Is Wikipedia a reliable source? Not according to Friendly Fires guitarist Edd Gibson, who takes issue with how the online encyclopedia has saddled his band with the “dance-punk” tag.
“I can’t really hear much punk in us anymore,” he says, on the phone from a Montreal sound check. “Maybe in the live show, when it gets a bit chaotic. But ”˜pop’ means a lot more to us than being described as ”˜dance punk’ or ”˜punk funk’. That style has maybe had its day.”
There was little residual punk in Friendly Fires’ eponymous 2008 debut—an out-of-left-field smash that sold more than 500,000 units in the U.K. alone. And there’s even less in the new effort Pala, a glossy floor-filler that sounds like it’s had the benefit of some very high-priced production assistance. Only it hasn’t: like Friendly Fires, it was mostly recorded on singer Ed Macfarlane’s computer, using his parents’ garage as a studio.
“We always write straight into the computer,” says Gibson. “We never really jam out together as a band—in fact, we don’t really play the songs through entirely until it comes time to tour them.”
Which means, naturally, that the Friendly Fires currently appearing on stages across North America might sound quite a bit different than the band as it appears on disc. To begin with, the trio’s grown into a sextet, with Gibson, Macfarlane, and drummer-programmer Jack Savidge augmented by electric bass, saxophone, and trumpet.
“We try not to be too precious about re-creating the album,” says the guitarist. “We have certain synth sounds or arpeggio lines that we can’t physically play, so we do have a few things on a backing track. But I think people will excuse that if we’re all clearly overly busy ourselves.”
They’re certainly going to be busy when they perform “Live Those Days Tonight”, a clattering, kinetic ode to the notion that the dance floor never dies.
“I’ll have to speak for Ed, because it was his idea,” says Gibson, who admits to a certain fascination with the Madchester scene of the late 1980s. “But I think it came from him looking up old raves and club events that were filmed and put up on YouTube. He was just watching clips of all these people raving away and getting infuriated by the comments underneath saying ”˜Oh, yeah, people don’t know how to party anymore, and there’s no good music going on whatsoever.’ So that song’s just saying that there’s plenty of stuff going on. Right now, there’s so much good music that the scene’s as vibrant as ever.”
If Pala’s effervescent sound is any indication, there’s no arguing with that assessment. Even the prestigious public school where Gibson, Macfarlane, and Savidge met has taken note, recently adding the three musicians to its list of significant alumni. Given what some of his fellow St. Albans grads have accomplished, though, Gibson isn’t letting the honour go to his head.
“It seems just ridiculous to be anywhere near Stephen Hawking,” he says, laughing. “I mean, the guy’s a bona fide genius!”
Friendly Fires plays Venue on Saturday (June 4).