We had a chat with Al from The Hoosiers about their new album The Secret Service, the benefits of self-releasing their album, and autographing genitalia:
You’ve just released your new album The Secret Service – how does it feel to finally have it out?
It’s a great feeling. We’ve been working hard on it for a year, so it’s always nice to be able to sign it off and see what people think of it. It actually quite an easy album to write and record, too. Our bass player left in April, so that was a bit of a motivator to hurry up and get something out. We’ve always been keen on the idea of being a prolific band, and because the first two albums took five years to make wanted to make sure that we could write and record this one relatively quickly. We feel that it works for us, and hopefully that comes across in the final product.
We’re much more independent now, too. The pressures that come from being signed to a major label mean that you’re having to sell ninety thousand albums in order for them to pay for you to make the next one, whereas now we could sell about two thousand albums and be in a good place. That pressure feeds down into the songwriting, and I don’t necessarily think that it’s a good environment to be creative in. It’s nice to have the freedom to write what we like, rather than us constantly having to worry about whether or not other people will like it.
There’s always a risk of people pigeonholing us as ‘that band who had a couple of hits eight years ago’, too. We’re naturally always going to face that, because we had two or three big ‘pop’ songs a few years ago, but it’s nice for us to now be able to stretch our creative wings a bit and see what we come up with.
Was it an easy album to write and record?
This is a fairly raw album. With a lot of modern pop music, you go back to it, rerecord, autotune it, and you lose an edge. We recorded most of these songs live, which is the way it should be. That’s the problem with radio nowadays; everything you’re used to listening to is so ‘perfect’, it’s just nice to hear something where you can hear the minor imperfections. Hopefully it’s not too raw!
How’s the tour going?
We started this weekend, so we’ve blown off the cobwebs and started to really get the ball rolling. We’ve got four albums’ worth of material to play, so it’s a little bit hard to narrow it down to a twenty song setlist, but we’re really enjoying it so far.
What’s your favourite song from the new album to play live?
I quite like a lot of them, really. The new single – The Wheels Fell Off – is good fun to play, because it’s nice and groovy. I really like Secret of Happiness, too.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
That’s very tricky! Playing Glastonbury was absolutely insane. It’s monumental, in as much that I’ve been dreaming of that since I started playing the drums. We also did the Isle of Wight Festival that year, and that was in front of 20,000 people… To walk on to a stage and not be able to see the back of the crowd you’re playing to is absolutely amazing.
Out of every song ever recorded, which do you wish you’d written?
I’ve actually thought about this before… I’d probably say anything by David Bowie. I know that it’s slightly broad, but the man is a genius. To be able to jump genres from album to album like he did is just ridiculous.
You guys have been playing together for a long time – what’s the secret to staying together?
I don’t know, really! Irwin and I have been playing together for about twenty years now, and even though we’ve had moments where we haven’t been getting along so well, we’re just in a good place now. Honestly? I’ve not got a clue. We’re just like-minded, we keep rediscovering a love for both each other and music, and we all know that we’re very fortunate to still be able to do this for a living. It doesn’t take much for us to have a bit of perspective, really. We see friends struggling in jobs they don’t like, and it just makes us realise how lucky we are.
The main motivation for me has always been to try and do something original. That’s why I’ve always loved artists like Blur or Bowie, because you listen to them and think ‘yeah, they’re trying to do something different here’. We can’t do the same thing over and over again, because that’s just not us. You get bands like Oasis, who find their ‘thing’ and then just repeat it from album to album. You just get stuck in a rut if you do that. On the contrary, a band like Blur are able to almost reinvent themselves and try something new from every album.
Can you talk us through your songwriting process?
It’s a very collaborative process. I would class myself as more of a songwriter than a drummer, to be honest. It varies, really. Sometimes we’ll start with a chord sequence that one of us loves, or sometimes Irwin will come in with a full song… There’s no set pattern to it. Sometimes they just fall out fully formed – Worried About Ray, for example, took less than a day to write. On the other hand, we rewrote Goodbye Mr. A about eight times before we finally got it right.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you?
A man asked us to sign his penis after a gig recently. Needless to say, we didn’t do it!
Describe yourself in three words?
Genius, perfect, and modest.