"This is the job that people die for, I hope you're ready for the next stage" from the Futureheads song "First Day" has become a mantra for their fans. The Futureheads deal in the gritty reality of day to day life, think of BBC1's the Office with Tim's sardonic sense of humour being the focus rather than Gervais. While the subject matter of the Futureheads is certainly everyday matter, the band are not just another industry band, but are one of the increasing bands that are kicking against the music industry's conservatism with a refreshing DIY approach. Designer Magazine caught up with Barry in his native Sunderland.
Q: The Futureheads are born out of the same DIY ethic
that Franz Ferdinand have got and a lot of the New Cross Scene bands have
- just bands kicking against the industry.
A: I suppose it's just about being completely unaffected by the music industry and still playing the music that you want to make and not compromising any of the musical ideas just to fit with the rules of the music industry, which is so strict and stringent. If bands can manage to get some success without having to do that, that's a big f**k off to the music industry. When I listen to our album I think to myself some of it is pretty out there, some of its quite adventurous in terms of arrangements and sometimes I think i'm really proud that we managed to actually get signed cos its not typical at all.
We like the fact that we can escape to Sunderland after
being away from places. London is so expensive. A lot of bands move down
there and I think sometimes it's not really the best thing for them to
do. For a band at least it would probably mean we'd have to go out and
get jobs just to live which would be totally detrimental to the band. We
try to rehearse every day to keep us in shape or whatever.
Q: Growing up did you have the that sense that you
were just playing music and you didn't care if you got a frontcover in
the NME or whatever
A: Completely mate. I think that's one of the benefits of coming from the North East or basically not coming from London which is the centre of the music industry. We didn't think about anything other than our next gig or the next rehearsal. We didn't have any ambition to get signed. We just wanted to do something interesting here, something for the people here and forget about everyone else. We were just concentrating on the small things first. We would get so excited for days on end about playing a tiny venue in Sunderland and then going and playing it and it being an amazing experience. We care about what we're doing. Our first gig we organized in Sunderland and since then over four years ago we haven't had to organize gigs cos they've always been offered to us, which is really really good cos sometimes you struggle to get gigs. Before we knew it we were playing in London and thinking how are we here and what are we doing here? Before you know it you're in Texas. It's crazy.
Q: Weren't the early gigs something like 15 mins longs.
A: Our first gig was 7 minutes long. Four songs. The first song on our album is 106 seconds long and it used to be half that. At the time there was a fair few bands in Newcastle and Sunderland who were doing stuff and I used to go to the gigs and get quite bored. I just thought you're spending too long in-between songs fiddling around with your guitar; you're trying to be funny - you're not a comedian, you're a musician so shut up; and it seemed like the bands songs would go on forever. We wanted to do something that was the complete opposite of that, so it was no flattery in-between songs and no stops. We would finish a song and try to start the next one, which is really really difficult to do. And instead of the audience trying to focus on one person singing we thought we'd have everyone singing.
Q: When did the idea come up that instead of having
one frontman you would in fact have a four headed Futurehead's beast?
A: Straight away. We just realized it would be interesting to have a four part harmony in the band especially as seen as its quite abrasive guitar music. When people think of harmony, people often think of lovely luscious harmonies but you can shout a harmony and it's like an attack.
We do realize listening to the Futureheads is a bit like an attack sometimes, which I suppose is kinda good and bad. Sometimes when we play live to our detriment we play the the songs 3 times faster than they should be. We just get carried away and its like we want to finish the song and get on to the next one cos the next one's going to be even better. It must sound like absolute nonsense cos we're singing in our own accents and I think sometimes people can't understand a word we're saying. We played in Texas at the SXSW Festival and this girl came up to us after the show and was like are you from the Czech Republic, they'd never heard the accent before.
Obviously anyone who makes a decision to sing in a band, people make a conscious decision to sing in a false American accent sometimes. People say to us was it a conscious thing singing in your own accents? It's like saying when you speak is it conscious that you speak in your own accent. There's probably only the Zutons, Dogs Die In Hots Cars and Franz Ferdinand that we can think of that actually sing in their own accents and its mad. I couldn't convincingly sing our songs if I wasn't singing in my own accent.
Q: If you listen to the album or scan the lyrics the
Futureheads songs are just about very normal grounded things
A: Yeah, there's not a lot of poetry involved in it, like. It's just observations with hidden meetings in it sometimes. "Our First Day" is about getting a job, but it's also about being born. People don't realize that but I think being born and getting a job are exactly the same thing because before you realize it you're old and you're sick of the job and everything happens too quickly. People have to make quite important decisions when they're too old. A little bit like when you start a job at first people there are really nice to you until you get into the role, then when you get into the role of it they just treat you like shit.
Q: Didn't you record the album with Gang Of Fours Andy
Gill originally before doing it with
A: The funny thing about bands is most bands don't get to go into a proper recording studio until they're signed. And in order to get signed a band has to be quite good live. So you spend a couple of years becoming a decent live band and then you go and learn something new i.e. recording. Some of the stuff with Andy would have been equivalent to early gigs. We recorded 14 songs with Andy and I think we've only used 4 of them cos we weren't happy with them. We re-recorded the rest of them with a guy called Paul Hepworth. He's just started producing, but he's mainly a live sound engineer and we met him when we supported the Kills a couple of years ago. In the end its gone beyond our expectations of what we wanted to create and that's down to Paul really. He was a total catalyst for us.
Q: How was it transferring the energy of the live shows
onto the record?
A: The initial mistake we made from the offset with Andy, and this was our decision and nothing to do with Andy, is that we wanted to go in and record live and capture what we do live. We did that and it sounded like a band playing their songs live. I don't really see the point in putting that on a record. We wanted to make it more colourful to listen to and try to create space in the record and that's what we learnt to do through Paul.
I feel sorry in a way for Andy because we didn't give
him the same amount of trust we gave to Paul. I don't know why, but maybe
because Paul was doing live sound for bands like the Rapture, LCD Soundsystem
we trusted his taste more.
Q: What plans do the Futureheads have for the rest
of the year?
A: We're really excited about the prospect of touring this album and taking it to countries and seeing what the people of Japan or America think of this record cos we're signed to Warners worldwide.
We've just had a bit of a burst and we've got 5 new songs that we're working on at the moment. Until the album was finished we didn't feel we could work on any new songs cos we wanted to make the songs we already had the best they could be. We're progressing in some ways like the vocal arrangements being a little more creative. When we first started we wanted every song to have 3 or 4 ideas with no repetition and that's why some of the early songs are so short cos we felt it was cheating. Now we're a little more comfortable with writing songs a little bit longer because we've progressed as songwriters.
"The Futureheads" is out now on 679 Recordings
The band support the Zutons throughout October
For more info
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