FUTURE OF THE LEFT
Andy Falkous to find out about their progress over the last year, the forthcoming album, competitive table-tennis and missing goat-sex...
Left: Photo by Mei Lewis
Mix one part Jarcrew and two parts Mclusky and you're going to get one hell of tasty dish. Comprising of Kelson Mathias (bass/vocals), Jack Egglestone (drums) and Andy Falkous (guitar/vocals), Future Of The Left are one of the most eagerly anticipated underground bands of the last year. They've been quite quiet so far, with only a few gigs and a handful of tracks previewed online; but RockMidgets can assure you that this Tip For 2007 will be bringing you a lot of noise when their début album Curses is released in the next few months.
After a deafening sound-check, Phill May gets the ringing out of his ears to catch a few minutes with frontman Andy Falkous to find out about their progress over the last year, the forthcoming album, competitive table-tennis and missing goat-sex...
It's nearly a year since your first live show as a band. How do you feel you've progressed as a band over that time?
"Well, chronologically it's come on, just in the natural way it does. We rehearsed and rehearsed and we were probably ready for a show last March, but we wanted to be absolutely sure. On a personal level, there would have been nothing worse than going out with a half-baked load of shit because even though there were only nine really obsessive Mclusky fans, they were very obsessive. It was all of a pretty decent standard by the first show but it just gets better and better the more you play the more comfortable you get.
"Kelson was used to bounding around the stage like a red bull crazed gloop of primordial ooze, and so to be rooted to the spot for a change behind an instrument, that was something he had to get comfortable with and personally, and I guess for Jack as well, it was just an utterly bizarre experience not playing Mclusky songs.
"If I look at the amount of hard work I've put into it, which is quite a lot without driving ourselves crazy, it's come on a great deal. And as a band I wouldn't be scared of playing with anybody."
How long was it before you felt ready?
"Well there was a bit of a delay, Kelson joined the band I think about April 2005, and then Jack owing to his great skills in coordination managed to break his wrist playing football, and that kind of put everything on the backburner for about four to five months. And a drummer with a broken wrist is about as much use as Kieron Dyer, so that put the halt to everything. It allowed us to take stock about everything and double-check we really weren't wasting our time doing this and were doing it for the right reasons. I think we could have been playing by about the end of 2005 if it hadn't been for that. So altogether it's probably been about a year and three months, which I think is a good length of time to be playing. I don't know what the average amount of time for a band is - having seen a few gigs recently I would suggest it's not long enough, some bands could do with an extra forty five years so perhaps they can expire before making it to the stage."
You've just released your 2nd single, 'adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood', earlier this month. What made you choose this one for a single?
"Yeah, it came out on Monday (July 4th). I wouldn't say it's necessarily the best single per se, but it's the one with the most impact from the style; it's like a cross between very, very big riffs and Rawhide, which is more than a man could ask for.
"I mean, picking singles, there doesn't tend to be any ridiculous debate between people, it's the most instantaneous song is the single. The next single 'Small bones, Small Bodies' is probably the biggest 'single-y' song on the record, but when you've got a single like that you try and wait for the optimum moment to release it to build up a certain groundswell of support. That way you can release it on the world like some kind of super-virus - though in fact it'll probably be more of a small outbreak of legionnaire's disease in a shopping centre in Coventry rather than a super-virus, but a man can dream."
There are some odd lyrics involved. What the hell is a paradiddle?
"A Paradiddle is a sequence; it's a type of drumming... really for more information you'd have to ask a drummer... I know what it is, I'm just finding it difficult to find the actual words... It's a drum... thing."
Work commitments have meant gigs have been sparse on the ground, a few days here and there or at weekends. Are you planning things on a bigger scale?
"Well, hopefully. It's not a done and dusted deal yet, but hopefully we should be able to approach it with more time when it comes to September. The release date for the album is the 24th of September and in the States it's October 9th so, frankly, we're going to have to be touring on a full time basis if we want to support the record. 'Cause if the record doesn't get supported it's a bit of a tragedy, because it's a really f**king good record."
