There was a time where Friendly Fires weren’t a band. After the touring wrapped up for the tropic escape of ‘Pala’, Ed, Edd and Jack put the group on hiatus. Sure, there were DJ sets, remixes and other bands but nothing that captured the full-blown excitement of Friendly Fires.
That changed two years ago when the band broke cover and announced a headline show at London’s Brixton Academy to herald in a new era. Since then, there’s been a string of vibrant singles and colour-fuelled festival appearances. All leading to the release of third album ‘Inflorescent’. Now, we’re standing at its doorstep. Seems like a good time to ask Ed all about it.
Hey Ed, were those first few shows back for you?
I felt weirdly that I needed to make an apology. A part of me felt a bit guilty that we’d taken such a long time off. And these people were so dedicated and so enthusiastic. After the first show, it felt normal again. It felt like I got it out of my system, and we could just focus on doing what we do. The Brixton show, the first few tracks, we had to make friends again, but by the end of the set, it felt like this real celebratory moment. It felt like we were onto the next chapter. It felt like ‘ok, we can do this’.
Was there ever any temptation to come back and do a ten-year anniversary show for that first record, instead of coming back with new music?
There were discussions about this. I don’t want to slag off bands that do this, because who knows, we might end up replaying our first record in five years or whatever but that would have been a cop-out for us to have done that. It’s weird when you see bands of our era and our ilk, who play their popular first or second record and instantly sell out Brixton or Royal Albert Hall but when they put out their new record, no one gives a shit. It’s fascinating to see how there is this market for nostalgia, but we’re not in that phase yet. We’ve got more to say.
The new record is out real soon. How you feeling about it?
I’m feeling relieved. I’m feeling really good about it. And I’m just glad that we’re gonna get back to doing what we do, which is doing live shows which we feel are needed right now.
It’s been a long time coming. Does that add to the pressure? Is there any pressure?
There’s always going to be a pretty vocal minority that will be cynical and negative about anything that we do after being away for such a long period of time. I’m just not focused on that. I’m just really excited and looking forward to playing the tracks live. If I’m perfectly honest, at the end of 2012, I wasn’t sure that this band was still going to exist. So I guess most people are just happy that we’re putting anything out. That does make me feel really good, knowing that our fans are behind us.
One of the reasons you went on hiatus was because you didn’t want to make pop music anymore. What changed?
I went through some kind of weird identity crisis at the age of 27, probably like a lot of guys my age. I wasn’t sure that that was what I wanted to do with my life. I stupidly got this idea into my head that, did I want to be remembered as this dude that dances around on stage in a stupid way. I started having a pretty negative view of that part of my personality. I later realised I was completely wrong. I realised that’s the part of my personality that people like the most, and I should embrace it. It took me five years to want to get back to that place. Now I realise that that is a really important part of who I am. And people really love and embrace that. It comes across when we play live because people dance at our shows. The reason people dance at our shows is because they can see me dancing, and it makes them loosen up.
Was there a lightbulb moment where that came into focus or was it a gradual thing?
I had to get those things out of my system, I did some musical projects that I guess were less poppy and less upbeat, happy and dancey. There’s probably some stupid egotistical part of my brain that wanted people to take me seriously and understand that I have other strings to my bow. After a while, I realised that was bullshit as well. I should just do something that people enjoy, and that is the Friendly Fires stuff.
Once you realised that, how quickly did this record come together?
It wasn’t like we just met up and then everything started working again. We had to rebuild friendships in the band, we had to hang out together as mates, and we had to learn how to be critical of each other. There was a phase where we weren’t really hanging out. Every three months we’d get in the studio and try and write something, but the vibe wouldn’t be there because we just hadn’t hung out enough to say ‘that’s actually not great’ or ‘that’s not good.’ It wasn’t until we started hanging out as friends, and meeting up in my garage every day and writing, that things started to fall into place.
It still didn’t come incredibly easy, though. We’ve always been super critical of what we do. We wrote almost an albums worth of stuff in that interim period between the end of the second record and now but when we were listening to the tracks, we realised we didn’t have that sense of euphoria, that sense of feeling up, of feeling positive that is integral to the music that we do. We realised we had had to write something that’s just going to be super positive, super uplifting and celebratory.
What inspired this record lyrically?
It’s a bit more reflective. There’s less escapism. With the first and second records, it was more about being somewhere better than where you are. With this record, it was more about, for me, being comfortable with who I am. It’s pretty self- descriptive of where I was in my life at that time. We wanted the lyrics to be more direct and not masked in loads of imagery. I found myself re-listening to loads of straight edge hardcore records from the late 80s and early 90s. I just really loved the direct, positive message with those records and I felt like I wanted to encapsulate a bit of that in this album.
Where did ‘Almost Midnight’ come from?
That was one of the last tracks we wrote for the record. We wrote it really, really quickly and obviously, we were listening to some classic French House stuff. We wanted something that was a bit bombastic, a bit raw, and fast. That track is quite different to a lot of the album and different to a lot of stuff we’ve written. I don’t know how we play that song live…
The lyric maybe this could change your future feels important.
I feel like the future for Friendly Fires is wide open. I don’t feel like we have to be this band band, or we have to be this super electronic thing. We can really go in any direction we want, which is pretty amazing. Judging by how supportive our fans have been, it’s pretty liberating to know that.
What you want people to take away from this record?
I just wanted to write something that doesn’t have some overt, grandiose political message or anything like that. It’s just a lot more about making a personal change and not being afraid of the consequences and not being afraid of what people might say. It’s just about getting out there and doing it. Don’t be afraid of what people say and fucking go for it.
Do you feel like you have things to prove?
I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone, honestly. I feel like I’m way more comfortable in my own skin, doing what we do in this band now. I feel like I can get on stage and be really proud of what we do and know that we have our own unique thing that no one else does. And stand behind it.
Will there be an album four?
I mean, we’re already writing new music. It’s just the nature of the way things are now. We want to put out something before November, a new EP or a new single. We have one track that we’re in the process of finishing, but I don’t want to give away too much. I feel like that’s the great thing about the way music is consumed now. People want so much music, there’s so much demand for it, it’s better if you do it and get it out there. There’s less pressure than ever for us to get on with it. I feel like we’re in our stride now. I feel like we know what we’re doing.
Taken from the September issue of Dork. Friendly Fires’ album ‘Inflorescent’ is out now.
Words: Ali Shutler