Interview: Friendly Fires plan to get the crowds dancing at RockNess 2012

Ed Macfarlane on festivals, pop music and dancing ‘like an idiot’

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Interview: Friendly Fires plan to get the crowds dancing at RockNess 2012

Photo: Charlie Gross

Friendly Fires blur the lines between indie and dance music, so their brand of punk funk should fit in perfectly at RockNess. Hailing from St Albans in Hertfordshire they were nominated for the Mercury Music prize for their debut eponymous album, which they followed with the tropicalia of 2011’s Pala. Frontman Ed Macfarlane tells us why he can’t wait to return to the banks of Loch Ness.

You cover so many genres so it's quite hard to classify your music, how would you classify Friendly Fires?

I like to refer to it as pop music. It’s a pretty ambiguous term it, doesn’t put your band in any particular box. So I say bright, lush pop music.

Your first band played punk and hardcore, how did it evolve into the sound you have now?

We were writing a lot of post-hardcore and punk music when we were about 15 years old, listening to a lot of Fugazi and Dischord records and music from Washington DC. It was definitely what we were into then but when we were 17 we started going out to clubs, going to Warp Records nights in London and just hearing electronic music for the first time. That whole culture of going out and clubbing and we wanted to incorporate some of that into our band and the music we were writing. So it was a slow steady thing. It wasn’t like we woke up one day and said we wanted to be a dance band.

You seem to put a lot of energy into your live shows

We are a spectacle when we play live, I think I probably am a spectacle [laughs] but at the same time by me dancing around on stage like an idiot I think that helps other people lose their inhibitions and then they’ll starting dancing.

Do you prefer the live shows to the recording process?

If you’ve been touring for the best part of a year the first thing you want to do is get back in the studio. And vice versa. They are very different but if I had to choose just one, I’d choose recording because I’m a studio geek and I love the idea of creating something, which I find perhaps more satisfying than playing something you have already created.

How did you think your second album, Pala, progressed from your debut?

The production was something we really stepped up. Just learning how to record things properly and learning different tricks and tools that you pick up along the way. With that record we wanted to do something that was ultra lush, ultra bright, very rhythmic and move away from the New York punk funk thing we’d been doing on the first record.

Why do you think Friendly Fires go down so well at festivals?

I don’t know if I can answer that because I don’t really know what it is. I try not to think about why people like us but it could be that our music is very up lifting, has a summer element to it and is danceable and I imagine that’s what people want to do when they go to a festival.

Do you approach festival shows differently to your own headlining dates?

Not really, when the band first started out we had this idea that you had to prove yourself and win over people who had never heard your music before, whereas now I’d rather just get on stage and be myself. If people like it great, if they don’t they can go and watch some other band.

Are you looking forward to your festival shows and RockNess?

I am looking forward to the festival season, this might sound like a really shit answer but the thing I love about the festival season is that basically your gigs are at the weekend so you can rest up during the week and do a perfect show at the weekend and recover after. Whereas when you are on the road touring you have to be constantly looking after your voice and after the fourth show in a row, if I’m honest, you just can’t be at your peek for performing. I like the fact that it’s the opposite to a nine-to-five job where you have the week off and you’re working at the weekend. Working in inverted commas [laughs].

We played RockNess before and I remember being by the Loch and it was pretty misty, like I’d always imagined. But I hear it’s going to be really great weather so I’m excited. And the day that we’re playing there are a few bands that I want to see. Metronomy in particular, it’ll be good to see those guys again, we did a few shows in Ibiza and Mallorca with them last summer so be good to catch up with those guys.

What can people expect from your set at RockNess?

Expect me to be dancing my heart out and giving it 100%. If people want to come watch a band who are energetic and vibrant on stage they should come and see us.

What have Friendly Fires got planned for the rest of 2012?

At the moment we’re recording some music but I’m not sure if it’s going to be Friendly Fires release just yet. The music sounds very different, two of the songs are over eight minutes long so it’s not really instantaneous pop music. But I think it’s something we need to do creatively and we’re working with Andrew Weatherall, he’s a producer and DJ we’re admired for many years so it’s an honour to be working with him.

Friendly Fires play RockNess, 8-10 Jun.

Friendly Fires - 'Paris'

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