What is the ideal time lapse between releasing albums? Four years and you might lose momentum, but one a year would surely be too rushed. If you're Green Day or Guillemots, a month or two should do it.
Both bands have set themselves the tremendous feat of releasing several albums within a few months. Green Day are releasing a trilogy in four months – ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tre! – with the first out on 24 September, while Guillemots decided on releasing four in one year, one for every season.
But being prolific does not always yield positive results. Alt-country musician Ryan Adams is one particularly prolific songwriter: he put out one album a year from 2000 until 2005, when he released three CDs in the space of seven months. And it's sometimes to his detriment; albums such as Gold and Rock'n'Roll lacked definition, while 29, the third of his quickly released albums in 2005 finally showed a return to form. For Jack White, however, with his bands The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather and his solo career, and for Gruff Rhys, it has only been a positive outlet for adventurous creativity, leading to vast bodies of wide-ranging music.
Fyfe Dangerfield, chamber-pop band Guillemots' singer and chief songwriter, feels no concern that they risk diluting their music. And judging by the quality of their first of four CDs, Hello Land, a beautiful orchestral album of baroque-pop recalling the 1960s band The Left Banke, he has no reason to. "We're not, as long as we're putting out stuff that's good", he says, taking precious time out from his busy schedule to talk. "I don't feel remotely that this could have been one good album. And hopefully each album will keep getting better."
Green Day proved their prolific songwriting ability from their debut album, a compilation of three separate LPs with 19 tracks, while the sleeve notes pointed even more to their speedy production – the album was "recorded in 22 hours".
Of their current releases, the trio say: "We are at the most prolific and creative time in our lives. This is the best music we've ever written and the songs just keep coming… every song has the power and energy that represents Green Day on all emotional levels."
Guillemots' plans grew organically, through an unexpected flurry of creativity that hit them when they were recording in a studio in Norway last year. When they had 20-plus songs, they initially set out to record an EP for each season, but that quickly grew into albums.
"I thought 'let's go for the ultimate challenge!'" Dangerfield says. "The whole point was to record for fun. That gets lost in the process sometimes with the cycle – you want to make music, but have to write an album and it becomes dangerously like a job. It's different recording for the fun of it."
Now, with the goal post set, the pressure's on. Prolific output also means they are able to release the music to their fans more quickly: Hello Land! came out in June, just 10 days after its completion, and the follow-up is set for the end of September. "We're all tired of the mechanics of the industry. You have six months between the album being recorded and released, and by the time it's out you're already bored of it. This is more creative."
There is another concern, though. Both bands are taking risks by assuming that their fans will invest in all albums. Throw in Green Day's box set of studio albums, out on 27 August, and that is asking a lot.