Interview: The Futureheads

Posted on May 13, 2012


Photo courtesy of Ian West

It’s safe to say that The Futureheads are not settling down into the conventional life of a long running guitar band. Almost ten years after their debut was released to critical acclaim, you could reasonably expect that any indie band may either have gone down the Arctic Monkeys or Razorlight paths; either releasing a massive hype-killing record in the name of artistic integrity or gradually being consigned to the recycling village of fame.

Thankfully, the godfathers of Sunderland’s music scene haven’t ‘done a Borrell’, nor have they gone the whole Humbug, but they are doing something a bit different; they’re releasing an a cappella album, Rant.

Now, The Futureheads have always had a strong line in close harmonies and four part vocal gymnastics, but you would hardly put them on the same shelf as the Flying Pickets. The band themselves though, don’t see it as too much of a curious step: “For us it didn’t seem that mad,” explains guitarist/vocalist Ross Millard, “but when you take a step back and think about when we chat to people who don’t know about the record or who don’t know the band that well and we tell them we’re making an a cappella record it suddenly feels crazy again.”

Thankfully though, anybody who may have needed to go for a lie down when they realised that The Futureheads were ditching their instruments can take comfort in the fact that they’ll at least know the songs on this forthcoming fifth album, as Rant’s track list is made up of cuts from previous albums alongside a few eclectic cover versions so as not to plunge the average listener too far into unknown waters.

All well and good then, but what possible reason could the band have for downing tools and stretching their vocal chords in the first place? “As a musician you get stuck in a box after a certain time and people come to know you for one thing or for a specific style of music. If you’re interested in being a musician instead of just someone who’s in a band then it can be quite limiting, so for us it was about being musicians instead of being The Futureheads. I think we need to go through this episode so that when we do go back to playing electric shows they’re exciting to us and they feel new and fresh again because at the moment it’s the a capella stuff that’s really doing that for us.”

It’s certainly an interesting move, and one that will surely get noticed, but how are the fans likely to react? It’s something the band have clearly had to think on. “I don’t expect all of our fans to fall in love with this a cappella record. I understand that it’s a very different record and it’s going to challenge some people, but the people who care about the music as much as they care about the energy will like what we’re doing.”

For those who really ‘get’ the band’s latest musical direction, or are simply made curious beyond the CD release, the lads will shortly be embarking on a special tour to promote Rant, with North East shows at two of the region’s most loved venues – the Georgian Theatre in Stockton (Friday 6th) and The Sage Gateshead (Sunday 8th).

The first half of the set will be performed a capella whilst the second section takes on a more standard acoustic form, with everything from banjos to mandolins being promised. Fans of the more traditional Futureheads sound needn’t worry too much though, as it won’t be long until they plug back in; “We want to come straight off the road and start making another record again. Last year we had a lot of spare time on our hands and that’s fine for a while but you get itchy feet, wanting to do this, that and the other. This year we’ll tour the a cappella record and get straight back in the studio and start making some more music.”

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