Interview by Mark Bayross
Currently riding a wave of “next big thing” hysteria in the music press (Kerrang! magazine recently proclaimed them “the hottest new band on the planet”), Welsh quintet Funeral For A Friend are taking it all in their stride. The fact that their first headline tour has sold out, possibly on account of the quality of the bill (they’ve brought The Blueprint and The Beautiful Mistake along as support, with Million Dead in addition for their London show), but more than likely because, even though they’ve only been around for a year and released two EPs and a single, they have amassed a devoted fan base who regularly sing their words back at them at their shows, hints that the band may well be much more than the current flavour of the week.
Offstage, singer Matt Davies is far from his hyperactive, screaming stage persona – he’s chatty, affable and intelligent company, and with his specs on, he looks like a cross between a youthful Bobby Gillespie and Clark Kent. Despite nursing a throat infection, he was good enough to take time out before their show at the Camden Electric Ballroom, London, to speak to PHASE9.
You’ve been together for about a year now – how did it all start?
It’s been just over a year, yes. We only got together for a laugh, really, just like a hobby – it wasn’t intended to be anything serious. I knew the others already and when the previous singer left, they asked me to join the band. It’s funny because we’re just a bunch of Valley boys and somehow people seem to want to come and see us – it’s great!
Are you feeling any pressure at all, now it’s become a serious reality?
Sort of… People are now telling us the album’s coming out on such and such a day, so there has become more of a feeling of pressure, yes.
When is the album out?
October 6 – we’re really pleased with the album! It’s about 98% done and it’s going to show a real progression in our sound and we can’t wait for people to hear it.
Is Colin Richardson producing it?
Yes, we went with Colin again as he did such a good job on FOUR WAYS TO SCREAM YOUR NAME.
He’s worked with bands like Fear Factory, hasn’t he?
Yeah, Fear Factory, Chimaira, Carcass… really heavy stuff. He also produced InMe… some really great bands…
Are you going to release another single before the album comes out?
We will have one out beforehand, sometime in September. We’re not sure which song to pick yet, but we’ll be shooting a video for it and we’d like to use the same director as we did for JUNEAU, a chap called Darren Dunn. We were really fortunate to get him – he’s a top director who’s done videos for bands like Muse.
What was the reason for reworking JUNEAU?
The first time we recorded it, for the BETWEEN ORDER AND A MODEL EP, it was really just our vision of the song, just a demo. It took me an hour and a half to do the vocals. With the new album coming out, we have a much bigger sound now and so we wanted to re-do the track and give it more of a push. I don’t see is so much as a progression, as I think it was down to where we recorded it and the time we had to record it, but I’m so happy with the new version of JUNEAU because it shows the song how we want to show it. We still play a mix of both versions live.
With bands like Hundred Reasons and now Poison The Well getting big, do you think the time is now for your band?
I have no idea. If people want to take what we’ve got and run with it, then that’s great. We’re doing the music, we want to tour, we want to get out to as many people as possible!
So, once the album’s out, what’s next?
We get to go to out to the States for the first time now in September with Cave In, Everytime I Die and From Autumn To Ashes and we’re there for three weeks. I’ve never been outside the UK before; the opportunity that being in this band has given us – we’re touring Europe as well before the end of the year – it’s so exciting… how can you not take a chance and take it on?
How is this tour going?
It’s going really well. Every show we play, we’re always so surprised that people turn up anyway. When we play these shows and they’ve been sold out so far, we’re amazed! I’m speechless every time I walk onstage. Last year we opened for Finch when they came over here, now we’re headlining just over six months later and it’s like, where the fuck have we come from?! [Laughs]
Did you have a hand in choosing the support bands tonight?
Yep, all hand chosen by ourselves because we all love the bands. I’ve loved The Beautiful Mistake since their album came out last year. I’m so much in love with it it’s unbelievable and they’re such nice guys and they’ve got great songs. We just genuinely want to get people into the bands. We’re not trying to show off or anything – there are some great bands out there and we just want to put together a great bill, get some kick ass bands that you can’t usually get over here and have them play for people who want to see them play.
I’m particularly looking forward to seeing The Blueprint…
Ah, they’re stupid good…! Million Dead are really good too, they’re kind of like a British At The Drive-In…they’re an awesome band, an awesome bunch of fellas…and a lass! [Laughs]
What’s been the highlight of the last year so far? Any particular band that you’ve enjoyed playing with?
I’ve been a fan of BoySetsFire since I was 18. When I first heard their THIS CRYING THIS SCREAMING EP and I was just amazed, I was blown away by it and I went out and bought everything I possibly could. I started a fanzine up when I got into the hardcore scene and the very first in-person interview I did was with them. I adored that band so much and then about two or three years later we’re supporting them on their UK tour last year and to actually spend four or five days conversing with my heroes, amazing, really down to earth guys, who really appreciated my band as well as me appreciating their band, was unbelievable, such an honour. But there are loads of other bands that we’ve played with whom we respect…bands like Lostprophets…they’ve all been very kind to us and we can’t thank them enough really.
If you could pick any band, whom would you most like to play with?
If Quicksand ever reformed, I would love to play with them. Or Far…next to BoySetsFire, they are my all time favourite band ever! I’d want to play with them, support them, plug their cables in…whatever it took just to be near them!
You’re starting to develop quite a big following now…
Why? I haven’t got a clue! We’re just a bunch of ugly Valley boys, playing mediocre music… [Laughs] The music we write, we like listening to it, and we just want anyone who can enjoy it to listen to it.
What are your plans once the album’s out?
We’re doing a tour in October, bringing over The Movielife in support and we’ve got a band called Hondo Maclean as the opening act…it’s going to be a great tour!
…And after that?
Apparently we’re supposed to be touring with Iron Maiden…so I’ve been told…which includes Europe and the UK and means a hell of a lot of Maiden for me and a whole lots of new countries which I’ve never seen before.
That’s going to be huge…
Oh, that’s going to be bigger than anything I’ve ever seen, probably even bigger than Donnington…
Do you like the old skool stuff?
I don’t mind it. I prefer a more modern take on things rather than the old stuff. I appreciate what Maiden do, bit some songs I can’t listen to. The other guys are far more into them than I am, they make up for my lack of interest really.
Do different people in the band have different tastes?
We all do, I think…that’s why it works so well – we’ve all got different influences, we’ve got different backgrounds and we just click. We come up with different ideas or we suggest one thing or the other and usually it works out.
Not half. A few hours later, Funeral For A Friend are onstage, turning the Electric Ballroom into a heaving mass of delighted moshing, stagediving and general euphoria. Matt is back in prowling frontman mode, although his approachable demeanour does come through between songs as he gives self deprecating introductions to each one.
Songs from the FOUR WAYS TO SCREAM YOUR NAME EP are received like old friends, while the new material from the album gets an equally enthusiastic reaction, but it’s the all-conquering breakthrough single JUNEAU which incites the loudest singalong of the evening.
As Matt says, it is amazing to think that this band has come so far in such a short space of time, and that this is even before they have an album to their name. If the pressure’s on, they’re certainly not showing it.