Frontman Andrew Fisher talks to NME about how a desire to connect through a straight up guitar record, inspired their brilliant new album ‘Beside Myself’, and the sheer balls of calling a song ‘Be Here Now’…
‘Beside Myself’, Basement’s new, fourth full-length, is a tour de force of anthemic Anglo-American rock. Stripping back the need for grungy guitar tones or overly-emo sentiment, it’s a straight-up rock record in the best way – bullshit-free, it hits twice as hard because of it. It’s a record that, in an era gone by, could’ve filled arenas with emotive singalongs.
It hasn’t always been this way. Coming up through the UK’s underground hardcore scene, Fisher and his bandmates cut their teeth as teenagers in dingy venues and much heavier groups. When the time came to start Basement, they applied that DIY mantra to their new, more sonically expansive group. “When we were smaller and just beginning to play shows, in our mind the only way to get shows and to do anything was to do it ourselves and do it through the avenues that we knew from being in hardcore bands,” he explains. They’d hear of tours approaching the UK, and book a local show so they could open; otherwise, they’d hit up friends they’d met through hardcore and punk, and hop on their shows wherever possible.
It’s that dedication to the hard graft mentality – and a lack of ego across the board – that’s kept Basement from being branded ‘sellouts’ by the punker-than-thou. At this year’s best-kept-secret hardcore fest Outbreak Fest, a rumour even began circling that Basement might be returning for a surprise set – Fisher laughs at the fact that his band are big enough for the rumour mill. “We would’ve played it!” he admits; they “probably will” play it in the future. “That whole mentality has really helped us, because we know what it is to be in a smaller band,” Fisher says. “We’re lucky now – we’re very comfortable; we get to stay in hotels now! But we’ve done the tours where you’re sleeping on the floor, or you’re sleeping in the van; you’re freezing cold and haven’t showered for three days; you’re driving for ten hours to [play to] 20 people, if you’re lucky…
“The fact that we’ve done that and done it for the love of music, not to get big, has grounded us and made us appreciate what we’re doing,” he continues. “It’s like, ‘Wow this is awesome… I get to do something I love and pay my rent?!’”
Nowadays, Basement are spread out across the Atlantic. Drummer (and Andrew’s brother) James Fisher is based in Brighton, but his bandmates, guitarists Ronan Crix and Alex Henery, and bassist Duncan Stewart, call Philadelphia, Boston and Nashville home, respectively; Fisher himself lives in Virginia. That feeling of separation and disconnect informs ‘Beside Myself’ – it’s a record lyrically rooted in feelings of alienation, inspired in part by Fisher’s fish-out-of-water feelings upon moving to America a few years back.
“A lot of it is to do with having lived away from England for over two years, now,” he admits. “I’m very much caught up in trying to still be a part of, and associate with, British culture.” He listens to a lot of British talk radio (LBC is a particular favourite), but still finds himself feeling disconnected frequently. “It’s hard,” he admits, “I try to talk to friends and family as much as I can.” It’s that which feeds into ‘Beside Myself’s lyrical inflections – the faux-American accents of Basement records gone by have been noticeably stripped back, while tracks like ‘Ultraviolet’ touch on distance from loved ones, ‘Stigmata’ on the inescapable feeling of depression, and ‘Slip Away’ on emotional disconnection. Opener – and one of the year’s best rock songs – ‘Disconnect’ speaks of a “prodigal son”, and calls for him to “return while there’s something left”. It’s hard not to feel like Fisher is addressing himself.
In order to root himself, Fisher and his bandmates agreed to strip back the grungier elements of their past records, and anchor themselves in a more straightforward tradition. “The only thing that we were all 100% agreed on and focussed on before started writing was that we were a guitar band, and a rock band – that’s it,” he says. “That was the only focus – the only collective drive. There was no, ‘We want to sound like this’, or ‘We want to sound like that’.”
Modern rock music is split up into a lot of ‘sub-genres’. Is that something you wanted to avoid?
Fisher: “Yeah. There’s lots of different, cool, guitar-based music. Whether you want to sound like My Bloody Valentine, where it’s like, ‘Woah, is he even playing a guitar?’, or you wanna sound like a heavy, down-tuned band, there’s so many ways you can go with it. I just think, with trends of music at the moment, I think people are almost scared to be like, ‘Hey, we’re a rock band.’ It’s okay – you can just plug in a guitar and play!”
You wanted to keep things simple, then?
Fisher: “You have fun in the studio – you layer stuff with some synth or some strings or stuff – but we want to make sure all the songs we could play live, and we’re not gonna mess around with them, or play over a backing track or anything. It’s just gonna be… five guys, rocking! That sounds disgusting… but what else can you say?”
It feels like people are scared to just be ‘five guys, rocking’ these days.
Fisher: “Even I was really scared to label it ‘rock’ – I associate that with big hair and over-the-top guitar playing, or whatever. But I can’t deny it anymore. That, now, is the label that I’m happiest to accept – at least with that, you know it’s going to be… to a certain extent, real.”
It’s a dedication to straight-up, anthemic guitar music that’ll draw a few raised eyebrows – not least over the title of latest single, ‘Be Here Now’. Interpolating an Oasis track title is a bold move for any British-rooted guitar band – are Basement seeking out some Gallagher brother Twitter beef?
Fisher laughs at the idea. “We talked about it at great length,” he says, “Ronan was like, ‘We cannot call it that!’ It’s not like I’m calling a song ‘Wonderwall’. ‘Be here now’ is a concept that’s existed in Eastern philosophy for thousands of years, so it’s not like they invented the term!” Has he been keeping an eye on LG’s Twitter? “We’re very aware of the line that we’re treading there – we don’t want to tread on any toes! But if it gets the Gallagher brothers’ attention, that’d be interesting… that’s a lifelong dream: to get slagged off by a Gallagher brother.”
After a brief run in arenas with Bring Me The Horizon at the tail end of 2016, ‘Beside Myself’ is Basement’s own statement piece, that guns for venues that same size. From dingy clubs to huge stages, their sound growing in tandem, it’s proof that Basement are one of Britain’s next great guitar hopes – Gallaghers be damned.
Basement’s new album ‘Beside Myself’ is out now via Fuelled By Ramen. They tour the UK with Joyce Manor next month – tickets are available here.