Albert Hammond Jr. on just what he thinks about being described as ‘indie’

“Indie music is when the corporations took away music’s balls and they gave it keyboards and high-pitched singing. I always thought it was lame.”

“I don’t like the term ‘indie’, I always thought it was lame” isn’t the kind of sentiment you’d expect to hear from a figure as seminal to indie rock as Albert Hammond Jr.

As one-fifth of The Strokes and an acclaimed solo artist of his own accord, Hammond has spent the better part of 20 years playing music to legions of adoring fans across the world – but on his latest LP Francis Trouble, it sounds like Hammond is getting started all over again.

Francis Trouble is undeniably Hammond’s most engaging solo effort to date, but it’s one that draws most of its substance from his own personal discovery: the stillborn death of a twin brother named Francis, whose existence Hammond learnt about from an aunt only two years ago.

However, it was the revelation that part of Francis – a lone fingernail – was born alongside Hammond that inspired him to create the alter-ego of Francis Trouble, allowing him to experiment and imagine the bond shared by the two brothers in their brief time together in utero.

“The idea for an alter-ego came before Francis,” Hammond says. “I wanted to do some acting, and I had to face up to the things that made me nervous or afraid, as weird as that sounds. Then I was told the story of Francis by my aunt and it all came together.”

Despite the deeply personal nature of Francis Trouble, the ever-unflappable Hammond claims to have no qualms opening up about the record to the press, describing the alter-ego as a tool of discovery and inspiration throughout the recording process.

“If you want to break it down as simply as possible, alter-egos are just tools – it’s a tool to discover different parts of yourself or tell a story,” he says, laughing away any prospect of vulnerability. “It’s kind of what you do to create and entertain. I’m going to be dead one day, so why not?”

Recorded at his home studio in upstate New York, Francis Trouble captures the essence of Hammond’s energetic songwriting, backed by a cohesive live band in a way that feels organic without having to be perfect – the quintessential factor of any good rock record.

“I definitely wanted to capture the essence of a live band on this record,” Hammond says. “I tried recording everything myself on the AHJ EP, but I’m not really a fan of that – I like bouncing ideas off people. I play guitar solos on some tracks, my guitarist solos on some, there’s a lot of pushing and pulling with the parts that are there. I feel like having that structure gives me more freedom.”

While the attacking twin guitars of Hammond’s solo material and his work with The Strokes is considered by many to be the cornerstone of indie rock music, Hammond surprisingly dismisses the term ‘indie’ – perhaps the outcome of being relentlessly labelled and grouped into non-existent sub-genres by journalists and record executives over the years.

Francis Trouble, I’d say that’s pure rock’n’roll. I don’t like the term indie,” Hammond admits. “Indie music is when the corporations took away music’s balls and they gave it keyboards and high-pitched singing. I always thought it was lame.”

Despite his reluctance to be boxed in as an indie artist, Hammond’s influence on the genre is undeniable – and seemingly ongoing today. In addition to playing headline shows in Melbourne and Sydney, he’s set to perform at Splendour in the Grass, sharing the bill with dozens of bands who would cite The Strokes as an inspiration.

“I think it’s awesome that I’m part of the fabric of the music I fell in love with as a kid and did the same thing for other artists, but I don’t really want to know about it,” Hammond laughs. “The thought that I could have made an impact is an awesome feeling. But I’m just a regular dude.”

Albert Hammond Jr. will perform at Factory Theatre, Sydney on Tuesday July 24, Corner Hotel, Melbourne on Wednesday July 25 with special guest Clews,  and Splendour In The Grass, taking over North Byron Parklands from Friday July 20 until Sunday July 22.