The purveyors of one of the year’s best albums in the form of Rant, The Futureheads are on something of a career break from the punk and new wave influenced guitar music that made their name. They bring their acoustic and a capella tour to Whelan’s tonight and Ross Millard tells State how the album is a product of the band running their own label.
“When I think back to us being on a major, it’s not that they weren’t into us expressing any creativity – I’m not even certain that Warners would have vetoed a record like this – but doing it our own way has led to us making a more natural record like this. We’ve been able to make this in the North East at our own pace as opposed to a number of people popping into the studio, breathing down our necks. That’s a big difference.”
How did it all come about?
“We’ve done bits vocal stuff over the years on various tracks then we did a version of Kellis’ ‘Acapella’ for Radio 1 as a bit of fun. The buzz that we got off do it and the goodwill that people showed made us think of doing more. When we’re on tour we’d pick up various Alan Lomax or maritime records and we’ve always had a passing interest in that kind of music but it’s never come across before. We thought we’d made four rock records so maybe it was time to do something different that we all enjoy. This is the result. We never expected to get any radio plays, we’re not chasing that, but one play is worth twenty of any other record because it sounds so different.”
The band delved a little further back for inspiration than Kellis, however…
“There’d been an archive recording from a Sunderland folk club in the late sixties that had been passed around various bands round here, getting an almost mythical status. We went back to that when it came time to start this and listened to a few songs to get into the spirit. The good thing is that it’s been a learning process for us. Punk rock is finite for us now, we’ve gone as far as we can with that.”
Have you found that Rant has brought you a new audience?
“Yes we have. The tour that we did for the album was really great for us. A couple of the lads in the band had got to the point where they wanted a different experience, there’s only so many times you can do the back catalogue. Doing this is very loose, it’s very relaxed. It’s like An Audience With The Futureheads.”
In May you took the show to your normal audience at the Camden Crawl, how was that?
“(Laughs). That was a disaster. It was a good learning experience though. It wasn’t billed as an acoustic set and the crowd were up for it but when you’ve been to see bands all day and had a few beers, you can’t be quiet when you see someone at midnight. I’m glad we did it though, because it taught us the kind of gigs we can do and the ones we definitely can’t do. It was flattering to be part of it but the electric guitar set would be have been better.”
The North East is an region rich in folk music, both old and new. Have you got to know any of the musicians through this?
“We organise the Split Festival in Sunderland this month and this year we have people like The Unthanks and Kathryn Williams alongside PiL. The possibility is there to work with those sort of people. It’s a great area for folk music and we’ve definitely tried to make ourselves more a part of it. No band wants to stay the same, to keep it going we have to challenge ourselves. This almost feels like a new band with the bonus of having known the members for a long, long time.”
How about going back to the electric band? Does the idea fill you with dread?
“Lately we’ve been in the process of recording some new songs and there are electric instruments on that but not exclusively. As long as we’re expanding and combining the old and the new we’ll be excited.”
The Futureheads play Whelan’s tonight. Rant is out now.