Screaming with Life

Artist: Funeral for a Friend
Published: 2003-11-14

Covering Funeral for a Friend's story so far isn't a process that favours sparing time to draw breath. So quick has the Welsh quintet's onslaught towards the release of their debut album been, Britain's media hyperbole had to play catch-up with a swelling fan base; the band had already generated from limited publicity and live performances alone.

By the time they had begun the tour to promote only their second EP, 'Four Ways to Scream Your Name', the follow up to September 2002's 'Between Order and Model', they'd trekked the majority of their meteoric one-year journey alone. The possibly over-zealous reaction that ensued confirmed that FFAF had finally arrived, and October saw their first US release, the 'Seven Ways to Scream Your Name' EP hit the stores, concluding a seamless 13-month transition from speculative demo-recording upstarts to transatlantic major label big hopes.

They've released records at a dazzling rate, made all the more remarkable by a schedule that has seen the boys tour incessantly, and one wonders how the hell they found the time to come up with and record new songs with such a demanding number of live dates to fill.

"I don't know where we found the time to write it, and I don't know how the fuck we found the time to record it!" says guitarist Kris Roberts of the high studio throughput.

"We split the recording of the album into two separate times and two separate places, so that kind of helped us go away and get a bit more creative in that time, and took the pressure off a little bit," adds chatty and equally amiable drummer, Ryan Richards, about debut LP 'Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation'.

The barometer reading was surely also somewhat lowered during the first session due to the high quality of songs the band already had in their catalogue, with a large amount of the tunes recorded on their initial two EPs being re-recorded for their full Warner debut.

"Most of the ones we recorded in the second session were written after the first session," Ryan tells me. "The last few days before we went in for recording we pretty much wrote a couple of new ones and worked quite hard on the old ones we had, just to get them into some sort of shape."

If the recording of 'Casually Dressed...' was at all rushed, it certainly doesn't show on the record. A collection of 12 emotional and exhilarating tunes, there's enough variation to provide substance, from big-chorused opener 'Rookie of the Year' to cello-backed acoustic effort 'Your Revolution is a Joke'; the new material sandwiched between old favourites confirms the depth of FFAF's song writing talent.

As Kris recounts: "definitely between Four Ways and the album, because everything has been so busy, touring so much, being here, being there, it kinda felt a little..."

"A little bit rushed in places..." Ryan interjects.

"Yeah, at some points, it was like, QUICK GO!!" the guitarist continues, gesticulating like a mime artist attacking a particularly flimsy wall, "but, I think that because most of our ideas had been pulled from that initial period from Between Order and Model and Four Ways, I think that gave us a lot of ideas to develop going into that last period," he concludes, regaining the laid back and open composure he retains throughout talking to Soulshine.

"Yeah. I mean as it turned out, we recorded more songs than we could fit on the album anyway. So there are a couple just sitting in the studio, waiting to see the light of day, which I'm sure they will at some point," adds Ryan, furthering the theory that the term 'filler' isn't one they're familiar with.

On Canadian shores, Funeral for a Friend may, for the most part, not be the biggest name around. But things may well soon change. Having signed a deal with Ferret Music to distribute their records on your side of the Atlantic, they are regularly hailed as Britain's biggest hopes to break the American hardcore/emo 'scene', although they don't seem particularly intent on garnering affiliation with the current glut of artists masquerading under that tag.

"That's where the album perhaps differs," says Ryan. "We didn't really want to attach to that scene, because inevitably the scene was gonna die, and just fade out. We like to think we can come out the other side of it, and not be one of those bands who've just been forgotten about, and just stand up on our own merits rather than being part of any scene."

"I think the only [useful] part of scenes [is that] which goes on to give people an idea who are into that scene, that they might like you, and not necessarily saying that you're a carbon copy of those bands," Kris adds, in a very fair approximation of what little good such definitions can do.

"Yeah, like, if you like Thursday, you might like us!" Ryan tentatively jokes, in a tone that boarders somewhere between humbleness and indifference, "or you might think we're shit..."

Thursday are a band that have, rightly or wrongly in recent times, though, suffered from a certain amount of criticism for losing their 'hardcore' edge, and despite their relatively short existence, FFAF have had to withstand small pockets of similar unrest among fans.

Their first major single, 'Juneau', a reworking of 'Juno' from the band's first EP, got a cold reception from many, sparking outwardly unjust 'sell-out' taunts (to sell-out before you've really begun would be quite a feat) from some of those who'd been there from the start. Converse to its predecessor, the recording was clean and Ryan's throat-tearing backing vocals had all but disappeared, replaced by a more melodic big-chorus, swayingly belted out by lead singer Matt Davies.

But far from caving in to populist record company dictations, Ryan and Kris insist that the band had virtually "complete" input into the new LP, and that while they respect and always considered producer Collin Richardson's input, the final decision was ultimately theirs'.

We're talking after one of the most arduous, painstaking sound checks Soulshine has witnessed. Desperately trying to overcome awful feedback, poor venue acoustics, and problems with Ryan's head mic, I'm left waiting a fair old while before we sit down for our dressing-room chat.

Perfectionists one and all, the band don't appear to have grown lethargic despite their punishing diary, and the quality of their live performances tend to be awarded in equal measure by crowds.

FFAF didn't make Canada on their recent first US support tour, but Ryan enthuses, genuinely chuffed: "We had a guy and a girl drive sixteen hours from like, Alberta to Seattle, to see us play for 30 minutes!"

"If you combine the time that we travelled for the flight over to America and flying out of America, they drove that for the same time," Kris adds, equally impressed.

"I just couldn't believe that at all, I thought that was great," says Ryan, adding, "but hopefully next time we get into that part of the world we would like to go to Canada."

Now firmly established in Britain, the band don't seem too fussed about starting all over again to crack North America.

"It was the first time they'd heard us pretty much. There was one or two people who were at pretty much every show who'd heard us before, but generally it was just like starting over again," says Kris of their US jaunt.

"It's nice to be at the bottom of the ladder again, and it's kinda a challenge to see how well we can do," Ryan duly concurs.

If their progress is as rapid as it's been elsewhere, with the album due for non-import release around April, it won't be long before you see that the conclusion to that poser is really rather well indeed.

It doesn't look like the schedule's going to wear thin for Funeral for a Friend, but as the rest of the band stream into the room as the interview continues, laughing and joking to Dictaphone-threatening noise-levels, it soon becomes clear that there's no drawing them into a bitching-session.

"We've got a couple of weeks off at Christmas, haven't we?" Kris asks his grinning, nodding, band mates, congregated around a massive set-up of tables, not looking even slightly bothered, "which I think will be the last we have off before the turn of the millennium."

"How can you complain about something that you always wanted to do, do you know what I mean? You have to sit down and think rationally about how fucking lucky we are to be doing this."

In truth, it's the sentiment you expect every rock musician bar the odd whinging, ungrateful, asshole to have. And while Kris' statement may be entirely right in many respects, he's got one thing very wrong. Because Funeral for a Friend's success is down to anything but luck.

Writer: Tim Newbound

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