Francis Is the Mask, Albert Hammond, Jr. the Message

Founding member of the Strokes Albert Hammond, Jr. has built his own, complicated identity in his solo work

Before Albert Hammond, Jr. even had a name for his album, he was already thinking of "doing an alter ego." Understandably, as a member of the Strokes, it's a little hard for him to avoid context and premature evaluation in his solo work.

"So, when I found out, slash got reminded, about this story in my life.... What a way for an alter ego to be born," he told me over the phone last week, his voice going in and out over a shaky connection.

When Hammond, Jr. was still in the womb, his mother had a miscarriage, which resulted in the stillborn death of what would have been his twin, Francis. And so "Francis Trouble," his 2018 album, came to fruition -- an exploration of the fingernail fragments of identity and biography, alter ego or otherwise.

Importantly, according to Hammond, Jr., "None of the songs, lyrically, are about anything personally" -- at least not literally, anyway.

According to his Bandcamp, "Francis Trouble" is "a mask the message wears." Hammond, Jr. is the message. 

Right now, the message is working closely with producer Gus Oberg on his next solo album, which is already "leaps and bounds above" anything they've done before, according to Hammond, Jr. They've also been contributing their levity, talent and hijinks to Natalie Imbruglia's new record. 

Unlike the tenuous cohesiveness of identity, the kind of chemistry that Hammond, Jr. and Oberg have in the studio is something that can't be torn.

Albert Hammond, Jr. headlines the Belly Up on Sunday, Feb. 24. Get tickets here.

Rutger Ansley Rosenborg has been with NBC SoundDiego since 2016. Find out more here.

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