James returned with a new album earlier this year, six years after their previous work.
In the life of most bands, it would seem monumental, a comeback or heralded return.
While there was some fanfare about the release of Le Petit Mort, it’s merely the latest in a long line of interesting points in their CV.
Compare it to the time, after the release of their debut album, that members of the band enrolled on medical trials to earn money, or the bank loan they secured to record their second album, not to mention the ever-changing early line-up and serious drug problems that almost ended them several times, splits and reformations, and a long gap between albums looks like a tiny bump in the road.
“There was always going to be another album,” begins singer Tim Booth, adding that the band didn’t reform in 2007 to play endless greatest hits tours. “We were born to play new music,” he says. “We’re cautious with those old songs, and we didn’t want to do what Pixies did, with nostalgia tours. It became too rote, but you have to challenge yourself and take risks as a band.”
Le Petit Mort, their 13th album, could certainly be described as taking a risk. It’s an album inspired by the death of Booth’s mother and his best friend, and features not only suitably emotional lyrics, but some of the most experimental music of their career, too.
Despite the break since 2008’s Hey Ma, time was of the essence when it came to making Le Petit Mort, the band keen to record the album in the small window they had available. Now signed to BMG and indie label Cooking Vinyl, James had the money behind them to afford a stay in some of London’s most-established studios. One such studio was RAK, founded in the 1970s by producer Mickie Most.
“It was funny when we were there,” says Booth. “We all got on so well with the staff, but after a couple of weeks, we found out that they’d been warned before we arrived. The manager of the studio said ‘They might look a mild-mannered bunch, but they were here in the 1990s and they’re the most rock ‘n’ roll band we’ve ever had’.
James have a tour lined up for later this year, and there is talk about what might come after that. Bassist Glennie, the band’s longest-serving member can’t quite believe the band is still going after everything they’ve been through.
“We were a bunch of spoiled brats arguing,” says Glennie, “and how we nearly messed that up for ourselves is ridiculous. We were in such a privileged position and we nearly threw it all away.”
* Le Petit Mort is out now. The band tour the UK throughout November including a date at Leeds Arena on November 23.