The Smiths' Andy Rourke's Final Album Coming This Spring


The Smiths' Andy Rourke's Final Album Coming This Spring

(Reybee) "The album is a diary of the last seven years of the journey that Andy, the band and I went on recording this music as Blitz Vega," says Kav Sandhu about Northern Gentlemen, the debut album by Blitz Vega, a band that he and the late Andy Rourke (The Smiths) started in 2016 and officially launched in 2019. Set for release on April 26, 2024 via FutureSonic Records/CEN/The Orchard, the album is a bittersweet celebration of Andy's impact on the music world and especially this band. Andy Rourke succumbed to pancreatic cancer on May 19, 2023.

"Every song tells a story and personally takes me back to a memory recording that song, the drive to the studio. That conversation or whatever happened surrounding the recording session," Kav continues, evoking not only the emotions of sadness for Andy's death but also the happy memories that came with their personal friendship and musical collaboration. "I hear his voice in my head, replaying everything we talked about when we were recording the song. I see his face smiling at me. On my last trip back to LA a few weeks ago, I was driving to the studio and it felt like Andy was sitting there with me like he had been so many times before, talking about music, just excited to get this album made. So, all the songs mean the world to me."

A solid collection of ten songs recorded over the span of five years, Northern Gentlemen captures the dynamic vitality of Andy and Kav's combined songwriting. Launching with the chiming "Disconnected" that showcases Andy's signature melodic bassline, the album glistens and sparkles in a musical swirl, while Kav's mesmerizing vocals.

Written mostly during the pandemic, Kav recalls what it was like remaining creative during quarantine and lockdown. Forced to cancel touring plans ("We had to cancel three U.S. tours"), the band "locked ourselves away in the studio in LA. It was our happy zone," Kav recalls. "We recorded and wrote so much music around this time. Before the pandemic, Andy's illness would get better and would also come back so we were constantly dealing with circumstances that made moving the band forward difficult. But it's what Andy, all the lads in the band, and I wanted to make work more than anything. So we constantly adapted to the challenges in front of us. We never stopped making music, recording and writing."

Johnny Marr, Andy's bandmate in The Smiths, added his trademark guitar jangle to the single "Strong Forever," which was originally released in Fall 2022. Blending classic Manchester indie and baggy-style beats with Kav's own soulful vocals, the single was co-produced and mixed by Z-Trip (Kasabian, Public Enemy, LL Cool J), and saw Andy and Johnny recording together for the first time in 35 years. The two have played together live several times over the years (Andy made a surprise appearance during Johnny's show with The Killers at Madison Square Garden in Sept. 2022). Andy said at the time, " I asked Johnny, who very kindly recorded some guitars and sent them over. Johnny and I have remained friends, we've known each other since we were 13 years old. He's my oldest and dearest friend and I feel our friendship gets stronger as time passes."

In anticipation of the new Blitz Vega album Northern Gentlemen, the band and label are re-releasing their exclusive 2023 Record Store Day 12" vinyl, Strong Forever, to all stores this month. The EP includes two remixes by Daybreakers and Will Kennedy, the single version by Z-Trip Mix, and the original version by Jagz Kooner on Side A. "We have an EDM version which you can hear blasting in a proper dance club mixed by The Daybreakers who are fantastic," explains Kav. "Both Andy's and my favorite mix of all was Will Kennedy's live band version because we have a string quartet playing on it. I love them all, but on that one you can really feel the band!" Side B is rounded out with remixes of two previously released singles "Lost & Found" (Jagz Kooner and Daybreakers) and "LA Vampire" (Jagz Kooner), and previously unreleased track "Big Nose." It is available for purchase on vinyl here.

"I miss him so much," Kav says, reflecting on his bandmate. "He was one of my greatest friends and the best musician and bandmate. He was also so humble. He made me promise him we would release this album no matter what and go out to play it live. It's difficult, but we owe him that as it's what he really wanted. This was his band, his ideas, his songs. We are committed to celebrating his music and letting people listen to the music he was making right until he passed. He was so excited for people to hear it."

As Andy's posthumous album, Northern Gentlemen stands as a testament to the power and impact Andy Rourke had and continues to have. About the album title, Kav explains remembering the sunny times, "We would have a lot of banter between us and constantly be making fun of each other in the studio. I used to say, 'Wow you're such a northern gentleman.' It was kind of like an inside joke between us. Now, when I would describe him to my label partners, I'd call him a 'northern gentleman.' They suggested 'that should be the title of the album' and it just felt right."

The future of Blitz Vega post-Andy is a future Kav and band haven't decided on yet. "I have no idea about writing new music as Blitz Vega," he replies. "We are just taking one step at a time. We definitely want to release all the music we recorded and go on tour. I promised this to Andy."

Looking back at the last few decades as friends, Kav gets misty-eyed and wants everyone to hear what he and Andy have been working on. He says, after some contemplation, "I just hope it makes Andy proud."

Blitz Vega is Andy Rourke (bass), Kav Sandhu (guitar / lead vocals), Asa Brown (keyboards / backing vocals), Thom Arizmendi (guitar), Greg Gent (guitar / backing vocals), Craig Eriksson (drums). Northern Gentlemen is produced by Andy Rourke, Kav Sandhu, Will Kennedy, Jagz Kooner and Z-Trip and will be released on April 26, 2024 via Future Sonic / CEN / The Orchard

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