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Funeral Fixation

(Interview With Matt Davies Taken From Black Velvet 37 - Aug 2003)

By David Jackson

Cambridge is arguably more famous for its university, an excessive number of bicycles on the streets and participation in boat races than live music. Despite this, Wales's current hottest property FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND have found their way to the city and the aptly named Boatrace music venue, ready to unleash their distinct blend of post hardcore rock. Appearing dilapidated and worn, quite possibly derelict from the outside, initial looks are deceptive. Shaking walls and the sound of 'This Year's Most Open Heartbreak' leaking from within are somewhat of a hint to the buzz of activity inside. Four women, later turning out to be the Halo Friendlies walk past into the Boatrace as Funeral For A Friend vocalist Matt Davies wanders out from the darkness within.






Retreating into the comfort of Funeral For A Friend's tour bus would be a lie. Retreating into a bus which has become the unfortunate victim of an enduring slog around the country should help paint a image of what I'm certain was once a lounge.

'Four Ways To Scream Your Name' is the excellent follow debut EP 'Between Order and Model'. "'Four Ways To Scream Your Name' was intended to be four different representations of a similar feeling. That was my concept in the EP," begins Matt, perched on the edge of a sofa, seeming happy to divulge about each track on their latest offering. "The first track, 'This Year's Most Open Heartbreak' is probably the most immediate. It's very kind of metal mixed with the more melodic aspect of what we do. It's the anger emotion, the sudden shock, so to speak. That's what the idea with that track was to put across. 'She Drove Me To Daytime Television' was the first song we wrote after the release of 'Between Order And Model.' It's been in our set for a while and is kind of a look at people in the media. How people perceive themselves by basing their look or their visual element on what they see people in magazines. It's the same vibe as 'Red Is The New Black' has on the first EP. 'Kiss And Make Up' is another bitter song. It's about regaining the feeling of being with somebody when you're not with anybody. It's probably the most relationship-wise song we've ever written. I try to steer away from that kind of lyrical content. Finally 'Escape Artists Never Die' is just about escaping your environment and going to better things. That whole escapist attitude, which is what we're doing now, getting out of our town, our area, our humdrum lives and experiencing a whole different perspective of life."

'Four Ways To Scream Your Name' is a clear jump forwards for Funeral For A Friend in both the music and writing sense from their debut release.
"The first EP was written by just myself and Kris. This new EP is more of a band effort," admits Matt. "Everybody approached it with a certain idea of what they wanted to achieve on every song and all of our influences show through. There's the metal side, the hardcore side and the more melodic rock aspect. Production-wise we had a chance to work with Colin Richardson (InMe, Machine Head), which gave it a bigger sounding feel. The first EP was done in three days, and a really rushed job. We were asked for a wish list of producers that we wanted to work with. Ryan threw in Colin. He was one of the people in this country who could capture the aggressive and melodic element of the band and do them justice. He wanted to work with us as well. He'd heard some of our stuff and was eager to work with a band who had that kinda two sounds going on."

One of the most striking elements of 'Four Ways To Scream Your Name' is the front cover. Set on a dark rustic background the head of a cat, mouth open, teeth showing, quite possibly screaming, looks poised to close its jaws and bite at any second. Any possibility of Matt poised in front of cats taking photos is quickly destroyed. "We went with this design house in the US called Asterisk Studios, they've done stuff for Poison The Well. We're big fans of their design work and gave them the music and the title and they gave us some concepts and that was just the most striking image. I know it's meowing or yawning, but it looks like it fits the brief of 'Four Ways To Scream Your Name.' The scream does link with it and it was just so striking to see that cat. It was good to have them do stuff for us as well, almost a dream come true for us."

With two successful EPs under their belt, the logical step for FFAF is unquestionably a debut album. Chatting about when work on their debut would start, it quickly transpires it's already well on its way.

"We've been working between tours on the album," Matt hints. "We've got the first half of it recorded and after this tour through the month of June we're going to be back in the studio again. We're constantly writing stuff. We've re-recorded two tracks off the first EP because I think we can give them a bit of a different vibe. We've been playing them for about a year and a half and they've found a new level. Besides that it's completely new stuff. We recorded the first half at Chapel Studios in Lincoln. We were there for three weeks. For the benefit of our sanity doing that in the middle of nowhere was a bit of a pain. We're going to East London to Rack Studios, which will be quite cool to be in a more populated area."

Hailing from Wales, Funeral For A Friend are the country's latest export to follow hot in the footsteps of LostProphets. With stories of Welsh bands from the valleys achieving success across the border firmly implanted in the minds of many of the English, it's unsurprising to see the trend continue. "I'm from South Wales," says Matt talking about life back home. "Some of the guys are from the same region as LostProphets. I live closer to the coast in Maesteg, a little town in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains. The line-up has changed since the first EP and a really good friend of mine who was the second vocalist in the band, a guy called Matthew Evans, introduced me to the band because their original singer left. They ran me through some Ignite songs which I nailed and from then on I've been part of the band."

