“I want to ride this until the wheels fall off…” - hmv.com talks to Sam Fender
25-year-old Sam Fender has had quite the year. It’s had serious highs, like taking home the Critics’ Choice Award at the Brits ahead of Lewis Capaldi and Mahalia, and serious lows, like the cancellation of a series of shows and festivals after he suffered a vocal cord haemorrhage.
But, Fender has already struck enough of a chord to be selling out two nights at London’s Brixton Academy and four nights at the O2 Academy in his native Newcastle, before his debut album Hypersonic Missiles is even out.
The album finally arrives today. It’s a raw, searing blast of youthful energy recorded by an artist who has got an awful lot to say.
With Hypersonic Missiles now out and in hmv stores across the UK, we spoke to Fender about making it, why he wants to keep things local and his plan to get his second LP out in no time at all...
How did the experience of making your debut album compare to the way you’d always imagined it?
“It’s strange to think about. This record isn’t a cohesive record. Some of these songs are over six years old and some are only a year old. The whole thing is playing my life back. It was a cathartic experience. Some of the vocals are five years old, they’re those raw demos. It’s like opening up a diary and finishing off the pages, building up the tracks. It was a wonderful experience. It’s my entire journey. My second album will be a bit more cohesive, it’ll all be written at the same time."
You’re already thinking ahead to that?
“I am, but I’m so proud of this one. It’s a classic debut, it’s so varied sonically and thematically. It’s every side of me. ‘Call Me Lover’ was written when I was 19, ‘The Borders’ was written when I was 24 and there’s something beautiful about that. It’s a very youthful and naive record. Vulnerability is important. We need more of that in this age. People need to open up.”
You did the album with Bramwell Bronte, who you’ve worked with since you first started, did you consider anyone else? That major label deal would give you access to anyone you wanted…
“I don’t want them. I don’t need them, I’ve got Bramwell Bronte, he’s the boy, he’s a total genius. What everyone has to realise is that you’ve got to start somewhere. Rick Rubin wasn’t always Rick Rubin. All these producers weren’t anybody at the start, just because Bramwell Bronte is a nobody now doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be a somebody pretty quickly. That’s my ethos. In my band and in my group, there’s no one who arrives with a reputation. The only one is Rich Costey, who mixed the record, everyone else is from home.”
Is that important to you?
“Definitely. I was brought up in a blue-collar town by blue-collar parents. Working-class people. It’s important to share what you have. I want to take as many people as I can on this journey and bring us all up together. We all need a slice of the pie. I don’t want to be alone out here, famous people are strange, I want to be surrounded by people I know and love. I want to be able to give as many people as I can security and to be able to start families if they want to. That, for me, would be mission accomplished. It’s a semi-socialist ethos.”
You’ve said the album is quite disparate sonically, is it the same for lyrics? Little snapshots?
“It is snapshots. You could say there’s no theme, but it’s a record about growing up. It’s a coming of age teen movie from a paranoid kid who grew up in North Shields with all these stories about local characters. It’s not cohesive in terms of time period, but there’s definitely a continuity in terms of storytelling.”
Can you see how you’ve grown as a writer across the album?
“I don’t know if the songs get better, I can’t judge that. I think the second record will be better, but that’s just because it’s the latest thing I’m doing. People might think it’s s**t, I just love writing songs."
Was it always going to be called Hypersonic Missiles?
“I had a few other titles, I’m not telling you them because I might use them later on. They were quite depressing. And, to be honest, I could give you a pretentious answer about how it describes the world we’re living in, but I picked it because it sounded cool as f**k. It sounds class.”
How’s your live schedule coming? Is 2020 filling up?
“We don’t have any time off. But we like it like that. Lots of shows, lots of people, young lasses, young lads, guys in their 20s and 30s and then people in their 40s and 50s, I feel like we’re really connecting across all ages. Every night is like a festival crowd.”
Did you picture it like that?
“Never. If you start picturing it or writing for a fanbase, you’ve lost. You don’t get to choose. At that moment, when you’re targeting people with a song, you’re not writing for the right reasons. It’s a vacuous way to work. I need conviction. I have to be riled up enough to write. You just have to make sure you get a good tune out of it.”
You said earlier you’ve already got thoughts about your second album...
“It’s written, it’s ready, I’ve got 25 songs. That’s the second album and an EP. I’ll pick 10 from the 25 and then a few from the others. I’m going to record again in January. I want to get it done quickly.”
Is that how you want to go? An album a year?
“I want to ride this until the wheels fall off. If I feel like getting another album out, I’ll do it, if I don’t, I won’t. This industry is so fickle. Alan McGee once told me ‘You never know when this is going to end, so ride it until the wheels fall off’. That’s the best advice I’ve ever had.”