Friday, 8 April 2011

MPM meets... Funeral For A Friend - April 7th 2011

Funeral For A Friend are celebrating their ten-year anniversary this year. Forming from the ashes of January Thirst with numerous band-member changes over the years, Funeral For A Friend now boast a sturdy set-up and five fantastic studio albums. The latest album, 'Welcome Home Armageddon', was released just before they set off on a massive UK tour in March with Rise To Remain and Tiger Please, and you'd be mistaken if you thought the MPM crew wouldn't do everything in their power to get hold of these Welsh boyos.
Founder and editor Becky took a seat in the band's tour bus with a mildly frustrated Matt Davies-Kreye, casually dressed and deep in conversation.
(Matt Davies-Kreye did apologise, after this interview, for his tendency to ramble when he is asked a question!)

You're at the end of quite a lengthy UK tour, how has it been?
Matt: It's been a lot of fun. Twenty dates does somehow feel like it takes too long. But no, it's been great, and I think having this be our first proper tour back after being away for a year, it's cool. It's been good.

A lot of the venues on this tour have been quite small considering you're quite a big band - do you just prefer small venues?
Matt: I think coming back to playing shows after we've been away for a while, it's kinda nice to find your feet again because you do get a bit rusty. There's something not appealing about playing a show on a big stage in a big hall. I think playing intimate venues makes much more sense, because it allows you to kind of feel up the songs better and communicate with the audience better, interact better, just makes you feel more comfortable so it's the best way to get back into playing shows.

How are fans reacting to the new stuff?
Matt: Really good! It's been super positive, the reactions to songs like Sixteen and Front Row [Seats to the End of the World] and stuff like that have been amazing because kids have been singing along and everything, as loud as they have been while they've been singing songs like Juneau and Roses For The Dead and things back, so it's been quite interesting. It's been good, the reception's been overwhelmingly successful, I think.
What's your favourite song off 'Welcome Home Armageddon'?
Matt: It changes sometimes. There's a couple that I really enjoy listening to, like Old Hymns, the first proper song on the album is a big favourite of mine. Sixteen is a favourite. Owls (Are Watching) is another favourite, and the actual Welcome Home Armageddon track as well. Those are my favourites.

Which of your albums would you say you're most proud of?
Matt: That's like trying to pick a favourite kid (laughs), which is almost impossible, you shouldn't do it really. One of my favourite records, because of how it was done and who we did it with and the general experience of making it, one of my favourites was 'Hours', because that was the first time we did a record where we just kind of...we went away somewhere completely different, somewhere unfamiliar, and just decamped. Just literally tried to make a record in totally unfamiliar surroundings. It was great, it was fantastic, because not only was a change of scenery kind of important for us, but for me it was nice to work with somebody like Terry Date, who did the album, who I've looked up to for many years for his work with Deftones and...I don't wanna say Limp Bizkit, but... (laughs).  Pantera, bands like that. He's got a sound and a way of working with you that makes you feel totally comfortable, and make you feel like making a record and being in a band professionally isn't a job. He made it feel like it was just the best hobby in the world, and sometimes it can feel like a job. But he made me feel really comfortable, he helped me find my place in a lot of things, because I didn't really know what I was doing with the band at that point. I was just having major, major doubts. I think we'd been working so hard for the first album, we didn't stop, I was almost on the verge of going crazy. So he helped me settle myself into what it was to be on the stage, holding a microphone and pouring your heart out, and it made me feel more comfortable doing it.
You played two shows in July playing 'Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation' in full, how was that?
Matt: It was fun. It was kind of a fun and sad time because it was obviously the last proper shows we did with Darran [Smith, guitar]. It was also a catalyst for the new direction of the music for the new album. I think for the first time in about seven or eight years, I'd gone back to listening to 'Casually Dressed'. I had a habit of listening to it for about a week and a half after we finished recording it and then just putting it away. For me, it was just nice to hear the songs transposed further down the line of Funeral for a Friend, and play them again because it was our opportunity to pay our respects to Darran as a performer, and send him off in good style. It allowed us to see what we'd achieved, where we started and how we were going to approach making new music and stuff. It was enjoyable. It was cathartic, in a way.
How would you say you've changed since the release of 'Casually Dressed'?
Matt: We've got older (laughs), which is bound to happen, nobody can stay young forever. Unless you're fuckin' Aled Jones or whoever. A lot of bands don't have to grow up in public with their records. They've obviously been in bands or gone to school with each other for years, and worked out what they wanna do before they even become successful. We didn't have that history, so we got together as a band maybe about a year or so before our first EP came out. Probably less than that, probably like 4 months before we recorded our first EP, so we were still unfamiliar with each other, what we liked, how we worked together. We went through some member changes, as well, really early on, and that takes a lot of getting used to. It was such a steamroller ride because the EP was so successful that it pretty much landed us into the middle of a record contract, and we were touring, and then we were having to write songs without having any background or touchstones with each other, so it was like trying to figure out where we were going, while we were going. It was a weird vibe to feel like you're having to develop and change and find out what music you wanna play and how you wanna deliver that music, how you wanna perceive yourself as a band. Sometimes you've gotta go through the whole process of everything you like in order to figure out what you like about being in the band in the first place, which is why this album is important to us. Because like now we've actually done that whole trying-to-figure-out-what-the-fuck-we-wanna-do, we've tried to explore every facet of what we are as a band in order to make that decision, and now we have, and it feels good, it feels like this album's come a long way. Our fans probably wanted it a lot sooner. It can be frustrating, we are a frustrating band. It's good though, we're older, somewhat wiser, maybe, and we just know what we want now, so it's a nice place to be at.

