Fifth Amendment

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Interview by Mark Bayross

London band Fifth Amendment haven’t been around for long, but have already turned a number of highly influential heads. Their debut album, released this autumn, got rave reviews across the board and deservedly so. It’s mix of beats and riffs, coupled with an outstanding vocal performance from flame-haired Scottish singer Alli MacInnes, made for a supremely confident and accomplished debut.

I met with drummer Pix and a slightly jittery Alli shortly before they were due to go onstage at London’s Highbury Garage.

How many gigs have you done now?

ALLI: Hundreds! I can’t believe I’m nervous…! [laughs] It’s so ridiculous! We must have done at least a hundred gigs and I don’t know what’s happened, but every single gig of this tour I’ve been so calm and relaxed and now it’s like…aaargh!

Is that because you’re playing London tonight?

PIX: I don’t know…you just get a lot more industry than you do bands, so it’s a bit weird, you know, you don’t know whether you are going to make a good impression or everyone’s going to hate you or whatever. When the fans are there, you know they are there for you and you know they are going to have a good time; when it’s industry, they’re a bit cagey.

ALLI: They just stand there and look…[laughs]

PIX: You can’t tell whether they like it or not, that’s the worrying thing.

Do you think you are still in the ‘proving yourselves’ stage?

ALLI: I don’t really think we are here to prove ourselves, really, to be perfectly honest. I know a lot of people expect us to prove ourselves, but it’s not why we are doing it. You know, we just do what we do and if people like it, they like it, if they don’t like it, they don’t like it. I’m not going to compromise anything I do just to prove to someone I can do it…

And how has the tour gone? You are almost at the end of it, aren’t you?

ALLI: Yeah. Two dates from the end…I’m gutted. It’s been absolutely brilliant. I mean, maybe that’s why I am anxious – I just don’t want it to end! [laughs] I really feel that. This is the best tour we’ve ever done. We’ve supported some really brilliant bands, but Sona Fariq, and Sunna…we just all like each other, you know, especially Sona Fariq. We know them from London, we gigged with them before both of us were signed – we gigged together – so it’s like being on tour with your mates…

PIX: Party, party …

ALLI: …party…we’re not knackered from touring, we’re knackered from partying with Sona Fariq!

Do you think you guys will get together again?

ALLI: Definitely…

PIX: Oh, I hope so…

ALLI: I want to do some things in Europe with them, that’s a fact. Can you imagine? Great!

How’s the album doing here and in Europe?

ALLI: Here…I don’t really know. All I know is we got really brilliant reviews in all of the press – no-one reviewed our album badly and I am really active on-line…I’m on our website all the time, and the on the message board. I personally e-mail all the people who come on the message board and I know that people just love our album and it’s really touching them in ways that I didn’t even know it would touch people. So, all I can say is that I think it’s going really well, but in terms of record sales, I don’t think we are making any dent anywhere…

It’s word of mouth I suppose…

ALLI: It definitely is. We’re on a very small label, we’ve never had an ad for our album, we never did any posters…you know, we can’t really compete against these big boys… there’s no comparison between our label and their labels, which is a shame.

Well, it will build…

ALLI: Definitely…

PIX: Yeah, we have a nucleus there from which we can build.

ALLI: Yeah…it’s like, everything we seem to have done, we’ve progressed. We’re always progressing, even if it’s just a slight tiny amount, we always feel we are going forwards and never backwards, so…it’s just building. For me it’s a shame because, from the bottom of my heart, I really feel we’ve got a brilliant album and I don’t really feel it’s getting the exposure it actually deserves. And I kind of feel sorry, not really for myself, but for all the people who worked on it, like the guy who produced it. They are like, “why is it not out there, you know, plastered everywhere…?”, and it’s just not – you know, the amount of people who come on our website and say “we can’t get the album”… And I’ve been going round the country, and I’ve gone in the shops and it’s not there. It’s really frustrating and we really need to get certain things sorted… It’s annoying, but I suppose if people really want it, they can go and get it…it’s as simple as that really.

I know what you mean…I tried to find it in Virgin a few days ago and…

ALLI: …it’s not there? I really don’t know what the problem is, but going on this tour has highlighted it to me, and when we come off this tour, I want to get it sorted, really.

