Having been hotly tipped by critics since the beginning of the year, The Big Pink have enjoyed something of an ostentatious baptism in the music world so far. With a handful of mouth-watering singles to their name already, last month saw the release of their debut long player A Brief History Of Love, once again garnering a smattering of acclaim (including a more than satisfactory 7/10 here on this very website). This month sees them embarking on their most extensive European tour to date, including several nights opening for Muse on their Arena tour in November, eventually returning to their London base just in time for Christmas.
Although primarily a duo - guitarist/vocalist Robbie Furze and keyboard player/musical arranger Milo Cordell - their live set usually comprises of at least five players in total, and at its most ferocious stands loud and proud alongside many of their contemporaries both past and present.
DiS caught up with Furze hours before his band took to the stage supporting the legendary Pixies at Brixton Academy.
DiS: Hello Robbie, how are you this morning?
Robbie Furze: Fine thanks. I've literally just left my house to take my dog for a walk. We're supporting the Pixies tonight at Brixton Academy so I thought I'd have a few moments of calm with the dog before the van comes to pick me up in a couple of hours for the show.
DiS: Are you looking forward to sharing a stage with the Pixies?
RF: Oh yes, like you wouldn't believe! It really does feel like a dream come true. They're one of the bands that inspired me to become a musician in the first place. I'd say they're the main reason why I started playing guitar.
DiS: By all accounts they put on an amazing live show too even though it's fifteen years or so since they stopped writing music together.
RF: I'd like to think we could still be doing something in five years time let alone fifteen. They're absolute legends man, for sure.
DiS: Your album A Brief History Of Love has been largely well received by the music press. Do you pay much attention to reviews in general?
RF: Sometimes, it depends on who it is, I guess. I mean, without sounding like I'm sucking up to you guys, I respect the likes of Drowned In Sound and Pitchfork as they seem to focus more on the music rather than our personal lives. I trust most of the reviewers for that reason as I know that even any form of criticism will be geared towards the songs. I mean, there are some reviews where you actually wonder if the writer has bothered listening to the record. They seem more interested in where I live or who I socialise with and that just makes me want to stop reading. What I have noticed about some of the better reviews of the album is the detail people have gone into. Some people have been critical of certain songs on the record but at least they've gone into detailed explanations why they don't like those songs, which I actually take as a compliment. There was one review which said six songs on the album were outstanding and then three were OK but the other two were awful, but then it broke each part down into what the reviewer liked or disliked about them all.
Video:The Big Pink 'Velvet'
DiS: It's interesting you say that because, for me, the likes of 'Velvet' and 'Count Backwards From Ten' are easily the most astounding pieces of music I've heard this year, yet by the same token I was quite surprised that a couple of the songs from your earlier demos, 'Introduction To Awareness' and 'With You' in particular, didn't make the record. How did you arrive at the final tracklisting?
RF: It's kind of a weird one really. A lot of it was actually just down to timing. We were up against the clock to get the album finished, and a few things just fell by the wayside a little bit. 'With You' we put out on a Japanese EP but we are planning to revisit that in the future, possibly for the next record, because I love that song. I think it works in a similar way to 'Count Backwards...' but I think it can be expanded on even further. Sometimes, as well, it felt like certain songs were ready, and others weren't, or didn't fit in with the theme of the album. We had our heads in our hands at times when we were recording the album at Electric Lady in New York wondering what we were going to include, going through the list of songs we could use and then whittling it down to eleven at the end. We knew we had to make some tough decisions but I think, as a whole, we tried to look at it as a record with a flow from beginning to end so the songs had to all fit together. We had no concept for the record before we started. It was almost like we had this body of misplaced songs all over the place and the ones which didn't work well with the majority that did got left off the album.
DiS: I think you've managed to transcend several genres on A Brief History Of Love.
RF: We don't tend to think about where we're meant to fit in to be honest. In hindsight, we started The Big Pink with really low expectations. We never had any idea about what could happen to us. The whole ethos behind the band was for it to develop as a natural process really. I like the fact that we don't fit into any one genre and I think that's a mark of the creative process behind The Big Pink. It sounds like I'm talking in the third person, but you know, Me and Milo (Cordell) can do whatever we want. For the next record we want it to be more hip-hop based for example. I've been listening to a lot of Beastie Boys recently and I'm fascinated by the kind of beats Wu Tang Clan use too. I guess what I'd really like would be to create our own genre really so I could be reading a review about a new band that says they sound like The Big Pink. It does annoy us when people try to pigeonhole us.
DiS: I remember the last time we spoke at Camden Crawl, and Milo in particular seemed upset at the suggestion there may be a shoegaze element to your sound.
RF: The shoegaze element I can partly understand with the guitar wall of noise, but most of the bands associated with that genre are very fey and blissed out in a weak way. Not My Bloody Valentine who we both love, but certainly some of the other bands people consider to be shoegaze. We're so far away from that. I don't understand bands who want to lose the vocals in the mix for example, which is what a lot of those bands tend to do. With us, it's right up there. I sometimes think I sound like a crooner or something...
Video:The Big Pink 'Too Young To Love'
DiS: I guess that's what happens though when you get one groundbreaking band or artist and a load of imitators following suit. Wouldn't that worry you going back to what you said earlier about creating your own genre if you found yourselves swamped by an army of Big Pink clones?
