Troubled indie rock band Placebo release their first album in three years next week, "an album that shows we are carefree again," frontman Brian Molko told AFP.
"Battle For The Sun" hits stores Monday, opening a new chapter in the life of the three-man band shaken by the departure of drummer Steven Hewitt and quitting the EMI label.
"We felt very free making this album," said British-American musician Molko. "We recorded in Toronto with a new 21-year-old drummer, 3,000 kilometres away from the manager's office, with no record company and no one to stick their nose in."
"We felt we were recording the album we had always wanted to record, when before there were obstacles, producers, the former drummer and lifestyle issues," said Molko, one of the two remaining founder-members of band formed in London in 1994, along with Stefan Olsdal.
Molko, who speaks French because he was brought up the son of a banker in Luxembourg, said the trio almost split on tour after the 2006 release of their previous album "Meds", due to disputes with British drummer Steve Hewitt, and despite growing sales.
"The bigger we got the more we broke up on the inside," said the lead singer of a band that has chalked up 10 million album sales worldwide.
"We'd talk less and less, we'd lost any idea of friendship, of being united against the world. It was depressing, it'd become a job. We weren't a band any longer, we were a brand."
That was when he and Olsdal decided to replace Hewitt, who joined in 1996, by young US drummer Steve Forrest.
"It was quite sad, it was a difficult decision but it was necessary for the survival of the band."
"For Stefan and I the band was the most important thing, but for the old drummer it was what happened off-stage," Molko said. "Stefan and I had a unique connection because we created the band, and Placebo wouldn't exist without me or him."
Placebo to date have released five studio albums, six EPs and 27 singles and have gained wide international recognition, including outside the English-speaking world.
The band, whose style has varied greatly, are best known for hit songs "Nancy Boy", "Pure Morning", "You Don't Care About Us", "Every You Every Me", "The Bitter End", "Twenty Years", "Black-eyed", "Because I Want You" and "Meds".
"The last album was claustrophobic, its atmosphere was suffocating, with little hope. We wanted more colour, to be more positive," he said of "Battle For The Sun" which takes the band in new musical directions, including horns in several numbers, such as "Kings Of Medicine".
"People don't know it but Stef and I are obsessed by the Beatles. We wanted to do something like 'All you need is love'".
After splitting with EMI, Placebo decided to finance the new album itself and sign distribution contracts with independent labels.
"We wanted more control over the release of our records than you can get with a major," he said.
Placebo will be playing at several summer festivals across Europe before touring from October.
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