Given his long-term association with the music scene of New York City, Albert Hammond Jr’s languid Californian accent can take you by surprise.
The 38-year-old may have moved to the Big Apple twenty years ago and spent time before at boarding school in Switzerland – but Los Angeles remains both his birthplace and spiritual home. It seeps into his songs; especially, to some extent, his fourth and latest solo LP outside of his duties as guitarist of The Strokes, Francis Trouble. Named for his stillborn twin brother, it signals an emotional, metaphorical step back into the past – even if the material represents another leap forward on his musical journey.
“Whenever you come back at [recording a solo record], it’s always a bit different,” Hammond remarks when asked how the process behind the record differed to that of his last outing under his own name, 2015’s Momentary Masters. “You’ve gone out to tour the previous record, and when you come back, you hopefully know what’s missing. There’s never just one thing different between records; it’s always multiple ideas that lead to further concepts that eventually form the bigger piece of art. I came back knowing what I wanted to do and how to create songs I would need to accomplish this. Things fall into place, in a sense.”
Hammond reteamed with Gus Oberg, who has overseen all but one of his solo records as well as the last Strokes album, yet has spent a fair chunk of the last decade working as a producer in his own right. Are there any significant differences between being on different sides of the recording booth to him?
“I mean, there’s a lot of similarities. When you’re working with someone else, you’re trying to see what they’re doing and then take that someone else. The whole point of getting together with other people is to create something better than you could alone, to see where you could add and hopefully not take away from who they are.
He pauses before expanding. “Between Gus and I, we’ve grown to have a language between ourselves; the more we know each other, the more we push each other, which is the reason we keep working together. We’ve already started work on Volume 2 of Francis Trouble, and not knowing where that was going to go, how quickly we picked up from where we left off was an amazing thing. I love producing other people though; I guess you just come at it from a different angle.”
Save the Bob Dylan cover Don’t Think Twice, Hammond was the only listed songwriter on Momentary Masters three years ago, but shares a co-credit with Tyler Parkford or Jenn Decilveo on a trio of tracks from Francis Trouble. “I didn’t know [Tyler] from Mini Mansions to start with,” he notes. “I had three songs left over though when my manager turned around and said that I should try working with other people to finish them off. He was friends with Tyler already so he just happened to be the first person I took the stuff to. It went amazingly, going exactly where I wanted it to go; the process was immensely fun and we just found a connection quite fast between all the back and forth. Jenn sang harmony on Muted Beatings, and I’m hoping she’ll provide some more for the next album too.”
Hammond hits the road this month on a UK tour, starting off at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, with support from rockers Yassassin. How exactly does he go through the process of picking out who will accompany him on such jaunts? “A theme on all our tours has been female artists. I always view the full gig experience as a chance to curate a night, the chance to bring something a little sonically different to the party. You do want something that can properly prepare a crowd for the headliner.”
Given the schedule of touring life, how does he spend his free time around shows? Hammond chuckles. “Maybe you’re mistaking me for a man in bigger venues,” he laughs. “You get a moment here and there but the closest thing you get to time off is the connection you make with people on stage, in whatever city you’re in; they lend perspective to wherever you are in the world.”
At Brudenell Social Club on September 10.