When The Last Shadow Puppets released their debut The Age Of The Understatement eight years ago, it’s two collaborators were relatively young, relatively inexperienced and unburdened by expectation. Alex Turner was starting to make a name for himself in his band Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane, basically unknown at the time save for some opening spots for those same Monkeys, was preparing to release his band The Rascals’ debut. They were two buddies who had seemingly just got their hands onto a bunch of old Scott Walker, David Bowie and Serge Gainsbourg albums, and decided to have a go at indulging their latest influences. It worked. The record was critically well-received, went straight to number one on the UK albums chart and was nominated for the 2008 Mercury Music Prize. Showcasing sophisticated songwriting and grandiose baroque-pop complimented by strings arranged by Owen Pallett, shortly after the debut release, people began to wonder aloud when then next one was coming.
Fast forward eight years. Alex Turner, and his primary band, Arctic Monkeys, have become world mega-stars, rock royalty in an age where it has become increasingly difficult to achieve such status. Miles Kane has, himself, commandeered a successful solo career, highlighted by collaborations with such British music heavyweights as Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller. The two lads have been busy. They have also been increasingly noted for their own “bromance” often appearing on stage at each others’ gigs, showing up to fashion events in matching outfits and developing a notorious reputation as attached-at-the-hip party-goers. All the while, unable to dodge questions about when the next “puppets” album was going to drop.
Eight years is a long time to wait, but finally in October of 2015 Owen Pallett confirmed he had indeed been at work on a second album with the two best friends. By January of 2016 the single, Bad Habits was released. The album, Everything You’ve Come To Expect, dropped officially April 1st.
I spoke with Miles Kane while the band was sound checking before a show in New York about the long wait between albums, if in the end 8 years of musical growth may have benefitted the final product, and if they had to remind people to pay attention once again.
Northern Transmissions: So did eight years off produce a better record, then? Maybe less of an indulgence of influences and more your own thing?
Miles Kane: “Well, I think so yeah. Theres definitely a lot more variety, I think thats definitely the case” “Yeah in those eight years I was doing solo stuff, and Al was in the Monkeys and we found as we were doing our own stuff, we’d always get asked about this y’know, they’d always ask when we’d do another one. It was strange how people became sort of attached to that first record, which we never expected, and its a sort of beautiful thing” Kane explains.
“We always said we wanted to do another because you know, we’re best mates and we like doing music together but we didn’t want to rush it or for it to feel forced, we just wanted to do it natural kind of like the first one how it came about. We just needed that to happen again, and then we both had some time off and started to writing songs again”
NT: Were you conscious about drawing a line back to the debut, though, after eight years, did you want something that would stand cohesively with the first one or was that not necessarily an issue?
MK: “Yeah at first, because of the length of time that had passed, we wondered if it should be something totally different and have a completely different kind of sound. We searched and played with stuff that sounded really different but we didn’t really get anywhere with that so we just decided to just keep the same formula. The main thing with Shadow Puppets is Me and Al just writing songs we like, so we just kept the people the same and the spirit the same. I think the new songs are maybe a little darker and little more out there, but they still fit together – the two records, I think”.
The music isn’t the only thats changed in 8 years, however. More notably perhaps since the two began to steal the lime light again, was the change in aesthetic of both Kane and Turner. Once shaggy haired Beatles look alikes, this newest incarnation has a decidedly more glamorous, confident feel. Impeccably styled, glamorous and sleazy at the same time, on stage they gyrate and flail their shirts open egregiously, while singing songs of lust, sex, romance and debauchery.
MK: “Yeah I think thats just, I dunno…its quite fun to sort of reach that part of your character, you know what I mean? But we’re very serious when we’re doing it. Its just like you know, look at the Beatles wearing St. Pepper outfits, or the Rolling Stones, you know? It probably seems a bit shocking now but its no different than putting a fancy shoe on and going out for a drink I guess. We’re just sort of having fun in those characters but we’re very much serious, its not like we’re taking the piss, its just like why not be a bit flamboyant if you’ve got it in you, you know? The bands are so boring now days, you know, if someone wants to be a bit extravagant then I don’t see why not. The bands I love were more extravagant and extreme than we are. If everyone wants to stay square then they can stay square”
The first track on the new record is Aviation, which was written backstage between gigs by the two pals. It was unclear at the time, whether that would even be a puppets song, but something in the process got the wheels turning and set the stage for a batch of songs which eventually became Everything You’ve Come To Expect.
NT: I know Aviation, the first track off the album, was written two years ago. Did that sort of rekindle the fire and focus to get the second album off the ground or was it largely written sporadically over the two years?
MK: “Yeah it was written sort of in spurts. At the time we didn’t know if Aviation would be for my solo stuff or what, but Aviation just seemed so like a puppets song to us, and then in that same time we wrote a couple more that were gonna be Puppets songs. It sort of continued like that, a few months later we did some more, last summer we did some more and we just picked the best ones”
NT: So when you get to Shangri la (Rick Rubin’s Malibu studio) you’re pretty prepared with a fully written album then?
MK: “Yeah we had basically finished the writing and were pretty clear what we had to do, in and out”
The majority of the new album was written and conceived in Los Angeles, where Turner and Kane now both reside full time. Though they’ve been on record saying that California didn’t seem to effect the record to the extent that they thought it might, I wondered how California might affect them or the way they approach music in general, specifically Kane – a hardcore British mod-revivalist until this point
MK: “Yeah, I guess I haven’t been in LA that much or that long to really think about that to be honest. I guess, in the end maybe there will be an expression dip into the music but when it comes to doing your own thing you can’t really think about living in London or wherever, if people are going to be supportive or they’re not, when it comes to doing your own you just sort have to stick to your own path and roll with it I think”
NT: For you personally, will there be any new solo stuff coming up in the near future or are you just zeroed in on Last Shadow Puppets for now?
MK: “Yeah when this tour comes to end in maybe a month or so, I’d like to start doing some writing at the end of this year and get back on some solo stuff, yeah. For now this (shadow puppets) is pretty exhausting, its never ending. But yeah, soon.”
NT: Thanks for your time, Miles. I’ll let you get back to sound checking.
MK: “Cheers mate, have a great night thanks”
interview by Matt Poole