People say bands aren’t politicised any more. Then again, they say you shouldn’t fuse punk with gospel, so what do they know? Just ask Algiers, a three-piece that combines these disparate genres to rally against consumerism and political conservatism.
Vocalist and guitarist Franklin James Fisher, bassist Ryan Mahan and guitarist Lee Tesche hail from Atlanta, a home city for which they shared mutual disdain. “People act as if the South’s history of exploitation and slavery happened so long ago that it’s no longer relevant,” Fisher says. “In fact, its violent history is still quite recent. It’s a conservative place and these things are so near the surface that it can be disconcerting.”
Their discomfort with this conservatism caused them to leave Atlanta: after college Mahan became a New Yorker, while Tesche moved to London and Fisher to Douarnenez, France. They spent the next few years exchanging fragments of music online. “At first it was a file-swapping project – a collective presence online,” says Tesche. “We never thought we would be able to play live shows or anything.”
Worked up into righteous punk-soul – all chanted vocals and abrasive bursts of guitar – these fragments became songs strong enough to unite them as a functioning, fierce band. Algiers grew up in religious households and their self-titled debut album – out on Matador in June – simmers with the fire and brimstone of an orthodox church.
Tesche believes their geographical disconnect created their unlikely, cross-pollinated style. “We were being inspired by new bands, experiences, spaces and cities. Sharing these different ideas and identities helped us develop our sound.” Fisher has since moved to New York and Mahan and Tesche now live in London, so expect the overlap of influences to continue.
The arrangement is unusual, as is Algiers’ refusal to feign ironic detachment from the issues that concern them. But Fisher believes that to tackle injustice – be it racial tensions or the ills of consumerism – you must be forthright. “If you only talk about how happy you are and how everything is great,” he says, “you’re just reinforcing the status quo.”
Words by Jordan Bassett