Live at CMJ, Day 4: Friendly Fires

photos by Doron Gild
interview by Sheryl Witlen

At the age of 14 they who would become Friendly Fires met in school in St. Albans and formed a post-hardcore band. Recording in this format through university, the band, prompted by lead singer Ed Macfarlane’s solo releases on a variety of local electronica labels, renamed themselves Friendly Fires and turned towards a more dance-music inspired sound. Though the current sound Macfarlane produces with mates Jack Savidge (drums) and Edd Gibson (guitar) and Rob Lee (live only) leans towards a more traditional electronic structure, the remnants of their hardcore past still linger. Their discoesque beats are infused with an at times overwhelming assault of sonic layers, explosive drums, and sharp electro-tinged guitars. The band has released a handful of EPs and recently released their self-titled album on XL. They are currently in the midst of a massive US tour with Lykke Li and will start another European leg in November.

After their in-studio performance, Ed and Edd talked with Sheryl Witlen about the band:

Sheryl: You mentioned to John on the air that you write the musical part of your songs first and then you go back and add the lyrics?

Edd: We were talking about the music we wrote before we were in this band, which was more instrumental.

Ed: It was before we wrote “Photobooth,” which was our first pop song on the album and the oldest song on the album. When we wrote that we were beginning to be electronic. More of a Mogwai or Godspeed Fiasco vibe. Completely instrumental, no lyrics whatsoever.

Sheryl: Are you classically trained musicians?

Edd: No, no, Jack is. His parents are opera singers and he has music in the blood.

Sheryl: When did you both start playing instruments.

Ed: In the band we were in before.

Edd: I was in a band before I could even play guitar. I mean, I am still learning.

Sheryl: How did you all meet?

Edd: We all went to school together and were into the same type of music but we all had different things we were into.

Sheryl: The drums are such a pivotal point of the performance and are so strong comparable to Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem or Rapture with the full complete percussion live sound and involvement for a band aiming for pop and dance music. I was wondering if you start with the beat and the drum presence and how that works into the lyrical process.

Ed: When we write the songs we think about the full nature of the beat. The more percussion and drumbeats you have the more you can dance. That is kind of the start.

Sheryl: How is the dance scene in England?

Edd: They just opened a new club in London. The whole french electro-thing helped dance music blow up and crossed into the indie music genre.

Ed: We’ve never been massive fans of Daft Punks’ abrasive sound, after a while listening to it-it gets to you. But we appreciate their beats.

Sheryl: I read that you really enjoy the german record label Kompakt, do you follow a lot of the Berlin music scene?

Ed: Yeah, we bounce between Berlin and Detroit influences. There is just so much good music coming out of both of those places.
Berlin itself just has the best clubs.

Edd: In England we have clubs just full of guys freaking out over the production but in Berlin there are clubs that close at 4 am and then there will be after party that goes until 6 PM. It just such a good scene.

Sheryl: Ed, is it true that you have to put back a few drinks before heading on stage to loosen up?

Ed: Yeah…I do. It helps you to hone in and just feed off the energy of being in front of the audience. You can’t think about actually being in front of people because you’ll freak out.

Sheryl: Have you been approached to have your songs re-mixed at all yet?

Edd: We have a bit, we have something coming up that we will be putting out.

Sheryl: Are there any producers that you would want to work with for the new album?

Ed: There was only one song that we had an outside producer work on, the rest we did ourselves. I think we will try to keep it the same the next time around. It is nice to have a producer because sometimes we will write a really good riff and we won’t think it is that good and a producer will come in and be like, “no keep that, it is really good.”

Sheryl: They help nurture you and continue along your path that way a bit. Well thank you for coming in.

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