The Student interviews Fickle Friends

So what have you guys been up to since festival season ended?

Natti: We’ve been in LA recording our album. Went to NY, did a bit of fun over there.

 

You’re working with Mike Crossey on the album, aren’t you? He’s worked on some great albums with Arctic Monkeys, The 1975, TDCC and Bill Ryder-Jones’ orchestral If… album, albums in which atmosphere is very distinctive and coherent throughout, and your music seems to be like that too.

N: Yeah absolutely, Mike’s very old-school.

Jack: He cares about that kind of thing, just getting the atmosphere, as you said. It’s all about the vibe, how it feels, when we do a track. Like if it doesn’t feel right then something’s just not right and has to be changed.

 

There seems to be a bit of a juxtaposition between the sound and subject matter of your songs: sonically they seem very upbeat but the lyrics can be anxious, a bit pessimistic…

N: You can’t write a song unless you, I don’t know, mean something. But I’m just a miserable bitch, so… [laughs]

 

You guys self-produced your Velvet EP. How did you go about it, having not worked with a producer much before?

J: We did a song with a producer quite a while back, and then we just started doing it ourselves. We had very limited money, so we just booked a studio for like 3 days, went in, got an engineer to help us record it all..

N: We did the main things like track drums, track bass, track guitar, do the vocals and then we’d like take the projects away, and then usually do extra little bits like synths.

J: Just work on it until it feels right, then send it to someone for mixing…so there was a lot of moving it around, that was the way we had to do it.

 

Until recently you were touring largely on your own resources and initiative, how did that affect the band dynamic?

N: We got used to spending horrific amounts of time with one another.

J: We learned how to do things ourselves, so now when things go wrong we’re like ‘Why has this gone wrong?’, we’re really like ‘on it’. We just know how things should be from doing it by ourselves for so long. We don’t really have fights anymore. We used to have lots of little [in unison] tiffs.

N: You spend like three weeks with one person and you just…can’t….

J: Sort of like earlier this year we were on tour for six weeks, and then we went to America for a month. It was pretty insane.

 

So were you recording at the same time as doing festivals in Europe?

N: We went to SXSW and then went straight to LA and did our first bit there. Then we came back, did festival season, went back for 3 weeks, came back for some more festivals…went back again! Came back and finished the festivals, did some writing, went to NY, went to LA, tried to finish the album, did a festival in Paris. Had to go back to shoot a music video in LA, then came back for a tour, so it’s just been like…

J: We’ve seen ALL the movies on the plane basically.

N: You just go through the list like [tortured pressing of buttons] ‘NOOo..’

J: There are episodes of programmes that I’ve watched so many times.

 

Are there any movies you would like to have soundtracked?

N: True Romance?

J: We’ve always talked about one of our songs being used at the end of a romcom.

N: Like with Jennifer Aniston, or J Lo…basically there’s like a new generation of romcom, like For a Good Time, Call…-good, funny, witty, Bridesmaids-vibe.

J: Yeah so we’d just have Fickle Friends at the end as a big, good-time track.

 

Trainspotting?

J: That would be cool but I don’t think anything we’ve released so far would be suitable really.

N: It’s weird hearing people talking about our music like “It’s so bubblegum!” because it’s just not?

J: We’ve got really moody songs too – like ‘Paris’ for instance couldn’t be further from bubblegum.

 

Will there be many songs like that on the album?

N: There’ll be a few. Not too many, though. I always get annoyed when people do that.

J: We want old fans to be able to listen to it without thinking ‘Oh they’ve just re-recorded their whole back-catalogue.’

 

You just released Brooklyn as a single, and the video was announced this morning. Could you tell us a bit about that track?

N: That was the first one we recorded with Mike actually, at the end of our month in LA. We spent like a full week on one song, so there was a lot of fannying around – I spent a whole afternoon trying out vocal mics and pre amps and stuff. It was a learning curve, that song.

J: It was the first track we recorded for the album but we have loved it for ages.

