of logic to what he says. “I only started playing drums when the band started a year and a half ago, and I started with a tom, a snare and a crash. It’s been developing, and I got a kick drum and some hats, and it has completely changed my perception of the drums. I just started getting into simple grooves, like the R&B groove on Utmost Good.” Luis and Guro seem to agree, too, and all have the same moment in mind when asked if there was a particular point when they made this transition to a new sound: “We went into the studio to record a tune, and a hi-hat was introduced to Richard, and everything just changed after that.”
The revelation of discovering the hi-hat aside, the band are quick to turn talk to producer Joe Wills. “I think that Joe really brings out the best in tunes,” enthuses Rich and, though Utmost Good was almost finished by the time they took it to Joe, they credit him with shaping the final product by explaining that, “He stripped it down, slowed it down, and made it more of the basic skeleton of the song; simpler, but more effective.” Joe’s influence is evident on Utmost Good more than once, too, as the single will be the first release on Obscenic Records, the record label that he founded with Pete Darlington.
The band also had a slightly more rock and roll coming of age in the form of an experience with producer Howie B, who was such a fan of the We Hunt EP that he remixed one of the tracks, and roped in All We Are for a project he was doing at Abbey Road. “That was a huge learning experience; it was so intense,” says Rich. “We actually recorded some songs in Studio 2, the Beatles’ studio.” “It was very, very special,” says a sincere Guro. “You just walked in there and felt it on you.” The project, titled Seven Notes, is now touring the world, but unfortunately without All We Are, which the band attribute to the one night that Howie B travelled to Liverpool, and a civilised evening meeting at a city centre hotel escalated into stumbling out after “a champagne breakfast at nine in the morning… I think the bar bill was extraordinarily high.”
The video to Utmost Good is something of a who’s who of the Liverpool music scene, cycling through the well-known faces from the city. Does this reflect a real communal atmosphere in Liverpool, or are we inclined to exaggerate that element in the media? “It’s definitely a reality,” comes Rich’s answer, almost before we’ve finished asking the question. “It’s mainly just inspiring to hear the stuff that people are coming out with. There’s definitely a sense that there’s something happening around here.” All three of them seem passionate about Liverpool, actually, talking about how they seem to have “put down roots” here, so much so that their gig in Leaf on the Thursday of Liverpool Sound City, coming as it does after a European and UK tour, feels like something of a homecoming for the band. Having not played a gig in Liverpool since March, it will also be one of the first times to catch the newly seductive tones of the band because, as Guro explains, “We’ve actually written pretty much an entire new set; the only old one that we still play is Cardhouse.”
All We Are seem confident and optimistic in their new sound, too, and Rich sums up the situation well by saying that “We’ve learnt so much over the last year about how things work, so our aim hasn’t changed, but it’s become more focused; we know how to go about it.” More than anything else, with the strength of Utmost Good behind them, they have an ambition about them that Guro justifies by saying “I think you need to believe in it. You have to believe it’s going to go well, or else it won’t.” It’s hard to disagree with them, too, as at the very least it would be a minor tragedy if Utmost Good didn’t “go well”; it’s one slow-motion, kaleidoscopic heartbreak of a song that’s too devastatingly melodic to let pass by. Whilst they’re producing solid gold material like it, it’s tough to mourn the passing of All We Are, the folk band; if reinventions can be this good, we can’t wait to see what they might do next.
Utmost Good is out now on Obscenic Records