“We wanted this record to be more personal and thought more about the live dimension- the newer songs feel very powerful to perform.”
While picking a favorite band from England in the 80s or 90s would be quite challenging, Brighton’s Fear of Men are far and above the most impressive band from the nation since 2010 in my opinion. The indie pop trio formed in 2011 in a sort of unusual way while vocalist Jessica Weiss was creating soundtracks as part of her art degree program and a fellow art student and guitarist Daniel Falvey heard and was impressed with the recordings enough to ask her to form a band. They began by releasing a cassette and single in 2011 and added their current drummer Michael Miles in 2012. This trio has remained the consistent core of the band ever since. In February 2013, Kanine Records decided to compile three singles and the then unreleased “Seer” for a release called Early Fragments. They would travel to the US for the first time that summer to play FYF Fest. Their debut LP Loom came out in May 2014 and they followed it up with a US tour with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. After some down time while the band would rework their sound to add a more electronic element, the band released Fall Forever on June 3, 2016. The LP features a much more dramatic, serious vibe in slight contrast to the slightly poppier, more upbeat sounding songs (not necessarily lyrically) of Loom. This evolution makes for quite an interesting juxtaposition of vibes live when they switch back and forth from new songs to old ones and vice versa. Earlier this month they completed their first headlining North American tour with Puro Instinct and have a plethora of European dates scheduled for September and October.
I know you said you used to suffer from stage fright. Did you do anything in particular to overcome this? Do you still have bouts of anxiety when performing or are you fairly comfortable now? You have shed your guitar to perform the new songs live and just focus on singing (still playing guitar on the old songs) and I was curious if you feel that is something that demonstrates how you have settled in as a performer.
I think the new songs feel a lot braver, which in turn allows me to adopt a more confident pose while performing them. I can still be pretty anxious, but I think it’s getting better. Part of this is learning to feel more ‘in the moment’ on stage, rather than getting caught up in my head, part of it is the supportive reactions we’ve had to the new record, part of it is probably just getting older?
How did you link up with Puro Instinct for your recent American tour? How did it go overall and was it different to play all these US cities for the first time as a headliner?
We liked their record and the music made sense, so we got in touch with them about touring. They’re very sweet and were fun to tour with. Doing our first headline tour was a dream. It was amazing to play the Bowery Ballroom and the Echo, and everywhere in between.
You toured with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart on your previous US tour so you clearly know how to pick great bands to join you on the road. What are a few bands/artists that you would tour with in an ideal world?
We would love to play some shows with Japanese Breakfast at some point, also The National, Deerhunter, PJ Harvey. Angel Olsen.
Fear of Men essentially started as a result of soundtracks you created to accompany your short films in art school. Please tell me about your favorite film that you created and what types of emotions you wanted to convey with the music to it. Do you still work on films at times?
Not really… I write a lot and draw/paint more these days. I’d love to come back to it at some point. The films I was making were kind of abstract, almost hypnotic; I wanted to convey things very intuitively to create a world rather than tell a narrative.
It seems as though you are a big fan of museums based on some of your artwork and random social media posts. What is your favorite museum that you have visited and is there one you particularly still want to visit that you haven’t been able to yet?
I love the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford- it’s a very idiosyncratic collection of strange ethnographic finds. There’s a witch in a silver bottle, shrunken heads, a totem pole… I am very proud of the free museums in London too- the Tate and the British Museum in particular. All museums should be free and they are really wonderful ones. I always try to visit the Egyptian temple at the Met when I’m in New York, and I’d love to return to Egypt one day to see more things first hand in Situ.
You have basically had a revolving door of musicians fill out the live sound on bass/synth. Is that an intentional choice or just something that has happened out of necessity?
Fourth members have never written or recorded with us- they’ve always been talented people who have wanted to pursue their own projects at some point.
How would you personally describe the progression from the first record to the second both in terms of sound and lyrics? It creates an interesting live contrast to hear songs from both albums side by side since they have quite different vibes.
I’d describe it as naturally growing older, progressing, learning about ourselves and our instruments. It felt very organic. We wanted this record to be more personal and thought more about the live dimension- the newer songs feel very powerful to perform.
What is the process for a Fear of Men song coming together? Is it always the same or does it vary?
It definitely varies- we try to put the song first, and just do whatever it takes to get it to a place we’re happy with. This often means lots of really different demo treatments, but the general way that we work is I write a skeleton song on my own, then we come together and work out what to do with it.
Is there a song on Fall Forever that you are particularly proud of and why?
I’m proud of the whole record, but I particularly love “Ruins” because it was one that felt very simple but very right and sincere, so we resisted the urge to add too much to it.
I’ve never been to Brighton, England so how would you recommend I spend one day in the city?
I love it there so much. You should start with a Small Batch Coffee on the beach, having picked up a book to read from one of the second hand stores. Sit in the sun for a bit watching the dog walkers, then maybe go to the Booth Museum to see some strange Victorian taxidermy, then make some demos in a hotel room looking over the sea (I’ve never done this but I imagine it would be nice. Turner used to paint in a house overlooking Hove beach), meet some friends at the Bee’s Mouth for drinks and life drawing in the evening and maybe see who’s playing at the Green Door Store to finish your night.
What is something exclusively American that you wish you had over in England?
The weather extremes- I love the climate in New York, for example, where the summer is so hot, and then you still get a lot of snow in the winter. The open personalities, maybe? On the whole, the British are a lot more stand offish. I’m the same, but sometimes it’s nice to experience the opposite.
What’s next for Fear of Men coming on the heels of the record’s release and first headlining American tour? Please tell me you plan to come back to the US soon!
We’ve got our UK and European tour coming up and then we’ll probably get back to writing, but we’ll be touring the States again with someone I’m really excited about in November.
Check out Fear of Men’s website for updated tour dates: http://www.fearofmen.co.uk/
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