Q&A + Giveaway: The Futureheads' Barry Hyde Shares The Importance Of Sweating and Moving, and Punk's Role as Society's Critic.
On Monday night, English post-punk act The Futureheads stop by for a gig at The Loft in support of their new, fourth studio full-length, The Chaos--and, for the first time in about a week or so, it's a gig from a worthwhile band that isn't just stopping through the region as part of its trip to Austin City Limits. The band, you see, isn't playing ACL at all (although they are playing Austin on Tuesday night).
But it's not a matter of the band not being worthwhile--quite the opposite, in fact. Unlike so many other post-punk acts that rose to popularity in the early '00s, The Futureheads are still kicking--and their music is as vital now as ever, especially in light of post-punk starting to make a return to popularity in the wake of the past few synth-heavy years.
The Chaos serves of proof of the band's sustainability, too. It's perhaps the most ambitious release to date from a band that, already, is quite ambitious, combining sweeping harmonies with it's otherwise catchy riffage. It's an almost progressive release from the band, employing more pace-changers and key shifts than any release prior. And it's not scatterbrained, either. Instead, it plays like a statement from a band screaming out to the public that it's still here, and still important.
Yesterday, in anticipation with Monday night's gig, we caught up with frontman Barry Hyde over the phone to discuss the new disc, his band's progression, and punk rock's still-quite-capable ability to provide social commentary. The band's also been kind enough to offer one lucky reader a prize pack of a free pair of tickets to the show and a free vinyl copy of the new disc. Hit the jump to find out how to enter the contest, and to read our Q&A with Hyde in full.
Update: Contest is over. Congrats to our winner!
Your new disc, The Chaos, came out in spring. Is this your first tour of the States in support of it?
No, we did some musical gigs a couple weeks after the album came out and this is us finishing it off, as it were, for the time being. Being here, it's absolutely great. We love coming to America.
What are the big differences in terms of the way you guys are received here in the States and the U.K.?
In America, the audience is just a lot more kinda--well, they kinda let their hair down easier they the prudish British.
Really? We're the ones more likely to let loose?
Yeah, the crowd really felt like more like a Saturday night crowd rather than a Wednesday night crowd last night. I'm not criticizing British audience. But there's definitely a distinction between American and British crowds, as there is with the Americans and Japanese. I guess you guys get into it a little bit quicker.
This album seems a bit more progressive than previous releases from you guys. How is it being received in the live setting?
I think that a lot of people and fans said this album is better than even our first album. The way in which this album was made is similar to our first album in that we were kinda writing stuff without any real kind of specific goal. We were kinda writing the songs individually.
Why is that?
We had the luxury of time, in order to do that. We didn't have to quickly put it together. We decided to let it kinda organically appear. I think a lot of debut albums do the same thing because you don't really know you're writing your first album when you're writing your first bunch of songs. You have no idea it's going to be an album. It's taken us 10 years to realize that formula. I think we know how to do it now. I think The Chaos has helped progress our album writing. Songs like "The Chaos" "Jupiter," they're quite complex.
You mentioned writing an album versus writing singles. Do you think that bogged down the past two efforts? Have you given up the idea of trying to write a full album?
No, no. Not at all. We just kinda didn't realize we had enough material. We did The Chaos in three different sessions in three different studios. We had no idea that the songs were gonna work together. It took us about a year. The actual sessions were a lot less.
You hear a lot of bands these days trying the concept album route and really planning the whole thing as a big presentation--almost in rebellion to the idea of singles on iTunes and things like that. How do you feel about that? It sounds like you got your best songs and put them on.
Kinda. We were pretty particular about the order. On our third album, This Is Not The World, the album is about the simplicity of the songs, the melody. With this one, the connections were more purely for fun. It was for the risk. We wanted to get our risk back. We wanted to forget about the typical structures and go back our maverick approach.
Is that reflected in the name The Chaos?
