Available today on Floating World Records, AT is the new album from celebrated songwriters Andy White and Tim Finn, a continuation of their ALT project from the 1990s. AT contains the upbeat lead single ‘My Regeneration’ plus the powerful follow-up ‘The Happiness Index’, ‘The Happiness Index’ is also available as a limited edition 7-inch single, with B-side ‘Warrior of Love’ only available on vinyl in this format.
Belfast-born, Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Andy and the former Split Enz frontman and ex-Crowded House member Tim first collaborated as two-thirds of ALT, on the 1995 album Altitude, a venture which also featured Liam Ó Maonlaí, of Dublin band Hothouse Flowers (the ‘L’ of the ALT acronym), and it was a 2019 Irish magazine interview with Liam that sparked the two into reviving a partnership that still had plenty of creative mileage.
Ó Maonlaí had told the magazine how ALT came into existence, with the three musicians from different corners of the world becoming friends and swimming at the Forty Foot, a promontory on the Irish Sea near Dun Laoghaire (now famous as the preferred meeting place of the ‘Bad Sisters’ from the hit Apple TV series). With a mythical turn of phrase, Liam had declared that “the sea holds the memory”. An ALT fan sent the interview to Andy in Melbourne, and he forwarded it to Tim in Auckland. Tim used Liam’s phrase as the basis for a verse and chorus and wired the results back to Andy, who added a verse of his own. The song – initially leaving room for Liam – was soon finished, paving the way for another. And another. And another.
With Liam opting to sit this one out – “He wasn’t into home recording, not so much the technical side, more that it didn’t feel right for him”, says Tim – the pair decided to continue the unfinished business as a duo, putting together more music as a pair of Finn-White dukes. The resulting album, AT, is a remarkable pooling of resources, dominated by melodic, uplifting story-songs adorned by strummed acoustics, shimmering keyboards and bursts of woodwind, chamber strings and atmospheric, effects-heavy guitars.
Mixed in Oxfordshire by John Leckie, the legendary producer behind The Stone Roses’ era-defining debut and classic new wave LPs by Magazine, XTC and Simple Minds, AT builds on the strengths of its predecessor by embracing a more dramatic sonic sweep. The strings were arranged by Berlin-based composer Jonathan Dreyfus. Andy’s son Sebastian plays drums alongside Tim.
“There’s a certain irony in that this album sounds more epic than the first”, says Tim. “The ALT record was made in my home studio in Melbourne, the city where I was living at the time. It was a proper studio, with a 24-track mixing desk and decent sound separation. I recorded my parts for this one in a small room in Auckland, using a good Neumann mic, a keyboard, a couple of pianos and Garageband software.”
From Andy’s perspective, credit is also due to Leckie for his help in creating the “thick, thundering” wall of sound that illuminates several songs towards the end of the album, including ‘The Happiness Index’ and the string-powered, five-minute finale, ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Star’.
Says Andy: “We sent John all of our ideas. If I had three bass parts I’d send all three, if we had sung six harmony vocals they were there for him to play with. Listen to how much is going on! We didn’t think he was going to use everything, but he painted with every colour we sent him. This is masterful mixing.”
Shortly after John Leckie had finished mixing AT, Andy and Tim reunited face to face in Melbourne, with Andy’s son taking photos for the album sleeve. The two musicians celebrated that night with an unplanned drive through a rainswept city, eventually getting lost. “The new record was playing on the car stereo, and we couldn’t see a thing through the downpour,” recalls Andy. “We were singing along to the opening track and laughing. Nothing had changed in 27-odd years… and we were doing it all again.”
Artists’ website: https://www.andywhite.com/shop/10-alt
‘The Happiness Index’ – official video:
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