You're off around Europe at the end of the month, are you excited?
Matt: Yeah, it's always nice to get off on tour, especially different places outside of the UK. It's always a challenge, to a degree, but it's always nice to play to audiences where English isn't the first language. I dunno, it's something about playing to audiences, in that regard, which makes things a lot more...special? Not to belittle our UK fans. There's something transcendental about having an audience of people who have English as a second language or even a third language, singing in English back at you. It's an experience that can never be rivalled, I think. And that's why it's always fun for us to get out and play shows over there, especially in the mainland, because it's so interesting.
Where would you say your favourite place is outside the UK that you've played?
Matt: I have a major soft spot for Australia. It's a country that's so laid-back and so easy-going, and the attitudes there to music fit in with my idea of how music should be enjoyed, in general. Because I have an issue, sometimes, with audiences that come to shows, specifically in this country now, and there's a severe inability to enjoy yourself. I've noticed since I used to go to shows, the audiences decide to stand there and watch. They make you feel like you should almost be impressing them. Whereas you go to any other country in the world and they just love the fact that there's music being played and they just go apeshit, they go mad. They throw themselves fully into it: body, spirit, everything. There's no thought about it. Their favourite song kicks off and everybody goes for it. There's none of this crossed-arm, standing-at-the-back thing. And even if it is, they're dancing at the back in their own private spaces. We've been to Brazil, we've been to places in central America, North America, everywhere. We've done South Africa now. I come back to the UK and I'm just a little bit disappointed with people's attitudes. We're having the most fun we've ever had on stage. This tour's been nothing but a great laugh, bunch of mates having fun, making music and playing music, and I want the audience to feel a part of that, not like they've just paid their money and they're just gonna stand there now and just let it go on. Baffles me. I'm not saying people should break their necks or anything, but that's just part of what it is.
What's your favourite song to play live?
Matt: That again changes, sometimes on a weekly basis. We've started bringing out Monsters for the first time in like, fuckin' five years, and that has been a lot of fun to play, because that's a song we haven't played very much. There's a track called Spinning Over The Island from the new album which really, really is a lot of fun to play. I think my favourite one, though, is probably Sixteen for some reason. That song is just so much fun to play. It's so easy, it's just kind of bouncy and it moves really well and allows you to just throw yourself into it, just forget about it for a little bit.
Did you ever expect to be as big as you are now?
Matt: No. It baffles me sometimes because I can't get my head round the fact that we've been going for ten years and people buy our records and people come to our gigs. It baffles me. Not because I don't think we're any good, it's just...this was kind of meant to be a weekend thing, something to do when you were bored of your day job. The concept of doing it for a living is just strange, because it's such a weird lifestyle. It's fun once you get used to it, obviously I've travelled more in the last ten years than I think most of my friends have ever done, so I've got more stamps in my passport. I've been through three passports in ten years, you know what I mean? I'm very happy that we've been able to do this for a living. I never thought it'd ever get to this point though. I thought we'd get two years, maybe? Maybe some people would've liked it to be two years. We've always felt like we'll just keep on going 'til the wheels fall off, until it stops being fun anymore. And there's been a few times when it's come close to that. There's been a few moments when we came close to the point of calling it a day. The biggest time was when we just came back from touring 'Hours', we should've taken some time off really but we were coerced into going back into the writing process two weeks after we finished touring, and we didn't have anything, and it was just