Named after the 1979 Talking Heads album, Fear of Music are the latest bright young things from Manchester to embark on the magical mystery tour of musical enlightenment in a bid to fulfil their dreams of indie-rock stardom. Having signed to Sony BMG in 2005, the enthusiastic four-piece have just released their fourth EP, ‘We Are Not The Enemy’, and with their debut album due for release later in the year are ready to reap the rewards of years of hard work. And Gigwise couldn’t wait to catch up with them, to see for ourselves what all the fuss is about.
“It was never actually the plan to get a record deal or anything like that” explains Jo, “We just started with the intention of writing songs and playing together. When we started the band, the oldest of us was thirteen and we just wanted something that wasn’t full of shit. We did it to escape from things.” Michael continues: “It wasn’t like a means to an end or anything but once we realised that we had something pretty good then it made sense to do something with it.”
A lively four piece, it’s immediately obvious that friendship is the key to Fear of Music’s optimism and skill set. Vocalist Jo Rose first met drummer Chris Stanley at primary school and have remained firm friends ever since. Originally starting out as a three piece with Ali Esmaail on bass, it soon became apparent that something was missing from the group. And in 2004 salvation came in the form of guitarist Michael Ward. Although it’s not immediately clear if Michael is a fully fledged band member yet, as Ali cheekily tells us:“Michael’s still here on a trial basis. We’ve tried to shake him off but he won’t leave us alone.”
“I never actually joined the band I just turned up for rehearsals and never left” Chips in Michael.
The band’s growing reputation has been slow and steady over the years due in part to their youthfulness. Ali is still 16 and securing venues in which to play wasn’t always an easy task. But it’s never been a huge problem or bothered the band, who see age as more of an asset than an issue. And anyway, Ali’s confident exuberance always seems to stand them in good stead.
“It’s still gonna be a year until I can legally be in places like that anyway but I’m so cool and everyone likes me so much they just let me play at their club” Ali says in his thick manc drawl “When I rock up at a nightclub they’re like, shit I don’t care if he’s got no ID get this man a drink…but it’s usually water or orange juice.”
And once the music started and people began to listen, it wasn’t long before the unassuming group began to attract some well deserved attention as Michael remembers; “It all happened really slowly, it wasn’t an overnight thing. When we actually signed, Ali had already left school, I dropped out of university and Chris and Jo had to finish their A Levels. But it was really good that everything happened over a long period of time ‘cos there are a lot of bands that rush into it.” Jo pitches in: “If we had of rushed it we wouldn’t have made the record that we’re going to make next month so we don’t have any regrets about the way it worked out.”
And so far it’s all working out very well indeed. Last year’s ‘Fast.Faster.Fastest’ EP was the band’s first release as a four piece and was produced by the legendary John Leckie, a fact not lost on the band.
“When we first heard that we might be working with John we were all really excited about it because just look at his track record” Says Michael. “He’s really used to artists who have been doing it longer and who really know what they are doing. A lot of ideas he’d kind of want to take to the extreme and that’s the really cool thing is that creatively he’s on a very similar wavelength and he’s possibly the most beautiful man you’ve ever met!” beams Jo.
Jo picks up the thread; “It’s very, very different now to how it first was when we came on the scene. When we made that EP it was our first proper recording as a four piece and it was quite dangerous and it felt quite raw. And now we’re a bit older, I guess we’re making it more exact.”
But however productive their time with John Leckie might have been, the band’s new EP and forthcoming album (due to be released in September) will be produced by Dimitri Tikovo of The Horrors and Placebo fame. And it’s a natural progression for a band that are continually developing and honing their signature sound. As always with Fear of Music there’s a clamour to be heard over one another.
“The new EP is really good and it’s like a stepping stone for us to doing the album and we’re really happy with it.” Says Michael “I think with the album its just going to be really expanding on that and showing all different sides of what we can do. We’re just going to go into the studio and record as many songs as we can and then we’ll look towards putting together a track listing.”
“We’ve kind of found what we’re looking for with Dimitri.” Confirms Michael.
But the group, so far used to taking things in their stride and at their own pace, are under no illusions as to the price paid in exchange for instant fame. Luckily for them they want no part of it and laugh at the mere suggestion of being England’s next big thing. But as the laughter dies down a very definite and serious tone washes over the group. “We don’t want to be like a hype band,” states Chris emphatically. “I think bands like The Horrors and The Klaxons are really good bands, but the way they are being exposed and perceived is like two little fashion bands.”
Michael interrupts: “With The Horrors and the Klaxons they’re great bands but then the media get hold of them and they kind of explode. If that happened I’m sure we’d be able to deal with it but that’s not important to us. It’s about going out, playing shows, making records, people getting into it and having fun.”
They might not want to be an overnight success, hype, or fashion band, but they do have a huge self confidence and high expectations of themselves as Michael explains. “I think what we’re doing now is still like a stepping stone towards other things. Like Radiohead went from being quite a straight forward rock band to being really interesting and ground breaking musicians and I’d like to think that we could kind of do that.”