INTERVIEW

“‚Ñ¢I WAS CHATTING TO SOMEONE who’d done a UK tour before we started doing our thing,” recalls Ed MacFarlane, bassist, singer and elected mouthpiece of electronic noisemakers Friendly Fires. “He was like, ‘Yeah, if you go up North playing synthesizers, people will think you’re a fuckin’ poof.’” Judging by the crowd at Manchester’s Retro Bar, […]

“‚Ñ¢I WAS CHATTING TO SOMEONE who’d done a UK tour before we started doing our thing,” recalls Ed MacFarlane, bassist, singer and elected mouthpiece of electronic noisemakers Friendly Fires. “He was like, ‘Yeah, if you go up North playing synthesizers, people will think you’re a fuckin’ poof.'” Judging by the crowd at Manchester’s Retro Bar, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Along with guitarist Edd Gibson and drummer Jack Savidge, the North London three-piece are currently peddling their own brand of keyboard-infused indie with a lengthy A&R-filled tour schedule. “It’s tiring,” Ed muses “but I think now, there are handfuls of people who know us and come to the shows.”

“Yeah, a handful of people in the whole country,” laughs Jack.

Having formed from the ashes of school-era hardcore band, First Day Back, the trio were recently pegged by the NME as being – along with Foals and Annuals – one of the “three hottest indie bands in the UK”, something they’re keen to play down. “They came to see us at ‘In the City’,” explains Edd “It was a bit weird. We played in like a Wetherspoons pub. It was like a Battle of the Bands. And the reviews were like, ‘Those guys suck.'”
“Then, the next week, it was like, ‘Top Three Bands in the Country’, or whatever it was,” shrugs Ed. “We were just like, ‘Yeah, course.'”

“They must’ve just missed ‘Wagon Jumpers’ off the end,” smirks Jack.

Ah, so is the prospect of too-much hype, too quickly, worrying then?

“Definitely,” they agree. “We haven’t done anything that’s to our potential yet,” says Jack before Ed adds, “We’re hitting the studio soon with Paul Epworth, just to see what’ll happen, although I probably shouldn’t have told you that. We haven’t decided what kind of sound we’re going for or anything. It’s not like we intentionally go, ‘Right, we’re gonna write an electro-indie track’ or ‘We’re gonna write this or this.’ Sometimes when you end up writing a song, it just happens.”

Last year’s ‘Photobooth’ EP shows exactly why the St Albans collective are so hard to pin down. The title track is a beats oriented disco-tinged number, with nods to the now-defunct Radio 4 and Talking Heads, while ‘Your Love’ is a funked-up, bass-heavy reworking of the Frankie Knuckles/Jamie Principle house anthem. Not a glowstick or dodgy haircut in sight. Explain the Klaxons comparison then?

“They came about when we first started, I think, because we were using synths and we’re like, three lads,” suggests Ed. “People were like, ‘Oh, you’re this, you’re that, you’re like Klaxons!’, and we were like. ‘No! We’re not!'”

No plans to make one album and split up in a blaze of glory, √† la Test-Icicles, then? “I feel like we’ll be the kind of band that’s around for a while,” says Ed. “We’re just going to work our way slowly up and then people will find out about us as opposed to being like one of those bands that instantly goes Boom! Anyway, [Test-Icicles] are hailed as legends now, aren’t they? They invented that whole fashion style.”

“Dev is at every gig,” says Jack. “He’s everywhere. He’s been to gigs that we’ve played about four or five times. Never chats to us or anything, though,” continues the now slightly dejected drummer. “But he should start a label if he’s turning up to see all these bands”

“He should sign us and Enter Shikari,” says Ed as he smiles knowingly. “They’re from St Albans, did you know? They used to play the venues we used to play at but I’ve never even met any of them. Not that I really want to, after hearing their music.”

On hearing that the band’s attempts to storm US festival SXSW with their hybrid of dance/punk/emo/general rubbish were quashed after being refused temporary work visas, the trio remain thoughtful. “[Going to America] is definitely something we’d like to do,” nods Ed. “I mean, we’ve had various clubs saying, ‘Oh, do this night in New York’, but it feels a bit pointless just flying over there for one show. We’d like to do the proper thing.”

For now, though, they’re happy spreading the word on home soil and are generally pleased with the reaction to their live shows, right? “Definitely, they’ve been really good,” says Ed. “We’ve been playing places that we never thought we’d play. Like, we went up to Aberdeen and we thought it was just going to be really scary, but everyone really liked it and everyone was dancing. It was really cool.”

“I think live we’re a bit more aggressive. A bit more noisy and chaotic, whereas our records sound quite neat,” explains Jack. “I think when we release an album, it’s going to be lots of quite short, ‘together’ songs, with tight structures.”

But first they’re shooting a video for new single ‘On Board’. “We’re doing it with a friend of ours who plays in Sportsday Megaphone, who’re a really good band. He’s done some Maccabees videos,” explains Ed. “We’ve got an idea which we’re really excited about, it should be good. It suits the song.”

“It’s got a slightly athletic theme,” elaborates Jack. “We play three coaches, looking after a team of people in costumes”

“Imagine a racetrack, and a side-profile of‚”” Ed pauses before surmising neatly with, “It’s going to be good!”

For a band who are as yet dipping their metaphorical toes into a sea of music making, Friendly Fires seem to have a lot going for them. And Michael Burke’s a fan. “We played at this Saatchi Gallery party,” laughs Ed “someone had just heard that we were like, [sarcastically] this cool band that play synths and rock music, and they were like ‘D’you wanna do our night?’ Michael Burke was there on the front row, holding onto the bar, headbanging.”

Jack smiles and declares, “He bloody loved it”.
Well, if it’s good enough for Michael‚””

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