The returning act behind the generation-jolting album Stars On CCTV flew to California to further their long-awaited third album, but found their Middlesex ‘fix’.
“If you go out towards the airport LAX and drive around there’s a slight similarity on a sunny day, but not much else,” recalls singer Richard Archer, who pushed for the band to break out of their comfort zone.
“In Staines we’ve got our own studio. I’ve always been quite geeky about gear and I love that fact we can go there.
“Every song on the album had work done there, but that studio’s like the Millennium Falcon – only certain people can work it and it’s always on the edge of breaking down.
“We don’t want to spend too much money on it in case we don’t use it next time and then we end up using it and going ‘We really need this or that’.
“To go to Los Angeles was like a shot in the arm, a bit like going into the studio for the first time. You walk into this well-regarded studio on Sunset Strip and there’s really talented engineers in there, amazing equipment, a great producer and everything sounds great really quickly.
“There’s always a struggle in our place to get things sounding great. That’s half of what’s great about it, you have to really battle with it.
“Our drummer doesn’t believe human beings can be influenced by their surroundings in any way, but it was a real vibe of feeling different, just mixing things up; that’s what we wanted to do on this album, try a few different things. What’s the worst that could happen? If it doesn’t work, no-one ever hears it.”
Killer Sounds deserves to be heard, however. Returning Hard-Fi to The Leadmill on September 26, it bears the hallmarks of their million-selling 2005 début – which spawned the hits Hard To Beat, Living For The Weekend and Cash Machine – but also some of the bounce and musical depth of chart-topping follow-up Once Upon A Time In The West.
There’s also the familiar reference in one song to a boss making him sweat. “You’ve got to have one of those in there,” quips Richard.
Killer Sounds has been a long, long time coming, however; nearly four years up until the Archer-produced lead single Good For Nothing.
Part of that was due to their choice of top notch producers, namely Stuart Price (Killers, Madonna), Grey Kurstin (Lily Allen) and Alan Moulder (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Killers).
“We took a little time out after the last record, got our heads back together, did a little music tourism around the southern states of America, which was really cool. But when you speak to anyone in the band no-one quite seems to know how it’s taken so long.
“We wanted to work with some different producers just to shake things up a bit, try new things, and if you want to work with good people they’re always busy and you’ve got to wait for them.
“That’s the main reason but even then how did it go from having 30 or 40 ideas for songs in the beginning of 2009 to suddenly it’s the middle of 2011? Time seems to have shot past.
“You spend between a year and a year and a half promoting an album. We were playing in places like Japan and Korea, so I guess the trick is writing on the road and come straight back with a record, but we were just so shattered.
“The first album was so phenomenally successful, which we never expected. We just hoped we would sell enough records to make another one, which was contractually 60,000.
“We were touring that for two years solid, straight into the studio, suddenly there’s a record label involved in making the next one, loads of pressure – ‘You’ve got to be bigger than U2 on this one’, all this kind of crap, ‘It’s got to be out by then because we’ve got shareholders’.
“So it was kind of nice to stop for a second, no-one’s expecting anything, the pressure’s off, let’s just have a right laugh making some music and see what comes out of it’.”
Even so, Rich admits there was a slight fear Hard-Fi might have left it too long to bring their anthemic ways back to a chart awash with formulaic pop and ear-rotting RnB.
“Yeah, sometimes you do feel like you’re yelling into an empty room,” says the frontman.
“We were very aware we were away a long time, but we do not expect to walk back in to number one albums and sold out arena shows. We know we’ve got to win people over again, it’s almost like starting again. We know we have to remind people what we have to offer and that we’re a good band.
“But there’s a good feeling around the band at the moment, a real buzz. We’re really proud of the album, we’ve been playing live better than we ever have been and we’ve got to let people know this.
“It would be a heartbreak to have come out of everything and upped our game and then people not to hear that, so we’ve got to let people know what they’ve been missing.”
Killer Sounds is out on August 22.