“..And if the looking it gets too much, well you can just tune out
And if the mirror reflects too much, well you can just tune out
And if the picture it gets too sharp, well you can just tune out
And if you ever regret your part, well you can just tune out”
Animal Kingdom, who formed when singer/guitarist/pianist RichardSauberlich was introduced to bassist Hamish Crombie while at art school and were joined soon after by drummer Geoff Lea, found immediately that they had a common interest—to make compelling music that spoke with intent. The trio recorded their debut album, Signs and Wonders, in early 2009 in Seattle with producer Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Walkmen) and released the disc at the end of the year.
Although the band’s debut, which received great critical acclaim, was only released digitally in the U.S., iTunes named the album’s track “Tin Man” as their “Single of the Week” and proclaimed the band “Best New Alternative Act.” Animal Kingdom toured extensively around the release, trekking around the U.K. and Europe, but it is the group’s sophomore effort, The Looking Away, which will be released by Mom + Pop Records, that really introduces them overseas.
After touring on Signs and Wonders the group reconvened at a studio space in a rundown church in North London where they spent nearly a year writing and demoing over 30 songs. From those songs the musicians selected a collection of favorites to bring into the studio with David Kosten (Bat For Lashes, Everything Everything), a producer Animal Kingdom specifically wanted to work with for The Looking Away. The album was recorded over several sessions in Kosten’s new studio beginning in February of 2011 and was eventually finished that summer. The goal was to expand the group’s sound to embrace a wider sonic aesthetic.
“When we record we like to bend sounds rather than just record them straight.” Richard says.
“Rather than just fairly traditional guitars and drums with a mic in front of them. We wanted to play with the sounds and build atmospheres, which is why we wanted to work with David. To create a much more hybrid sounding record, but with strong songs at the core”
Those songs veer from the propulsive, euphoric rush of flagship single “Strange Attractor,” which Richard calls a “chemical love song,” to the hyper-colored anti-one percent protest-pop of “Get Away With It” and the pensive hush of “Straw Man,” a self-described “beautifully depressing song.” This juxtaposition of styles and tempos finds cohesion in the band’s ability to fuse infectious, kaleidoscopic indie rock with atmospheric melancholia, and in the lyrical depth that infuses the entire disc.
From the title to the album’s striking artwork to the lyrics, The Looking Away circles around the idea of purposeful disassociation and disengagement. And, if you listen closely, the album’s title and clues to its meaning can be found throughout several of its songs.
“The Looking Away is about a kind of selective inattention,” Richard explains. “A disconnect. It’s about averting your gaze. It’s about being aware of something while ignoring it. Deciding to tune something out because it could make you feel uncomfortable. It’s also about personal complicity and allowing yourself to be distracted and your attention diverted. It’s something we tried to represent with the artwork too. The figure is imagining this paradise, but he’s not really there; it’s a mirage.”
Animal Kingdom, who will bring their soaring, sun-drenched landscapes and ethereal melodies to Lollapalooza and Outside Lands this summer as they make their debut run in the U.S., has clearly determined that it’s better to do something than nothing, that it’s more important to create something substantial than to just create anything at all. All of which is apparent on The Looking Away.
“We’re really proud of The Looking Away,” Richard says. “We poured a lot of ourselves into it but mostly we’re just excited about the music getting out there and connecting with the people who hear it.”