Late Night Alumni, a group that stands out for its ethereal vocals and sophisticated production, is set to release their highly anticipated 5th studio album Eclipse in June (pre-order here). What originated as a side project by Ryan Raddon (Kaskade) with fellow producers John Hancock and Finn Bjarnson along with vocalist Becky Jean Williams, Late Night Alumni has taken off over the 10-plus years since its formation. Spearheaded by Becky and John, the touring face of Late Night Alumni, the duo embraces the live aspect within their performance and have the unique cross between a DJ and a band.
Upon discovering Late Night Alumni a few years ago, I had been immediately hooked to the distinct vocals and down-tempo beats. As someone who holds a huge amount of respect for artists who put on a truly live performance, I was blown away after seeing Becky and John’s flawless live show in Chicago over two years ago. I had the amazing opportunity to catch the duo again a few weeks ago, and got to hear some old favorites as well as new songs hot off their forthcoming album. Check out what Becky and John had to say on Eclipse, the influence of their musical backgrounds, and their DJ-band crossover.
It’s been nearly 10 years since Late Night Alumni’s release of debut album Empty Streets, and now you have your fifth album Eclipse due this summer. You’ve described the album as being “inspired by the duality of human nature. We can’t be defined. We are how we see ourselves and we are the someone that everyone sees. We are cycles of change. We are idiosyncrasies and nuances. We are no one thing. No man is an island, but every man, an eclipse.” How does the album express this duality?
Becky: I think the album express this duality lyrically and musically. We’ve captured a variety of sounds and emotions. Many of the lyrics deal with the multiple sides of ourselves…sides that sometimes seem contradictory. We do this with the music also. There’s “Runaway,” and then there’s “Legion.”
How would you describe the new, or renewed, sound you have for Eclipse?
Becky: I don’t think I’d call it new. We always say we’ll try something new, but we just always end up writing what we love, which is a variety of songs.
John: And we actually wrote a lot more material than we used so that we would have more to chose from. We completely finished 20 songs but had to chose only 10 for the album. It made for difficult choices but it was great to have a lot of options this time.
“The This This”, a single off your Eclipse album, was released last month, and the music video shows the two of you in meditating positions through the majority of the video. What was the meaning behind the song, and what is “this”?
Becky: “This” is different to you than it is to me. The video delves into our sense of self, the different situations we find ourselves in, and how they shape and change us.
What are some songs from Eclipse that are particularly memorable or hold a special meaning for each of you?
Becky: My favorites are “Legion,” “In The Middle,” and “The This This.”
John: I’ll add “Joan of Arc”, “Shades at Night,” and “Runaway” to those.
The two of you are the main faces when on tour, but Late Night Alumni started as a side project by Kaskade (Ryan Raddon) and his friend Finn Bjarnson. Ryan has his solo touring schedule as Kaskade, but his label Arkade will be releasing the Eclipse album. How is the group dynamic and collaboration process among the four of you?
Becky: John and I have essentially been handed the keys to the car. Finn and Ryan are still involved with producing — they just don’t tour with us.
John: Musically, things are about the same. But Becky and I are now trying to see what else we can do with LNA beyond it being a fun studio project only. We love to perform so this makes sense for us. LNA is also so much more work for us now, but we’re enjoying the process and learning a lot.
Both of you have backgrounds that were not in electronic music, which I feel like are what gives Late Night Alumni such a unique sound. Becky, you grew up listening to folk music, British pop and alternative. And John, you’re classically trained in a lot of instruments including brass, strings and piano. How has your different musical influences affected your creative processes for Late Night Alumni?
Becky: For me, I always have lyric ideas on hand for reference. The music I have always been drawn to has been the kind with more in-depth and cerebral lyrics; words perfectly put to music. From an early age I aspired to first become a writer, then a musician.
John: I’ve been lucky enough to have a very broad musical career, stylistically. And even more lucky to have a project like this that lets me use a little bit of everything I’ve learned. I think that any artist brings their entire musical past with them to new projects, whether they want to or not.
Very few artists incorporate a totally live element to their performance — it’s great that we get to hear Becky with live vocals and see John playing instruments live. I’ve read you describing Late Night Alumni as a cross between a DJ and a band. How do you think this DJ-band setup sets you apart, and what are some challenges that come with it?
Becky: Well, we’re playing live in a club setting, which is unique. It makes it more interesting to watch, but it is also difficult to get the sound just right because clubs are usually set up for DJs and not live music. Some venues work better than others.
John: We’d love to have more live players with us, and we hope to move in that direction. But we’re also making sure that we can fit into any performance environment, from us both being in the booth to being on a large festival stage.
Becky, you’re really into vintage fashion, and the outfits you wear for your live performances definitely make a statement. What drew your attention to vintage fashion? Any favorite designers?
I’ve loved vintage fashion since high school. Treasure hunting for old fancy clothes in thrift stores is a mild obsession of mine. I’m not a designer brand expert. I just buy what I like, I don’t care if it’s a $10 dress from a thrift store, or a $100 vintage inspired dress from ASOS. If I like it, I wear it.
In addition to Eclipse‘s release in June, do you have any other upcoming projects or collaborations?
Becky: I might get in trouble if I say anything about that. 😉
John: It will probably be time to start the next album!