"It's a rebirth," says Ivy singer Dominique Durand about All Hours [Nettwerk], the New York trio's new album and first release in six years. "We really had no idea where we were going for a long time. But in my mind, I knew I wanted to go back to some kind of innocence, and also a feeling of energy and excitement. I wanted to make a record based on those very basic sensations."
Ivy have certainly journeyed far. The group was formed in 1994 when Andy Chase and Adam Schlesinger convinced Parisian Dominique Durand, who had recently moved to New York and had no aspirations to be a singer, to venture into Chase's studio and try recording four new songs with them. Those recordings, which showcased Durand's intimate, distinctive - and at that point, heavily accented - vocals alongside Chase and Schlesinger's pop melodies and jangly guitars, quickly led to a record deal. Soon Ivy became a real working band, and Durand, who had previously been working as a photographer's assistant, found herself opening for acts like Oasis, Edwyn Collins, and St. Etienne.
After receiving Melody Maker's "Single Of The Week" with their debut 7", "Get Enough", they released their debut EP, Lately, and then their first full-length LP, 1995's Realistic. However, it was with Apartment Life (1997) that they hit their stride. That album, which combined the simplicity and charm of their earlier work with growing sophistication and confidence in the recording studio, received glittering reviews and helped Ivy solidify a loyal fanbase. Long Distance (2001) continued on the trajectory established by Apartment Life, and contained the standout single "Edge Of The Ocean", which quickly became one of Ivy's signature songs and was licensed in numerous films, television shows, and commercials.
The band released a covers record, Guestroom, in 2002, which revealed a mix of influences including Orange Juice, The Go-Betweens, Nick Heyward, and The House Of Love. Then, for 2005's In The Clear, the band enlisted the help of UK producer/mixer Steve Osborne, who had worked with favorites like New Order, Suede, and Doves.
During the band's final, sold out New York show in support of In the Clear, in 2006, Durand closed the evening by simply saying "Goodbye," foreshadowing the band's impending hiatus. "When we did that gig, I had this feeling I wasn't going to be on stage with Ivy for a long time," she says. "It was an abstract feeling, but it was real. We didn't intend to, but we did disappear for a while."
They didn't plan on being away so long. In fact, they initially discussed trying to make a record quickly, and they started working again in the studio soon after finishing that tour. "But when we firststarted recording, we were grasping for inspiration," says Schlesinger. "We did a lot of work, but honestly we weren't too excited about any of it."
In fact, over the next few years, the band wrote and subsequently discarded at least an entire album's worth of songs. But at some point, explains Chase, "we turned a corner and hit on something that felt fresher to us."
That something was a change of working method: they started by building off of rhythms and textures rather than writing primarily on acoustic guitar, which had been Ivy's traditional approach. Chase and Schlesinger, who each began life as keyboard players, allowed themselves to focus less on being a "guitar" band and more on creating compelling, exciting tracks through any means necessary.
The first breakthrough was "Distant Lights", which was to become the leadoff track on All Hours. A slow-building, shifting soundscape with a relentless, hypnotic beat, the song manages to sound simultaneously like classic Ivy and not quite like anything they've ever done before.
"That was a galvanizing moment," says Chase. "We were sent in a direction that we hadn't explored completely and we became more excited about what we were doing than we'd been in a few records." Durand continues, "It's an important song because it started All Hours. We chose it as the album opener because it is a departure."
In a burst of new inspiration, the group came up with a batch of songs that felt related to that one, but still with unmistakable Ivy melodies and hooks. "Suspicious" tells a tongue-in-cheek lyrical tale over handclaps and a bouncy, stripped-down groove; "Fascinated" sounds like a lost 80's synth-pop hit remixed for today. "The Conversation" is a lilting ballad over a jittery beat; the jangly "You Make It So Hard" is reminiscent of early Ivy singles, and yet the keyboard hook and propulsive rhythm ties it to the rest of All Hours.
"Making this album reminded us of how excited we were at the beginning, when we first started writing together," says Schlesinger. Adds Durand, "Returning, there's a sense of victory. I said goodbye, but we're back."