- Mon, 2011-03-14 09:51
Funeral For A Friend helped to define the course of heavy music when they released their debut album Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation back in 2003. Seven years, four more studio albums and an EP later, and the band are returning to those roots with their fifth album Welcome Home Armageddon. Packed to the rafters with ravaging riffs and crammed with catchy choruses, it’s the sound of the band back at their best.
We met up with the lads to chat about their new line-up, making the new album, returning to play some more intimate venues and wearing lots of denim.
ILM: Where do you see your new album, Welcome Home Armageddon, fitting in with your journey and how would you guys describe the record?
Matt: I have a favourite thing I like to say about the record: it’s like a punch to the face followed by a kiss on the cheek. It’s one of the most direct albums we’ve done. It’s very immediate; unlike Radiohead we didn’t take long to get to the goods! It really brings every influence that we have as individuals and as a band together on one record for the first time in a long time. It’s not a confused record; it knows exactly what it wants to be and isn’t ashamed about its attack and presentation, which is something really cool for us.
ILM: Romesh Dodangoda produced the album again. How would you describe your relationship with him? What did he bring to the table and how did you guys work with him the second time round?
Ryan: It was good working with someone who knows us as people and has known us from the early days of the band. He lives in the same area as us. He understood what it was we were trying to capture and understood the history of the band. At 23 he was unproven compared with some of the other producers that we had worked with, and we liked the idea of working with someone who had something to prove and was hungry to make a name for himself. That’s the place we were in. We were really hungry to make a statement and he was too, so it worked out well in that way.
ILM: What was the song-writing process like this time around?
Kris: It was a bit different this time round. We felt when we did Memory and Humanity that we became a bit like a factory conveyer belt. This time we separated into groups and once the ideas were formed we’d get together, pull them apart and put them back together. So it was slightly different this way round. I think it gave each of us more time to spend thinking about our own individual parts as opposed to just cramming the song together.
Ryan: There was a lot of emailing going on. It was also very different because neither Gavin nor Rich were in the band for the last record. I guess when we were doing Memory and Humanity it was only really me who had any sort of recording equipment that we could demo on. We were just getting in my house every day doing that and it became a bit like Kris said; a bit of a factory line process and very repetitive. It was almost like a day job really, and we started to feel like that a little bit. But when Gav came into the band he was also able to do the recording stuff, and then Kris bought himself a computer so that he was able to throw Rich demos. So it was a lot more spread out this time and we were able to work separately a lot more. We had a lot more personal space to develop our own initial ideas before coming together.
Matt: It was a nice feeling to check an email and get an idea through that’s completely fresh and new to listen to, and you’ve got no preconceived idea of what it’s going to be.
ILM: Working like that, how did you make sure that the record had a consistent thread throughout?
Matt: I think we all just know each other so well that all our musical ideas tend to somehow gel really well. There’s not a song that we’d write that would stick out as being a non-Funeral song. It all worked.
Kris: When Darren was in the band and we were writing, Darren was a completely different player, but Gav’s playing style is a lot closer to mine, and your ideas are things that I might come up with and vice versa. As musicians it was more like we were all on the same page. A lot more than what we may have been in the past.
Ryan: What was good as well is that everyone was given a lot of freedom on this record to interpret each other’s ideas in their own way. For example, when Matt initially came up with the idea for track 16 it was just a basic recording of a clean guitar and a vocal and it sounded almost quite ‘countryish’, or acoustic. When Matt gave that over to Kris and Gav they were able to play it in their style, and it was the same for me and Rich. When it came back to Matt it had run through that process and transformed, but it was still the same song. The essence of that song was still there.
ILM: You’re playing some small venues on your upcoming tour, what do you like about those more intimate shows?
Ryan: Stage diving!
Matt: This is our first tour back after being away for the best part of last year and, what with the hunger we have for what we do right now, it kind of makes sense to take it back to that kind of more base level really. It’s good to get back to seeing the whites of kids’ eyes and being in people’s faces and experiencing the song on a very emotional and very deep level. We did a show at the Borderline last weekend and it just had that vibe. You could feel the pulse of the audience, and we fed off it. It’s kind of cool to get back on track with that kind of tour because it will feed us and allow us to fill our engine for the rest of the year.
ILM: What have been some of the best live shows you have seen as fans that have stuck with you and inspired you as musicians?
Richard: Circa Survive was a great one in Clwb Ifor Bach. I sang like every word. I’d like to be back there now!
Kris: Sick Of It All in Newport. I remember going to watch them in TJ’s. It’s a small, intimate little venue. Snapcase played as well; absolutely incredible show.
Ryan: I got punched in the jaw in the circle pit for that show!
Matt: I like it when bands lose themselves in the music and they just seem to become one. Hot Water Music, who we’ve seen a few times over the years, are often extremely drunk, but they still manage to evoke a strong emotional response, which I’ve not seen replicated in many other bands that I’ve seen over the years. There’s just something very visceral about that band.
ILM: Are you guys music collectors?
