“I honestly thought it was going to last for a couple of shows, tops,” says Mike Kinsella, the band’s lead vocalist and one of its two guitarists. “It was like, ‘Two shows? Sounds fun! Let’s do that!’ What happened next was surprising – as we spent more time together, it felt pretty clear we still all really enjoyed one another’s company. I feel like that’s more than I can say from when the band ended – it didn’t end terribly, but it didn’t particularly well either. I feel like we’ve come to American Football now as adults – as parents, as husbands, as grown men.”
It’s this that has led to the making of the band’s third self-titled album, following on from their 2016 comeback. Although the second American Football LP drew mixed reviews and some criticism for its perceived lack of invention when compared to their cult-classic debut, Kinsella feels that this album will serve as something that will please both older and newer fans. “The way I see it, the second album had to happen in order for this one to exist,” he reasons.
“It was inevitable that the second album was going to live in the shadows of the first one. This one, however, was the four of us recognising what we could do – and, more importantly, what we could do better. I feel as though this album is a lot more in the style of the way that we wanted to do it, if that makes sense.” The expansion of the American Football sound on the upcoming LP also makes way, in a first for the band, for voices that aren’t Kinsella’s. Three of the album’s eight tracks feature guest vocalists: Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell, Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell.
“The parts weren’t written with anyone in mind, but they all became involved quite organically,” says Kinsella. “A lot of it was additional vocal parts that I was singing in falsetto on the demo. As far as ‘Uncomfortably Numb’ is concerned, we had tweaked the chorus so the vocals sounded more like a conversation between two people. Everyone agreed that it shouldn’t be my voice twice, and the idea was floated that it should be a female voice so that it takes on more of a perspective of a relationship. We wanted someone with a bit of theatricality in their voice, which lead us to Hayley – who, thankfully, agreed to do it.”
As for Powell, the collaboration arose after American Football played shows with Land of Talk. “We love her voice,” says Kinsella. “She brings so much more to that song than my voice in falsetto ever could.” Goswell was more of a shot in the dark, as she was someone that the band didn’t know – at least, not personally. “I have been a Slowdive fan since I was a teenager,” Kinsella adds. “In my formative years, she was someone that I really looked up to. We literally just sent through the offer because… well, why not?”
“I can’t believe how well they all turned out,” Kinsella continues. “You won’t find that kind of combination on any other record – the singer in an indie band, a bona fide pop-star and a total legend of music. They all brought depth and a real sense of character to this record.” As for how the record will translate from a live perspective, that’s still up in the air. By Kinsella’s own admission, it hasn’t been their top priority: “We haven’t all been in the same room together since we finished recording,” he says. “We have an email thread going, though. That counts, right?”
American Football (LP3) is out Friday March 22 via Pod/Inertia Music.