Fatherson are fighting against their Brit-rock label of old, with a third album that sees them inspired by Frank Ocean. Vocalist Ross Leighton fills us in.
Hey Ross, how’s it going?
Hey Dork! Yeah, it’s going pretty well. It’s my birthday today, so I’ve been eating cake and hanging out all day with family and friends!
Happy birthday! What’ve you lot been up to since ‘Open Book’ then, any major life changes?
Since the end of ‘Open Book’, we spent a year making ‘Sum of All Your Parts’ between Glasgow and Castleford which was cool. In terms of big life events, Marc just bought a flat, and Greg and I have been failing to save hard enough to do the same, haha! I’ve been travelling a lot too and writing with some cool new artists which has been exciting.
How did the ‘Open Book’ release go? Still happy with everything?
I think it was the most beneficial learning experience of our career so far, but in all honesty, we were flying a little blind with it. We really loved the songs we were writing and the way the record ended up, but I don’t think we were as ready as individuals. I certainly wasn’t as prepared as I could have been regarding what to do with it once it was ready. I was a bit petrified about being on a label and having everything I’d been looking for and the responsibility that involved. However, the team we had around us made the whole experience super rewarding, and we’re here talking about the third record so we must have done something right!
You’ve previously said ‘Sum Of All Your Parts’ was inspired by Frank Ocean’s songwriting style – are the more technical aspects of music creation something you spend a lot of time analysing and researching?
This past year or so I’ve definitely fallen in love with more of a “found sound” approach to making music. So I’ll always record a cool sound I hear and try to fit it into the music. I think it cements you in a timeframe and can remind you of where you were when that song happened. The opening track on the album is called ‘The Rain’, and it’s got a sample of the electric radiator that was in my room at ‘The Chairworks’ and it fits so well to the opening of the album. I will always be reminded of exactly where I was when that happened, and the listener will relate that noise to that song and this record. I think it’s another way of establishing your own personality in the music you’re making. Also, ‘Blond’ by Frank Ocean and ’22, a million’ by Bon Iver are a masterclass into intricate personal production. They have a style about them that you can’t help but be perplexed and inspired by.
Who else do you reckon’s doing a bang up job of making music at the moment?
There’s a band called Blue Americans from Northern Ireland that I love, everything they’ve released so far has been gold in my opinion. I also think that pretty much everything that SZA has touched so far has been incredible.
You’ve been trying to move yourselves away from the ‘British rock’ pigeonhole, haven’t you? What’s that about?
We got categorised into it pretty early on and regressed a bit because of that. Round about the time of ‘Open Book’ there seemed to be a British rock template that surrounded the production and possible outlook for bands from the UK that made heavier music. I think we were always a band with guitars from the UK that were more interested in making music that emulated the rock band we loved from the US. That’s not to say there aren’t British rock bands that we love: Marmozets, Black Peaks and Lower Than Atlantis to mention just a few make amazing music; it’s just not really the kind of music we make, so it’s always been a love-hate relationship by being defined that way.
Are you the sorts who think genre is meaningless these days?
Genre has its good points and bad points. On the one hand, it sort of points you in the direction of the rough sound you’re looking for, but I also think it ends up curtailing people because it sort of builds a wall and stops people being more creative.
Do you think the expansion in sound will open any doors for you that you’ve perhaps struggled with previously?
This album is the kind of music we’ve been trying to make for years, so hopefully, people will associate us with more of an alt-rock / American indie / soundscapey sound when they hear what we’ve made. And in turn hopefully, that will break down some of the preconceptions of what this band really is. We’re just emo kids that grew up listening to Death Cab for Cutie and Manchester Orchestra before falling in love with Radiohead and Bon Iver so we’ll need to wait and see if that translates.
‘Charm School’ is in part about manners, or a lack thereof – was it inspired by anyone in particular?
It’s actually about being too nice to everyone and in turn doing yourself a disservice. I truly believe that you should be nice to everyone, because why wouldn’t you be? Life is better when everyone is sound with each other. However, as you grow up and try to navigate the landscape of being an adult, you end up having to compromise from time to time.
‘Charm School’ is basically a backlash of me feeling that regardless of what I ever did or said the outcome was ultimately decided by someone else. So this time with this record we just did things the way we wanted, built a studio and ground it out before letting anyone in the team hear it. Then brought Claudius on board and the four of us including him just made an awesome record together. Which was made so great because we were confident in our decisions and the vision we had for the record.
Have you ever had someone ask you if a song was about them?
Yeah haha, there’s been a few…
What does the future hold for Fatherson?
We just want to get out there and play to as many people as we can, it’s definitely our favourite part of the whole thing. This tour in October takes us around a lot of the UK and Europe, so we’ll just go back to the map afterwards and make sure we get out there to bring as much of the world this album as we can!
Taken from the October issue of Dork. Fatherson’s album ‘Sum Of All Your Parts’ is out now.
Words: Sam Taylor