Sunderland indie-rock favourites The Futureheads, who have returned from a six-year break, have announced the release date for their long-awaited new album.
Powers, their sixth studio offering, will be their first guitar-based record in almost a decade. It will be released on The Orchard label on August 30.
Their previous one, The Chaos, was released in April 2010. Their last album before their split, 2012's Rant, was entirely a cappella.
Recorded and self-produced at Newcastle's First Avenue Studio, Powers is a record which is said to contain some of the most vital, invigorated songs the band have made since their early days.
Having first emerged at the beginning of the noughties as part of a swarm of guitar bands, the quartet, with their proud Mackem accents and spiky, playful sensibilities, immediately stood out from the pack.
Guitar-playing vocalists Barry Hyde and Ross Millard, bassist David 'Jaff' Craig and drummer Dave Hyde amassed five critically-acclaimed albums, headlined countless tours and earned an NME Single of the Year accolade for their iconic cover of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love
In 2013, after the tour to promote Rant, the members went off to pursue their own projects, and most people thought that was that until they announced in January this year that they were reuniting.
A series of live shows saw the reinvigorated band attract rave reviews, and though they could probably rely on the successes of old to push them through the next couple of festival seasons, that isn't – and hasn't ever – been the point.
Jekyll, the lead single from the new album, has received radio plays from 6Music’s Steve Lamacq, Marc Riley and Shaun Keaveny, who made it his single of the week.
“Obviously it’s an absolute privilege to come back and still have fans and that’s something to cherish,” says Ross, “but I also think we’ve got a bit of a job to do about letting people know that there’s more to this band than you might have thought.”
Across the album, the band push further, melodically and lyrically, than ever before; there's no safety net here, but a band putting everything out there and driving it to the wire again.
“I love the thing Bowie said about how an artist should be slightly out of their depth because that's when you get the good stuff,” Barry adds. “Or as David Lynch says, 'If you want to catch the big fish, you've got to go deep.'”
The frantic rattle of Headcase and its emotional flipside Animus - one rooted in mania, the other depression - find Barry dredging down to the problems that put a stopper on the band in the first place.
“My main thing was about accepting how my mind works and then trying to love that. The danger of mental illness is becoming trapped in something like depression; you can't stay manic for too long, you end up sectioned or probably dead because you become so uncaring about your own safety,” he explains. “I'm not a victim of my own mind any more.
"I take responsibility for my mind and my actions, and those two songs speak to that.” Conversely, the elegiac 7 Hours, 4 Minutes is a love song to his partner and young daughter that's more literal and sentimental than anything they've ever penned.
“We had a home birth, she had a paracetamol and that was it. At midnight her waters broke, and then Nico my daughter came at four minutes past seven. That song's a little monument to my first born.”
The album's propulsive lead single Jekyll comes laden with a self-professed “monstrous riff for monstrous, preposterous times”, but it's the spoken word diatribe of Across the Border which lands the biggest hammer-blow in terms of unapologetic, outraged social commentary.
“As a band, we were always interested in personal politics and behaviour, but we never spoke about the state of the nation or big picture politics,” Ross begins, “but in the meantime the world’s changed so much and there are things to really kick against.
"We live in a region that’s somehow or other been tagged as the poster boy for Brexit, and the misinformation and aggression that this referendum has brought out in people has become a really terrifying thing that I haven’t seen in my lifetime. It's a defining moment in British politics that’s impossible to ignore if you’re making art.
“The record we’ve made is a little off kilter and maybe a little more out of step than you might expect from four lads in their 30s. I think it might surprise people,” smiles Ross.
The last word on the new material goes to Barry: “There's power and sophistication and simplicity, and it's bloody hard to play, which I think will keep the shows interesting because we're on the edge of our abilities with this. It's musical audacity: that's what this album's about.”
The Futureheads have just finished a successful tour of the UK which included a sold out show at The Garage, London. This summer they will play festivals across the UK and Europe, including Corbridge Festival in Northumberland on June 29, and a hometown show at the Bonded Warehouse in Sunderland on September 4.