Pushed into a corner, The Futureheads bit back. Far removed from their early days as Sunderland’s finest barbershop punk, This Is Not The World (review) is far more indebted to FM stadium rock than any choppy Andy Partridge riffs. After starting their own imprint Nul Records following their being dropped by Warners subsidiary 679, Barry Hyde (vox/gtrs) and ‘Jaff’ Craig (vox/bass) talked us through how AC/DC and Andrew WK helped form their rock pomp prime.
‘The Beginning Of The Twist’
Barry Hyde: I wrote this during quite a dark time while we were signed to Warners. The best way to make yourself feel better is by writing songs and it’s kind of like therapy for a bit of depression. It’s about mental illness and trying to turn your life round. It’s a kick in the face and it was great to start the record with it and the campaign with its release. We like to think the record is defiant and a bit cocky, and certainly, myself, I’ve had periods of great darkness.
‘Jaff’ Craig: We’d been away for long enough that we needed to give a good indication of what the record sounded like, so that and ‘Broke Up The Time’ showed the aggressive and direct tendencies of the record. Now we’re on our own label we can just release material in the way we did. It’s all a lot more personal.
B: It’s been a lot more gradual, given tasters rather than announcing the release of the record suddenly and it allowed us to gage a reaction.
J: It’s pretty big!
B: I think on this album there has been an ambition for it to work live underpinning decisions and intricate and complicated music can work well live but only to musicians. And playing gigs to a musician is no fun. They don’t clap.
J: We definitely made a conscious decision not to hold back but I think we’ve always had those tendencies. It’s not that we used to hold back the pop elements but working with Youth he’d insist that we played bits that bit harder and faster.
B: We knew it had to be immediate and so Ross and I played many of the same chords for the sheer power rather than working out intricate chord progressions. It’s almost been more difficult for us to let our inhabitations go and write like that.
J: When you start a band you write music that will go down well in pub-size venues and so we’ve had to move on and realise we need to appreciate the simplicity behind an AC/DC album and that if the lyrics are good and the melody is good then perhaps just bang the track out.
B: It’s just like Andrew WK.
J: (sings ‘Party Hard’).
B: It’s just a mixture of that and the Sex Pistols in that it’s simple.
J: Bit of Queen.
B: Aye, and a bit like ‘Hammer To Fall’. It’s a pure punk-rock song about being a bit of a geek and trying not to over-think things. All these influences, it was less what we were listening to there and then as much as how we developed as we went on. We’re not a heavy metal band and we don’t make classic rock and don’t sound like those bands but wanted to capture the spirit of those bands and tried to embrace the histrionics of the classic rock bands, even the clichés. We knew this had to be a fast and furious album, not only for the people into us but for us. We wanted to sweat our balls off for this album and we already have sweated several litres.
B: I started writing songs for the record whilst we were still signed to Warners but didn’t let them know we had new songs because we all wanted to get dropped and if they knew we had new songs then they’d ask to go record them. So they were a secret and when being dropped we started to get ready.
J: It felt like a completely clean slate.
B: ‘Radio Heart was written at something like two in the morning, last day of the session and recorded straight away. It is about a girl with a radio heart and was just a stupid idea and when you’re tired everything seems hilarious and we found ourselves laughing at the idea of a girl with a radio heart and before we knew it we’d written a song and it seemed to work.
‘This Is Not The World’
B: Another one that I kept secret and wrote around the same time as ‘The Beginning Of The Twist’. The day we recorded it and had the first mix we took it down to the youth hostel we were staying in and put it on a laptop and had a little tear in my eye because of the time we recorded the song, and here it is being mixed for a place on our self-released album and just found myself thinking how fantastic it was. That was when it all started to click. It starts off in waltz time and is quite a subtle track.
‘Sale Of The Century’
B: This came from a jam session we did with Youth. Ten of the songs we recorded, most of which didn’t make it onto the album, were jams where we would listen to a few different songs and play round with them and change the key. He’ll just cut it up and change it round. It was a change to working to previous producers (Ben Hillier, Andy Gill). That process was like having a teacher set a practice and we’d take it on.
‘Hard To Bear’
J: It sounds like there are strings in there somewhere. But there aren’t.
B: I wrote it for my best friend when he got dumped by his last girlfriend and was absolutely gutted. I’ve only been dumped once in my life - touch wood - and it hurt like a motherfucker; I wrote all the first album about that. So having not been heartbroken for a while it was convenient for me that my best mate had his heart broken. It’s a punk ballad.
‘Work Is Never Done’
B: One that Ross sings. There’s a few on here that Ross wrote and I actually sang, which is something new we tried with Youth and it came as a bit of surprise because we had so many tracks recorded by the point we came round to recording it. It’s a great change from what was because of the mix. When we play live the vocals are higher in the mix but when you go to write a contemporary pop and for the lead vocal to sit nicely you have to make certain sacrifices and the harmonies have to be submerged slightly. We used to write vocal harmonies almost to mask the fact we hadn’t learnt to write melodies properly so sang four at once. I think the next record will be quite vocal-heavy as a reaction to record we’ve produced here.
‘Broke Up The Time
B: It’s really snappy, high-paced and we’re not sure, listening back, how we nailed it as it’s quick. It was the first track we released, a while back now. There’s the four of us running the label which makes releasing material easier. Ross had run Longest Mile, which was sort of a bedroom label that he’d been doing for a few years, that he focused on when we had some time off in 2006, 2007. But The Futureheads are a separate thing, no records. We set up with our two managers and thus far it’s been really good. We’ve got three people in the office working on the album, as well as the two managers, and then there’s a whole web beyond that.
J: It’s been a lot easier to do what you want. You don’t have to go through sixteen people when you want to check whether an idea is viable or not.
‘Everything’s Changing Today’
B: This is one that Ross wrote and I sang and starts with a great circus-style drum roll before the split second before the guitars kick in which reminds me of Roxy Music for some reason. It’s all about recovery and walking backwards, frustration and trying to get your shit together.
B: ‘Sleet’’s a sex song. It’s about going to bed and having sex but being slightly too prudish. The first line is “Look at that!”, which is something that I associate as something someone from a building site might say; “Look at that!. Look at that sexy girl. I’m going to buy her some flowers and romance her. Or not.
‘See What You Want’
B: It’s a different vibe but I like closers to be slightly melancholic and I think ‘See What You Want’ has a certain melancholic beauty and it does feel kind of final. Dave wrote the guitar parts, Jaff wrote the bridge, Ross wrote the lyrics and I sung the track so it felt like a real collaborative effort. It was a nice one to end with because on the next record there might be more of an effort for us all to get involved.
The Futureheads’ This Is Not The World is out now on Nul Records; the band can be found on MySpace HERE. They play the following UK dates:
28 Coventry The Kasbah
29 London Electric Ballroom
30 Southend Chinnery’s
1 Cambridge The Junction
2 Shrewsbury The Buttermarket
3 Nottingham The Rescue Rooms
DiS has a special package made up of This Is Not The World on CD, a CD single of ‘Radio Heart’, a seven-inch of ‘The Beginning Of The Twist’ and a (small) t-shirt to give away; what’s more, every morsel in the set is signed by all four band members. To be in with a chance of winning this swag, write below, in no more than ten words, why you think you deserve such fine prizes.
Easy. Peasy. Winner: will be contacted via a DiS note on June 9.