Absolutely. "The Chaos." "The Connector." "This Is The Life." They've all got their own character. If you record an album in the same place over three weeks, all the songs will have a similar vibe. What we bring to the table as a band is kind of fast-pace, high-energy, melodic, harmonic, funk rock. We don't have any slow ,sad songs. Our songs are generally 180-190 bpm. That's the tempo we like to play at.
Thematically, your last album seemed like you were fed up with things. With this one, it seems more like you're embracing the odd way that things work. Was that intentional?
Some people have said this album is a bit more dark. A bit more cynical. We are writing songs about how we feel. We're not trying to be preachy. We're trying to have some positive light in quite a difficult time in modern history. Anything that gives us a bit of a release will help. These are difficult times for our country and your country. People are kinda freaked out. The music business is basically transforming, from a caterpillar to, hopefully, a butterfly. It's a really rare and strange time. The Chaos tries to capture that feeling.
You think the speed of the songs lends itself to that kind of release you speak of?
Yeah, absolutely. Physically, we sweat so much when we play live. So many toxins. All the beer, and all the... ribs, beef jerky.
This is a more ambitious album from you guys, but it also stays true to your sound of riff-heavy rock and multiple-part harmonies. How difficult was it to maintain those signatures while trying to be progressive?
I think, because we've written a lot of songs now--we've written close to 100 songs--we know where we've been before. We know when we're repeating ourselves. Now we're trying to give each song its own individual character, not just throwing down typical harmonies. We've got a very basic setup: We've got two guitars, bass, drums, vocals. We never add anything else to it. It's kind of hard to keep this freshness coming in the arrangements. So we're always trying different keys and stuff like that. Different tonal systems. The whole point of what we do is to sweat and move. To win new fans and give them what they want--which is to, hopefully, sweat and move. That's kind of what we're really concerned with. We didn't think of this album as one piece. It's like little pieces. It just so happens to kind of work.
Stepping back from taking all those separate pieces, when you look at one entity, what do you think the album shows as a whole?
The aesthetic of the band. The overall attitude of the band. It's our identity. The way we sing together, the way we play guitar. It has developed over the years. But at the end of the day, it's the same guitars, same voices.
How have things changed since the first album? It seems like, when you guys first came to prominence, there were a lot of like-minded bands like you that were around--and now most of them have fallen by the wayside. You guys have stuck through it--all the way, even, to the point where we're starting to see bands like Two Door Cinema Club and others recalling that same vibe.
I think the music business is completely different thing now. This is our 10-year anniversary. We kind of caught the last wave of the kind of decadence of the music business. Now it's kind of a shoestring business that has fallen apart. There's always new bands who are hungry and who are capturing what is happening culturally. When we kinda first came onto the scene, there were bands like the Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party--all great bands. But there was something about that movement. There was the rebirth of British guitar music. And, now, it's finished really. It went from guitar music which was ultra-cool, and now its kinda synth-y, and then guitar synth-y, and now it's kinda a bit of it all. Trends to me are a bunch of rubbish really. Bands keep going. They still exist. There's always a post-punk theme somewhere. There's always an electro scene. I think it's just what the media chooses to thrust into the public eye.
Why do you think the media is starting to hype post-punk music again?
It's very engaging. It wakes you up. If you want music, which is energetic and colorful with a lot of different ideas it, well, the kind of music we make and some other bands make, is where you go. It's kind of a bit risky. It's kind of like getting slapped around a bit. I think people like that. Especially in times when the media is trying to make you incredibly bland. Punk music has always been the observer and the critic, where we criticize the blandness. We'll always be in this position where we're outside the mainstream. But we're always looking at it from the outside. That's kind of a self-created reality. We have to just be on our toes and take the piss out of boring things.
Do you relish in that position?
Oh, yeah. For sure. This is the position that we're in. This is what we do. We take the piss out the world.
The Futureheads perform Monday, October 11, at The Loft