Fight Like Apes have made our life a misery. Not in general, you understand, but today certainly. Having played their second album The Body Of Christ And The Legs Of Tina Turner a few times, we felt we had its measure – a solid step forward from their debut, not the best record they’ll ever make but the right one for right now. Questions prepared, we were ready for the off. Just one more listen maybe.
Damn and blast. It happened during the track ‘Waking Up With Robocop’, a realisation that this was very much more than just a step forward but the sound of a band bearing their musical and lyrical soul, the key to unlock the record’s true experience. Time to rewrite those questions. Jamie Fox nods. “Our record company boss calls it the dark heart of the album”, he laughs. For the architects of record with a dark heart, the trio that we meet today (Fox, Mary-Kate Geraghty and new drummer Lee Boylan) are certainly light of spirit. Mary for one agrees that beneath all the expected bravado and imagery lies a much more honest work than before.
“I find it funny that the first song laughs at the notion of talking about feelings and then we spend the rest of the album genuinely talking about our feelings. I don’t think we were capable of that before. It’s true that ‘Robocop’ is the moment when you realise that it’s not a quirky pots and pans song, it’s definitely my favourite.”
Where those elements on the first album and we just didn’t notice them?
Jamie: They’re not as much, although there were elements on ‘Tie Me Up With Jackets’ and ‘Snore Bore’. I genuinely think we were just more honest with ourselves this time.
A lot of people seem desperate for this to be a ‘dark’ record?
Lee: I don’t think that we think of it as dark.
Mary-Kate: It’s the way we recorded it that makes it sound darker, it’s not as sparkly maybe.
We’d say it was a lot more sad than dark, despite the anger….
Mary-Kate: I get surprised when I play it to extended family members and they hold my hand, ‘I heard your record…’. It might come across angry at times but that’s the way I like to express sadness. I can see why it shocks some people because we live with the lyrics for a long time then you play it for someone and you’re really excited and they look distressed.
You can perhaps see why. While some have chosen to focus on the swear driven rage, it’s that emotional unburdening that gives the album its edge. If you’re looking for the cartoon punk band of ‘Jake Summers’ or ‘Something Global’ then you’re in luck. However, if you yearn for a more, whisper it, mature sounding band then you’re also quids in. Hell on ‘Pull Off Your Arms And Play In Your Blood’ you’ll get both in the same song…
Jamie: That was one of the first songs written for the record and thematically it’s about a lot of things but something that comes through the whole thing is who are we, are we still going to be this band that writes songs about doing this and still having such hatred for a person so long after the event. You feel like you can be honest but at the end of it we are Fight Like Apes so let’s go back to playing in blood.
Do you mind if people only get the more superficial side to what you do?
Jamie: It doesn’t bother me, but it would be nice if they did. At the end of the day some people aren’t going to be willing to get it let alone try.
Did the long periods you were away for the first album put a strain on personal relationships at home?
Mary-Kate: Especially the anticipation of what we do next when the first part is coming to an end. Relationships became very difficult then. When I come back from a tour, even though we do end up hanging out together, I find that I need to give myself a complete break from it with friends who have 9 – 5 jobs. But they just want to talk about the bands because they don’t like their jobs. You end up talking more about the band to people aren’t in it. If people want to know you tell them but it’s not news to you.
Jamie: I have five sentences that cover it all plus I throw in one thing that we might be doing. It’s not amazing all the time but that’s what some people think. You don’t bang on about that because it is the best job in the world but at the same time….
Did it ever feel as if this album would never get made? You seemed to be never off tour…
Jamie: Really we got to the point where there was no point, we had to go back to why we got into a band in the first place – to make music as opposed to playing it over and over again.
All the ingredients for a ‘difficult second album’….
Mary-Kate: It all came a lot more naturally. We expected a nightmare second album situation but it turned out a lot better than we thought.
Jamie: Right at the end of writing everything just seemed to pop into place. I remember the recording got put back by three weeks and we were all so pissed off. It’s a great situation to be in where you finish writing and start recording straight away because you still love the songs. Although I still love the last record, we’d been playing those songs for two years so you end up looking for new elements to add to them and while that worked well, you can sometimes not recognise your own band when you come home with your record.
What happened to cause that?
Mary-Kate: We’d always used the same keyboards, the same mics, the same sounds and suddenly we were in this studio in Seattle with wall to wall keyboards. We went mad. This is absolutely no disrepect to John, it was down to our naivety. Andy (Gill, producer) was so positive to keep us the way we were. Venue sound engineers are forever trying to get us to turn down the distortion, make our sound much more even but Andy loved the consistent stupidness about the band.
Weezer’s Pinkerton was an influence wasn’t it?
Jamie: Maybe somewhere in my head because it’s one of my favourite records. It’s like being inside the head of someone who’s going completely mad. It was completely honest, it was in your face, it wasn’t hiding behind references to Buddy Holly and stuff like that. They just played it, there’s no fanciness whatsoever. It’s definitely an influence in terms of approach.
Mary-Kate: Again they didn’t lose. They didn’t suddenly sound like wankers. They still had that band signature of amazingly good songs while doing something so different.
For any pop singles band to return with an album that requires a bit of work is a risk isn’t it?
Mary-Kate: We’ve all done it with bands but people should give it a few listens because then hopefully they’ll get it. That’s the same with any album that doesn’t give you what you expect, it’s really exciting and like buying three new albums at once. It would be good if they got it but if they don’t…there’s no way you can ever know an album as well as you think you do.
And now it’s your turn…
Jamie: I wouldn’t be surprised if everybody hated it and I wouldn’t be surprised if everybody liked it. The chances are it’ll be the usual, half and half.
Lee: We genuinely have no idea.
Mary-Kate: I remember Jamie saying after we finished one track, well if they don’t like this they’re just fucking wrong. That made me feel better.
The Body Of Christ And The Legs Of Tina Turner is out today on Model Citizen. Fight Like Apes play the Electric Picnic on Sunday 5th September. See State on Monday for a very special FLA competition.
Photo: Loreana Rushe