London’s Apologies I Have None have just released their highly anticipated and already acclaimed sophomore record Pharmacie. Josh Mckenzie, songwriter and only remaining founding member took the time for a chat as the band was about to kick off their European tour in Antwerp, Belgium. We talked about London references on Pharmacie, the secrets to the Apologies, I Have None wall of sound and expectations from the new album.
ThePunkSite: Pharmacie has been out for about a month, how’s the response so far?
Josh: Overall people seem to really like it. At least from what I’ve seen. I’m sure there’s some people who can’t stand it but they keep their god damn mouths shut (laughs).
That’s a good thing, right. It feels like the perfect record for after the summer, days are getting shorter, it’s getting colder. Is the release date coincidental or was it planned that way?
No not really. Ideally, we kind of wanted to have the record out before the summer. But we’re too slow and didn’t get it all finished in time. Because you need quite a long lead up time from when you actually finish the record to when it comes out. It wasn’t really intentional to put it out at the end of the summer, that’s when it fell into place.
Since London, the line-up has changed two times. Has that effected the sound of Pharmacie?
I guess a little bit. But even before the line-up changes Dan (who wrote half of the songs on London, ed.) and I were both still heading in the same direction. It would have probably turned out a bit different, but soundwise I think it was going that way anyway. The main difference is that it took so much longer for us to finish enough songs for the record.
So you were going there already, but it would have been some of Dan’s song and some of yours?
Yeah. Dan’s got a new band called Myelin, and they do stuff that’s definitely different from London as well.
Did you change anything for the production or recording process of the album?
Joe (Watson, bass player) and Simon (Small, guitar player) both work in studios. Simon runs this pretty cool studio so we recorded it ourselves. We got Pete Miles to mix it, he mixed London and we knew it would turn out good.
So the big change is that we recorded it ourselves. I got mixed feelings about that. On one hand you’re a bit more free with your time, because it’s a studio Simon runs. We can go in whenever we want and we don’t have to get it done in two weeks or something. But then on the flip side of that it can just drag on and on which is the case for us.
It takes longer to make decisions?
Exactly. Because you’re not forced by the time period.
Having someone with an outside perspective there could be useful as well sometimes?
Yeah. I definitely think so. Sometimes we’d be in there all together for so long. You just kind of lose perspective about what you’re doing. Stuff that’s fine starts sounding like shit or you just pick out tiny little details and extrapolate them into these big problems. And I think having an outside person would have helped to be like: “That’s fine, move on” or… not. It’s up and down, I’ve got mixed feeling about doing it that way.
London (the debut album of the band e.d.) was an absolute fan favourite, so it felt to me like the pressure was on for Pharmacie, as far as expectations go. Did you get that feeling as well?
No, not really. I don’t think any of us felt that sort of pressure, external pressure. We’ve had people saying to us: “You won’t make a record as good as London“. But if we didn’t think it was as good as London we wouldn’t put anything out, do you know what I mean? I didn’t feel any pressure really, other than within us. All you can do, you put a record out, some people like it, some people don’t. You’ve got to be happy with the songs yourselves, and see what happens.
You wrote London as well so maybe you’re the best judge of your own work, right?
Maybe. Maybe not though.
Pharmacie has been called dark quite a few times already. What was the state of mind you were in when you wrote Pharmacie.
The songs are written over quite a long period, and the subject of the songs spans massive periods in my life. So, I don’t know, really. Because the stuff I’m talking about is such a huge period of life. I find that difficult to answer. You can write a song about an emotion without feeling that while you’re writing it, or you might be feeling an emotion and that’s what makes you start writing a song. You know what I mean. Because it’s such a big time period it’s a bit of a wash.
Reading through the lyrics for Pharmacie, I noticed a few quotes from literature made it to your lyrics. Lines from “American Psycho” and “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” to name a few. Is literature an inspiration for your songwriting?
