The pursuit of freedom seems something so integral to our lives under liberal democracies, but to what extent is it real? Is freedom really the quest of me or you, or just a half-arsed or false venture? When you are really free, there are no longer expectations and without them, all you have is yourself. It's a notion central to the philosophy of Sartre, particularly when he declared, "man is condemned to be free because once thrown into the world he is responsible for everything he does."
Sometimes people get comfortable in expectation but once you were free of all these things was it a scary space to be in. Was it exhilarating I ask the Daniel and Andrew Aged, who comprise of the California-based Inc. neatly fitting into what is perhaps the most interesting genre concoction since blue-eyed soul, PBR&B. We're chatting via Skype – a geographic bridge from their LA base to my Sheffield flat and the line crackles, at times taking the incredibly tender voice of Andrew with it. His incredibly soft voice seems indicative of a sensitive soul, someone who is ultra perceptive – a listener more than a talker. "I feel personally like I'm a test or a guinea pig" he replies, "like when people test chemicals on animals. It feels like that with certain with social pressures or social influences or media – things like that you know. If you really expose yourself to all of that and open yourself up and let them in it feels like it can be pretty overwhelming sometimes."
The 405 readers' may have first heard of the band when they released their 2011 EP 3. To many they seemed like a Prince pastiche, and it perhaps fairly easy to see why, even if you don't agree. Songs like 'Heartcrimes' with it's understated vocal presence and 80s like synths could have been taken straight from 'The Artist Formerly Known As Prince' era, perhaps even sooner.
The move from making solid EPs as a proto-band to a full-length as a fully formed group is a challenge that not many people speak about. How would they choose to attack this issue – to prove to the detractors that they weren't some (blue-eyed) pastiche of Prince or another sun-kissed California band with a sense of entitlement because they were, well, Californian? They responded in a logical way - by merely relinquishing these very suppositions and expectations. Their first full-length album would not only be a cathartic venture but an existential experiment. The clue is in the title, No World. Inc. abstracted from the worldly expectation and were left with nothing but themselves, just as Sartre proposed; freedom from earthly worship, freedom to want.
Andrew continues, "the only way we find success in making music we were happy with was being as free as possible. We hope that it's a freeing force you know? Blow a gust of people into a chaotic world and open people and help them and heal them. In a sense No World was a mantra we started to have, we don't even know where it came from. It was kind of like a spirit or a feeling. There were ways that that manifested; we found that we'd have to steer clear of culture and forces that are not free. By any means we were not considering outcomes or consequences. No World is about letting go and being you."
Inc. would be the first band to say that this project is one that has been tried and tested. They had to surround themselves with artists who had attempted the same thing. "I think there's a general move to steer clear of influence. We had enough going on in our emotional space and our life. It was kind of hard to hear music at times just because it was a fragile state and that was generally a feeling. We did identify with certain people that seemed to feel like they were in that state too." They name check PJ Harvey, D'Angelo and Aphex Twin, and more pertinently - gospel music. "Yeah a lot of gospel music because it's free from the world, free from culture, kinds of things that are trying to go 'inside'. Like Meshell Ndegeocello and that song she has called 'Comfort Woman' on her album Bitter."
Upon creating an environment in which they could truly flex their freedoms, what implications did this have for their album? "I think this gave us an opportunity to understand what we are in a more focused way I think we were finding that our palate was becoming clearer and only certain things were conveying the right message to us at the time. There wasn't very much experimentation going on, it was more like finding certain sounds, and words and poetry and melodies that could communicate a certain emotion. So it was a lot of whittling down to a more solid form." Andrew interjects, "maybe more refined, or minimal I don't know. Just clarity – we had these really clear ideas and we were trying to make them clearer basically."
Inc. have just one request from those who will listen to No World, and it makes perfect sense. Listening to No World, this should be the album to end all comparisons, "I haven't felt any of that, I think it's clear that there's a voice. Like when I'm singing those songs I mean, that's Andrew singing, that's an artist. I'm not thinking about anything else, I'm somewhere else. So I assume that if people are clear minded that's what they're going to hear." Daniel adds, "I think the only thing about it is that it can get in the way of people coming to the music freely. I think that's one of the main problems, especially with press – when they put the music in a box and put some boundaries around it then people end up hearing it that way and don't have a chance unless they're really strong and weren't exposed to it, they don't have a chance to come to it from their own place so."
One thing that must be made clear is that their philosophy is not one that that fits into fads concocted by journalists or tastemakers. In the past year R&B has become more credible to the indie crowd, but this isn't something that matters to Inc. "This isn't some playful little blog thing for us. We didn't know we'd end up being in this band but we always try to go back to the source and go to the masters, go to church and learn how people play and from people," Daniel says before adding, "you got to remember this thing comes from slavery - a lot of blood, a lot of endurance so I think in a way it's a little bit touchy for us. It hits close to home because we've spent our lives trying to go to that source. You got to remember Lauryn Hill and what the music industry did to her. This isn't a small thing. I guess that's my opinion."
On listening to No World, you can't help but feel all the things that the band sought to create. The clarity and freedom they felt exudes through the sonic sparseness and minimalism throughout the album. The soul is there also, at times comforting and at times unsettling – just as it should be. Creating this particular album is something they are likely to never forget. "At this point we can live without all those attachments you know. You can't really go back," Daniel says. This is why, that weeks before the album is released, there is excitement and apprehension, but not fear of expectation. "You can't expect great successes, great failures you know. We don't know what is in store. We just hope it can be clear on our end with clear music and clear messages, and clear photos and videos. It's one big prayer and surrender."