You're feeling confident about it?
"Yeah. Some people are bound not to like it, but I don't have any words of consolation for those people. It's everything I want in a rock band, which is why I'm in this rock band. Obviously, other people have different ideas because, y'know, there are bands like The Kooks out there, but it's everything that I would have wanted it to be, and nothing less."
Well, talking about the album there, it's been recorded for a while hasn't it?
"We finished recording it when we got back from South by South West, so about the end of March. It was mastered about a month after that, and we're just getting the artwork sorted out now with a guy called Jon-Lee Martin, who's the singer with a band called Kong who we played a couple of shows with. He's doing the artwork and it's looking really creepy, which is what we wanted."
What can you tell us about some of the album tracks?
"There's about three songs with keyboards on, and there's two songs with piano on them. Some people won't like them, I guess the real dulled hardcore Mclusky fans. There's a song with piano on called The Contrarian, which ends the album, which is a very sweet, almost Noel Coward-esque piece of music that some real hardcore Mclusky fans are sure to hate, but as a song it's all the more valid for that very fact."
Because you're not Mclusky.
"We're literally a different band. In general there's lots of very loud rock music, and two of the keyboard songs are at least as loud as the other songs on the record. Some songs and lyrics make absolutely no sense at all even to the band and there's some songs that I guess if you looked at them on a deep thematic level, would be worthy of severe beard-stroking.
"It's not entirely disconnected to Mclusky, it's got two of the same musicians in it, but it is a different band. It's more, and I just love this word more than anything, it's more taut and put together. Mclusky was more sprawling and self-conscious I suppose. This is more honed to a point. It's like a ... like a dinosaur wearing sun cream."
How did the recording process go?
"Well, because of work commitments, we did three weekends of recording and out of that we got seventeen songs out of seven days, recording just instruments live and then putting vocals on. We recorded in Monnow Valley, which is up Monmouth way, it was a gorgeous studio. We mixed some of the songs there, but we mixed most of the songs in Warwick Halls studios with a guy called Richie Jackson who did a couple of Mclusky singles and he's a fantastic guy to work with. We discovered table-tennis as well, which was a fantastic part of the recording process. In fact I'd say that if somebody doesn't like table-tennis, they don't have a soul. It's a great sport, especially if you win. I'm an intensely competitive person; I'd want to win table tennis against a blind crippled child."
And you'd be doing laps of honour if you did.
"Yeah, ball goes up in the air and someone says in a pretentious voice 'finish him' and I'd hit a smash right down the gullet."
You've worked with Steve Albini in the past. Is there any chance of that happening again?
"Possibly, I mean, just on a practical level it wasn't even conceived of this time. Thinking about the logistics of it, flying over there on the weekend, setting up a drum kit and flying back again wouldn't exactly be possible. I haven't really thought about it, I guess there can sometimes be a ... um ... idea where bands almost become tarred with an Albini brush I mean that in a good way. The trick with him is there's no trick; if you're hearing a particular sound, it tends to be the sound of those particular rooms in which he records. So the basic principles are about recording a band in a certain way, and we've kind of followed the same principles for this recording, so it's not like we've gone from doing it in a certain way to completely changing our working methods, we've just taken the same principle."
It's difficult to find anything about Future Of The Left that doesn't reference your two previous bands. Is that something that bothers you at all?
"No, to me it's perfectly understandable. I mean, it could be troublesome in five or six years time if they're still going on about it. On a personal level, [Mclusky] was about nine years of my life, so it's as much a fabric of my being as being in this band is. But it doesn't get on my nerves, I'm very proud of Mclusky; most of Mclusky's sound and most of the songwriting and nearly all of the lyrics were down to me, so I'm very proud to be associated with it, particularly the last two records."
"It's understandable we've got to get people to the shows, and people don't just go to see a band if they just see a name, y'know? There needs to be a hook for people to come along, and if it needs to be that then fine. If it needs to be our enormous balls, then that too is fine."
Are you concerned about any 'compare and contrast' attitude towards Future Of The Left from fans and press?
