Algiers break down every track on new guest-filled album ‘Shook’
Algiers' fourth album Shook is out today via Matador. It takes the band's genre-defying protest music in all sorts of exciting directions, and it's loaded with awesome guest vocalists, including Rage Against The Machine's Zack de la Rocha, billy woods, Backxwash, Big Rube, Samuel T Herring (Future Islands), Mark Cisneros (The Make-Up), Lee Bains III, Jae Matthews (Boy Harsher), LaToya Kent (Mourning [A] BLKstar), and more. You can read our review of the album in Notable Releases, and for much more on this LP, here's a track-by-track breakdown with commentary from group members Franklin James Fisher, Ryan Mahan, and Lee Tesche.
ALGIERS BREAK DOWN EVERY TRACK ON SHOOK
Shook is a collective effort about collective efforts. We wanted to take you on a bit of a journey about some of our processes and all our friends who made this record what it is.
[Big] Rube’s voice has become something of a reification of the spirit of Atlanta. We wanted him to serve as a sort of oracle to guide the listener through the sound world. We reached out to him and had an open conversation on the phone about any topic you can imagine for several hours. By the end of the call, it felt like we’d been friends forever. He came back a few days later with this incredibly surreal and winding verse. If you listen closely, you can most easily make out our friends Mark Stewart from The Pop Group and Ayse Hassan (Savages, ESYA). There’s also our friend, musician and tour manager, Tristan Griffin from Shop Talk. -Frankie
Big Rube, Dungeon Family, childhood, The Genesis, Grand Wizard Theodore, ESG, The Pop Group, Wild Style, bombing trains, ATL airport, Kierkegaardian lost futures, lives taken, lost souls… they all exist together here in space-time transcendence. -Ryan
No one else could have introduced this record other than Big Rube. If you don’t know, go know.
I met Zack in Atlanta years ago in the back of a small club at a Make-Up show. Shook connects those 3 dots. -Lee
We met Zack de la Rocha a few years ago through our mutual friend Sohail Daulatzai who directed the "Dispossession" video. We were in LA and just played a gig opening for Savages at the El Rey Theater. Zack is a living legend and we didn’t want to punish him so we initially just talked about basketball and when he and Sohail were growing up together. While recording “Irreversible” we asked if he’d want to get involved and he responded with this verse that feels as though the song was written around it. -Frankie
Classic Franklin banger in the demos that I couldn’t wait to drum up and lace with subtleties and minutiae and then Zack De La Rocha jumps in, child me says IT’S OVER! Sohail is one of Zack’s closest, and a living legend to me. He wrote Fifty Years of the Battle of Algiers, and encapsulated so much more in that book than I ever could have about why the film and the city is an inspiration for artists and rebels everywhere. -Ryan
A lot of corny people out there really fucking under appreciate Frankie’s vocals. It’s absurd. Folks act like he’s limited to soul belting, which just in that lane, he’s better than most. When in reality he has so much to his game. Here he spits with swagger as if gods like Earl, Boldy James or Akai Solo worked over James Chance/Dïat-inspired rhythms. He wrote this front to back. I added some train-screech guitars at the end for grate. -Ryan
Matt Richinni was our first sound engineer on our first tour when we opened for Interpol in 2015. Our love of music and politics aligned so we all became friends very quickly and continued to collaborate throughout the years. He mastered the Nun Gun album (a collaborative project between Lee Tesche, Ryan Mahan and Brad Feuerhelm) and mixed and mastered Dead Meat record (Ryan Mahan’s solo album). He’s an extraordinarily talented musician and a badass drummer. For much of the recording of Shook, [drummer] Matt Tong wasn’t available for the sessions as he’d just become a new father to his son, Rowan. Matt graciously lent us his talent as a drummer. This track is a shining example of what he can do behind a kit. -Frankie
"Cleanse Your Guilt Here"
Don’t tell me you have never heard Supreme Clientele meets Supreme Blientele. Fatboi Sharif laced this live when we played together in NYC. -Ryan
We were in Austin on the last leg of our first post-lockdown tour with Zen Mother and we all very quickly became good friends. At this point we were wrapping up the record and trying to get the last few guest parts recorded. Monika Khot from Nordra and Zen Mother and has one of the best and clearest voices of anyone I know and fortunately, she agreed to record her backing vocals on site…in their tour van. -Frankie
"As It Resounds"
This is one of the last songs that came together. Big Rube provided us with so much good material we wanted to find a place to house it. We all got into the control room and took turns singing the first verse of the “Negro National Anthem.” My family used to have to sing it at family reunions. The act in and of itself became something really significant. -Frankie
I wrote the music imagining a Deep South Tangerine Dream Mandy-type revenge story. Frankie, [billy] woods, and Backxwash turned it into an entire epic film. I was so blown away when Backxwash returned my message saying she was down. She is absolutely amazing. A dream really! And woods has put out at least three of my favorite records ever: Aethiopes, Haram, and History Will Absolve Me. Frank did a track with him and Moor Mother on Brass. All these connections felt so natural and built on mutual trust. -Ryan
