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Friendly Fires

Friendly Fires

Tuesday 26th April, 2011 9:31AM

Amidst South by Southwest dates and appearances on Jimmy Fallon, UTR caught up with Friendly Fires front man Ed Macfarlane to discuss their sophomore album, Pala, and everything that went with following up a critically acclaimed, self-titled debut.


Tell me what you guys have been up to?

Well we just South by South West, then we went and did Jimmy Fallon, then we flew to Paris to do a TV show then got back so it’s been quite busy.

You’re basically on a promotional rampage, then?

Yeah and it’s been going really well. We got offered the Jimmy Fallon thing really late and it felt like an opportunity we didn’t want to miss. I also wanted to go because a couple of members of the house band are my heroes and I wanted to meet them.

Tell me about the Jimmy Fallon experience:

It was probably one of the best TV shows we’ve played on. The whole thing just flew by and it felt like it happened in ten seconds. The reception was really good too.

So, you’re obviously touring and playing songs from your new album, Pala?

We started playing the songs when we were in Australia for Good Vibrations and it’s quite daunting because the ideal situation would be to play the songs in smaller clubs and smaller audiences and working out how the crowd reacts to them. It was quite scary to go on a big stage without having really tried them out.

And how was that first response?

Yeah they were really receptive. After doing that tour we weren’t thinking “Oh shit we’ve got to write an entirely new album”. Everyone was really receptive to it, even though a lot of the tracks are a lot slower and deeper, it didn’t seem to hinder their reaction.

Tell me a little bit about the writing and recording process of the new album:

To be honest, I don’t think it was until the end of the first record we were really discovering our sound. To me, our sound is this big bright colourful vibrant pop kind of thing – tracks like ‘Jump in the Pool’ and ‘Kiss of Life’ – we had started to nail that sound and we wanted to do something that was a continuation of that while also trying out things we’d never done before. We started writing the record in this basement in Shoreditch, and we were there for about two months but I don’t think it was quite right for us because we were in the hub of all the action – you’re surrounded by a million bars and a million live music venues. We didn’t stay there for that long because we weren’t actually getting that much done. So we moved back to my garage in St Alburns and wrote most of the album there. It felt right being away from everything. For us to be motivated and to write something that sounds really uplifting and sort of positive it’s better for us to be in surroundings that are a little bleaker.

Do you always go into the recording process knowing you want to write positive, uplifting songs, or does the sound develop more organically?

It’s definitely not a conscious thing, I think it just naturally occurs. I probably gauge my music entirely different to how the general public engages with our music. We just released our first single tonight and the first public reaction has been really positive. People saying stuff like “can’t wait for the summer because the new Friendly Fires track is out and it would be perfect for sunny weather”. I thought that was quite interesting because when I hear that track it doesn’t sound summery to me at all.

What kind of progression did you want to make from first to second album?

I think we wanted every track to have a different initial starting point; we didn’t want to be lazy and write nice sounding music. For many of the tracks the starting point was from old dictaphone recordings I’d made when I was younger of old tape loops – that then formed the basis of the track. There’s this other song called ‘Hurting’ which is our first foray into sampling, we played over the top of these chopped up samples. It felt like every track needed an interesting starting point like that rather than us just jamming a nice bass line and then adding guitar etc. It felt like it was really important that every song had its own unique character and I think we’re really achieved that.

You’ve been a band, in various capacities, for a really long time. Correct?

Yeah, definitely we started we started when we were 13 and we were just covering Green Day songs as you do when you’re 13. It’s been a really long process working out our sound and it’s only now - we’re 26 – that we’ve started to figure it out. We’ve been in this band for half of our lives basically which is quite bizarre when I think about it, and it’s only now that we’re really aware of what we’re about and what our sound is; this bright summer pop.

What do you think drew you to your current sound?

There was never a conscious decision to write electronic music. When we were 17 or 18 we first starting going to raves and we used to go to a club called Electroworks where they do a lot of Warp Records nights. I was putting out my own, more electronic productions around that time on various labels and we were all listening to a lot of electronic music and so it was only natural that rubbed off on our band a bit. I always find it a bit weird when people say we’re an electro sounding band because I don’t really think of us as that electro sounding. When I think of electro I think of Miss Kitten and sort of distorted awful bass lines, and I don’t think our music’s about that. I think the instrumentation is a lot more sophisticated in our songs.

Your sound is arguably part of a lineage of English music arising in the late seventies / early eighties. Do you feel part of that?

Sort of, although I never felt we’ve had this punk aesthetic, if anything it’s been the complete opposite. We try and make our music as accessible as possible. With this new record the The Bee Gees Spirits Having Flown has been our most influential record when we’ve been recorded because it’s just really interesting, well written pop where the production has been pushed. I feel our record is representative of that, too.

When people listen to Pala, what do you want them to take away from it?

I think that the general message of the record is live for the here and now and enjoy every moment while it lasts. I want people to experience something very epic and beautiful for a very short amount of time. I love the idea that our music could just transport you somewhere for three minutes and put you in this place where nothing else matters. I’d like people to feel that.


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