It’s entirely by design that there’s a positive vibe to “Brighter Than the Sun” — from The Alarm’s upcoming Sigma album — and its accompanying performance video, premiering exclusively below.
Co-founder and frontman Mike Peters tells Billboard that the song was inspired during his wife’s Jules’ radiotherapy treatments for breast cancer in 2016. After driving her on the first day, she declared that she wanted to walk the five miles to and from the therapy sessions each day. “She said, ‘I want to prove to myself and everybody else I’m coming through this and I’m still alive,'” recalls Peters, a cancer survivor himself who received an MBE title from the British government for his charitable work for cancer care projects in the U.K. “The lyrics came straightaway; I was trying to keep up with them on my phone while I was driving home. I was just so inspired by how someone can go through the most incredible, life-threatening situation, but they’re affirming that you can come through it as well. There’s a light that comes off people who become alive in those moments. I really saw that in my own life, with Jules, so that’s where that song came from.”
Sigma is due out June 28 as the follow-up to 2018’s Equals — and, according to Peters, is cut from the same cloth, with more material inspired by his and his wife’s health struggles. “I just started writing things into my phone, just stream of consciousness. Anything I was feeling I was writing down,” Peter recalls. “Jules said to me, ‘Y’know what, Mike, that’s your next album starting to appear there,’ and she was right. And I had so much material I didn’t know quite how to approach it. I realized I had a double album, which we were going to release as Blood Red Viral Black, but after talking to people…we landed on Equals and then a sequel, which is (Sigma), back to back.” Sigma also features guest appearances by Billy Duffy of the Cult, a longtime friend, while original Alarm guitarist Dave Sharp also plays on the set as well as occasionally with the Alarm live.
“He’s a very different musician in this day and age, but Jules always fostered the relationship with him and kept the door open,” Peters says. “At the start of this project there was a song that’s on Sigma, ‘Love and Understanding,’ that I thought of Dave to play on; He didn’t end up playing on that track, ironically, but when Equals came out Dave did the whole British tour with as a special guest, and I said, ‘You could come play on the record.’ He said, ‘I’d love to. I thought you’d never ask.’ So the next day he was in the studio with us in Liverpool, which was great.”
Sigma will put the Alarm on the road this summer in the U.S. — starting July 17 in North America — playing with fellow ’80s cohorts Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel. “We’re all proud of that generation we come from and want to celebrate that,” says Peters. There will also be bone marrow donor registration drives at the shows. The album and tour also coincide with the 35th anniversary of the Alarm’s first full-length album, Declaration, while the group also re-released its 1985 album Strength back in March. For Peters the combination of that past with an active present has given him more, well, strength to carry on.
“Obviously these anniversaries come, but it always still feels really fresh to me,” he says. “With all that’s happened to us in the last few years, every show we play now feels like the last chance we’ll ever have. Same with the albums. But I never dreamt of just going to America once or just being on Top of the Pops once. I wanted to make the band my life, and it seems to be working so far. I just have to be mindful of where life’s taken us and the signposts that we keep passing on the road. I don’t want these to be the last opportunities we get to do these things. I want more, and I want it more than ever.”