Arctic Monkeys singer Alex Turner has lifted the lid on the creative process of new album The Car in a global exclusive interview with The Big Issue.
The Sheffield band have announced their seventh LP will be released on October 21, picking up where 2018’s jazz-inspired, intergalactic Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino left off. But “on this record, sci-fi is off the table. We are back to earth”, Turner hinted.
“I think we’ve got closer to a better version of a more dynamic overall sound with this record,” he told The Big Issue. “The strings on this record come in and out of focus and that was a deliberate move and hopefully everything has its own space. There’s time the band comes to the front and then the strings come to the front.”
After six straight No1 LPs – from 2006’s phenomenon Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not to 2018’s cinematic Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino – singer-guitarist Alex Turner, drummer Matt Helders, guitarist Jamie Cook and bassist Nick O’Malley hope The Car will be their seventh straight UK number one album.
The record was made with the band’s regular producer James Ford at Butley Priory, a converted monastery in rural Suffolk, in the summer of 2021. The decision not to go to a regular recording studio was inspired by some rock-and-roll legends, Turner said.
“There’s a bunch of Led Zeppelin and Stones records where they were in this house in the country and then they went and sorted it all out and overdubbed it elsewhere,” Turner revealed.
“We went there in the summer, took all the equipment, got the raw material and then took it on elsewhere.”
The release of The Car comes 20 years after the band’s formation as teenagers in Sheffield in 2002. Although the sound may have mellowed and evolved beyond the raw power of 2006’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not — the fastest selling debut album in UK chart history — Turner says they’re still staying true to their roots.
“You have to follow your instincts in the same way you did in the first place,” he said. “In that way, it does all feel like it’s connected to us 20 years ago in the garage when it was pure instinct.”
The Big Issue enlisted Martin Compston, star of BBC1’s Line of Duty and Arctic Monkeys superfan to interview Turner. Over the course of a weekend at Sziget festival in Budapest, Hungary, he got to know the band before sitting down with Turner then watching their set from the side of the stage.
The new album, said Compston, is “fucking class”.
“Hello You is a belter. And [There’d Better Be A] Mirrorball? Wow,” he said, calling it a song with “Bond villain overtones”.
“It’s a response I’ve had to other things we’ve composed,” replied Turner, “this idea of something sounding ‘cinematic’. I never completely subscribe to it, but it’s louder this time.”
Before then, the band return to the UK for their first shows on home shores for four years, headlining Reading Festival on Saturday August 27 and Leeds on Sunday August 28.
The setlist has been evolving during a string of summer festival performances, their first in three years, with new song I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am sending online fan forums ablaze with excitement after it was played in Switzerland on Tuesday.
And with the announcement of the new LP, speculation is growing that more of the 10 new songs — There’d Better Be A Mirrorball, I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am, Sculptures Of Anything Goes, Jet Skis On The Moat, Body Paint, The Car, Big Ideas, Hello You, Mr Schwartz, Perfect Sense – could be unveiled during their headline sets at this weekend’s Reading and Leeds Festivals.
“It’s quite mysterious, to me, right now, at this moment in time, the setlist and what the order of that should be,” Turner mused, such is the strength of their back catalogue.
“This time has passed over the last few years and certain things don’t feel the way you expected them to anymore. That sounds sad, but it’s not. There are just certain things that represented certain moments in the past that now feel like something else, so they should be somewhere else. I’m still definitely very much working it out.
“It’s exciting to perform again,” he added. “But we are still shuffling the deck on the setlist.”
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