Funeral For A Friend

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funeral-for-a-friend-2011
Lizzie Hatfield chats to Funeral For A Friend about the changing music industry, the freedom of their new album, and their interest in local Britons.

So many bands within your genre seem to have vanished over the last 10 years. How do you think you guys have stuck around and managed to stay relevant?
This is a hard question to answer, as each of those bands probably has a specific reason for calling it a day. I mean, if you grew up in an environment when the music industry was still in its transitional stages, it was easier at that time to make enough money to support yourself. I guess the landscape is changing so much due to downloading, and the economic crash has also affected people with how much they earn and what they choose to spend their money on. As a result, everyone’s on tour. Everyone’s playing shows so it’s massive competition out there now. And we’re just kind of stubborn. We know we’re not as big as we were say five, six, seven years ago, but that’s never really been a factor for us as a band. We didn’t start this band to be successful – we started this band because we needed to get something off our chests, and as long as we have that need then we’ll keep on making music. So for us, this band is like another limb. It’s a part of us.

So would you say that performing is the most important thing for you? Or is it just as important as the writing and the recording?
It really does depend. Touring over the past few years has been way more fun for me, because the pressure has just come off. There’s no need for me to articulate a sense of what the band was before, when we were more popular. We’ve come to terms with the fact that the band is different – it’s not the same band anymore. By focusing on that, that’s what has driven me to be more comfortable performing.

Have you ever had stage fright?
I wouldn’t say stage fright, but I used to have the usual kind of apprehension you would expect. But that’s because it’s a very odd thing to do – it’s not really natural. It’s something you have to get used to.

You brought out a new album in January, called Chapter & Verse. Tell us about the recording process.
It came together pretty quick. We knew that we were going to make a record. We’d kind of put it all together before we even went into the studio. The process we’ve had over the last couple of albums is that we’ve spent months getting together, working out the ins and outs of it, and demoing the songs. But with this record, we didn’t have that. It created more of a sense of freedom to not know the songs we were going to record before we went into the studio. It was very much in the same vein as when we first started out. We didn’t make demos then or anything like that, we just went in and felt the songs grow organically. And that was a great moment for us, that part when you’re in the studio and everyone’s parts are being layered on and the process is gaining more momentum. That’s really exhilarating stuff.

What’s your favourite song to perform live? Does it ever change over time?
I think in terms of content and what the song actually means, probably Roses For The Dead. It’s quite possibly the most personal song and it’s stayed that way for a long time. Some of the songs we wrote years ago don’t mean the exact same thing now as they did back then – but that’s just part of growing up.

Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
Oh God, we’re all weird. We never really like the same things. I mean, we’re all very different people. My favourite band of all time – well, I’ve got two – and they’re both very different genres of music. One is a band called Boy Sets Fire who are pretty much solely responsible for me feeling like I could do this, to get up on stage and have the confidence to speak my mind and not be afraid of the repercussions of that. And then the other band is Weezer. It may seem like an odd coupling but again, that’s a band that’s kind of forged their own path. They’ve always stayed true to who they are, no matter what, and for me, that’s important. They’re a band that entertain me, and I love them because lyrically, they really strike a chord. They’re that fine balance of personal reflection and accessibility – it’s very diary-based, confessional song-writing.

Your fourth LP, Memory & Humanity, was self-released. How does self-releasing compare to working with a label?
It’s probably really good if you’re decisive about it, but when you’re in a band of people who haven’t got a clue what they’re doing, who can’t agree on anything, then it’s pretty difficult. This is why we did it once and then we decided not to pursue that again. Everybody wanted different things from it. I wanted to fully get involved in it and make it a proper label, but nobody else seemed that keen on it. I didn’t really want to be the one with all that responsibility on my shoulders, so I stepped away from it.

I’m currently working on another record label with two of my friends outside of the band – it’s called Palm Reader Records. We recently played with a band called Creeper who are kind of like gothic punk. They’re really melodic, really catchy stuff. They’re from Southampton. We just put out their new record – they’re really worth checking out.

How’s the tour going so far?

The tour’s been really good – tonight’s sold out. We played Cornwall on Thursday 12th and that sold out. Our show at Chinnery’s in Southend was amazing. I’m just very interested by the people that inhabit these places that come out to see us. It’s pretty cool.

Do you have any loyal fans that go to every single gig?
Yeah, definitely. There’s still a handful of people that travel around, spending more money than I could possibly want them to spend on us, and they always come to watch us play. I always recognise them.

Have you ever been given any weird gifts by your fans?
Not me, no, but some of my other bandmates have. Our old guitarist, Darren, used to often get very confessional letters about people’s lives and things they were going through. They were very deep and dark. Sometimes we were unsure what to do with the information – I think they thought we had it all figured out but as made evident by our lyrics, that’s not the case. We’re still trying to figure it out too, it’s a constant search.

So who’s supporting you tonight?
Tonight we have our friends, Grader from Aberdeen, and our friends from Bristol, Svalbard. These bands exist in the same sphere of music as us – that DIY punk / metal scene – but they’re very distinctive. Grader are melodic, very heartfelt punk-rock, and Svalbard are post-rock metal with screaming and stuff – it’s really emotional. I think they’re one of the best bands that we’ve played with.

Do you choose your own support acts?
Yeah, we do. For us, it’s an opportunity to present bands that we’re excited about to our audience – bands that they might not already know about. I think it’s a responsibility that we have; we should use the platform that we have to put forward these kinds of bands, and these ideas of how we feel about the current music scene.

How would you describe your own band?
Umm.. confused. I think we’ve definitely changed. Obviously, we’ve had people leave. I think the pressure of success – whether you try to avoid it or not – it does factor in. And that pressure came quite quickly to our band. Whether we were aware of it or not, it did factor into certain member’s ideas about what they wanted us to be. But I think the band right now has almost come full circle.

I don’t want to say it didn’t used to be fun, but now, there’s no need for us to present this mythical idea of what the band is. There’s no pedestal, there’s no separation between us and the people that listen to us. We’ve always been just normal dudes that play music that we feel passionate about. And the whole idea of having huge fans out there – I respect it – but I find it very odd, because growing up in the scene of music that I grew up in, that was never factored into anything. For me, it’s almost a bit of a mindfuck, because I was never a popular kid in school. Punk rock has always been an outlet for me to express what I feel about politics and social issues. So for me to then have people get really intensely into ‘the band’ – I deal with it – but I find it very bizarre that we can mean so much to an individual. I really love that people can relate so much to something that I’ve written, but I never anticipated it. And sometimes it means something different to them than it did to me when I was writing it.

What can we expect from your show tonight? Any golden oldies?
I mean, we always play the old stuff. Unfortunately, we’ve only got an hour tonight because of the curfew, but you should expect a bit of everything. We’re never one of those bands that goes out of our way to spoil the mood for everybody – we play a mixture of old and new stuff.

We still have a connection with the old songs, we don’t just play them because it’s expected of us, but because we want to and we have fun playing them. I also love the connection it creates between us and the people that come to see us. I don’t think we’ve ever played a show and not played Juneau. We do try to revolve the setlist as much as we can, though with some songs we’re a little bit like, “Do we have to play this again?” When that’s the case we don’t even bother soundchecking them.

But it’s not just about playing songs back at people, it’s also about spontaneity and the unexpected. I know that that’s the reason why I go to a live show. I like shows when they almost feel like they’re on the verge of falling apart because there’s so much energy – especially in a venue like this one, it’s ideal.