Interviewer: Leah Curtis.
On Saturday the 4th of October and down a cobbled street in Edinburgh lies Cabaret Voltaire and inside sit the members of Funeral for a Friend. I managed to catch up with lead Singer Matt before they took to the stage.
So, you’ve been a band for over a decade now, how do you feel that you’ve progressed through the industry?
Matt: Well, we’ve been on an independent label, we were then on a bigger independent label, we were then on a major label, we then went back to being really independent where we did our own record label (which was in hindsight probably wasn’t the best idea to do) and then we decided to jack that in and then sign to an indie label where we’ve been until now. But I mean we’ve progressed I think, we’ve become more in control of our own band and the business aspect of it and all the aspects of it. I think everyone’s trying to find their feet and for us it’s just kind of figuring out, you know, what we want from our band and how to best achieve that and just have fun with it.
What’s it like being on the road?
When we started out it was just like this kind of wide-eyed optimism that you could get to see all these places. I mean travelling the UK for the first time was a big deal it was way more fun than I thought it would be, I mean it was harder doing it in a van, well not even in a van, just in a little shitty transit van with no seats, laying on top of your gear and stuff, so you know, it’s got better. I mean for me touring is one of my favourite aspects of being in a band and travel is massively influential for me. Whether it’s kind of going to places in the UK or abroad I kind of filter it a lot into my growth as a person over the past 14 years it’s factored heavily with the people I’ve met and stuff. It’s just factored into your songwriting, well your creative aspect as well, so like literally all these things that I kind of see and experience get filtered someway into our music and what I kind of put out there, you know? It’s cool, you know songs are like a weird variation on a tour diary, weirdly because there’s little elements of thoughts of where you were you’re at a certain time or I can recall where I was when I wrote that particular song or where I was when what influenced me in that one, where I was when, the geography of it.
So you’ve been around for 13/14 years now?
Yeah, 14 years now come December.
So out of all the albums you’ve recorded what would be your favourite one?
My personal favourite for a lot of different reasons is “Hours”. Purely because it felt like we were making a racket. It felt like our first record to me because we were making all the songs from completely new ideas, we weren’t using anything that was from any of the E.Ps or anything, so it was like a fresh record and getting to kind of filter the first year and a half of a band into that because you know, we never had that kind of growing period before our first record where we were together for 10 years or growing up together and writing songs together. So for me being able to make a complete record from start to finish, that was a big deal. Getting to make it with Terry Date, who is responsible for some of my favorite records ever, made in an environment which was totally new. We made it in the states which was mind-blowing for all of us, we were in Seattle the home of pretty much 90% of our favourite bands and we’re here making a fucking record and it’s nuts! It was cool, I mean for me that’s the reason it was such a massive experience, not just from making and writing the songs but just from the recording aspect and in the environment that we recorded them in.
Going off topic a bit, if you had any superpower what would it be and why?
Flight would be good. Being that I’m really shit scared of heights. It would be a killer one to have, being able to fly. It would literally teach me how to get over my fear of heights because, yeah I can fly! And I won’t feel shit scared of falling because hey I can fly!
What’s the best/worst thing that’s ever happened on the road?
Oh god. Best, god fuck knows, finding somewhere to eat vegan food. 14 years, that’s a lot to put into an answer and I can’t really think of one, probably when we met Woody Harrelson and Edward Norton in a bar after we played a show in New York once. I say “meet” very loosely, they were there.
The worst, probably anything in relation to being ill. ‘Cause being ill and being in a band on tour is fucking shit. Terrible. ‘Cause you gotta get up, play shows and you’re dying` I’ve done my fair share of dying on stage. I would like to not die anymore, but I’ve got a cold now see, so I’m literally having to suck it up and be like “YEAAAAAAAAAH!” It’s making me sound way more ill than I actually am. Gives a bit of gravel. I’ve cultivated a lot of gravel in my voice over the last 3 and a half years. Since people seem to be massively upset with the fact that Matt’s not singing anymore. I’m like “I am fucking singing, I’m just singing with a bit more gruff than I usually do”. It’s like, you listen to The Descendants and you know all I sound like Chad Price, yeah you fucking sound like a tractor. Boo hoo.
Your album “Chapter and Verse” is due out in 2015. What was it like writing that album and what can fans hope to hear?
I can’t really recall what it was like writing that record because we wrote it in three weeks. I remember it being very stressful because we put a deadline on ourselves that we had to go into the studio to make the record. So we ended up having one song in September last year because we wanted to work with somebody new and we all wanted to work with our friend Lewis. So we recorded one song at least which we had in the can from September last year. Then we did some touring and we’re always pretty crap at writing stuff on the road, we’re never good at that. We’re not able to multi-task very well as band. We ended up having 2 and a half to 3 months to write a record and low and behold we didn’t end up writing the record until about the last 3 and a half weeks before we were due in the studio.
Getting together to actually make those ideas into proper songs was a bit crap. But we did it and fuck knows how we did it, but we did it and I was blown away because I think we realised that the less time we have to overthink things the better we are at writing songs that actually mean something for us. So we went in to record, did it in 2 weeks. The experience was incredible because it was all done live in the studio. No click tracks, no crazy shit, just playing together like a proper band and recording the songs that way. The intention we had was to try to make a record that’s kind of captured how we sound as a live band anyway. I mean, we didn’t want it to be polished, we didn’t want it to have a million layers going on. I think for me it’s a combination of a lot of things that I love about music, that I grew up with, that made me wanna be in a band and we’ve managed to distill into a record, that I feel is one of the most honest records we can possibly make. I mean it’s warts and all, everything was done live. There was no attempt to make things perfect, I’m a massive believer that trying to make things note perfect all the time spoils the ability to get a performance out there that’s honest. And that for me was a big deal of like making sure that the emotion and the intensity of the words in this album came across in the right way and not having it sterilized and have everything shiny and clean like multiple track vocal harmonies.
Having been around for so long, what advice would you give to bands that are just starting out?
My advice would be to not depend on the idea of success, do it for the love of doing it, not for the desire to become big and to make money or to get girls or get boys or to get drunk or wasted or anything. If music for you is a valid outlet for your frustrations, then focus on that. Focus on being the best that you can, to write the best songs that you love and you’re passionate about. Don’t think about what other people want from you. Think about what you want from you and how that affects your music and what you want to do. And let that be your guide really. I mean start out with the band being like “Okay we wanna be an Arena band, we wanna sell out 5 million bazillion people” you know? You think that, you instantly set yourself up for failure. Be happy with who you are as a band and what you do. And the rest, if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.
So the last question, sort of going with the theme of the evening: What do you stand for?
We stand for honesty, integrity, equality, having the right to speak your mind, to have a platform to express yourself in an honest and positive way and yeah those are the values that our band kind of really hold quite closely, you know, unity. Bringing people together.