Not massively, I wouldn’t say. Some of those lines are just the perfect way of explaining something, summed up in two lines by this awesome writer. Or they’re just so relevant for the thing or the song that you’re writing about. I don’t mind to take them as they are and putting them in, not claiming that they are my own, put in the notes where you got it from. I quite like that, I don’t mind stealing that stuff.
I spotted a few London references on “It’s Never The Words You Say”. Did it fit in with the song or is it a little tribute?
I’d sort of had it in my head, I didn’t try to hammer them in for no reason. That song in particular was written in different parts, because the the ending is a bit different and I had that part written already. It was just a case of having these parts written and spiralling them in together. They’re intentional references just because I like that kind of stuff. There’s some of the songs that references some of the other songs within Pharmacie. There’s a few other London ones, I won’t tell you, I’ll just see if you ever notice them.
I’ll have to go trough them again. Next time, I’ll ask you about those.
Musically, one of the trademarks of Apologies, I Have None are the anthemic sing a long style anthems. Did you steer away from those a bit on Pharmacie?
A little bit yeah. I’m not a massive fan of big chorusses and hooks. But yeah, they’re definitely not as prominent on Pharmacie. It probably wouldn’t fit it to the tone of the record quite as much for every song to have these big anthemic parts. It wasn’t a strict rule or given loads of thoughts. Pharmacie still has some chorusses, hooky type things. But I guess the tone of them isn’t as anthemic sounding, it’s not a major key uplifting type thing.
And the gang vocals are maybe less prominent?
We ended up doing more of that on Pharmacie than I actually intented to. When we started recording I didn’t think we’d have any group vocals but some parts just sounded better with them.
If you had to pick one song that’s on Pharmacie that defines the album. Which one would it be?
The last one, Pharmacie in Paris.
Can you explain why?
Topically it sums up most of the record, and most of London, and most of Black Everything. And it’s probably quite specific to me but it sums up most of it. Weirdly even some of the lyrics in there have become more relevant now, it’s really weird how some stuff has panned out.
What are the secrets of the wall of sound. Is it your pedal board?
Well Simon and Joe handle most of that stuff when we’re recording. Because they’re recording engineers. But we fuck about with our pedals loads. I would say if I would try to describe our sound it’s just sort of guitar effect pedals. Delay. Delay on the full, really. Everything on Pharmacie, even if it doesn’t sound like it, it’s just guitars going through pedals. Other than piano. Even the songs off London, we make changes to them if we play them live. And then sometimes we go back. As we get more pedals and stuff we can go a bit crazy, and then sometimes you have to bring that back a bit.
If people don’t recognise the song anymore, you take it back a notch.
Do you still play some of the songs Dan wrote live?
No. We played 60 Miles a few times. Dan wrote most of it, I wrote some of it. We don’t play that often, sometimes we do. But yeah, we don’t play any other ones. It’s a shame because some of them are my favourite ones to play, Clapton Pond and stuff like that. But if he’s not singing them we shouldn’t be playing them. We still get people asking us but we don’t do that.
Our readers are mainly based in North America. Do you have any plans on touring North America or Canada.
We don’t have plans. But we definitely want to make plans. We got this European tour and when we get back we’re doing a longer UK one. And then in december nothing much happens, we should start planning for next year.
A few short ones to wrap up the interview:
Festival or headline show?
Depends on the festival really. I like both. I’m not a massive fan of festivals in terms of being at them.
Favourite small town that no-one has ever heard of?
Leuven, Belgium. I don’t know if that counts as small. The town is just awesome.
Favourite guitar effect pedal?
Delay. You can just do so much with it. If I had to get rid of all the pedals I would keep the delay.
Which song do you love to play live the most?
Of the new album Wraith and Pharmacie in Paris are my favourite ones to play. Overall, The 26, maybe. I don’t know why, we’ve been playing it for so long. It’s just easy and fun to play.
Is there anything else you want to plug or put out there?
Go and buy our record. So we can live comfortable lives as rock stars (laughs).
Thanks a lot for the chat and congrats on the new album.
Watch ‘Love And Medication’ on YouTube