"Again, it's perfectly natural. But I'm the first to criticise any particular aspect; the second the keyboard came out I'd already questioned my sexuality before anyone in the crowd had. So if it works for me, then everybody else can f**k off, and I personally think the keyboard songs work exceptionally well. We tried to transpose them all to guitar it just didn't work. It was a weak facsimile of how it worked with keyboard and I'm determined to be over-defensive about the keyboard songs until people accept them. I'm perfectly willing to walk into the crowd and have detailed 'discussions' with people if they have any kind of problem in a very friendly way, of course maybe with a quick arm wrestle if there is a point of contention."
Skipping back, you said you went to the South By South West Festival this year. Can you tell us a little about what you got up to?
"Well the other two guys would be probably better asked about it, because I f**king hated it. I thought it was an industry queue-fest. Any half-decent band you had to queue for about seven days to see. The shows themselves were fine; the people were nice, apart from some of the bartenders who can go f**k themselves a new soul."
"It's not my thing. There were reasons we had to go out there and do it and I guess those reasons were valid. I'm sure as a place and a time and for punters and in a certain state of mind it's fine, but frankly there are so many bands playing so many different kinds of music, that unless you've got some good-taste water-diviner which leads you to those bands, you're going to spend a lot of time walking through a giant mulch of notes and that's just not for me. Having toured a lot, I like to watch about three bands in a night and any more than that and I'm just not interested. I'd rather read a book or rape a goat or something."
Many goats at South By South West?
"None that I came across."
That must have been hell.
"It was hell! I tell you what, I was backed up."
Okay, well, has anything come out of that at all? [SxSW, not goat-sex abstinence - PM]
"Not really, it was just doing a couple of shows. If something has come out of it then it's news to me, apart from people commenting on how much weight I'd lost and how much hair I'd grown. People thought I had a wig on or something, which was a bizarre insulting compliment."
You use your MySpace blog quite a bit. Is it something you find quite useful?
"I do but I haven't for a couple of months just because I haven't had time. I think it's a good idea but I think 'blog' can be taken a bit too literally when it becomes kind of a public diary. I'm not really interested in that sort of angle, so I try and wait until I have something interesting to say before I say it, which can leave huge gaps, because I don't always have anything interesting to say, to be honest. I hope that when were touring on a more consistent basis I can fill it with all kinds of mundane observations. That's my plan at least. I think you can get across certain facets of a band's personality and that may be something a two minute rock song can't properly convey."
RockMidgets has named you as one of our 27 bands for 2007-
"That's an odd number."
Yeah, it'd take too long to find 2007 bands, so we got rid of two zeros in the middle. Do you have any bands that our readers might not have heard of that you think we should?
"Well there's the band Kong who we did a couple of shows with, they have a kind of Shellac-y kind of thing going on, but it's a really great powerful rock band, they're fantastic. Other than that, I've seen some half-decent and promising bands, but they're the ones I pin my badge to and would say go and see."
There's no escaping the critical anticipation that lies in wait for Future Of The Left, but Falkous seems completely unfazed by this factor. And this is likely down to his confidence about the album the band has recorded. Most answers may be peppered with "y'know"s and "um"s, but when it comes to talking about the album, he answers clearly and looks you directly in the eye. He's fully aware that there are people who will dislike or even hate what he has created, but he doesn't care what they think, because he knows how good 'Curses' will be. It's frustrating that such critically acclaimed musicians have to be so careful about doing something as simple as using a different instrument. But the gig that follows the interview shows just why people should stop dwelling on the glories of the past and look to a bright er future; one where beard-stroking muso tunes can nestle between punchy singles and keyboard-riddled rock-outs.
With gigs so sparse on the ground, you may have to wait to hear much of their material, but we at RockMidgets.comknow it'll be worth the wait. Though we admit that we're not quite sure how a dinosaur in sun cream is honed to a point...
Future Of The Left's debut album Curses will be released on September 24th through Too Pure. For more details on the new album, including tracklisting, and details on September's tour, check out the News Pages