The way you guys met…it’s a bit of fairytale beginning…

ALLI: It wasn’t a fairytale for me! [laughs]

Having nearly killed you, how did they convince you to join the band?

ALLI: To be quite honest, you’ve probably read the press release – it’s been a bit exaggerated. They didn’t nearly kill me at all, but they did bang into my scooter and it did fly off down Holloway Road…all one side of it completely trashed… But what happened was, Alf, the bass player in the band, he’s really into vintage bikes, and ever since he was a child, he’s been building them, so I think he was really concerned because I’ve got an old 1964 Lambretta and it’s hard to get the parts for it, and he could see the bike was trashed – I was fine – I didn’t even topple and fall over, it was more of a sort of knees-fall-over – but he called me and kept checking I was getting all the parts and we had nice conversations, to be perfectly honest, and he was telling me that were on their way to a gig and…it just happened from there, really. It has been a bit glamourised, but it’s true…I think it was fate. I do believe in fate.

Have you got any plans for the next album?

ALLI: We’ve already started writing our second album…we’ve got some killer tracks. So when we come off this tour, that’s what we are going to spend our time doing, really concentrate on writing it, and then we are going to do some stuff in Europe, probably January, we’ll play in France.

And is the new album going to progress your sound? Are you going to try something a bit different?

ALLI: It’s really funny because, for this album, I really wanted a polished production, because we use loops and stuff, it really had to be that way. We spent ages recording our album and it was precision playing, and to be quite honest, it would like to do something looser next time…not use loops but uses sounds and pads and stuff like that. I don’t know if they want to…! [laughs]

PIX: Obviously we’ve got to do something a bit different, not just go and do the same type of album as before. You’ve got to experiment a bit…play what we are feeling at the moment. When you’re writing, that’s what it’s all about – the way you feel at the time…

ALLI: We’ll see what happens. We really enjoyed recording this album, but it was hard. I don’t know if it was because it was our first album, but it really, really was hard. You know, I was in tears a lot through making this album, just because it was really demanding, and I think for a first album, the standard of it was very high. Believe me, it was really tough! I’d like to make a relaxed one next time! [laughs]

PIX: Record it in four days then go down the pub… [laughs]

ALLI: Throughout those three months we went to the pub once! It was intense.

Well, it’s a good thing it has done well; critically, it has done very well…

ALLI: Yeah, it has. It’s had some great reviews…and so it should. It was worth the hard work, but I would love to make an album that was less intense, and I think we will, solely for the fact that it will be our second one and we’ll have done it before.

Which songs on the album do you most enjoy playing live?

ALLI: For me, “Scared Am I”, I think…

PIX: Yeah, “Scared Am I”…there’s actually a song that’s not on the album that I also enjoy playing live, and that’s “Treehouse”, which is a B-side. I actually really enjoy playing that live, because it’s such a great live track. We always get a good response to it – it gets people going.

ALLI: And my favourite track on the album is one we don’t play live – “In Vain”, the very last track on the album, that’s my real favourite track – I love it! I had a big fight about getting it on the album in the first place, and it’s really weird, but a lot of people say it’s their favourite track.

Which of the bands you have toured with have been the most fun…apart from Sona Fariq, of course?

ALLI: Yeah, Sona Fariq have definitely been the most fun… Er…Kittie were pretty good. I think they were especially nice for me because they kinda personally picked us out to support them, and they kept going on about my voice to me, which is really nice…I know it’s really stupid, but it was really nice – they were like “oh, I love the way you sing” blah, blah, blah – it was really nice. It was one of the first gigs we’d done when there were loads of girls around – you know, most gigs we do, it’s all boys, all the crew are all boys, and I’m kinda on my own – so that gig was nice because it was so…girly. It was weird wasn’t it?

PIX: It was weird actually…

ALLI: …’cos their crew is all girls, and their Mum and Dad go out with them…

Do you feel particularly close musically to any bands?

PIX: No, I don’t think so. I know every band goes on about how different and original they are, but I really do believe we are. I mean, there’s bits of lots of different bands in there, yeah, but the overall sound, you couldn’t say was like…whoever. I think that’s down to the way we met – Alli wasn’t going to the same sorts of gigs as we were going to…we mixed lots of different styles and ended up with something unique, I think.

