There is no telling how long a group’s time in the alternative spotlight will last. A great debut album or EP can give a band two years of touring, but a lackluster follow-up can destroy everything. Many groups implode before getting that far, and that is if the opportunity to record more even comes their way. The last decade is riddled with promising artists and groups who disappeared almost as soon as they ‘broke,’ but through it all (for the most part), Basement has remained at the top of their game.

Aside from a relatively brief hiatus from 2012 to 2014, Basement has been a beacon of progression and likability in the otherwise tumultuous alternative landscape. The band’s music brings together elements of indie rock, grunge, and punk with pop sensibilities to create an immersive listening experience that perfectly syncs to the trials and tribulations of growing up in the modern era. They are, for lack of a better description, the soundtrack to life in the digital age and all the confusion that comes with it.

At the top of the year, Basement and their fans were surprised by the news the UK-based group had been invited to open for the Pixies and Weezer on a nationwide arena tour. We knew we had to chat with the group about their experience, and Basement guitarist Alex Henery granted us that wish.

Substream: You have been touring around the Midwest in recent days, which has been experiencing temperatures well below freezing. Are you able to get out much on this run, or have you been locked in green rooms?

Alex Henery: We were in Columbus the other day, and I was able to visit this vintage toy store for a bit called Big Fun. I don’t buy a lot of stuff on tour, but I had to pick something up. Otherwise, yea, I haven’t been able to get out too much. I’m in a locker room right now. We’ve been playing a lot of poker on this tour, which is cool, and we’ve also been having a lot of family dinners. This is like our tenth US tour, which is wild, but we’re having fun. We keep it chill.

We’ve been covering Basement for a decade, and we were thrilled to learn about you joining this tour. Can you tell me how the offer came about?

Henery: Our manager asked us if we wanted to submit for it, and obviously, I wanted to do it. He reached out a few days later to say we were still in the running, and I told him not to talk to me about it unless it was really happening. That day came, and when he told me I was like, “What do you mean?!”

It was definitely a crazy moment, we were all freaking out. It didn’t even feel real until we got here.

Touring an arena is different than the venues you have traditionally played. Can you speak to the challenges of being the opening band in an arena show and what that experience is like?

Henery: To be honest, I don’t really worry about it. I’m just stoked people are there that early. It really doesn’t feel like you’re in an arena because it’s so dark with the stage lights [in your eyes]. Sometimes I try to see through the darkness to find an usher with a light at the back of the room waiving people to their seats and just focus on them.

But I think it’s cool. I don’t know if people were expecting to see a band like us who is a bit heavier than [The Pixies and Weezer] and a bit darker. I like the challenge, and I like knowing there are a lot of people seeing us for the first time. I often wonder what they’re thinking because no one really boos, but it’s hard to know what’s going on in their minds.

You mentioned the lights. I’ve always wondered how far you can see from up there.

Henery: It’s a lot like playing in my bedroom, man. You can’t see anything, so it’s really no different. It never feels like you’re in a big venue. We’re just playing the show we’d always play, and that makes it less stressful. It is really loud, though.

Then you get to the end, and the lights come up.

Henery: Exactly. It’s really cool.

Hiatus aside, this year marks a decade of Basement. Did you ever think when the first EP was released that you’d still be thinking about and working on Basement every day?

Henery: I definitely didn’t start a band to make it a career. I thought maybe we’d write some songs and play some local hardcore shows, maybe travel, but that’s it. I never thought we’d go anywhere. When we came to America for the first time I thought all my dreams had come true, and now we’ve been here a ton. We’re just trying to push forward, find new ground, and keep going.

It’s definitely a weird time to be in a rock band. There is an audience for it, but it’s not on the radio as much and it’s definitely not as big in pop culture.

I get pretty obsessed with where rock and roll fits into culture today. It’s not at the forefront that it used to be, but it still has a place. Maybe there is no answer.

Henery: Exactly. Things happen. Culture moves in cycles. Rock isn’t as popular as hip-hop is right now, but there are a lot of people doing really interesting things. A few years from now, it could be bigger than ever. That’s what makes it weird to be in a band right now. I don’t know if I want to be doing this in thirty years, but it’s cool to know there are artists on the road right now that can make that happen.

I imagine being on this tour now, you have to ask what you did differently than your peers. Like, how did you find yourself here, while others fell apart years ago? You’re doing something right.

Henery: Yeah! There’s always been a pop sensibility to our work. I want people to sing along, and I want people to think what we’re doing is catchy. We’ve always taken a lot of pride in the tours that we do and the art that we use, but at the same time, we’re always game to try something new. We want to play to as many new people as possible. We are curious about how far we can push this and what it can become.

Looking to the future, do you think this arena experience will inform how you write the next Basement songs?

Henery: I’m not trying to write songs to fill an arena. I don’t care about that, and I don’t think it’ll ever happen. I started a band to play with the local hardcore bands. I wanted to play in London, you know? That’s what is important to me. You shouldn’t start a band to fill an arena. Start a band because you want to play with your friends and make music that you think is cool.