Speaking with Albert Hammond Jr, guitarist for US rock band The Strokes, ahead of his solo festival appearance at Indonesia’s We The Fest last month, it’s clear to see the 38-year-old musician is in a good place ... His fourth solo album, Francis Trouble, came out in March, featuring some of his most exciting songs to date, and he recently completed a European tour jam-packed with headline and festival sets.
“It’s been incredible; the festivals, winning over new fans, and just our shows filling up bigger venues has been really awesome,” said Hammond Jr of his experience performing across Denmark, Germany, France, and Switzerland.
“It’s hard to do favourites, as I’ve had a tremendous time at each one, but festivals are just a different beast [to solo shows] because, unless you’re headlining and everyone knows you, you’re winning people over, on a bigger stage. I’m usually pretty animated normally, but you almost have to step it up a little bit to get their attention.”
To achieve this, the frontman has ditched his trusty white Fender Stratocaster guitar on a lot of his new material, allowing him to be more of a showman – even jumping out into the crowds, as he did in Jakarta at We The Fest last weekend.
“What’s changed me as a frontman, is realising that part of the journey is to feel out the audience. Sometimes they might not know where to go, and you take them somewhere better than when they came in, so when you’re doing that, each show becomes special.”
Changing his performance approach happened both consciously, and by accident.
“I didn’t pay attention to my inner child who wanted to do this from the beginning, and I just wanted to do certain things that having a guitar just didn’t [allow me to]. I also had neck surgery and my index finger is still a little numb from it, so it hurts a lot if I play too much guitar.
It’s almost like the universe was telling me to go rock out without a guitar,” he said, laughing.
The album is Hammond Jnr’s first release on LA-based label Red Bull Records, a partnership which he describes as “the best marriage of business and art that I’ve ever had,” citing the same sense of excitement he felt when he landed his first recording contract with The Strokes as a teenager.
“When I met everyone, and saw the way they fell in love with the record and how much they believed in it, it just felt really good,” he said, detailing how the label and his management detailing how the label has helped get his music on major radio stations and secured TV appearances around the world.
With a new team around him and a new style of performing, Hammond Jr also took a new approach to songwriting for Francis Trouble.
“I finished touring [2015’s] Momentary Masters, and I knew I wanted a visceral record, and for me to be a certain kind of entertainer.”
After branching out into acting, and discovering he had a twin brother who sadly passed away at birth, Hammond Jnr acknowledged that, “something cracked in me, and when I came back to music, I just looked at it differently. This true story gave a supernatural life to an alter-ego and I could give it a whole world.”
Aside from all the touring responsibilities of promoting a new record, Albert also made a cameo appearance for fellow New York indie-rockers Interpol in the music video for their single The Rover. “We just happened to be staying at the same hotel in New Mexico while I was doing press, and they texted me to see if I wanted to feature in it, and it took 15 minutes to shoot. It was just funny, you know when you’re just in the right place at the right time.”
It’s something which could quite easily summarise how the pieces of Hammond Jr’s life have fallen into place for his new album: “a happy accident”.
Albert Hammond Jr’s fourth solo album Francis Trouble is out now.