For Nottingham’s Area 11, the release of Modern Synthesis marks the start of the next phase in the band’s career. The follow-up to their 2013 debut All Lights In The Sky, this record is not only coming out on prestigious UK label Cooking Vinyl (home to Billy Bragg, The Prodigy and Marilyn Manson, among many others), but has already heralded a whole bunch of attention. Yet while the band were fully DIY until clinching that deal – they released their debut on their own label, Smihilism Records – they’d already started to build a reputation and a following. To that extent, while the alternative rock four-piece are extremely happy with the fact that Modern Synthesis hit number 27 in the UK album charts, they weren’t entirely unsurprised, either.
“We’d sold quite a lot on pre-order,” says frontman Tom ‘Sparkles*’ Clarke, “and our fans have been very supportive, even before the record was announced, so we knew that it was going to do okay. I don’t think any of us expected it to do as well as it did. We hoped for a Top 40, but it was a hope, not a guarantee. It definitely did better than we thought it would.”
A collection of upbeat, infectious and epic songs Modern Synthesis is an album that has its sights and ambitions set incredibly high yet which has its feet and its heart firmly in the ground. Emotional and intelligent, Area 11 are a band whose songs are very much inspired by a fictional reality – the band’s name is a reference to the Code Geass anime series and their songs could easily soundtrack scenes from an alternate universe – but which also have deep ties to real life and the world around us all.
“Early on,” explains Sparkles*, who also produced and engineered both records, “it was very influenced by Japanese anime and things like that. But moving forward – and even then – it’s all from own experiences. Whatever you’re inspired by, whether it’s anime or whatever, you end up using that as a metaphor for your own experiences. And so Modern Synthesis is all about us, really, although every song has a lot of different layers to it.”
While it has already come their way, Area 11 – completed by lead guitarist Alex Parvis, bassist and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Kogan and drummer Leo Taylor – aren’t particularly interested in or motivated by commercial success. Rather, they say that what they’re trying to do as a band is simply push boundaries for themselves and explore their own originality and creativity.
“Of course we want to be the biggest band in the world,” says Sparkles*, “but we don’t want to do that by becoming something that we hate. We want to maintain an element of joy about what we’re doing. I’ve already started doing bits of writing for the third record – we’ve been a band for around five or six years now and every year things have been getting better for us. It’s not been this quick thing where we’re suddenly this huge band – it’s been growing slowly and steadily over the past five years where we’re at this new stage now where we’re getting success for what we’re doing, and that’s the most amazing thing, because we haven’t compromised. We’ve never decided to do that and we’re not going to do that in the future, because I think there is room for more dense, more complex music. It’s a niche that needs to be filled, and that’s what makes me excited as a musician and a listener.”
Modern Synthesis is out now on Cooking Vinyl. The band kick off a UK tour tomorrow (July 19): check here for details.