In the past, a distinct sense of national identity has been seen from Welsh bands successful in England. Maybe this is a natural reaction of any foreign band achieving success abroad, or maybe it demonstrates a lack of identity shown by the English. Either way, any Welsh band breaking further afield is almost always, surely frustratingly, confronted with an immediate stereotype of escaping life in the valleys. Far more rare is a band breaking out from the darkest corners of East Anglia paid as much attention. "Yeah, it's always pick on Wales. Why pick on Wales? Fair enough, it's got mountains and fields, so has England as well!" comments Matt, having paused briefly to consider the argument. "I don't know what it is about it but there are a lot of bands that have made it out of there. Catatonia, LostProphets, Manic Street Preachers, Tom Jones, Badfinger. We're just people who want to go out and experience new things. This band has provided the means for us to do that, to travel around the country and possibly abroad. I know some of us feel like we're trapped by our surroundings back home. For a certain period it can get really boring when you're on the road and go home. It keeps us grounded."

Despite Matt's upbringing in admittingly "the middle of nowhere," many acclaimed punk bands still infiltrated Maestag, making their impact and without doubt providing the inspiration leading to his current position of Funeral For A Friend vocalist. "I'm a punk hardcore kid," he begins. "I got into punk when I was about 13 - bands like Pennywise, Bad Religion, Black Flag, Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand, Fugazi. Bands like that I've grown up with and have been part of my teenage years. Refused were an amazing band, they kind of paved the way for hardcore and taking it to the next level. Hardcore is not purely fast fucking music. They're an influence, maybe not an obvious influence but idealistically they probably are, musically I wouldn't say so much. The way they went about what they did, their beliefs and stuff. It does leave an impact on you."

In the past year there has been no escaping the upsurge of bands coming from the similar vein as Funeral For A Friend. The likes of Hell Is For Heroes, Hundred Reasons, Finch and Thursday have all broken further into the mainstream with the words 'post hardcore' being casually thrown into play. Like any scene or trend, the likelihood of it quickly saturating itself and its fans is only a matter of time. Quite how Funeral For A Friend will attempt to keep their heads above water may very well come down to the success of their debut album. "We're a rock band who play some metal riffs once in a while," argues Matt. "You're going to get lumped into a category regardless of what you are. We'll keep doing what we're doing and people seem to like what we're doing. We're not going to rehash the same old shit over and over again. We're going to evolve and explore new ideas and things. Hopefully fans and people who are into us are going to evolve and grow with us. We don't want to just stay the same, releasing album after album which sounds the same, ala Limp Bizkit."

Arguably Limp Bizkit demonstrates a band that has drastically changed since their debut album though. "I suppose there's changing to what's popular and evolving in an organic way. I feel that what we will always strive to grow organically into is what we want to explore as a band. We're never going to consciously think what other people want from us. That'd spoil it from me. I'd have to leave," jokingly laughs Matt, despite the seriousness behind his statement.

Moving away from direct talk about Funeral For A Friend, at the time of this interview one piece of music news which made broadsheet press was the decision of two American fans to sue US rockers Creed for a 'substandard performance'. Despite Funeral For A Friend sharing little common ground with Creed their paths do cross, albeit as performance artists. Intrigued by the whole ordeal, Matt's reaction is equally one of amazement. "Shit! Bloody hell!" he begins sounding bemused. "You're gonna make me worry about getting off my microphone stand a bit more now! If you haven't got the capacity to respect the band for what they do, you feel you have to criticise in that kinda way, that is the deepest criticism I think I've ever heard. That's worse that getting a shit review in a magazine! People in bands are just the same as everyone else. They're just fortunate to be in the position they are and as a band. Knowing the fans we play to, I think they can relate and we try to relate to the crowd. We just perform as we do and hopefully people want to. Every show we play, this is who we are and if people criticise us for being that, well, it's a bit fucked up. I feel bad for Creed."

With their tour supporting 'Four Ways To Scream Your Name' coming to an end, Matt's happy to reminisce about life over the past month. "It's been absolutely amazing. We didn't know what to expect. We felt a bit half and half about coming out and doing our own headline tour so soon after doing support tours. The Manchester show was phenomenal. There were so many kids singing along. Every show we've had really good crowds. We've had amazing support bands come out with us."

Simply mentioning the word Instruction is replied to with the words "fantastic band." A glowing endorsement if one was at all needed. "I'm a massive fan of Quicksand and Errortype:11. Meeting Tom Capone for me was a big thing. They're a great bunch of guys. They're like our big brothers, taking care of us on this tour. The Halo Friendlies, those ladies looked after my ass in Leeds when I blacked out on stage. I wasn't feeling too good, running myself a bit low, and collapsed halfway through the show and had to be taken to hospital where they did all these tests. I'm ok; I've just been taking it step by step since then!"

Having played the previous night at Northampton's Soundhaus, Cambridge's Boatrace, smaller in size, is a venue with an altogether different feel about it. "I like playing small little venues," adds Matt. "The shows we've been playing have been in small little clubs. It's cool for us because we get to see people, we're not like five miles away. Some crowds go apeshit and knock each other over, some crowds which I respect are the ones which stand there and take it all in, actually perceive the band for what they are, rather that jumping all over the place and going ass over tit all the time. That's the kinda person that I am. I like to watch a band."

Judging by his final comment, the majority of the Cambridge Boatrace should have gained his respect following the evening's gig. Packed to almost bursting point hundreds of eyes remained fixated on Funeral For A Friend throughout. Even those going 'apeshit' were showing their admiration of the band, albeit in different ways. Still unclear about when a debut album will surface, hinting only towards the end of the year, in the meantime it's certain hundreds more will be 'standing and taking in' many more exhilarating Funeral For A Friend performances.

Visit www.funeralforafriend.com for more info.



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