As that great triumverate De La Soul once said, three is the magic number. Admittedly it’s not spectacularly profound as an aphorism, but it’s particularly apt when applied to Liverpool’s favourite multinational combination, All We Are – a trio of musicians who are on the cusp of widespread and much deserved acclaim. The hive mind of Rich O’Flynn, Guro Gikling and Luis Santos (Percussion, Bass and Guitar respectively) is responsible for every aspect of the irresistible world of All We Are, which just got even more irresistible with the release of their debut, self-titled album. In the record’s eleven taut and sinewy tracks, Rich, Guro and Luis have created a microcosm of their infectious world, thus crafting a piece of work that will be utterly compelling to music fans with even the beigest of tastes.
The first time our paths crossed with ALL WE ARE was in 2012, around the release of their very first EP. Back then they were a folk band who specialised in “creeping psychedelia”, at least, according to our definition. The All We Are that exists today is a massive progression from those embryonic moments, a refined and ultimately more confident entity. As evolved as All We Are version 2.0 is – and it unquestionably is, because you could never mistake them for a folk band now – an echo of the expansive, otherworldly atmosphere that has always been an All We Are trademark still cloaks their debut record, now fed through the “psychedelic boogie” FX pedal of the band’s new aesthetic.
When discussing this evolution with Rich, Guro and Luis in a shadowy corner of their rehearsal room, they are clearly able to identify the point where it all changed for them. “I think we kind of see Utmost Good as a defining point, because it was when we ‘found our sound’, if you like. Most of the stuff we’d done up to then sort of fell by the wayside,” explains Rich as he warms himself in front of an electric fire. Utmost Good – their gloriously gloopy and catchy tune from midway through 2013 – is their line in the sand. All bar one of the songs on All We Are is made up of post-Utmost Good material, and it’s something that Guro thinks is more representative of the band’s true essence. “I think we spent a lot of time before Utmost Good figuring out how to play together,” she says, “and to find the route we were going to take. It felt like when we hit on Utmost Good we’d found our sound. So from there we kind of knew what we were up to.” “I definitely think it shaped what we did from then on,” Rich adds in agreement.
The track was a trigger for them in many ways, and opened the door to a label deal: since signing with Domino imprint Double Six at the beginning of 2014, the trio have been busy piecing together a record that holds true to their distinctive vibe. The album’s sensual movement kicks in straight from the off with Ebb/Flow. Built around a fat and cloudy bass riff, Ebb/Flow is a perfect introduction to the atmosphere the band feel defines them so precisely, complete with swirls and burps of space noises twinkle underneath its killer groove.
Elsewhere, the album’s three singles see them push all of the boundaries that their fluid genre-chopping allows. Feel Safe has a funky, lithe disco feel, while Keep Me Alive teases you along with its gorgeous melody and Guro and Rich’s cooing vocals. There has been some talk of a Bee Gees element in the All We Are sound, which feels a little lazy given their own description of their sound as “Bee Gees on Diazepam”. That said, it is hard to look past the double-header of Honey and I Wear You at the centre of the record as their unashamed Barry, Robin and Maurice moment, full of falsetto harmonies and nimble guitar work. “There are a fair amount of similarities between us and The Bee Gees,” Guro says half-jokingly, though the smile on her face suggests it may be even more playful than that. “They went through a lot of different periods before they found the sound that was them. I guess in some ways we are like siblings as well, even though we’re not brothers…!”
As a sublime counterpoint to all this, the wistful Something About You shows off their ability to build the layers up from seemingly nowhere, eventually blooming into a gorgeously dense whole. And then there’s Utmost Good, languorous and warm, which keeps a sort of link between the familiar and new worlds of All We Are. Though everything else on the album was recorded in their month-long stint at Dan Carey’s home studio in London, the original recording of Utmost Good, done with Joe Wills, remains, albeit with an updated mix. “We just wanted to give it a bit of freshness, and to bring it in line with the whole album,” Rich explains. “We really wanted that production to be on it, though; it’s quite special to us.”
Given his past record in capturing the perfect mood of a record (The Kills, CSS, Django Django), Dan Carey seemed like a perfect fit for All We Are, and it’s clear that the band enjoyed every bit of their time recording with him. “Personally, it opened up things as far as groove is concerned,” confirms Rich. “The nuances of groove, and little things. He’s just the king of vibe!” The band credit Carey for accentuating and bottling the atmosphere they had created in their own practice room, and he did so by using all manner of tricks in the live room. Introducing strobes and a smoke machine during the recording process may seem like gimmicks but they helped the band get in the right mood to discover the intangible energy for which they were looking. This even stretched to the compulsory wearing of sunglasses for the tracking of I Wear You, from which engineer Alexis Smith wasn’t exempt. “That’s just Dan Carey in a nutshell!” laughs Guro, which Luis expands on: “He’s quite open-minded about what happens in the studio. If anything goes wrong it’s just ‘the vibe’, you know. Everything is very organic, even when you have something static like a loop drum machine. And everything is being fed in to this huge spring on the ceiling of the studio that captures sound as well. He uses that in the mix, so the whole thing is ever-changing. And it feels alive, you know. It’s not like there’s a repeated sound in there – every single sound, even if it’s delayed or looped, is slightly different.”
Throughout the interview all three of them make repeated gestures towards the area in the middle of the room where their kit is arranged, referencing it like a mute fourth member of the band. “I think the atmosphere that we create starts here in this room with just the three of us. I think a lot of it is the connection between the three of us as people and friends that comes out,” explains Guro, to which Rich adds, “This is the home; this is the real deal.”
Supporting Warpaint on their UK tour in 2014, and watching from the wings as the LA troupe recreated their own sultry vibe in a live context, left a lasting impression on the trio. Not only did it show them that it was possible to achieve onstage what they’d created alone in their room, but it also encouraged them to be a bit more fearless when approaching new stuff. It’s telling that their onstage setup now mirrors their practice room setup, with the three of them facing each other in a triangle, almost zoning everything else out. “A big part of it is that we have this All We Are world that we live and breathe all the time,” Guro asserts. “I think when we go on stage we want people to be invited in to that.”
As many folk in their adopted home will attest to, the world of All We Are is something that is virtually impossible not to get taken in by. It’s a world borne out of the intense chemistry that exists between these three close friends, which Rich quite neatly sums up: “In some ways the connection that exists between the three of us is the basis of what the band’s about.” All We Are’s style feels uniquely suited to them and, excitingly, is fluent enough to morph across different genres. In many ways the release of their debut record is a new beginning for them, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. All hail the power of three.
Words: Christopher Torpey / @CATorp
Photography: Becky Hawley