Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview: FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND - Their Funeral, His Trial Mark II

Friday, September 07, 2007 

Matt Davies is a friendly guy. Though capable of summoning up a howl of anger within seconds of a soundcheck, and responsible for penning and emoting words that are seeing his band Funeral For A Friend become a household name in the UK and beyond, he still has a firmly British realism about him. That their latest album, the beautifully packaged Tales Don't Tell Themselves, debuted at number 3 in the UK signifies they are well on their way. "Man, I'm so excited thinking about how many people are going to be listening to this record!" he exclaims in a very un-emo way. this excitement continues when quizzed about the band's impending return here; "We're all itching to get back to Australia because we had such a great response when we were there last time. The kids were amazing, everybody was really supportive. It's one of the places we've played really, really great shows, yeah...we can't wait."

Prior to coming to Australia, Davies and co have been performing their third Warped/Vans Tour, a behemoth of an institution that has attracted as much screaming from the fans as screaming frustration from some artists who have found themselves at odds with the way the festival is run. But for the gentle soul of Davies, there is no such tension. "The Warped tour is fun. Basically it's the opportunity for us to play for 30 minutes every day and to have a little bit of a summer vacation; the weather is a definite plus." Understandable given that they recorded Tales Don't Tell Themselves in their rainy homeland of Wales. "Being in Wales and closer to home was a real plus point, it allowed us to be a lot more relaxed and focussed."

Reviewers have commented upon this change in direction of the band which in part, seems like it was the effect breaking from touring in Wales, and partly due to the introduction of producer extraordinaire Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters etc.) which Davies says was quite an experience. "He helped us craft a record that was above and beyond our expectations of what we thought we could achieve. It was a bit nerve-wracking in he beginning thinking of all the great bands he'd worked with, but when we got to know him he was absolutely fantastic. He really showed us where we could go to develop the songs to the best of their ability, especially when it came to pre-production which was a luxury we'd never had before. Just thrashing the songs out, seeing where they wanted to go was an incredibly valuable experience, and when we played it back in the studio for the first time there was a little worry in the back of my head: 'Jesus Christ how can we top this record?' But in the 2 years it takes to tour this album into the ground I think we'll have more ammunition to take into the studio next time that will trounce this."

Must be nerve-wracking releasing a new album with so many listening, especially one which is seeing them move from straight out post-hardcore guitar riffage to prominently using an orchestra and eschewing subject matter of a confessional nature. "We were aware of the expectations around us and of people waiting for this record, and at the end of the day we ignored it and decided to make the record we wanted to make. It was a strictly Funeral For A Friend wanting to be Funeral For A Friend."
The creation of their new album was presaged by several months of scrapped recording that resulted in the band "running into songs we'd already done before". "I think it was a brave move for us to make a record like this. We were feeling that we were going to possibly hit a brick wall and make an album where we weren't being totally true to ourselves. We had to figure out where we were as a band and that we just had to go for it really, and write with all our influences on the table and mix it all up and see where it went. Tales was the album that came out of that."
Much of the subject matter deals with journeys, water and a violent and confounding environment. Lyrics such as The sea sings it's master plan / Over the waves /Sunrise upon the line / the buckling drift / the path that I walked along from The Sweetest Wave or songs like All Hands On Deck (parts 1 and 2, of course) are more typical of Coleridge (or at least Modest Mouse's more recent efforts) than a typical navel-gazing teen fodder.

"It appealed to me to elaborate on the narrative that was present in the song that we wrote that was originally called All Hands On Deck. I felt there was a story in there that I could tell and that related to my anxieties and fears - I wanted to explore that. The themes of the album for me were more an exploration of peoples fears and rationalisations and how for some strange reason we stress over and go crazy about the smallest, most insignificant things and ignore the more important problems in the world. Putting these ideas into a narrative really allowed me to explore characterisation, and the flow of narrative within musical structures was really interesting to concentrate on. That meant that I could focus on the emotion in the music and utalise the lyrical content against that to make the music alot stronger." Clearly these are no throwaway 3 minute punk numbers, and it is this dispensing with their punk and post-hardcore past which is causing dissent among the ranks of their fans and some commentators, though this is something that Davies doesn't trouble himself with. Indeed, this ambition seems to be fuelling him and he eagerly expands on the band's future.

"We might get more experimental or crazy with orchestra and shit - I'm really interested in alot of soundtracks and the incorporation of classical music with rock music. I've been listening to the soundtrack to The Fountain (the most recent Darren Aronofsky film) quite a bit. It really touched me, and I really got into the musical element of that movie - I loved the classical element mixed with the post-rock vibe - I think Mogwai are incredible. I'm really interested in seeing where we can develop and take those influences that are ever growing, into the next Funeral album." Via some no doubt storming Australian gigs you can be sure.

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