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The opening track on From Nothing To A Little Bit More, The Lathums’ second album, is an honest introduction. Titled Struggle, it is, frontman Alex Moore says, the “blurb” for their second full-length long-player, an effort that is dark yet optimistic, positive while exuding melancholy and, the band all agree, a step-up from 2021 debut How Beautiful Life Can Be. Getting here has been both spectacular and tough, truths that listeners of From Nothing To A Little Bit More will hear in the record’s eleven tracks.
“All the songs might be about different things,” Alex says, but “it always comes back to the same point: pretty dark things.” The dark things in question are personal. So personal that while he can sing about them, Alex finds direct discussion much more difficult. In general terms, then, grief is the overwhelming theme of From Nothing to A Little Bit More, as experienced by Alex through bereavement and romantic break-up in recent years.
A charming, humorous bravado obscures a sadder core to Alex. “I get sad all the time. There is many different ways of it hurting, isn’t there?” he says. “I’ve seen some pretty dark things, me. I’m not gonna lie to you, I’ve seen some pretty bad things in my lifetime.”
At his absolute core, Alex considers himself “sad and strange”. “Some of the best songwriters have been very sad, strange people. And I believe I’m one of those sad, strange people unfortunately.” While this sadness is clear throughout From Nothing To A Little Bit More, in the rawness of Struggle, the yearning of Calling Out, the morbid anxiety of Sad Face Baby, there is joy too. Lucky Bean was a song written for Alex’s now ex, a love lost, and is performed in the present tense despite a break-up that clearly affected Alex, and by extension, the whole band dramatically.
Closer Underserving, too, oscillates between genuine melancholy as evidenced through Scott’s Smithsian guitar-playing and Alex’s lyrical journey to being “happy with myself and all the friends that I have met.” Luck has not completely left Alex’s life either. While The Lathums are now a trio after the departure of bassist Johnny Cunliffe last year (anothersource of grief to overcome together), it’s obvious that the remaining unit of The Lathums: Alex alongside guitarist Scott Concepcion and drummer Ryan Durrans are a strong one indeed.
“This is my happy place,” Alex says. Scott and Ryan have not only been there through Alex’s lowest moments, but the trio have been through things together too. “There were some times during recording sessions where I was not in a good way. These men had to live with me in a small house.” “We had fun,” Scott insists.
Besides all the sadness and strangeness The Lathums have experienced together, their relatively short time as a band led to some pretty wild things. A number one album in How Beautiful Life Can Be, for starters. Sold out dates at iconic venues including Blackpool Empress Ballroom, a Europe-wide tour support slot with The Killers and heading into Abbey Road for a recent acoustic session, for three more. It was frontman of The Killers, Brandon Flowers, a Lathums fan, who sent them a rough vocal demo of him performing their peppy single, How Beautiful Life Can Be, from his hotel room to theirs. Later, Alex performed the song on stage with Brandon in Amsterdam. “It’s mad that, for the past four years, we’ve not worked a day in our lives. Every day is a weekend!” says Alex.
The trio hope that these new messed up but beautiful songs will help people, as the first album did. “It’s worthy of people listening to it and it connecting with people. It deserves to be out there on the radio, it deserves to be listened to. It has proved that it can help people.” How Beautiful Life Can Be connected with people, but this second album is certain to hit even harder thanks to its direct lyrics and the obvious pain that went into it. It is also, as Ryan says, a “step up”. “We were fucking so young when we started doing this shit,” he says. Scott agrees: “I’ve got an understanding of all the different instruments now…well, guitar and piano. I did a full take of Turmoil on the piano after a trained, classical pianist had shown me the arrangement.”
Much of this development comes from age - Alex, Scott and Ryan were all born between 1999 and 2000 and are just now becoming men - but there is the added push of several motivators in the studio. One of them is Alex himself (“I get a bit obsessed and go down a dark rabbit hole”), though it certainly helps to have Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian collaborator Jim Abiss at the production helm. A special mention comes for John Kettle, a man who was once the boys’ college teacher and who has helped make How Beautiful Life Can Be and From Nothing To A Little Bit More into the triumphs they are. “He’s in another realm,” Alex insists. Acting as a pre-production “wizard” of sorts, Kettle helped Moore, Concepcion and Durrans to craft their highly developed, emotive songs on several occasions, touching into realms of new wave and even the darker corners of post-punk.
Turmoil may do what it says on the tin, but in a deeply touching way: “that was written whilst I was in love, but I’m not now” Alex comments in the jocular tone he uses to hide all of his pain. He shows a similar English tendency towards levity when discussing Crying Out, a song that was written a long while ago but that fits seamlessly into the record. “I’ve only had like one girlfriend, and ‘Crying Out’ was before that. It’s like three different steps all in one album. Pre, during, and post-relationship. All of them are horrible,” Alex grins.
If opener Struggle is the record’s blurb, then eight-minute-long closer Undeserving is the postscript: “It’s like I’m talking to people about what they’ve just listened to and what it all means,” Alex notes. “It was like I was talking to someone. It all just fit…it freaked me out a bit.” As for Facets, that’s a quilt of a song, patched together from “about five different tunes” over a period of years. The version you get here is a stunningly cogent edit, though one day we may also hear the “heavy”, experimental version. They’re all songs that will soon be those of the people, just as the tracks on How Beautiful Life Can Be quickly became.
Brandon Flowers may be one fan, but The Lathums seem as excited by humbler devotees. Like, for example, a classroom full of primary school children: “We went into a school the other week, and they knew us! They knew who we were and they liked the songs!” The trio are also delighted to note that several older fans have picked up instruments because of them: “There are bands kicking about that came to our gigs on the first headline tour we had.” What’s obvious is that The Lathums are proud of each other, and proud of their band. For Alex, it may be a way to deal with his sadness, but it is also a dream he never knew he had coming true.
For Scott and Ryan, it is a way to develop their musicianship, a way to live a life free from responsibilities, and a way to support their friend through his grief. Happily, for the rest of us, the joining of these three young men has resulted in some wonderful songs, the best of which can soon be found on From Nothing To A Little Bit More. Sometimes their excitement and focus present as confidence, something they could not be blamed for feeling. Alex disagrees. “Do you think we’re confident?” he says, shaking his head absentmindedly. “Just proud.”
“There’s not really much that can stop us at this point” he goes on, “We’ve got loads of tunes. We care about what we’re doing and we’re going to see how we can take full advantage of this. As we get older and more experienced it will only get better… it can only get better really. The Lathums are different. And we’re on the way to cementing that.”