ALLI: But I think we are close to some bands in our intention, if not musically. I think we are kind of similar to the Prodigy in a way…and maybe Sona Fariq in a funny kind of way, you know. I think that’s why this tour has been brilliant…we give off a different vibe to them, but there are links that go through it.

How do you think the alternative rock / metal scene is doing over here? Is there a bit of a revival going on now?

ALLI: I’d like to think so… [laughs]

PIX: It hasn’t blossomed yet, I don’t think. I think everyone’s waiting for it to blossom – it’s been on the cards for a while, hasn’t it? I mean, there have been some great rock songs this year – if you look back at what’s been happening, there are some great bands coming through and old bands still coming back with some great stuff, so…it has always been there in a way, but it’s getting more attention now.

ALLI: It’s such a shame that the bands who seem to do really, really well over here are all the American bands, not that I think they don’t deserve it – I’m really into them, you know, I’m really into Deftones and stuff like that, I think they deserve everything they get – but I don’t know what it is…actually I think it’s more of an industry thing. I don’t think British rock bands are sold in the same way as American rock bands…I don’t really know why that is…maybe in America, these bands tour and tour and tour, and in the UK, you can’t really do that because it’s too small.

PIX: It’s like three dates and that’s it…

ALLI: …Yeah, then you’ve done the country. But I think it’s great that there are loads of British rock bands around at the moment. The two that we are with right now…I think both of them are going to do really well. Every single night, I watch Sona Fariq – I can’t help it, they are absolutely great – you just don’t know what Mike’s going to do, every night he’s different. One Minute Silence are great as well, Kill II This…there are loads of great British rock bands…

PIX: It’s about time that people in this country, not stopped listening to American rock bands, but started to recognise British bands as well…

Do you have any plans to do America?

ALLI: There’s no actual plan in writing, but it is a definite thing we want to do. We want to go everywhere, really, it’s not like we just want to do America…we are dying to go to Germany, dying – I want to move to Berlin, I love Germany. We played Rock Am Ring in the summer, that big festival there, and it was wicked, really wicked, people really get into the music there. So, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

What reaction do you tend to get from audiences here in the UK?

PIX: I don’t mind if people stand there and watch the gig…if that’s the way they enjoy it…it’s just that you get more of a buzz if people are moving about and obviously enjoying it. It obviously makes you feel better and you have a better gig, and you come offstage feeling that you’ve entertained the crowd. In Scotland they go completely mad, they just go completely ballistic…

ALLI: I don’t know if it’s something to do with me being Scottish…

PIX: I don’t know. But it was like that in Manchester too. You just don’t know – we did this gig in Chelmsford the other night and it was completely different.

ALLI: You know what it is? The whole of Britain is great, but once you start getting closer to London, there’s definitely a change. People want to look cool…we’ve definitely seen that on this tour. I think that’s why I’m so nervous about tonight – it’s a big place for everyone to just stand there and go “OK, prove it to me…”. I think in London, you are so spoilt with how many bands you can go and see – any band playing in the UK is going to have to play London – so people are spoilt and do come with this mentality of “Yeah, OK, show me what you can do then…” and that doesn’t happen anywhere else. The other thing about London is all your mates are there, so it’s twice as hard!

Well, if Alli was nervous, it certainly doesn’t come across onstage. After the blast of layered guitars and electronics served up by opening band Sunna, Fifth Amendment arrive to a rousing drum-heavy intro, before launching into a searing TREEHOUSE. Alli prances around the stage fixing the audience with a fiery glare, while the rest of the band launch themselves headlong into the likes of SCARED AM I, HEAVE and CAMERA SHY.

Alli really does possess a remarkable voice, capable of rising from seductively melodic to gut-wrenching roar without seemingly pausing for breath, and also has all the charisma of a star frontwoman in waiting.

The headline act, Sona Fariq, are even more intense, although their mosh-pit friendly brand of funked up punk is primarily designed to turn the audience into a writhing mass of limbs. Mission accomplished then. Sona Fariq, revelling in the whole hour now afforded them in the headline slot, are like a bomb – things fly in every direction, especially frontman Michael Frankel, who spends half the gig swapping places with the audience. They play most of their debut album, including singles MOVE ON and DROP THE BOMB, plus a noisy rendition of WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?.

Ear-splittingly good. Expect all three bands to be around for a while longer.