Always You is the musical project of brothers Anton and Christoph Hochheim. Both brothers’ musical credentials stretch far and wide within the independent scene with both being previous members of New York synth-pop group, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Anton also playing drums for lo-fi dream-pop outfit Beach Fossils and Christoph having played guitar with Jerry Paper for the last few years. So it’s safe to say that when joined together, the result is as captivating as their resumé’s.
They released debut album Adult Contemporaries back in 2016 under the moniker Ablebody and have now returned with their sophomore album Bloom Off The Rose, a captivating synth-pop and soft-rock journey through heartbreak and longing. We asked the brothers a few questions to get a little more insight into the people behind the music.
What does the title Bloom Off The Rose mean or represent to you?
I wasn’t sure that there was any unifying theme to these songs until long after their completion. Only in retrospect do I recognise it’s a breakup album of sorts, despite being fully blind to that while creating it. Sometimes the songs know it’s over before you do, which can be an unsettling discovery.
We titled the album Bloom Off The Rose for that reason. It’s an idiom that refers to something that’s lost its lustre, which felt like an apt symbol of the slow wane of love. That might give the impression that this album is heavy and morose, but I find it to be grateful and generous, often thankful and wistful in a romantic sense where love remains intact, despite the love no longer serving us. It’s not a typical “love is hard” message, I suppose, hopefully something a little more nuanced.
Is there a story behind your change of name from Ablebody to Always You?
I think that name just ran it’s course for us. It felt like a positive personal mantra initially as I was breaking away from the comforts of a band and pursuing something solo, celebrating my limitations and embracing the flaws that came from doing everything myself. Eventually my brother started helping out, and politically that word started to mean something we couldn’t stand behind. This album represents a new phase musically and otherwise for us, so it only felt right for the name to follow suit.
How much does synth-pop and glam-pop influence your sound?
Synth pop tremendously, glam not as much. We cut our teeth early on with lots of Japanese synth pop (Yukihiro Takahashi, Miharu Koshi, Taeko Ohnuki, etc) and UK groups (China Crisis, The Associates, Prefab Sprout).
I think glam rock and rock in general is an attitude we’ve never jived with, although Sparks were and still are massively inspiring to us. I really admire duos, especially ones with familial ties that can survive through the decades. Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon from China Crisis are also shining examples of how to age in this industry with grace and humility while never compromising your craft.
I’m not sure how apparent it might be, but musically on this record we pulled more from ‘standards’ and masters of songcraft like Burt Bacharach/Hal David, Oscar Hammerstein II, Anthony Newley, Stephen Sondheim, etc. Those songs transcend style and showcase a timelessness of songwriting we could only hope to approach.
What else influences your sound?
Life, loss, relationships…that’s pretty much it ha. I’ve come to terms with the fact that writing music for me is the continual quest for the perfect pop song…and every good pop song is a love song.
Did either of both your other projects with Beach Fossils and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have any influence on the sound of this album?
I think every project we’ve played in and recorded with has influenced us in some fashion, if not sonically then interpersonally which is equally invaluable.
What did Lucas Nathan (Jerry Paper) bring to production duties?
This record would truly not exist if it weren’t for Lucas and their contributions. It’s definitely our most collaborative album to date which was a challenge for me as I tend to guard our songs pretty closely from outside influence.
Lucas is one of my dearest friends which made me a little nervous as collaboration could be challenging but it was shockingly fun and effortless. We have a lot of aesthetic ground in common but the exciting moments were when they’d suggest something that made me uncomfortable. I softened my grip and chose to blindly trust in their vision, even when I had difficulty seeing it myself. In every instance it was the right choice.
What is the biggest influence of your songwriting? Is it diaristic or therapeutic?
I’m not sure that writing is therapeutic for me, think it’s more like wistful wallowing ha? As I grow older I’m constantly making an effort to draw from emotions that are lighter but the difficult ones seem to come much more naturally to me. Oftentimes I won’t think they’re diaristic as I rarely write from my own perspective, sometimes bouncing between two or more characters in a single song. With this album it wasn’t until all songs were finished and assembled that I realised almost every line has some parallel to my life, even the ones where I intentionally tried to write less situationally and more visually.
Do the stories of the relationship you came out of on this album feel nostalgic?
Sure I think it’s only human to feel nostalgic for situations both good and bad. We’re cursed as a species with the ability to look back. Maybe there’s a sense of comfort in it as the future is often too overwhelming or hazy to project. Even when things are good I’m nostalgic for the intensity of life that difficult situations can bring ha. I could only imagine others feel the same?
And do the imagined futures have a sense of future nostalgia?
Of course, I think nostalgia is just a sense of yearning for some imagined sense of perfection, be it past or future. Difficult times have a sense of perfection to them too when I look back at them, a certain romantic magnificence that in reality is probably much messier.
Is nostalgia something you feel a lot? Both in this album and in life generally?
Unfortunately yes ha.
How long have you played music together as brothers?
We’ve played music together since we were in elementary school. We used to perform trumpet duets of our favourite TV show themes and Christmas songs for school assemblies and things. It wasn’t until junior high when I picked up guitar and Anton started playing the drums that we started messing around with our own songs. Back then it was more improvisatory, lots of pedals and looping with no real agenda or aspirations to perform live.
What’s the dynamic of the band? And what does the live set up look like/ hope to look like?
We’ve recently expanded our lineup to a 5 piece which is very exciting. Our longtime friend and guitarist Daniel Rosenbaum is still playing in the current iteration of the band. Our friend Jordan Sabolick who played bass on the record moved to Seattle during the pandemic, so we’ve enlisted Erica Shafer who’s a super talented multi-instrumentalist. Lincoln Mendell is playing keys with us too, so we’re ditching the backing tracks for the first time which has been so liberating. He’s a synth wiz and was able to learn all the details on the record by ear and dial in the sounds perfectly. Really looking forward to bringing this album to life on stage sometime soon.
The music videos feature eccentric characters and people, are they extensions of yourself? Or do they represent something else?
To me the characters in the videos are abstract representations of subjects and themes that appear throughout the album. A song like “Black City Nights” depicts some pretty vivid scenarios, so instead of being too literal we opted for two defeated figures chasing ghosts of their pasts, who despite their struggles maintain a blind sense of optimism that things will get better if they just keep pushing. The diva and sad clown/mime characters seemed to capture that essence, with the missed connection narrative used to portray a sense of loneliness and the lengths people will go to escape it.
Bloom Off The Rose is out now via Shelflife Records/Discos de Kirlian. Purchase here.