Alex Turner talks ditching the 'naiveté' of the previous Last Shadow Puppets album
Alex Turner has made a name for himself in recent years as the slick frontman of British alt-rockers Arctic Monkeys. Though he looks the part when he strides in to meet with EW — perfectly coiffed hair, a bright turquoise suit, and a pristine white linen shirt unbuttoned to the chest — Turner isn’t promoting new music from his most popular project.
Instead he’s joined by Miles Kane, the former frontman of the Rascals, who created the Last Shadow Puppets with Turner back in 2007, well before the Arctic Monkeys were rocking stadiums and Olympic stages. Kane and Turner have reconvened the group — which also includes super producer James Ford (Florence + the Machine, Haim) and string mastermind Owen Pallett (Arcade Fire, Beirut) — for the follow-up to 2008’s The Age of Understatement.
Where Understatement was a syrupy homage to the likes of Scott Walker, Kane and Turner introduce a more worldly sensibility on Everything You’ve Come to Expect, which includes raucous jams (“Bad Habits”), sly Brit-pop (“Dracula Teeth”), and serene ballads (the title track). Turner attributes the shift on the new album, which dropped earlier this month, to newfound maturity: “That naiveté we shared has long since gone the way of old flesh.”
Kane and Turner sat down with EW to discuss why they chose to resurrect the Last Shadow Puppets, recording at Rick Rubin’s studio, and whether they’ll release a third album.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The Last Shadow Puppets haven’t released a record for nearly a decade. Why now? How’d you get the band back together?
ALEX TURNER: In the last eight years, Miles and I have seen each other a lot, James and I have seen each other, those two probably bumped into each other now and again, but the three of us being together was quite rare. We talked occasionally, like, “Maybe we’ll do another [record]” but it started to seem like it wasn’t going to happen. Then there was this one night and we were all back in Miles’s flat. Some other people got talking about it and we were like, “Oh f–k, yeah, we could give it another roll of the dice.” We woke up the next day and were like “Oh god, we’re going to have to follow this through now.”
And so then, was it just immediately writing and recording demos?
AT: Me and Miles had already been writing a little bit for what was possibly going to be next. We always thought “Aviation,” which ended up being the first track on the album, had the properties of a Shadow Puppets song, if there is such a thing. Then it became, “Alright, but it’s not enough to stay there. We’ve gotta try and explore other things.” I guess that’s what the next ten songs do. [Laughs]
Are there themes on the album that you’re exploring? Or did you guys just want to play together again?
AT: The lyrical side of things was not discussed that much. But the musical side of it was like, yeah, we should definitely explore.
How did working with James Ford contribute to that?
AT: Having him agree to do it again was integral. The moment you start discussing the reference material for too long, it becomes stifling to the creative process. One thing that working with [Ford] allows you is you don’t get stuck in that. He says, “OK, we’re going to push you in this direction as far as we can” but [knows] when to stop. That’s what you want.
What did Owen Pallett bring to the table?
AT: Last time, we brought [Pallett] in after we [finished recording]. We met up with him once in a hotel room in Manchester — just the fact that we had anything [from him] on [the album] was blowing our minds. When we recorded that, it blossomed into something that we could never envisage before. This time we thought, “Let’s get Owen to do the strings again, but this time let’s get him to come down to the studio. If he’s there, we’ll be able to communicate better.” There was a piano in the other room and he’d kind of —
MILES KANE: Whisk in.
AT: Yeah, float in and out and then have an idea and shoot off there. Every time we’d be in the control room and the song would end you’d just hear [Pallett] shredding the grand [piano]. It was wicked.
How do you guys plan to take these songs on the road?
AT: Last time, we had the orchestra every time. It’s difficult to do that and it’s f–king really expensive. And some rooms you play in, you stick an orchestra in there and it’s not even built for it. This time we’ll have a smaller [group] and adapt the arrangements accordingly. I won’t be doing that, but…
How have you guys changed since the last album?
MK: My singing has changed — [becoming] not afraid to sing stuff, which is something Alex would help. Before doing this record, [I’d be] singing in a certain style thinking “Oh, it sounds too weak” or “It sounds too thin.” That door opened up for me [on this record].
AT: This, in the first place, was a chance to try something else. The first Shadow Puppets record was the first time that either of us had tried to really sing like that. The fact that we didn’t quite make the mark is almost one of the things that’s good about it. This time we’re more equipped to sing like that.
I saw that you guys recorded at Rick Rubin’s studio. Did he stop by to provide his wisdom from the couch?
AT: He didn’t, no. There’s a machine in the control room where you can bring him up like a hologram, if you’re really stuck. But we resisted turning that knob. It would’ve been embarrassing for James, more than anything else.
It would hurt his cred.
AT: How’s he going to take that?
You’ve said this is like the second in a trilogy of Last Shadow Puppets records: How do you see it fitting in with the context of your last one? Do you think you’ll do another?
AT: That’s the dream: We’ve got this third one and we’ll tie up all the loose ends. This one, maybe there’s a few loose ends left and next time, sonically, we need resolution. And, you know, so does the world. [Laughs] Some Shadow Puppets resolution.