sitting in a room, shouting at each other. I just literally left. I left for maybe a month, two months? Because I just couldn't take it. So I did some different stuff in the interim, like secret shows and stuff, and then came back. Ryan's [Richards] wife was expecting their first child at some point so I think we were all pretty much fed up of each other. Four years on tour, it's a long time to be around each other. Especially in this environment. So we gave ourselves a little bit of time away from each other, forcingly. We decided we were just gonna fuck it, just leave, and then we came back and then we wrote 'Tales [Don't Tell Themselves]' in about two weeks, and felt relieved 'cause it was so different to what we'd done before. I think that was the challenge, that was the reason we wanted to do the band again, why we wanted to really keep it going, was because it was so different, and that challenge of doing something different brought us together a bit more. We could've done 'Hours 2.0' and it would've been shit, would've been terrible because it wouldn't have been real, there wouldn't have been a purpose to it, whereas 'Tales' was a product of frustration, of having to work through those issues, and seeing if music could save us really, and it did. Even if people didn't get it, even if people said it wasn't heavy or whatever. It wasn't about that, it wasn't about trying to impress people, it was about proving to ourselves that we could still make a record on our own terms and feel comfortable with it, which was really good.
How do you balance being in a band and just being a normal person?
Matt: I think you've got to try to figure out a comfortable space between the two. When I'm at home, when I'm off tour, I'm the most normal person. To a degree, I don't think anybody's ever normal. You just live your life. I do normal things. I decorate, I fuckin' go shopping, post things at the post office, I walk my dog, I feed my cats. I finish the shopping when my wife's found something on eBay that's really cool. I'm an avid photographer so I do that, I'm always doing that. I focus on everything except music when I'm home. When I'm on tour, it's pretty much all about the music and the moment that we're in, and making sure that, when I'm on stage, I feel like I can run across the audience and feel invincible. That's the most important part, I think. It's just trying to find the balance between those two ideas.
Do you ever gets fans accosting you in your day-to-day life?
Matt: Not really. We don't have to run around wearing sunglasses and stuff like that. People just have a natural respect for space sometimes, and I don't tend to run around or go out, I'm not a big social butterfly. I spend a lot of time at home. It's something you've gotta deal with. We have had moments where people have come up to us out of the blue and been like, 'can I have your autograph?'. It's a bit weird when you're in the middle of GAP or in the Nike store or the Vans store or Starbucks. I don't wanna say no. I feel most uncomfortable when it's outside of the band thing, people randomly come up to you in the street when you're out there shopping for frickin' shower gel or something. It's a weird situation to find yourself in. People don't know any different, the fans don't know any different. You're you every moment of their day. For me it's like I'm Matt when I'm at home and then there's Matt on tour. It's an odd one to balance, but it's funny. My wife finds it funny. People have this preconceived idea of what being in a band is about, and it's almost like you're made of gold or some shit, which...that'd be nice. Well, no it wouldn't be, actually. It's part of the boundaries that we're trying to pick apart, bit by bit really, because we don't wanna be perceived as rock stars or being unobtainable or anything like that. I want people to see that we're normal, that we're just regular dudes up there having a laugh, playing music that we love playing, just for the fun of it really.
Can you explain your drawing to me?
Matt: That's me, frustrated, having just realised that my fucking laptop has now decided to not work, and I'm frustrated because there's nothing I can do to fix it while I'm on tour. I do a lot of things with that, I watch movies, I write, I communicate with people. But I have my iPhone which is a miniature version. Unfortunately I can't watch movies on it.

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