IS THE ALBUM on its way out?
Albert Hammond Jr. seems to think so. Best known as a guitarist for the Strokes, Hammond just released a new EP, AHJ, and he calls it a "combination" of his previous two solo studio albums, ¿Cómo Te Llama? and Yours to Keep.
Hammond's voice is raw—at times, he strains to hit the right notes, but he does it cleanly, without any raggedness, making the music all the more charming. While Strokes fans will hear a lot that's familiar in the peppy EP—especially in "Rude Customer"—Hammond leaves his own distinct mark. I commend his decision to stick with five songs; any additional would have felt repetitive, but the five leave the listener desiring more. Albert Hammond Jr. plays the Hawthorne Theatre (1507 SE César E. Chávez) on Saturday, November 23.
MERCURY: Why an EP after two full studio albums?
ALBERT HAMMOND JR.: Well, it wasn't planned, it just grew... I originally just had a song or two, and I spoke with Julian [Casablancas] and he encouraged me to keep going. But I think that the album format is really old. People should make more fun stuff sooner; release a few songs here and there rather than waiting for an entire album.
What were your influences/inspirations for this EP?
I hadn't written anything for two years, so that's where the buzz and the excitement was. But if you let it be too open, sometimes you don't do the best you can because you're not focused. It's harder. As for influences, I listened to a lot of the Wipers a year ago, maybe that's a part of it—especially their record Is This Real?
What instruments did you play in the recordings?
I played everything! Except for the drums in a couple of the songs; we had to redo them in a studio upstate.
Tell me about the album artwork and the inspiration. There is a striking similarity to the Givenchy dog that's been so popular.
Yes, people keep mentioning the Givenchy dog to me! But no, we were referencing old German movies and Japanese posters from the '70s. We played around with a lot of different images; we played around with different names, but eventually we settled on this one. It's a crazy-looking dog; it's art. Not everyone is going to look at art and have the same reaction to it.
What was the inspiration for the NSFW video for "St. Justice," which chronicled the start and end of a relationship, shot in black and white?
It was this idea of creating a video for an indie guy that would normally be seen as a pop video. Felt kinda fun and different. I wanted it to feel youthful, and like a foreign film—like French movies in the 1960s. And that’s how the process was; it was the director, Nina [Maria de Raadt, who plays the girlfriend], and myself. There was lot of energy. It was really refreshing.
How was it working with Cult Records, the label run by your Strokes bandmate Julian Casablancas?
It was exciting! [We] were exploring new territory together, working together. And he has a hand with all of his artists—he likes to oversee, he's always saying, "Let's try this/that." If it's good, he makes it better. He even oversees the artwork. When we first started, and Julian and I were living together, we used to talk about how in the future we'd want to work together and do new things like this, so it's really nice. It was the best combination. I feel very lucky.
What is your favorite song on the EP?
I really like them all, to be honest. If I had to choose, it would probably be between “Strange Tidings” and “Cooker Ship”... that’s a really fun song.
What can we expect to hear from you on your tour? Will you be playing some Strokes songs?
No Strokes songs... it would be weird. Maybe one day, if we're finished, then I could. But for right now, it's 20 songs, about an hour and a half—it's a rad set list. It has a good momentum.