The melancholic and soulful voice of Alexis Taylor overlays an explosive, arborous montage in the video for About Group’s new single “All Is Not Lost.” The dramatic images were selected by the Swedish director and artist Henrik Håkansson from his own project, “Aug. 11, 2012 Symptoms Of The Universe Studies (6min 29 Sec)”, that focuses on two individual black alder trees being torn apart in footage that was taken from different angles and at contrasting speeds. Spliced in with this is slow-motion film of butterflies in flight that was shot by Håkansson at high frame rates of 4000-7000 per second. “I had seen his work before and liked the films of insects, flying or being squashed in slow motion. I thought he could make something beautiful,” says Taylor, who splits his time between About Group and his duties with pan-genre dance outfit, Hot Chip. In About Group, Taylor is joined by a trio of fellow English experimentalists in guitarist John Coxon, drummer and founder of This Heat, Charles Hayward, and jazz and reggae keyboardist, Pat Thomas. The quartet’s second album Between the Walls, due out on Domino in July, was recorded with a mix of free-form improvisation and a desire to tap into the emotional resonance of Taylor’s songwriting that permeates today’s bittersweet track.
Where does the feeling of heartbreak in “All Is Not Lost” come from?
Alexis Taylor: It relates to the divide between one’s sense of self, which might be a fantasy, and what others see of you. You can be both a fantasist and a realist—perhaps the two things conflict and perhaps they don’t need to, but either way you are struggling to make sense of it. It’s also about a small child’s unawareness of these potential conflicts: they have joy in playing and don’t measure fantasy against reality, while the adult grows up to see pleasure in sunlight and the dawning of a new day, but also struggles at times to make things work or be happy. It’s about coming to terms with those conflicts.
Could you take us through the process of writing the song?
AT: The lyrics are taken from personal experience, but in terms of chords and subject matter it also owes a lot to R. Kelly’s song “Reality.” I began cycling round the two chords on my Rhodes electric piano, the cyclical “all is not lost” mantra. The chord sequence has the same intervals as those found in hundreds of late 90s and early 00s R&B songs that I love, and I’m interested in the fact that they share these same two minor chords, almost like a modern-day 12-bar blues or gospel equivalent, that you can hear in Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine,” “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” by Jennifer Lopez, “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” by Whitney Houston and almost every R. Kelly ballad on the album R.
What are your top five heartbreak songs?
AT: “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton, “Be Careful” by Sparkle feat R. Kelly, “You Never Really Wanted Me” by Charlie Rich, “Old Friends 4 Sale” by Prince, and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” by Abba.