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Basement's Alex Henery Delivers Everything He Can

Weed dispensaries, fields, working two dream jobs, and coming back stronger than ever.

by John Hill
09 February 2016, 10:00am

In some strange, alternate universe filled with eternal marathons of 120 Minutes and clouds made of flannel, Basement would probably be the biggest band in the world. That isn't a lame jab at the band, though; I'm not saying they're just riding the nostalgia train. Moreso, the music evokes a type of songwriting that's catchy and complex enough to sing along to and worship at the same time. It runs directly against rock's modern ultra clean, sterile leanings. Basment grew from the band's past in pop-punk and hardcore, taking the grit and energy of the genre and transmuting it into the textures and tones of their brand of alternative.
After the band took a quick hiatus in 2012, they bolted back in 2014 with a brand new EP, Further Sky. Once resurrected, the band seemingly gained about ten times more attention than with their previous records. But the band kept making moves, leading into their newest record Promise Everything. The record holds the band's catchiest and most thoughtful material to date, synthesizing sounds found on previous albums into one cohesive unit. Tracks like "Aquasun" define the band's sound and modus operandi in a quick few minutes; Alex Henery's huge guitar strums reverberate out waves of sound while singer Andrew Fisher hits multiple registers, unafraid to scratch up his vocals in pursuit of their full purpose.

Promise Everything is a record primed to appease any fan of rock music, as Basement makes the hooks catchier than ever and adds a much bigger feeling of space and warmth in their sound. We spoke to guitarist Alex Henery about the band's rise from the beginning until now.

Noisey: What was it like growing up in Ipswich?
Alex Henery: It’s in the countryside, we live in Suffolk county which is known for agriculture and I guess it was popping off a bit more back in the day when all the goods were going through the river. It’s pretty relaxing, there’s not much going on aside from fields and old stone churches and cottages. It’s quite picturesque, but it’s only fifteen minutes from London so you could make your way to the city if you want to. I remember a newspaper running an article about a serial killer at one point, and it was really weird, because the crime rate was really low. But usually it’s really quiet, growing up you had to make do because there’s not really that much going on, and if you wanted to do something, you had to do it yourself. So if you wanted to go to a show, you had to think of how to bring them to Ipswich. Unfortunately, it seemed to have gotten worse when I went back, no venues or bands going on, which is a bit of a shame.

It’s weird growing up with a local scene and growing up with everyone at the same time, and then you leave to go off and do other stuff and when you return it’s like everyone had done the same thing.
Well, I wish it was like that, I wish there was other people we grew up we could do bands with, but we never had that other band you always go on tour with. There were smaller kind of little things going on, but nothing really that was expanding outside of maybe playing a local pub or anything. We always really wanted that, but it never really happened.

So I know you were in a really goofy pop-punk band for a little bit, when do you think that switch to Basement happened?
I guess Tom, our old guitarist who left the band, and Duncan started playing bass for us. I think Andrew had written some songs and was like “Let’s start a new band, this doesn’t sound like that kind of stuff. Let’s do something different.” So we started a new band, and that’s kind of where things started. We had the demo, and then it was like “Let’s do this album in a new band, it doesn’t make any sense otherwise.” We just released that, played a few shows; this guy named Adrian had a label at the time called City Of Gold who wanted to put out our record, which was huge for us at the time.

Was there a certain band you came upon that made you want to make the jump to alternative?
I started out going to punk and ska shows, and then from there got into the real broad genre of indie and alternative. But Ias for the bands that started to influence the start of Basement, there was Jimmy Eat World, and the rough parts and bands like The Promise Ring or Piebald, Jets to Brazil, and the stuff that was kind of under bands like Jimmy Eat World, those big kind of rock bands. I wasn’t really aware of who was influencing Jimmy Eat World and who came up in that timeframe. So people were showing me that, and then Run For Cover bands, like I remember being on Myspace and hearing Man Overboard and Tiger’s Jaw and whoever were the first bands on that label. And they all directed me to this one label in Boston, Run For Cover. And before then I never liked any labels, I didn’t really understand what they did in the music industry. So I was like, Oh, this is cool, this label has all these awesome bands,” and I never had any attraction to any other label. So I became more aware of this label, what past releases they put out, and that became the dream to one day be on Run For Cover. And now I work for them and they totally make fun of me for it, but it’s cool how things worked out. My favorite label! Still is.

