There’s more to Albert Hammond Jr than ‘just’ being 1/5 of a ridiculously well-loved indie band; he’s also produced one of the most personal albums you’ll hear all year.
"It's much easier to find yourself, or grow, through a mask. It just so happens that this story is true." Identity is a key component to Albert Hammond Jr's fourth outing. Having been named after his father, Albert Hammond Snr, it's a topic that's been on his mind for much of his life
What his fourth solo album ‘Francis Trouble' ultimately concerns though, is the loss of Albert's twin, Francis, in utero. It's a hefty topic, but he's made the delivery as palatable as possible. In fact, it's just about the most coherent and accessible Albert Hammond Jr record to date.
‘Francis Trouble' is as much about finding yourself as it is following Albert's journey. As a member of The Strokes, a pivotal band for a whole generation, the creative force brewing inside of him started to feel restrained, and during the band's downtime, he found the freedom to explore.
"I almost feel like a late bloomer," he laughs. "I wish I were eighteen and this was my first record, I could've had this richness in [the] music, and confidence in myself then, but I didn't."
He considered using a pseudonym, or even creating a new band, but quickly decided it wasn't for him. "I'm already in a band. It felt like a band name is a weird unnecessary complication, for me." He pauses. "I'm in something that had a moment in time, so I felt like I wanted to bring myself forward. To change my name and take it out, it's almost like I'm too late."
Going from guitarist to frontman isn't a new story, but for Albert, his alternating roles offer up a new lease on doing what he really wants to do, while accepting what that entails - warts 'n' all.
"You can be the sole focus, and you're trying to hide behind different things, but now I'm like, ‘Fuck it'," he says. "I'm right out there. It's weird to play someone in that position because it's a lot of insecurities and you have to face them and be hit by them. There are a lot of imperfections that you can't hide, but that's sort of what makes it more human and special to me. You can connect with people."
It's an immensely personal record, derived from the titular character, Francis Trouble. "I always felt like someone [could be] scratching this name into their high school desk; like it would be etched forever somewhere, you know? Some kid just getting into it and carving his name into a desk, this secret character that can do anything. I feel like I couldn't have done it with a better record, to be honest."
"I saw my dream in this record," he continues, "and this guy playing big venues and growing. I was like; people will want to sing along to that, they'll want to. It makes people feel united in the room - when they're all singing along, and dancing to the instruments, that's the mixture of the play. I felt like people listening to it would feel what I’m feeling. I don’t know. It makes you feel hopeful and that things are possible."
The feeling of having crowds of people singing and dancing along is no strange concept to Albert. All things considered though, it's a different ballgame entirely when the reason behind their revelry is your concept, and yours alone.
"I don't know where that line is," he says, referring to the separation between The Strokes and his current guise. "I was there, and now I'm here all of sudden, it's like a dream. But it seemed like we had that, and then that stayed in a place, and I don't know, I needed to create. I had too much that couldn't come out. It needed its own space.
"The Strokes are amazing, and they have so many amazing people… it doesn't have enough space for me to do this, and I feel like this is too good to not have its own space. It feels like enough time has gone to separate it," he adds with a chuckle. "It kind of feels like I waded through swampy water, and finally I'm out, and I'm gonna run for it!"
With his eyes on the future, mostly, the unknown is as exciting as it scary. The Strokes are an entity that abides by no need for salvation, whereas Albert is setting his feet firmly in a world of his own construction, where he's the entertainer, and the one in control, but most importantly - just Albert.
"This whole thing, I was trying to make it so good that it's not about being solo, it's just something brand new, something where it can reach its own heights. It's very hard. It's not something that's easily done for a guitar player from a band to separate themselves. I like to be challenged, so-" he pauses tentatively. "I guess that's my challenge."
Albert Hammond Jr's album 'Francis Trouble' is out 9th March. Taken from the March issue of Dork - order your copy below.