RF: Yeah, I guess, although I'd like to think no one can fully imitate us because we'd just change it again. I don't think we've honed our sound, maybe we never will as we're all over the place really in terms of what influences us. I like our songs but we haven't really found our feet in terms of direction. We're just babies when it comes to recording. A Brief History Of Love is still only our first record so hopefully we'll grow in and grow up.
DiS: In the studio The Big Pink is just you and Milo, but live you're more of a four/five-piece with various other musicians like Comanechi drummer Akiko Matsuura and vocalist Jo Apps joining you onstage. Do you see this crossing over to the writing and recording process in future or will you remain as a duo for those purposes?
RF: I really don't like the idea of us just becoming a project. I see The Big Pink as being a proper band, and I think that's how we are when we're on tour. I like working with the whole group in a live setting, but I think in the studio me and Milo work very well together, and you can make quick decisions with just two people as opposed to five or six. We have a really good understanding of what we do and don't feel we have to prove anything to each other. We never argue about anything and we're not actually that precious about our parts in the band - if Milo doesn't like something he'll tell me to scrap it and vice versa. We're talking about writing an EP while we're on tour, with all of us contributing various parts, only with a more minimal four-track feel to it. We want to write it on the road, then the second we finish the tour go straight in the studio and record it live to disk, cut it straight onto the record and have it in the shops by nine o'clock the next morning.
DiS: What made you decide on that?
RF: Someone told me about this experimental punk band called Warsawpack who did a similar thing a few years back, so I searched out the record and it sounded so natural, no overdubs or anything like that. I like the whole mystery element of pressing up the white labels and putting records out in plain sleeves too, you know, maybe just stamping the band's name on the front and issuing several hundred seven inch singles.
DiS: If one of the other members of the live band - let's say Akiko for example - came to you and Milo with a song she'd written with The Big Pink in mind, would you allow her to use it?
RF: Yeah, totally. If someone else took on the responsibility of writing some new songs I'd be really happy. The idea of having to put together a second record is pretty daunting as it is!
DiS: One song which didn't make the final cut for A Brief History Of Love was 'Stop The World', which initially looked as if it would be the introductory single to the album. What's the story behind that omission and do you see yourselves revisiting it in the future?
RF: We liked it at the time, and the label were pushing us to put a single out so it seemed an obvious choice. Paul Epworth produced it and we thought it sounded good, but then when we came to play it live something felt like it wasn't working, and I think that is a good sign as to whether a song works or not. After a while we sat back and listened to it and realised it actually sounded like two separate songs. The verse was really cool and the chorus too, but together they really didn't sound right, and in the end we got so frustrated with it that we decided we hated it and that was it...over. Unfortunately, I don't see us ever going back to 'Stop The World' now. Its time has passed. I mean, there are some songs that we are going to work on again; 'With You' we've already talked about, and another song which was a focal part of our live set at the start of the year called 'Doom Generation' we've just recorded again. I hated the chorus on that for so long, but then while we were in New York Chris Zane, who did the Passion Pit album, worked on it with us and to me it has a Duran Duran feel about it, so we'll definitely be doing something with that soon.
Video:The Big Pink 'Dominos'
DiS: A couple of your songs - 'Velvet' and 'Dominos' - have appeared on various television shows and commercials. Do you see this as being a way many new bands will have to go in the current climate to gain maximum exposure to their music?
RF: I think everything helps. If people think we're selling out then I'd argue back straight away, because it's so hard at the minute to get people to hear our music on the radio or MTV. We want people to come to our gigs, and if no one hears our music beforehand that's unlikely to happen. No one makes any money out of this. If our song gets played on an advert then it could bring an extra twenty people to our next show, you know...
DiS: I kind of agree with that. It's hardly fair to accuse bands of selling out by allowing their music to be used on television as records don't sell any more. If anything something as trivial as a thirty-second clip on Hollyoaks could be the difference between financing the next record or having to call it quits...
RF: Exactly. It really is as simple as that, and if anyone thinks we're going to be living off the royalties of 'Dominos' or whatever because they heard it over the opening credits on E4 or whatever they're sadly mistaken!
DiS: You're about to embark on your biggest ever tour this month, and in between will be playing with Muse on some of their arena dates. How did that come about?
RF: I think Muse are fans of ours. They've been really cool to be honest. They're even giving away a version of 'Dominos' to people who sign up on their website, and that was literally Matt Bellamy contacting our label and asking if they would let him do that as he genuinely wanted to help us out, so I just can't wait for those shows now. It will be amazing!
The Big Pink are on tour in the UK at present, calling in at the following venues:-
14 Glasgow King Tuts
16 Middlesbrough Corner House
17 York Duchess
18 Leeds Cockpit
20 Liverpool Academy 2
21 Manchester Academy
22 London Electric Ballroom
4 Sheffield Arena (w/Muse)
5 Liverpool Echo Arena (w/Muse)
9 Glasgow SECC (w/Muse)
10 Birmingham NIA (w/Muse)
12 London 02 Arena (w/Muse)
13 London 02 Arena (w/Muse)
For more information on The Big Pink visit their MySpace.