I feel like there was a perfect amount of timing in the late 2000s where like I think dudes like us who were into hardcore started getting into older emo stuff, and then these labels like Run For Cover or No Sleep had bands that totally captured that feeling and modernized it a little.
Yeah, I was going to hardcore shows a lot, and totally liked punk and ska and this alternative stuff. And then going to hardcore shows thinking it could get too abrasive, and so then the labels were putting out crossover alternative bands where these artists come from hardcore, and still have aggressive vocals. And you just find out about this web of different sub-genres and it’s really cool. So yeah, being involved in hardcore definitely helped to understand the grassroots movements and smaller bands you would never otherwise heard of. Before hardcore, you’d go see like Dropkick Murphys at a big venue, and then you’d go to a hardcore show seeing people selling their own merch at the community show, paying five quid to go see music.

The more you grew as a songwriter, what do you think you became concerned with most?
I wanted something you could put your own stamp on and not sound the same as everyone. When you’re part of a scene—when you’re younger that tends to happen—but as we got older and [more] aware of our songwriting, we thought how we wanted to do things different or take a step in the right direction. Like what’s in our musical tastes that we want to display rather than what we’re listening to. And figuring out where our strengths are, like Andrew’s melodies and being able to write catchy choruses. So we wanted to figure out how to write on that, how to compliment that. So when we got to Colourmeinkindness, there’s tracks like “Pine” which has poppier elements. And then there’s something like “Whole” or “Spoiled” that has a lot of heavier elements to it. We realized we could do both, we could have an energy and aggression but you could also mix in good, catchy melodic songs. I think we’re pushing that in this record, really going for melody but also wanting to push more energy.

So after Colourmeinkindness the band took a break, and then you guys get back together a couple years later and seemingly you got like ten times bigger. How the fuck did that work out?
[Laughs] Trust me, I have no idea. I just remember I took the break and moved to America, Andy went back to school, everyone was really focused on their careers and stuff. We stayed close friends, we’d always talk about stuff in our group chat or whatever. When I’d go back to the UK, I’d be like, "Oh look, this pressing of the record did well on Run For Cover,” or stupid stuff like how we’d have more likes on our Facebook page. But we weren’t doing anything, and there were all these small things. It seemingly kept growing and people were still interested, and wanted to hear the record live and it blew my mind that it had grown when we’d done nothing. I guess making that record being something people actually liked, we didn’t really think about it. We just went “Oh yeah!” We had these two weeks between tours to decide whether to do a quick Japan thing or record, and we decided to record. It’s kind of mindblowing that it grew more when we were inactive than when we were active.

Yeah. Like the Webster Hall show started in the basement and then…
Yeah, it got bumped up like three times and kept selling out. And I was like, "Wait, what is happening?” and they moved it to the big room. I was like, "Well, how much is that?” and they said “1,500” and it was like “No, that’s so awkward ,it’s going to be weird.” And it sold out, and was probably one of the best shows I played in my whole life. Glad I listened to them at the time.

What venues did you hit before the return?
I remember saying on stage at that show, “This is crazy, last time we played in New York it was in a bar to maybe 50 people.” And it was this tiny place in Brooklyn somewhere. We played there, and we played somewhere on Long Island at a pub or something. We were playing backyards, VFW halls, church basements. We’d play anywhere, weird little art galleries in Connecticut. I remember one backyard playing in a big shed with a makeshift wooden stage. We also played like a weed dispensary warehouse in California once. It was really strange [laughs]. So those were the kinds of the places we’d play before, just sleeping on people’s floors and stuff. We were just super hyped, “Wow, we’re in America and there’s ten people here. This is awesome!” It took a while, and then it was like, if there’s still an opportunity to travel and write music and actually be sustainable, it’d be crazy to turn it down. I think just before the record we were talking about how we’d feel spending a few years giving this a shot, what would it look like.

Did the Further Sky EP music materialize before the break up?
That happened one Christmas when we got back together, 'cause we wanted to just get together and write music regardless if we were a band or not. We went away to this weird place in Ipswich to this guy who had a crazy practice space. We had done the one song “Jet,” and I kept playing it over and over on my phone. Other times they’d practice without me, writing stuff and having fun. When we decided on the shows in the summer, it was like we like doing this so let’s record this seven-inch. We recorded the two songs and the Suede cover.

That’s what the band is about, being creative. I think that’s more important than touring, we want to make stuff and be the best band that we can be. And be consistent with that. Making music is awesome.

Buy the new record Promise Everything right here.

John Hill can't promise anything. Follow him on Twitter - @JohnXHill

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