Interview with Basement guitarist Alex Henery | By Jameson Ketchum
Basement are indescribable. In an industry that can love you and leave you in a matter of weeks, the U.K. five have managed to circumvent our short attention spans and come back stronger than ever. Their third and newest record, Promise Everything, was released in January via Run For Cover, and April 13 marked the band’s first time in the Pacific Northwest. For a band who finds the most fulfillment in exploration, the trip proved to be worth it, as they rocked a sold out Analog Café alongside Turnstile, Colleen Green, and Defeater. Basement guitarist Alex Henery defines their post-hiatus second round as merely friends having fun, a simple sentiment for such soul-invading music.
How would you define Basement?
I hope people take away that, more than being a band, we really have fun doing this. The activities that we do when we’re on tour, I hope that permeates what we’re about, and there’s no business aspect, it’s just fun. We’re really hands on, too. We want to do all our t-shirt designs, our music videos, we want to create everything ourselves. I guess we’re a group of friends who want to be hands on and creative. Recently, we’ve kind of said that we only want to do things if they’re going to be fun; if not, why are we doing it? We look at tours that might not make sense, but if we think we’re going to have fun, then we might do it.
As you grow bigger and gain more success, you may lose some of that creative control…
To an extent, but we just tell them no. It’s either not good enough or [not] my vision of what I want to wear or what works for our band. We’ve worked with other people, though—we did a video with someone else and it didn’t work out, and I ended up having to do it myself. Recently, there are a few friends that we’ve reached out to and, [on] this tour, we have three different artists we worked with and those have been cool. No one is ever going to tell us what to do. You can tell us what to do, and we’re going to tell you no and what we want to do. That sounds like we’re intolerant, but it’s just listening to a certain extent and saying, “You don’t understand: this is our band, and we’re going to do it the way we want to do it.”
There are some aspects of things to do in growing the band and making wise decisions [that require others’ input]. Maybe in regards to how the lame things are run, like filing taxes, something we don’t know about. There are things behind the scenes that we need help with, but when it comes to writing music, no one is ever going to have a big role in that other than us. This is our full-time job, so we need help in regards to paying our rent, so if someone can help us to ensure things work the right way, we’re willing to listen.
What propelled Basement out of the hiatus? What did you learn during that time that you feel has contributed to where the band is now?
[Vocalist] Andrew [Fisher] wanted to go back to school to become a teacher and get his degree, which he did. Everyone just started living their lives without the band. I think it made us appreciate certain aspects of it. What we’re doing now is completely different; we’re a full-time band now. It’s hard to compare, because it’s two completely different sections of time. We’re still the same people, the same band, it’s just that the dynamic is different, so we’re adjusting to that. It’s our full-time job and we’re touring more, so we’re figuring that out.
What do you think makes a Basement song resonate so much with people?
It’s hard to think about that. It’s hard to take in and imagine that you’d be in a band that would impact someone’s life. It sounds too over the top. I think it comes down to Andrew’s lyrics; I think he’s a great lyricist and he can talk about his experiences in a way that’s so simply put, but captures everything you’re doing through one sentence. The only thing I can link this to is—I think of the song “Bad Apple,” where I told him what I wanted it to be about and he wrote it perfectly. It was exactly what I wanted to say. He has such a gift, and I think people are drawn to that.
Hearing a song like “Aquasun” reminds me of the first time I heard The Get Up Kids.
And The Get Up Kids are one of Andrew’s favorite bands, [laughs].
Something that is always interested in chatting with U.K. bands is the concept of “are you bigger over there?”
It’s crazy that we can tour [in the U.S.] so much. You can fit England into Texas multiple times, so I guess you’d have to study how many people come to shows in regards to population. We play consistently bigger shows in the U.S., but there is more people to play to. The shows are always amazing and the people are super nice. We are just really grateful to come here. It helps that we have a U.S. label and a lot of friends who support us here.
It seems that touring the States is the ultimate goal…
It’s the dream. You listen to American bands and watch the movies and base your teenage years on American culture. Everyone wants to come here. You just want to explore, and the show is almost secondary.
What have been some of your favorite places? What does travel mean to your life and your art?
The Redwoods and surfing in California. I love the drives from, like, California to Texas where it’s just all desert. I’ve never seen anything like that before, because there is nothing like that in England. It’s just the movies and cowboys and Indians—stuff that’s been ingrained in my mind since I was a kid. It’s like going off and being an explorer. To get to drive through that and just how epic it is, it stands out in my mind. It’s amazing.
Anywhere in the South is just very different, and their accents and what they think of England is just really interesting. The East Coast, in a way, is really similar to home. When we tour, we mostly look at western based societies where it’s not a real culture shock, but then I went to Nicaragua and saw real poverty and dirt roads, etc. It’s more opening your eyes to how similar people can be even though you live far away. People speak with different accents or have different currencies, but we’re all so similar. It’s just nice to talk to people and hear about their lives. There is this weird crossover, but it’s more like I have to stop and remind myself that I get to see all these different walks of life, whereas most people don’t ever leave their hometown and that’s all they know. I guess I hope I have a broader outlook on life where I can see the similarities. I guess it’s good, because it stops prejudice, because we’re all so similar and you don’t’ have to be scared of different cultures or different people. I really hope I never take it for granted.
Pick up Basement’s Promise Everything here.