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You’ve been a part of 5 Seconds of Summer for so long – how did it feel to suddenly break away from the band and work on an album as a solo artist? Was it scary at all?It was definitely scary, the start of it sort of happened by accident though. I was obviously at home for over a year, I love song writing, I love trying to better myself and that department is important to me. So naturally I started writing songs on my own and trying to push myself in that way, and then I stumbled into it being a separate project. It was more the challenge of, “can I write and create a body of work on my own?” Then as I started to get closer to that ending, I was like, “oh okay, this is actually a real thing”. It definitely is frightening but the love from the band to allow me to do it is integral, it wouldn't have happened without their blessing. But yeah, it happened naturally, it wasn't really a premeditated thing.
You’ve described the album as “a project that grew out of a year of forced stillness” and said that it allowed you to decipher the last 10 years of your life. Can you talk more about what you were reflecting on when you were writing the songs?Yeah. So the whole album basically revolves around trying to decipher the last 10 years and all the things that are put on the back burner. I'm sure a lot of people can relate to that, not even from a touring standpoint but I feel like everyone had to take stock of their lives and be like, “am I happy doing this?” I think people all over the world were like “oh okay, maybe I need to figure stuff out, like I need to spend more time with my family”, and things like that. If you're working all the time and constantly moving, you never really get to take stock. I've been in the band since I was 15, and then we toured a lot in the last 10 years, so I hadn’t been in the same city for this long since I was 15. It was definitely a forced stillness and I think the only way for me to figure out all of what happened was to write music. That's kind of my love language, and it was very cathartic to figure out all those things. So it deals with all of that stuff and a lot of it is written from now, looking back from a bird's eye view. I guess hindsight is 20/20, but the song was written from the perspective of being in the thick of it, and trying to figure it out as a young adult. It’s honestly all based around that, there’s some sort of connection in every song to “Facing The Things We Turn Away From” and that phrase.I wanted to ask you about that phrase actually, were there any topics that were really hard to write about – that you wanted to turn away from?Yeah, it's hard because it's obviously a very cathartic thing. I think at the start of writing it was less intense topics, and then once I broke the seal I was more comfortable writing about harder things, like vices, and going through family history. It was honestly like going back into the headspace of being a 16-17-year-old kid in a very strange, but amazing, situation. Trying to put myself back in that headspace was the strangest one but honestly it helped me figure it out.So it was kind of a way of processing everything that’s happened in your life… that sounds really therapeutic.Yeah definitely, and that was probably the strangest one because a lot of the lyrics come back from that place of five years ago, so you're going back some time. I guess that was the hardest, but it's all things I sort of already knew, I just wanted to put it in a body of work. There wasn't anything that I was like, “man, this is hard to write about”. It is definitely emotional and brings up a lot of good and bad memories and feelings but there wasn't anything I wasn't open to because, from my brain, it needed to happen. It was like a need to write this and a need to express this feeling and make the music around it have the same sort of sonic feeling.It’s so different to the music you’ve been writing up until this point for 5 Seconds of Summer, was your creative process different too?Yeah, I've been in 5 Seconds of Summer for so long that it was second nature to write for the band, so it took a minute for me. When we first went into lockdown I was writing a lot of songs on my own and trying to do more production, with no intention of it going anywhere, and all those had a very 5 Seconds of Summer sound and lyrical tone to them. I liked them as well, but it took me a minute to break through that and then get to something else. Although this album was very challenging musically - it was ridiculous amounts of time spent on songs and lots of versions and different parts - it was very much a relaxed process, because I would wait for an idea to come. I could just not write anything for a couple of days, and then suddenly an idea would come and then I would chase after that, as opposed to chasing an idea in the studio, you know what I mean?For sure, it's more organic.Exactly, and then if I couldn't finish a part I would just leave it for a couple of days or a week or a month and come back to it when the inspiration was there, which I’ve adopted now as a new writing style.
That sounds so freeing!It definitely is! Except when there’s no ideas…Did you collaborate with anyone when you were producing the record?After I'd written some songs at home in that first lockdown period, the first person I met was Sammy Witte, and we just fell into it and made the whole album together. For me it was super important just to have one person for the whole thing, and just have one base. I really hit it off with him and we made the whole album. There's a couple of songs that I wrote with Sierra, my fiancé, and there's a couple of songs with John Hill, but it's mainly me and Sam for a lot of it.You were quarantining with Sierra when you made the album too, how did you go about creating songs together?It was funny with Sierra cos she's a songwriter and so she was doing a bunch of Zoom sessions throughout the whole lockdown period so our house was like a musical song writing creative house. We’re always in the house together so whenever I’d have an idea that I’d feel like she'd be great at, or we’d be sitting at the piano, or she’d hear what I was playing or vice versa, then we’d just go from there. I know her quite well now so I can sort of tell what she'd be good at, like if I couldn't finish something or figure out where to take an idea then I'd be like “I should bring in Sierra, she would be able to finish this”.Would you ever release a joint album together?I mean, why not? Honestly not a bad idea! I'll take that idea I think (laughs).If we keep writing songs together I think maybe it would flourish into something bigger, but I guess we'll see. That would be a third project, we’ll see how much time we’ve got in the calendarWho were your biggest musical influences when you were working on the album?I went through a couple of phases in the lockdown. It's funny because I love these big grandiose productions, I mean you can hear it in “Starting Lines”, lots of strings and almost trying to be like Pink Floyd. I listened to a lot of Pink Floyd, Arcade Fire, M83, Flaming Lips, War on Drugs. All these big strings and synths and big guitar sort of productions like they have, is very juxtaposed by how singer-songwriter a lot of the lyrics are. I went back to a lot of George Harrison and Neil Young. The record has all this ethereal, big, grand production, and then that’s mixed with very introspective lyrics.As you begin this new trajectory as a solo artist, whose musical career are you taking inspiration from?It's an interesting one, because obviously I love being in the band and I love being the fourth member of 5 Seconds of Summer, but someone I’ve seen do something separate well is Brandon Flowers from The Killers. I love that he has a place where he can go and it seems like the band is really fine with it, and they also have their own solo things. As a career I like that a lot, it just seems like a creative place that he can keep going back to. And obviously he’s in The Killers, and they’re fucking rad. But I think from a career arc and for doing a separate thing, that’s a pretty nice one to align myself with.So you won’t be leaving the band anytime soon?Oh no, I’d love to keep doing 5 Seconds of Summer’s albums and then every now and then come back to the Luke Hemmings project as another outlet. It's just honestly the dream for any sort of artist to have multiple creative outlets, whether it's painting or writing or whatever. For me, song writing is such a huge love of mine so to have two places to put that creative energy is a blessing.Words and interview by Octavia AkoulitchevPhotography: Shane McCauley
Stylist: Carolina Orrico
Groomer: Candice Birns
Art Director/Prod: Milan Miladinov
Editorial Director: Huw Gwyther
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