Longtime DiS faves Fanfarlo have been heavily tipped in those rather annoying 'most likely to' lists for the last couple of years now without ever making that final step up. However, after a fairly quiet 2008 as far as recorded output goes, this year looks likely to be the year that their quaint, slighty eccentric but always melodic pop finally achieves the recognition it undoubtedly deserves.
Having recently finished recording their debut album in Connecticut with Interpol and The National producer Peter Katis - a 13-track opus entitled Reservoir - the London-based six-piece then embark on their biggest tour to date starting on Valentine's Day next month, taking in several arena shows with Snow Patrol and ending at the esteemed South By Southwest Festival in Texas some five-and-a-bit weeks later. DiS recently caught up with singer, guitarist and main songwriter Simon Balthazar.
Your name has been on the tips lists for a couple of years now without that final step materialising. Do you think you will finally break through in 2009?
Why it's taken us this long to actually get an album together isn't entirely clear. I guess we felt it was a record that shouldn't be recorded on the cheap in a mate's bedroom studio type of thing, but all the label and industry people were forever "umming and ahhing", as they do - so it took us until a few months ago to finally find a way to go make the record ourselves, under the circumstances we thought the songs deserved. I'm pretty sure 2009 will be a very fun year.
Last year was particularly quiet for the band in terms of releases.
What were you up to?
Gigging our arses off, mainly outside of the UK. Everything about playing live is so much better there. I'm really bored with how UK promoters feel they don't need to do a single thing for the bands they put on. This is especially true in London. Maybe it's just an effect of an ever-increasing supply of aspiring bands here, and the fact that people seem to think it's the coolest thing in the world to run your own club even if you're really shit at it. The upside is we've been travelling lots this year, and that's been great. However, obviously recording suffered. In a way we also felt we didn't want to put out ANOTHER seven inch, as fun as that is. It felt like next stop was a full length or nothing!
You have just finished your eagerly awaited debut album, Reservoir. How long has it taken to write and record?
I always thought our first album would be like a big scrapbook of all the stuff I'd written over the past few years or whatever, but in the end most of the songs we put on the album were new songs from the year leading up to recording, which is incredibly refreshing.
All four singles to date have been released on different labels.
What label will the album be released on?
There's a whole bunch of labels in the UK, US and Japan interested, but the first thing we're going to do is a limited, self-released version so we can get it out there and not wait for those rusty cogs to start turning to get the songs out there. We are really gagging for people to hear this stuff, and we have a tour coming up so it would be silly not to have it with us.
Will any of your previous single releases be on the album?
Ah, yes - two of them in fact, 'Fire Escape' and 'Harold T Wilkins'...
Video: Fanfarlo 'Fire Escape'
Do you think people who may have been fans back in 2006 will be
surprised by the new record?
That's what I'd like to know. Yes, I think so. But in a good way. We're a long way away from the bedroom recordings I made back then, we've really matured musically a lot and are much more of a band now. Maybe people will even stop calling us twee now.
Will there be any live shows to coincide with the album's release?
Yes! We'll be touring for about 5 weeks, starting mid February. It kicks off with a Valentine's Day show that we're putting on ourselves to raise some money for SXSW, which is stupidly expensive and is at the tail end of the tour in late March. In between we'll be doing a string of headline club shows all over the UK. Some of the dates are floating about already, but once everything is confirmed we'll announce it all on the website.
As a six-piece, the songwriting and recording process must be quite
difficult. Are there ever any major disagreements and how are these
I guess the fact that I'm the only songwriter helps, but actually, most of the time we all agree what the obvious direction of each song is... it's very rare that we have different ideas of what to do with a song.
You are still regarded - quite unfairly in my opinion - as part of
the "quintessential London scene". Do you feel this tag has hindered the band in some ways as far as gaining national recognition is concerned?
We don't really think of ourselves as a very "London" band, and to be honest I haven't really picked up on other people labelling us as such... maybe you're right. But I would really hope that people don't let stuff like that get in the way of the music.
Your past releases and live shows have attracted favourable
reviews so far. Do you pay much attention to what the music press say
and how would you react if you were ever given a negative review?
In the beginning we read everything of course, but I think most musicians very quickly get tired of what the press say about them. Oddly I think we've pretty much never had a bad review. I guess we still have the benefit of being a small band. Once there's a critical mass of people liking you, there will always be some people slating you purely based on this fact. I have to say it still amazes me how consistently people from very different camps seem to like us though... so many times now that I've heard "I don't normally like this kind of music but this is great." I guess we're just irresistible?
Video: Fanfarlo 'Talking Backwards'
Finally, what are your hopes and aspirations for Fanfarlo in 2009?
We want to play all the continents... Build a glass house... Find the perfect taco... Make a couple of conceptual EPs... Have a GOOD TIME, ALL THE TIME...And become very, very eccentric.
- Catch Fanfarlo on tour over the next couple of months in the following places:
14 London The Lexington
15 Reading Oaxford Social
19 Bristol Start the Bus
20 Torquay Rude
21 Exeter The Cavern
22 Bournemouth BIC (w/ Snow Patrol)
25 Glasgow SECC (w/ Snow Patrol)
26 Aberdeen AECC (w/ Snow Patrol)
27 Glasgow Captains Rest
4 Sheffield Hallam Arena (w/ Snow Patrol)
7 Leeds The Faversham
10 Newcastle Arena (w/ Snow Patrol)
11 Birmingham NEC (w/ Snow Patrol)
12 Nottingham Arena (w/ Snow Patrol)
14 London O2 Arena (w/ Snow Patrol)
16 London O2 Arena (w/ Snow Patrol)