With a new EP, Polymers Are Forever, released this month (to be followed by a new album early next year); a new record label and a new lineup, intriguing Welsh rockers Future Of The Left are set to travel to our shores in December for a series of shows as well as the Meredith Music Festival.
Fresh out of the studio and recovering from a difficult week putting the finishing touches on their soon to be released third record The Plot Against Common Sense, energetic front man and guitarist Andy “Falco” Falkous spoke to me over the phone about night time creativity, how to write a memorable song, and the frustrations of not gigging nearly enough to stay sane.
So how are you doing Falco?
I’m doin ok it’s been a slightly traumatic last week but I think we’ve pulled through with our massive heads held high.
Traumatic? I was actually going to ask you what you’ve been up to the last week, what happened?
Sorry you’re a little bit quiet mate, just a little bit on the quiet side.
Sorry it’s a little early in the morning here.
Yeah I know I have the advantage that it’s ten o’clock at night here and that’s when I hit peak peak myself.
Is that your creative peak as well around that time?
Ah just my life peak really ever since I was a child it gets to about 10 o’clock at night and I suddenly start to feel awake when all day I’ve been you know consumed by dread and the like. Between about 10 at night and 2 in the morning is when I get all my best stuff done, even my best nothing you know.
Everything sort of makes a bit more sense at night?
Yeah it’s peacefull outside, it’s calm. You get to write, go for a run or something but unfortunately nobody will play football with you at 10 o’clock at night so I don’t get to use me full range of vampiric skills very much.
You mentioned the last week has been traumatic, traumatic in what way?
Finishing our album has been, to use the jargon, “a massive pain in fucking arse.” We really wanted to have it finished by the time we came out in December and to all intents and purposes it is, but there’s one bass line that’s left to do. The bass needs to have a particular sound, it’s got to feel like it’s removing your guts cell by cell, and there’s one vocal to do then a couple of mixes and it’s all finished. It’s just been that access to the studio where we’ve been recording was problematic to say the least. Dates kept changing and the frustration at one stage was palpable but I think we’re there now. It sounds great and everyone says the new record sounds great but when I say it it’s a fact!… You will notice I laughed with a little bit of a soft mocking tone after saying that.
I saw that you have an EP that’s being released before the new album, are they along the same lines creatively?
Well, not exactly along the same lines. For a start off the last three songs off the EP were recorded about a year and a half ago. They were kind of the first steps along the way to what became the record, but they’re a little bit more traditional sounding for us. A bit more traditional guitaring and a little bit more straight up, you know, and old fashioned, to use the term, whereas the first three songs on the EP could be seen as being a little bit misleading as in they’re all predominantly keyboard songs.
That wasn’t by design – it was just with “Polymers Are Forever” we wanted to use it as the lead track just because it’s not a single as such, it doesn’t really have the classic factors you look for in a single. It isn’t incredibly hooky straight away, it’s not 3 minutes long but it’s a certain statement I think. The rest of the album doesn’t sound like it but, to be honest with you, it would’ve been difficult to pull one song off the album which did represent it really, but works as a coherent whole.
The song was as good as any and it was finished first so that was one of the reasons to stick it on. Whereas the other two songs, “With Apologies to Emily Pankhurst” and “New Adventures” – even though aesthetically they fitted into the overall album – they, for me, just weren’t good enough to make the cut compared to the other songs we already had on there. Which is why they’re on the EP rather than the album. We’re still very very happy with the songs and those two songs in particular. They were originally on the record but there were a couple of very late runners that came up on the inside and usurped them from their righteous position on the record.
You’re an interestingly rhythmic band at times. Does this stem from the rhythm section when you jam or even the guitar or keyboards?
Well, the way we write is we write pretty much just in rehearsal and we don’t tend to write parts at home and then bring them in and ask people to work themselves to our creative dream. It’s a process where everybody gets to just basically lay their hands on the instruments and start playing. It will more often than not go from the bass and drums upwards.
Julia (who is the official bass player now) might play a bass line or somebody else might have a bass line or it might start with a drum beat. The way Jack drums is quite lyrical in a lot of ways, he’s not a complex drummer even though he never misses a beat; for me, the drum beat should be as much of a hook as the vocal part you know. I can only think of a couple of our songs where the drum beat is what you would call your meat and potatoes snare, kick, hat.
For example the song Small Bones Small Bodies is a very standard kind-of-rock-kind-of-fucking-hip-hop beat or whatever; a lot of the times we want it to be special from the ground up. Then again it doesn’t matter how good a particular part is if it doesn’t end up being a memorable song, with say a melody that enchants more than anything then the best part in the world is completely useless.
Well, I could sit here and listen to you all day I love the Welsh accent but….
Ah, well I’m not actually Welsh.
Really? Where are you from?
I’m from the North East of England but I’ve lived in Wales for eighteen years and I’ve definitely got parts of the accent, particularly when I talk quietly. But also part of my family were Irish as well so my accent is what some people would say ‘mongrel’ or I should say from all over the fucking place.
How is the Cardiff scene? Is it strong? Are there any bands we should keep an eye on at the moment?
Well Jim, who’s the relatively new guitarist in the band, he was in another band called Strange News From Another Star who on one level are a kind of straight up garage kind of band but they have another certain wicked dirt to them. It’s not a dirt that they’re trying to recreate because they think that’s what’s gonna get people at the shows, they’re sort of very sincere and unaffected about it.
There’s a young band, just outside Cardiff called Saturday’s Kids… not the greatest name in the world is it? But they’re a really promising band as well. Aside from that I don’t really go to to many shows, partly because of abject poverty and partly because to be quite honest with you when I go to a show I feel incredibly jealous I’m not playing myself.
I think in the last two years we’ve done something like a total of twenty to twenty five shows and frankly I just don’t know what to do with myself… I like to be on stage playing. There was recently a festival called Foon. It’s a Welsh word meaning moon and we went to a few of the shows there and for me it was terrible. It was like someone putting up a picture of a younger, more virile self.
I just wanted to get on stage and start playing, which is not the accepted thing to do at shows. You can’t just wander on stage, elbow people out of the way and start playing. It’s just what I love to do, I start to feel sick the longer I haven’t played a show. Since we got back from Oz in January I think we’ve played a total of five shows, so I’m going fucking crazy here mate.
You must be hanging out for Meredith then?
Oh yeah absolutely. I’m hanging out for Meredith and the sideshows as well. I must say I love the way you guys call the shows sideshows. It does make it sound like literally it’s the side to the festival. Whereas for us to be quite honest as brilliant as Meredith is, I mean it’s the best outdoor festival I’ve played, but for us Meredith is a sideshow to our own shows.
I know sideshow is just a term that gets used but we’re into that whole trip and it’s funny when you do the bigger festivals like Falls or Pyramid… I mean the experience of those bigger shows doesn’t get close to playing your own show where the people come to specifically see you rather than just some guy in his wife beater who just happens to watch you because he’s having his eighth VB of the day.
– Alasdair McDonald