By: Willem Thomas
VANCOUVER – Algiers is a band very necessary for these strange times, creating music so righteously furious, unique and forthright as to be deserving of the term biblical. They heave everything onto the creative table, crushing the listener with a phalanx of ideas, questions and powerful, genre-defying sounds. Mixing elements of post-punk and afropunk, southern gospel, industrial noise and soul in such a manner as to make the insane-on-paper act look easy, Algiers manage to create an album that challenges both itself and its audience, encapsulating the thematic idea of an endless struggle. The band’s name is in reference to anti-colonial efforts the world over, with the Algerian Revolution of the 1950s being the namesake inspiration. They might just be the band we all need right now.
Speaking to BeatRoute from Paris while on tour with Depeche Mode, Algiers come across appreciative, thoughtful and still basking in the glow of the relatively new lives they lead as professional musicians, which involve their second LP The Underside of Power.
“Making a record and touring with a label like Matador isn’t something I ever thought would happen,” says guitarist Lee Tesche. “We never had delusions of grandeur that this band was anything more than something necessary to us to make sense of the world.”
The band, now a London-based multinational unit with the addition of drummer and ex-Bloc Party member Matt Tong, comes from Atlanta, GA, where its original members—guitarist Tesche, vocalist/guitarist Franklin James Fisher, and bassist Ryan Mahan—all grew up. Music helped the group to heal from and process the political turmoil, racism and economic disparity surrounding them growing up in the American south during Bush’s presidency.
Having released their first self-titled LP in 2015, the relatively young Algiers has already made a sizeable impact culturally, at least in Europe. They’ve encountered slightly less spirited reception in their home country. “Even though we’re from Atlanta, sometimes it feels like we’re a European band trying to crack the States,” says Tesche. “In American music culture there’s a need to put everything in a specific box for people to get it.”
“Because we combine so many influences that might not traditionally go together, there can be a challenge to get the point across in America,” Tong adds.
The Underside of Power was recorded over a year of drastic change. From starting the recording process with Adrian Utley of Portishead in Bristol, UK just after Brexit, to finishing it in New York at the height of the US presidential campaign, the album was created in the middle of opposition, and under currents of pressure and excitement.
“We turned in the masters of the LP during the inauguration,” says Tesche with a laugh. The album plunges deeper into the territory they explored on their first record, but the song-writing takes a more melodic, focused turn. The second single “Cleveland,” about Tamir Rice, juxtaposes tragic subject matter with a triumphant tone, as if to rise above in unity.
For Algiers, this tour has been a rewarding experience that’s helped shine a light on the subject matter and music that influence them. About the past few months, Tesche says “From creating and getting ready to release the record, to playing huge stadiums with a band like Depeche Mode, right after having recorded with Massive Attack… things are going okay right now.”
Algiers perform at the Cobalt on July 13.Algiers, Cobalt, The Cobalt