[Originally posted February 12, 2010]
After having seen and met Friendly Fires various times over the course of the past 2 years, we were stoked for our first formal interview with the band last winter prior to their NYLON tour with The Xx. We sat down with Ed MacFarlane (lead singer) and Edd Gibson (lead guitarist) sans Jack Savidge before their private Fred Perry show at the ping pong venue SPiN in November.We chatted with FF over the summer in Chicago and followed up on a few questions (including the upcoming album, tour, the MTV Woodie Awards and the collaboration with Holy Ghost!), we basically asked everything you ever wanted to know about the band. As always the guys were awesome, funny and…friendly!
> Welcome back to New York! Have you had any downtime at all?
EM: Yeah! Today I actually had some time to go to A-1 Records. It’s the first time I’ve been there, a friend mentioned it to me. It’s amazing. I only spent like an hour in there, had to tear myself away.
> Are you big on vinyl?
EM: YEAH! They had loads of amazing old school house stuff. I went to the Henry Street Records section and the guy was like ‘Yeah we got tons of that downstairs, haven’t got room for it up here.’ I was like “Jesus! Alright, cool!”
> You’ve got a few days off until the next show for the NYLON Tour, what are you guys doing until then?
EG: Tomorrow night we’ve got the MTV Woodie…?
EM: Woodie Awards.
EG: We’re hoping that we win the award and Kanye West comes onstage to have a go –
> I’mma let you finish! [all laugh] Are you performing as well?
EM: No I’m hoping that Grizzly Bear will perform. They’re nominated as well, would be great to see them play.
> We were in Chicago for Lollapalooza…
EM: Right. All I can think of that is BOILING BOILING BOILING weather, really dying on stage.
EG: [Laughs] Our actual backstage bit with the (electric) fans actually made it hotter.
EM: It was a great gig though.
> We were about to pass out in the crowd. Can’t imagine what it was like to have to play in that. You’ve been doing the festivals for quite some time, how is that going to differ from this tour?
EG: Well it’s nice to have enough time during the day to get all set up rather than getting booted onstage 5 minutes before you start and praying that everything sounds alright.
> Are you planning to play any new songs?
EM: No, we’ve actually just been in the studio right before coming out here. We’ve got about 6 instrumentals done and one full track. Nothing done well enough that we can play out properly though.
> I just read the announcement that you’re going to release the album in May… [NME]
EG: Haha well.. [all laugh] If we can get it finished by May it should be out by the summer.
> Are you hoping to play the festival circuit again?
EM: Yeah Definitely.
> You’ve been touring this album so long, do you ever get tired of playing the same songs? How do you switch it up for yourself?
EM: I think a lot of gigs in general depend on how good the audience is. I think if the audience is receptive and fun then I don’t care if I’ve played Photobooth 500 times because it’s suddenly fresh and different with every crowd.
> Is there a certain sound you’d like to explore on the new record?
EG: We don’t really think about it that much because we’ve been touring loads, haven’t been able to do any writing while on the road. As soon as we get a little studio space we’ll start playing the first thing that comes to our minds and expand from that.
EM: When we wrote Kiss of Life we experimented with Brazilian Samba, but I think it would be tedious and annoying to have every track with a huge drum battery. The strength of our first album is that every track sort of varied and sounded different in it’s own way, I suppose that’s the sort of thing we hope to achieve on the next record.
‘I’m quite skeptical of collaborations, a lot of times it can be a selfish indulgence of the band.’ – Ed MacFarlane
> Would you ever consider doing collaborations on your next record?
EM: Yeah! Yeah, I’d rather get the basic structure of the songs first though. I’m quite skeptical of collaborations, a lot of times it can be a selfish indulgence of the band. I’m a big fan of Converge the metal band. Their last album has been hailed as a classic but I just don’t like it at all because it’s just full of collaborations, loads of guest musicians on it. You sort of lose the whole element of who they are.
> How did the Au Revoir Simone collaboration come about?
EM: The label forced us to do it [all laugh] they suggested it to us, we all sort of agreed with it . Paris was around about a year before the album actually came out, the biggest track on the album. I suppose we just wanted to spice it up a bit and make the album version different from the version everyone else had heard before.
> I’m surprised it wasn’t a duet, I thought that’s what it was going to be before I heard it –
EG: There is a sort of dialogue in the lyrics, it would have worked…
> Is there any truth to the Holy Ghost! collaboration album?
