Interview with Friendly Fires
Friendly Fires released their brilliant self-titled debut album last year on XL Recordings; its eclectic blend of electropop, punk, world music, and ambient shoegaze was both critically and publically acclaimed upon its release. The trio - Ed MacFarlane, Jack Savidge and Edd Gibson - formed their first band at school in the Hertfordshire town of St. Alban's when they were 14. These days, they're being hailed as one of the most exciting young British bands on the scene. They play a free gig hosted by Heineken Green Spheres later this month in Waterford, so I caught up with Edd Gibson to get the lowdown on the band.
The members of Friendly Fires have been playing together in some form since your early teens - how have you kept things fresh over the years?
We've been touring the album all over the world, meeting new people and seeing wonders beyond our wildest dreams, our simple provincial senses tested at every turn. To do it with your friends is so great, it almost makes up with having to share a chemical toilet with them for 11 months a year.
What was it that caused the shift from your earlier days of rock-oriented music, to the eclectic sound you employ these days?
Just growing up. We don't find one song or style and pursue it for life. That's really unhealthy. Our tastes have expanded beyond approximating punk songs when you're first learning to play together. We listen to a myriad of musics, and want to incorporate them whenever we can.
The album is fantastic - there are so many different rhythms, instruments and styles packed into the songs, but it never feels overwhelming. What different tastes do you all bring to the table?
We're always sharing music with each other. That's been at the heart of our friendship. There's a huge overlap in the venn diagram of our tastes.
One of your songs, 'On Board', has been used in ads for the likes of PS3 and Nintendo Wii. While you're hardly Moby, how do you feel about your music being used in that way?
We chose to use one of our tunes on a Wii advert before we had a record or publishing deal. It was a way of getting the money that we needed to carry on. We were all still living at home, dipping in and out of shit jobs to keep the band afloat. Because the ads were only shown in America, it gave us a chance to get heard that we wouldn't have otherwise had.
The fuckers didn't give us one for free, though.
Your music seems to straddle a lot of boundaries - you've got fans who love your pop side, your dance side and your heavier side. Was pleasing a number of different audiences something that you were aware of, when writing/recording the album?
We never thought about trying to please everyone, if you spread yourself out too thinly, you'll just end up pleasing no one. We were just writing music that we liked and if anyone else did, that was a bonus.
'Paris' was originally released in 2007, but only became a hit upon its re-release last year. Was that satisfying, because you knew it was a good song all along, or frustrating, because you'd prefer to keep things moving without re-treading old ground, in a way?
I was glad Paris got a larger airing. We have no pretensions about wanting to be a cool underground act, playing to the same cult followers. We want as many people to hear us as possible.
You produced the vast majority of the album yourselves, but it sounds very accomplished for a debut - do any of you have a background in music production?
There's no formal training. Ed had been using Logic to record his own stuff for years. A lot of the writing process involved recording loops to play over and getting sounds that you can't make live. We're all fairly particular about how everything will sound. No writing a song on an acoustic guitar and getting a producer to turn it into a hit.
Your sound is quite hard to categorise. What's the most ridiculous comparison you've heard or read so far?
Someone in Japan compared us to Joy Division. That's just crazy talk! There's a site on the internet that says we are 'spazzrock'. I'm sure that's plainly politically incorrect.
Have you had any ideas, or begun work on album #2 yet, and will it be a continuation or a progression of your sound?
We're just finishing a song we've been working on whenever we get a day off. It's got a samba groove running throughout, which picks up from where Jump In the Pool left off.
Album two's a distance away yet. We're always getting ideas down on the road to fend off insanity and keep momentum going.
What have you been listening to lately, personally? Any recommendations of bands/artists old or new?
I've been listening to the Cocteau Twins a hell of a lot recently. Better phase that out now that summer's truly in full swing. A bit of Barrabas has been getting me dancing in my bunk on the bus.
Finally, you're playing Ireland later this month, on a stellar line-up with Casiokids and thecocknbullkid. What can the seaside town of Waterford expect from a Friendly Fires headline set?
A light show that would make George Lucas do a bundle in his knickers. More sweat than Barry White in a sauna. And plenty of dancing.
Friendly Fires play The Forum, Waterford on May 27th, with support from Casiokids and thecockandbullkid. Tickets are FREE, and available from www.heinekengreenspheres.ie.
Story by Lauren | 09:00 | Wednesday 13th May 2009 | Music
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