Night Call (Deluxe)

Night Call (Deluxe)

A lot changed for Olly Alexander in the lead-up to Night Call. Years & Years—the pop trio the singer/actor had been part of since 2010—had irreparably grown apart, just as Alexander was taking time out to film Russell T. Davies’ intensely moving AIDS drama It’s a Sin. Then, of course, there was the pandemic. “It felt like there was these really big events happening and the music I’d been making up to that point didn’t feel relevant to my life anymore or the world outside,” Alexander tells Apple Music. “I had to go back to the drawing board and think, ‘What do I actually want to make? What is Years & Years?’” The answer to those questions arrives in Night Call, Alexander’s first solo record as Years & Years, on which the singer dives headfirst into an after-hours world of dance, disco, and ’80s pop, often fused with eerie elements to produce what he’s calling “spooky pop” (see “Crave” or “Immaculate”). Mostly made in the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, this is an album about bringing the dance floor to you (“Starstruck,” “Sweet Talker”), but—much like the ’80s music that inspired it—the ebullient pop here also cloaks more painful subjects, from grief (“See You Again”) to heartbreak (“Make It Out Alive”) and, most often, Alexander’s sometimes tricky relationship with intimacy and desire. “There are some of the parts of the record where the optimism is dialed to 10 and then the confusion gets more prominent,” says Alexander. “But I like that you can feel all those different feelings in one moment.” Read on as Alexander talks us through Night Call, one song at a time. “Consequences” “As soon as I heard the demo of this song, I was like, ‘This is the opening track to the album.’ I felt like it was a bold statement, signaling the start of the new chapter. I had been listening to Prince and Stevie Wonder and was like, ‘What would a Years & Years song be that really referenced them?’ ‘Consequences’ is about saying ‘You really deserve to suffer for this’ to the people you wish you could say it to.” “Starstruck” “We had a week in the countryside and ‘Starstruck’ was a really off-the-cuff moment at the end of one night. We had an instrumental that [producer] Mark [Ralph] had been working on, and me and Coffee [aka producer and songwriter Clarence Coffee Jr.] just started singing over it. The song felt very instant. I liked it, because I hadn't really had a song like that before where it was just really upfront like, ‘Yeah, I'm going to have a good time.’” “Night Call” “I wanted something that felt really camp. A lot of the songs I was really loving were about hookups. And we were joking around thinking about what's another term for a hookup? And it was ‘Night Call.’ I wrote the song from the position of knowing what you want and not being afraid to ask for it.” “Intimacy” “It was the same week we wrote ‘Starstruck’ and I'd been talking about intimacy a lot. Coffee really pushed me. He was like, ‘You should go there. This song is about sex. It’s about being conflicted about the kind of sex you want to have, or the kind of intimacy you want.’ That’s my experience of it.” “Crave” “This felt like so many different elements that I’d be working on coming together in one song that really pleases me. I was thinking about how an ABBA song switches between major and minor key, and it was like, ‘Let's try and push it as much as we can and really make it a fun club record, but that feels just like this spooky dance track.’ I loved putting in kink and using it for a pop song. That amuses me.” “Sweet Talker” (with Galantis) “‘Sweet Talker’ is a bit of a departure. I really wanted there to be an upfront dance banger on the album. I was really inspired by yearning tracks [by artists] like Robyn and wanted it to feel very much like you could play it in the club. I wrote it with Max Wolfgang and Mark Ralph, and Galantis came in and brought the string section.” “Sooner or Later” “I imagine this nighttime record to feel like a dream. I was dreaming about men and dreaming about previous relationships. And during lockdown, the only places I could really go were my dreams. I wanted this to feel like it had this drive and purpose. It’s fun, but it has a hard edge. It’s really unsettling, but hopefully, because it's me, people know that I'm not actually going to stalk this person.” “20 Minutes” “I made this in LA, back in 2019. I wasn't over my previous relationship, and was having these blundering, quite embarrassing encounters with different men in different countries. And I had written a lot of songs about how that had made me depressed. But I wanted a song that was actually more celebratory of what a hookup can sometimes be.” “Strange and Unusual” “At some point in the process, you just want to make something that sounds really different to everything else you've been working on. ‘Strange and Unusual’ came from that. It really reminded me of music that I loved growing up, like Zero 7 and Morcheeba. I've been called strange and unusual. I wanted it to be like, ‘It's strange and unusual, but it's beautiful.’” “Make It Out Alive” “Another one I had from 2019, when it was much more lo-fi. This version has that sweet spot of nostalgia and the euphoric feeling I get when I hear Kate Bush’s ‘Cloudbusting.’ This is definitely the most emotional track, and at first I wondered if it was jarring to have it on the album, because a lot of the songs are about wanting to have fun. This one is like, ‘I don't know if I'm going to make it out alive.’ But that's very much how it goes sometimes [in a breakup], isn’t it?” “See You Again” “This song is about my gran, who died at the beginning of 2020. I was really close to her and the grieving process was a wild experience. This makes me feel close to her. That said, I didn’t necessarily want you to know that it was me talking about my gran, because a lot of the other songs had been about this feeling of lost love, or not knowing where love is. It fitted in with the rest of the themes.” “Immaculate” “I wrote this with Max Wolfgang, George Reid, and Mark Ralph, who I did ‘Sweet Talker’ and ‘Night Call’ with. I love the word ‘immaculate’ and basically wrote this song around it. I wanted it to feel in line with that spooky pop.” “Muscle” “I wrote this in LA. I go to this really old-school gym called Body Builders there. I find gym culture really fascinating, especially gay gym culture. In LA, a lot of the gay guys I would see out and around West Hollywood and at the gym were just really muscly, and I just thought, ‘Wow.’ I'm really inspired by George Michael, and how upfront he was about his sexual desire. I wanted to reference house music but have my fun gay spin on it.” “Reflection” “This song was born from anxiety around meeting someone and knowing that you'll possibly have a doomed connection—dramatic as that sounds. This was written in autumn/winter 2020. I had a moment during lockdown when I just felt like I had a real personal identity crisis. It was: ‘What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What's the point of anything?’ And really all that time by myself, thinking about myself, was a lot. Reflections show up in my songs, because it's always the search of who you are, your identity.” “A Second to Midnight” (with Kylie Minogue) “I had a song which I loved, but I could never make it work. Kylie was listening to stuff for her record and she heard it and said, ‘Can I rewrite bits of it? Do you want to feature on it with me?’ It was the best day of my life! She's such a pro, but she's also a wonderful human.” “Starstruck (Kylie Minogue Remix)” “Kylie kept so many of us going through the pandemic. She released DISCO in the middle of lockdown, and I love that record so much. And I've known her for a few years and had sung with her on stage before. When I put out ‘Starstruck,’ she said how much she liked it. And we were thinking, ‘Who can we get on the song? She would be perfect.’ I never thought she would actually say yes.”

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