EM: Yeah yeah yeah! We’ve done our version of Hold On, they’re just finishing On Board. I don’t know what the plan is to do with it. It’s nice to not worry about the new album for a split second and just do it for the fun of it. I bumped into Nick earlier and he recommended a few record shops. I really like their music, I really like those people. We didn’t want to remix of each other’s stuff…they’ve done about 20 remixes this year. Remixes are great but we decided to do our own proper interpretations.
> The Stuart Price remix of Jump in the Pool is one of my all time favorite remixes –
EM: All of the remixes we’ve had up to that point were very personal to us. I’m really glad and proud of that one. It’s a really great pop remix with a kind of Music Sounds Better With You feel to it without becoming sausage. Sausage is like house music that just has naked girls, not naked girls but girls dancing in bikinis.
EG: It’s very tasteful it’s kind of got a nice bubbling undercurrent. It’s loud enough that everyone’s going to dance to it.
> You guys do a bit of remixing as well –
EM: I did a quick remix [laughs] – I did a remix I SPENT A LOT OF TIME ON [all laugh] Fences by Phoenix. I really like the track, it’s really great pop music. We’ve only done two remixes though, there are too many other things we have to worry about…getting paid [all laugh]
> I’ve noticed how increasingly crazy each of your shows have gotten!
EM: I don’t know, I think with this tour everyone’s talking about The Xx! Shit! [all laugh]
EG: I think we’re kind of in a different area in our career than they are. They’re very much a buzz band and we kind of always got beyond that with a proper sturdy fan base.
> Your last show in Brooklyn was quite memorable with the girl who kissed you (Ed) onstage [all laugh]
EM: No, I was trying to push her off stage and it looked like I was strangling her in front of a thousand people on YouTube! There’s nothing more annoying than having one person dancing onstage going WOOOOO! Everyone in the crowd is just thinking ‘Who the fuck is this person onstage?!’ [Re: Music Hall of Williamsburg Show]
> Do shows get that crazy in the UK?
EM: We haven’t had a stage invasion like that for awhile!
EG: Back in the UK the venues we play have a kind of no-man’s land gap where there’s a barrier, security then you. It’s sort of nice to have more of an intimacy and be close with the audience though. It’s awkward to be so far away from your audience like “How the hell how are we supposed to connect?!” But then yeah, then you get that one person up onstage [all laugh]
‘There’s nothing more annoying than having one person [invade the stage] Everyone in the crowd is just thinking ‘Who the fuck is this person?!’ – Ed MacFarlane
> Was Friendly Fires the first band you all played in together?
EM: It’s always been the same members but our style of music has definitely changed. At 13 years old we’d cover Green Day and Deftones because that’s what we listened to. Then we got into a lot of American indie, emo, Fugazi, post-rock, Mogwai and worked our way until hitting our milestone of meeting Chris Clark, a musician from St. Albans. He gave us our first taste of electronic music and it was at that point that we decided to incorporate this sort of dance element into our sound. Two years after that we decided to start writing pop music. It’s been a long process as our tastes and music has changed while growing up.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t doing this? Did you always want to be musicians, was there ever a backup plan?
EG: I don’t have a Plan B at all. Probably washing up, temping, yeah crap like that ..bar work.
EM: I actually don’t have a clue. I have a degree in photography but I only did that in order to have more time to make music. [laughs] I would probably do some work in production, in the studio.
> Beside releasing the second album in 2010, what else are you looking most forward to?
EM: Looking forward to our end of year party, the final chapter of our band so far. We’ve chosen the line up as Holy Ghost!, Michael Mayer and more at The Coronet in London. It’s our own party, really nice to be able to choose the bill and get loads of people we actually want to see.
>Looks like booking bands could be your Plan B! [all laugh] What was your show at St. Albans like?
EG: Terrifying leading up to it! Horrible to see people you recognize in the crowd, people who know you well. Hard to lose yourself when afterward you’ll be hanging out with them.
EM: My grandparents came and left halfway through the set, Grandad’s got two hearing aids.
EG: He could have switched them off! [laughs] It was great, we did this signing at HMV in town before. It was so peculiar, the one record store you went to when you were a kid…
> Jack’s not here at the moment but he’s the only one active on Twitter. How do you guys feel about social media?
EM: I’m kind of with La Roux on this, I think La Roux is very anti- Twitter, anti-Facebook. I kind of agree with her in a sense. There needs to be a sort of mysticism. It’s different with Jack, his tweets or posts are amusing and I suppose he’s not this character that’s supposed to be mysterious. I just feel better knowing the general public doesn’t know what I’m doing first thing in the morning.
EG: I’m a private kind of character. We used to write lengthy blogs about what we got up to but people don’t’ want to read a whole diary.
> It’s the ADD generation. Thanks for chatting with us!
EM: Thank you too!