Ryan: I used to collect a lot of CDs but then I sold them all.
ILM: Did you really sell all of them?
Ryan: Yeah, it got too much really it was just taking over my house!
ILM: Do you miss them?
Ryan: Ummm, not really. I mean, since the iPod’s come round they’re all on my little hard drive, and we tour so much anyway they’d be left at home all alone and sad without attention!
Kris: It’s quite funny though; when we started we’d have all these CD and DVD wallets. They’d take up like a third of your bag, and now it’s like having a phone.
Ryan: I think if I was home more and wasn’t in a touring band I would have kept them but for the purpose of having all your music on a little drive, a little iPod, then it makes sense and they have to go I’m afraid.
Kris: I keep buying the same CDs over and over again ‘cause I get drunk and tell somebody that they’ve really got to listen to it and then just give it away! I have to buy a new one again!
Ryan: How many times have you bought Imprint?
Kris: Oh I think I’m on my 7th one. I might get it on iTunes next, that way I can’t give it away! I’ll probably give my laptop away if I do that, mind!
ILM: What are your earliest musical memories? When did you realise it was what you were going to do?
Matt: I was probably about five years of age. It was at a holiday camp and I pretended to be Shakin Stevens, dressed up in denim. I knew then what I wanted to be. I used to sing along to my Dad’s record collection a lot when I was younger. Everybody did really! I used to pretend to be John Lennon from The Beatles in my front room singing with a brush to Twist and Shout.
Kris: I have a brother who’s 14 years older than me, so when I was younger he was into bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. I kind of got all of that forced upon me at a young age, hearing him blasting it out of his bedroom. And seeing Guns’n’Roses live, with Slash looking amazingly cool smoking through his hair and setting it on fire! A song I can think of that was extremely important was Smells like Teen Spirit. I remember thinking in the introduction “I have to be able to do that.”
Ryan: I saw The Four Tops on a package holiday! I went to Spain with my parents when I was about 6 or 7 and then they took me - well, they dragged me along with them - to see The Four Tops. They appeased me with a hollowed out frozen peach, which is still in my memory now. I remember sitting there with that hollowed out peach, listening to The Four Tops thinking “this is amazing, I’d like to do this!”
Richard: For me it was my Dad’s record collection. My Dad was into Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd. One of my earliest memories is actually sitting in front of the fire and hearing the cash registers from Pink Floyd’s Money. That just really struck a chord with me that did. My Dad’s always been well into his rock, and I suppose he’s kind of influenced me really, with his long hair and double denim! I just saw that and I was like “I want to look cool like my Dad!”
ILM: How about you?
Gavin: I can’t remember really. I can’t really remember having an epiphany about a certain band or a moment. I think it’s just what you get drawn towards when you’re a kid, you know. You just think “oh they look cool!” I remember going through CD racks when I was younger and really didn’t give a shit who it was as long as it had a parental advisory sticker! I remember trying to get my mam to buy it for me. But yeah, it’s something you should get drawn towards over time and then after a while, when you learn to play an instrument, it becomes more of an integral part of your life I suppose.
ILM: Do you guys have big collections of instruments?
Ryan: Well Kris has got more guitars than he has hairs on his head!
ILM: How many have you got?
Kris: I think I’ve got about 16 or 17… I’m not too sure to be honest! I’ve got a bunch of Paul Reed Smiths - Singlecuts and Custom 22s - which are great. I also have a 7 string PRS, which is quite rare and was custom built for me, so that was very nice of the people at Paul Reed Smith. And then I have a bunch of Gibson Les Pauls, a Fender Telecaster, a Taylor Acoustic, which is beautiful… Amp-wise I’ve tried pretty much everything you can try. I’m using Peavey at the moment, so I stick with Peavey 6505s, which are great.
Ryan: I’ve just got a bunch of Pearl Drums and lots of Zildjian cymbals.
Richard: I play Warwick basses. I’ve got two limited editions; one Corvette LTD ’05, and a LTD Thumb Bass. One of my prized possessions is actually a guitar, a Custom Shop ‘69 Strat. It’s a beautiful instrument. Kris has fallen in love with it even though he said he hates Strats! It has a maple neck, it’s beautiful!
Gavin: Well I’ve only been playing guitar in the band for six months now, so I haven’t had as much time to blag stuff! I use PRS 2000 at the moment. I’ve got two Custom 22s. I’ve had a few crappy guitars down the line as well, but I think they’ve all perished. They’ve been smashed up. I remember throwing a Jackson Flying V onto my grass outside to see if it would stick. I was a bit silly like that, and I wanted to try it out!
ILM: What are you future plans?
Matt: It’s just touring really. It’s a cycle that keeps on repeating itself; touring, writing, recording…
Kris: I guess it depends on how well the record’s received. If it’s received really well then we’ll tour longer.
ILM: Are you playing any festivals this summer?
Kris: I think so, yeah, fingers crossed!
Guest Edit #31: Funeral For A Friend Take a look here