N: We wrote it so long ago, way before we were signed. It was back when we were doing it all on our own and it was all getting a bit much for everyone. We were so broke and a bit miserable but we knew we had to keep touring. It’s quite a miserable song…

 

You’re often described as having a very 80s sound, but your music doesn’t sound like you have just ripped off the 80s and stuck it on a song – it’s still quite contemporary. Has that been a conscious effort or do you think it’s just a result of the way we consume music nowadays?

N: It’s just taste isn’t it? We love synths and big guitar hooks, and it just so happens that that was such a prominent feature of 80s band music, or Michael Jackson or Prince.

J: Yeah we took a bit from it because there are just such good ideas there musically.

N: But we’re not like “We want to be an 80s band!”

 

What bands do you really like at the moment?

N: None that I fully love…do you know what, I haven’t loved a band in so long. Like Friendly Fires, TDCC’s first albums, Bombay Bicycle Club – they were all the bands that we really loved, but now it’s just Mura Masa, Pond – they’re not really bands.

J: There are loads of great songs out, but it’s so rare to find a whole album where you love every song. When an album comes out I get excited and listen to the whole thing, just wanting it to be amazing but usually I’m just disappointed, like “I’d like a bit more please”. It’s all about singles now.

N: It’s not like with Friendly Fire’s first two records where I could just whip them out and play them start to finish like “I fucking love this”…

 

Are there any artists who have inspired your stage performance? Like when you were starting out were there any that you thought “Right I really want to channel you onstage”?

N: No, it’s more what you find engaging. I saw Crystal Fighters the other day and they have all these huge drums in the middle. We want it to be very visually engaging but we also want it to sound great, so lots of drums and percussion going on. We want it to be lively, with all the lighting and stuff…It’s not just one thing but you can’t help appreciating it all when you go see bands.

J: Especially around festival season we see a lot of bands and realise that we could do something like that, and take bits from it.

N: The 1975’s show is insane. It’s beyond anything.

J: It’s also nice when bands have a rawer performance though. You don’t necessarily need all the flashing lights.

 

Do you have much input in the album art?

N: Yes, we work with a guy called Matt Naitland, who I think is just the most incredible visual artist – he did Brooklyn and Cry Baby.

J: He really wants it to be a collaboration with us too though.

N: We sat down and started chatting about concepts and buzzwords and what the album’s about, if there’s a running theme. His whole thing is doing collages and stuff. Like the faceless girl…

 

Are there any cool instruments you’d like to bring in on future albums or onstage – sax, cello…melodica, pan pipes…?

N: We’d love a brass section. Or backing singers…

J: Backing singers aren’t that good though, you’d need to get Beyoncé.

 

If you could make a Fickle Friends-inspired drink, what would be in it?

N: What’s the most delicious drink you’ve ever had? That Old Fashioned that Mike bought us.

J: That one we had last night – lamb-spiced rum…it was delicious. We have some left! Shall we get it from the van?

N: So the Fickle Friends drink would be that…on ice. Maybe with like ginger-ale and some fresh lime.

 

If you could curate your own festival line-up, who would be on the bill?

J: What I’d have is two stages opposite each other, one band would play a hit, then you’d turn around and another one plays a hit, then you turn around again and so on. Phoenix would be playing.

N: The Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson…obviously.

 

Can you write on the road or do you need a particular environment?

N: Yeah we write on the road. We’re playing a song tonight that we wrote in the back of a van in Denmark, called ‘Bite’. We created a thing called ‘van drums’ and we tried recording it into the Mac, which was awful.

 

What do you want to get from the album yourselves?

N: We want an album that we like ourselves, and that will build the fanbase and sell enough to allow us to do a big tour off the back of it and a second record. There are so many bands that we are friends with that just don’t get the opportunity to do another album because it’s so difficult to break bands with a first album. We need to love it basically, and it needs to sell, or else we’re fucked.

 

Could you give your best salesperson pitch of your album then?

N: [holds imaginary gun to Jack’s head] Buy our album. Simple and effective.

J: You can’t really force someone to like it. Just go listen to it and if you like it, buy it.

N: Cool sexy vibes. It will do wonders for you in the bedroom. I’m just imagining myself selling Valium, or Viagra.

 

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