"Out of Style Tragedy"
In some ways, this is the centerpiece of the album in that it shares a world with “Can the Subbass Speak?”. Live it is an absolute monster. We had so many demos, we almost overlooked it, but Matt added drums and it became undeniable as a more spiritual jazz/ambient-infused relative to what I think is one of our best-ever songs. -Ryan
I believe we first met Mark [Cisneros] through Lee and our D.C. connection at Black Cat. There’s still a real community in D.C. and Black Cat is at its heart. Everyone there is so warm and they have been welcoming to us since the first time we played. Mark came up to Philly for the day and laid down drums, upright bass, flute, saxophone, bass clarinet, and various percussion effortlessly across a number of tracks. He’s one of those people that make you want to stop even trying to play music because he’s so good at everything--haha. But he’s also one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet and he and his wife Alyssa put on one hell of a DJ set. -Frankie
Currently the executive director at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, An Do is someone who lives and breathes the politics Algiers espouses in song. She’s so fiercely eloquent and flawlessly articulate that it's intimidating. She’s also one of the warmest people on Earth and one of my dearest friends. In December 2022 I was in the darkest depression of my life but I was fortunate enough to have people like An and my cousin Gari (featured in "All You See Is"), who loved me and would just sit with me on the phone. After we spoke for a while, I asked to record some of our conversation. This is an excerpt from one of those conversations. -Frankie
"A Good Man"
I love that this has a slight street punk kinda Chubby and the Gang feel to it and then completely disintegrates into some sort of synth bliss before returning to its punk roots. -Ryan
"I Can’t Stand It!"
We have a lot of mutual friends with Jae [Matthews] and Gus [Muller] but we were first introduced to Boy Harsher through our friends Chris and Matt that run the Atlanta-based label DKA who put out their first album. Those guys have been turning me on to new stuff for as long as we’ve shared stages together. -Lee
I met Sam[uel T. Herring] and the rest of the Future Islands guys in London. We were recording our first album and they’d just embarked on a world tour having just played their breakthrough performance on the Late show with David Letterman a few months prior. -Frankie
Lee Moses is an Atlantan, so sampling his heart-on-the-sleeve beat, made so much sense for this track about heartbreak and healing. I remember listening to Jae’s piece in Philly and seeing it reduce Frankie to tears. -Ryan
I fell in love with LaToya [Kent] when we met in Cleveland performing with Mourning [A] BLKstr. She is an inspiration and a guiding light for me in this world. I’m so thankful she is here on this record with us. -Ryan
Again Nadah [El Shazly]’s contribution was so seamless, so enmeshed with the song that if feels like it has always been there. I built this track up using a PE1000 and DSI Tempest and did my best Daringer impression on that bridge. -Ryan
"An Echophonic Soul"
After the tragic loss of Mark Fisher, DeForrest [Brown Jr.] is my favorite living cultural theorist. Soul - Making Theodicy stopped me dead in my tracks when I first heard it, in a way that no other record had for quite some time. It took me a minute before I figured out that this was the same person who had been writing some of the most compelling intellectual analyses of music and culture that I had been reading. It turns out, DeForrest was also one of the first Algiers fans and supporters, owning our original pre-Matador 7” for Blood. We were part of the soundtrack to his college years. Patrick [Shiroishi] is my favorite contemporary horn player. Hidemi is a remarkable work.
Earlier this year, Patrick and I went to see an exhibition and performance by DeForrest at Canary Test Gallery in LA. That evening planted the seeds for a lifetime of collaboration and music making between us. -Lee
I remember admiring Lee Bains from afar and asking him to tour with us — and then I didn’t get to do that tour due to visa issues. Lee brilliantly encapsulates the themes of the record and the times it was recorded in. He is the perfect closer to Rube’s opening. -Ryan
Algiers have a North American tour coming up following their appearance at SXSW. They come to NYC on April 6 at Racket, with support from Party Dozen. All dates below.
ALGIERS - 2023 TOUR DATES
Mar 1 Dresden, DE @ Beatpol
Mar 2 Berlin, DE @ Hole44
Mar 3 Bielefeld, DE @ Forum
Mar 4 Schorndorf, DE @ Manufaktur
Mar 5 Cologne, DE @ Club Volta
Mar 7 Paris, FR @ Petit Bain
Mar 8 London, UK @ The Dome
Mar 13-18 Austin, TX @ SXSW
Mar 19 Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
Mar 20 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
Mar 21 Los Angeles, CA @ Knitting Factory NOHO
Mar 23 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
Mar 25 Portland, OR @ Show Bar at Revolution Hall
Mar 26 Seattle, WA @ Madame Lou’s
Mar 29 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
Mar 30 Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village
Mar 31 Louisville, KY @ Whirling Tiger
Apr 2 Knoxville, TN @ Big Ears Festival
Apr 3 Durham, NC @ The Pinhook
Apr 4 Washington, DC @ DC9
Apr 5 Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA
Apr 6 New York, NY @ Racket
Apr 7 Montreal, QC @ Casa del Popolo
Apr 8 Toronto, ON @ The Garrison