"We were recording in this underground studio at night, there was an atmosphere..." hmv.com talks to Fear of Men
Ahead of their debut album Loom being released next week, we caught of with Fear of Men guitarist Dan Falvey to talk about about making their first record proper...
So the debut album Loom is out on Monday next week, before we talk about the album can you take us through how the band came together? I understand it started with Jessica making ambient film soundtracks?
Yeah, I actually went to see an exhibition of her work at Goldsmith’s (Art College) and we kind of got talking from there. At that point it was very ambient, very reverb-heavy, it reminded me a little bit of Inca Ore and we started talking about artists like that. Because I’m a guitarist she was asking about effects pedals and stuff, and then from talking about music we just naturally sort of started to play guitar together. I think Jess enjoyed doing it together with someone and even though she had been making these ambient soundtracks for her films, she’s always been interested in pop music and I think she wanted to try and actually write pop songs, so that’s how it sort of morphed into being a band.
And you’re a four-piece now?
Correct, yes, there’s me, there’s Jess doing vocals and rhythm guitar and Mike plays the drums. We have a live bassist now too, it’s just been the three of us on the record but live there are four of us now.
How long have you been working on the record?
I think we worked on it for about a year .It was a busy year, we were playing different festivals like SXSW, played festivals in Mexico and L.A. We’ve been doing a lot of touring because Kanine Records who are putting out the album also released a singles collection comprising all our 7-inches and cassettes, so we’ve sort of been supporting that release while we were making this one, as well as working! That’s why we ended up doing a lot of it at night time. We’d be going in after work, recording, sleeping for a couple of hours, then going back to work!
Who’s producing it?
We’ve self-produced it, we’ve been recording at a little place in Hove on Church Road, it’s kind of tucked away underground. But yeah we’ve self-produced with the in-house guy at the studio engineering it.
Who’s writing the songs, is it just you and Jessica or does everybody get involved?
Well, Jess will often write the bare bones of a song, I might add a section or some arrangement and then when it’s nearing finished we’ll take it into the practice room. I really like writing drum parts, but at the same time Mike is a really good musician and he’s started to bring in more musical ideas, so it’s gotten increasingly collaborative.
How would you describe your sound? The phrase ‘dream-pop’ has been used a number of times…
Hahaha! Yeah, well, that’s probably one of the descriptions that we’re the most okay with, out of all the ones that have been used. I mean, if you have to have a label, and I understand that you kind of do have to, so it kind of makes sense. Jess writes a lot of her songs in that kind of dream state just before she goes to sleep. We’ll be on tour in a Travelodge somewhere late at night and she’ll get her phone out and start singing into it! So it does fit into that, we were thinking about it in the studio, there are times on the album when we’re trying to make it ‘dreamlike’, then there are other times when we’re trying to make it more, I don’t know, nightmare-like I guess!
Are there any bands / artists that have been a particular influence? Or do you get inspiration from elsewhere?
Well, we take inspiration from loads of things, we really like Deerhunter, we like the way they use texture and recording techniques, same with Mount Eerie as well, that playing with texture and fidelity and things like that. We take inspiration from lots of things though, we’re getting into more mainstream music I guess. I really like that Loose album by Nelly Furtado! In this day and age I think you inevitably take inspiration from everything because music is so readily available. Jess is kind of a strange one because she doesn’t listen to that much music, really, although she is listening to more, but we’ll go and watch a film or something and she’ll go off and start writing. Lyrically there are writers like Gore Vodal, Sylvia Plath, people like that.
It’s quite cerebral, lyrically. Are there any recurring themes running through the songs’ subject matter?
Yeah, on this record - with the title, the artwork as well, which references the Pompeii bodies - it felt like there was something hanging over us. I know Jess felt pressure and we were kind of putting a lot of internal pressure on ourselves, we were recording in this underground studio at night, there was an atmosphere, so I think that fed into the lyrics.
There’s a juxtaposition there though, because if you read a description of the music you’d imagine it to sound more maudlin than it actually does.
Yeah, exactly, that’s the thing, that’s what we try to do. Like with the song ‘Descent’, the lyrics go down this sort of dark avenue but then what we try and do is create music that brings it back the other way.
Similar to The Smiths in a way?
Exactly, that’s why the Marr / Morrissey combination is such a brilliant one, because Johnny Marr kind of lifts those songs that could have otherwise been…dirges, basically!
Are you touring the new album?
Yeah we are, for the next three months we’re going to on the road basically, we’re in America for six weeks, then we’re back for about two weeks, then we’re back touring Europe and the UK for another six weeks.
What sort of live show can we expect? You mentioned getting inspiration from films, is there a visual element to the show?
Well, we don’t do anything in terms of projections or anything, I think it might be a distraction from the performance. But I don’t know, maybe we should, it kind of makes sense!
Obviously you guys haven’t been around all that long but what has been the most amazing moment for you so far?
Probably for me the highlight was when we went to Mexico just before SXSW, we were playing festivals like Dive with Ariel Pink and people like that. It was just a really amazing weekend, we stayed in Monterrey and then we played a show just as the sun was going down with these beautiful mountains in the background. You could just kind of feel the excitement, there aren’t too many bands from the UK or the U.S. that go through there I don’t think, and it seemed like the audience had really done their research because people were singing along, it was just an amazing atmosphere. That was incredible because it’s the furthest we’ve ever been and to go all that way and get that kind of reaction was really special, it’s moments like that when you feel really lucky to be doing what you’re doing.
This week you can also grab yourself a a free track from the album from our download store - click here to download the song 'Waterfall' for free!