It all started with a wedding. Sitting at a table, comfortably shooting the breeze with complete strangers and you go and say something stupid about writing music stuff for this London blog. All of a sudden you're reminiscing about Radiohead gigs and defending accusations that The Smiths suck. Then you talk about this band someone knows from Leeds who had been building a reputation for great live shows over the past few years. A few days later you have a couple of MP3's on email; you check out their rather nifty website, sign up for their mailing list, and then one day you check out the video for a single called 1000 Bulbs. Which you proceed to play over and over for the rest of the day, month and year.
That band is Four Day Hombre and Monday 13th sees the release of their debut album Experiments In Living, they also play the Notting Hill Arts Club, Tuesday coming. The album is being released independently on their own label, Alamo, after deciding that the label offers they were getting wanted to place too many restrictions upon them, and is funded by contributions from their fan base who bought shares in the label. So we took the opportunity to give the album a spin, catch up with the boys, steal one of their songs and grab a few competition prizes (over).
The NME got it spot on when they described FDH as like Elbow with bigger beards and better dreams, for it is to Guy Garvey and his motley minstrels that we should turn to for the user-friendly accessible comparison. Like the burly Berry-men, FDH deal in deep, rich melodies, often with a tender fragility, punctuated with exquisite forays into near perfect pop, and the occasional sonic dabbling that hints of occasional space rock tendencies: a touch of Radiohead here, a dabble of the Flaming Lips there, maybe just a sprinkling of Mercury Rev somewhere in the atmosphere. Purveyors of what we might call the new Prog revolution.
Unlike Elbow, however, FDH deal less in lyrical artfulness and structural abstractions, or perhaps one could say that it's taken Elbow three albums to catch up to the idea of delivering more simple pop music. So nothing breaking that pesky five minute mark then. Indeed, the album is timed to fit perfectly on to one side of a C90 tape, which although a little old fashioned, has to bring a smile to those of us who remember the "days before disk". And whilst as with such luminarious forbears, they may from time to time be tainted with the maudlin brush, it only shows a shallow ignorance of how gentle heartbreak can be finely tuned into something genuinely joyful.
The opening track and current single The First Word Is The Hardest starts small, before spreading its wings and soaring in a manner that Doves used to do so well. But it hardly sets the pace. Don't Go Gently intersperses a power pomp chorus with occasional dabs of distortion, Single Room drops from a gentle ballad, singer Simon Wainwright touching on Nick Drake, into a rising chant, whilst Flame is a delicate, almost maternal, embrace of a tune. Mr. M is the darkest song on the record, resting on a rolling piano melody, and Thirteenth Of The Month disrupts into swirls of noise, probably the closest in sound to Elbow. The Boy With The Mended Heart raises the pace before 1000 Bulbs explodes in a deliciously uncynical blast of pure unashamed power chord pop; a pastoral equivalent to The Rakes' Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep) and it's closing refrain of "Tooth by tooth, I will build a smile", has to be one of our all time favourite antidotes to a bad day. Inertia, after so many listens, remains one of the strongest songs on offer, Simon pulling off a stirling Thom Yorke, whilst the punches of feedback over the organ and bass pedals should one day offer the band a chance to indulge in some much deserved self-obsessed wig-out-ery in front of a few thousand adoring fans. The band have kindly allowed us to let you listen to it as a little Londonist exclusive and you can do so here. Finally, Three Years fades us out on a tide of angst, driven as ever by a full on instrumental assault, rather than submissive misery.
But despite, a strong showing on the musicianship front from everyone concerned, and superlative production work from Dave Odlum, this would be little more than another collection of finely crafted songs, if it weren't for the warmth and passion imbued throughout. And for fear of over-inflating the man's ego, this is in no small part due to Simon's astonishing voice. With a range that would make Chris Martin shudder, it stands head and shoulders over many of his better known contemporaries in both strength and humanity. And unlike many of their 'angular', guitar driven contemporaries, Experiments In Living offers room for growth outside of the industry's insatiable desire for feeding the beast with one album wonders. And even if after the above, you don't think that this is your cup of tea, then at least you'd have to agree that in taking their careers into their own hands, they deserve your respect and admiration.
But enough of our yakking. We have some goodies to give away and some words from Ed (far left), the keyboard player...
First off can you tell us a little about who's in the band and what do you do in the real world at the moment?
The band consists of Simon who sings and plays guitar and piano, Rich who plays guitar and sings, Jason who plays the bass, Ash is on the drums and I (Ed) play the keyboards. We’re generally not very good in the real world. I think that’s why we’re in a band… Si does all kind of creative stuff that doesn’t pay any money, Rich is currently losing his job in advertising sales, Jase runs an internet design company from the van, I’ve just got made redundant and Ash looks after children, pretends to write TV scripts and moans a lot.
Cut to the chase. Why should Londonist readers go and see you ?
Playing live is totally our thing. We really take pride in giving it absolutely everything and we want to be quieter, louder and more dynamic than any other band. Really, truly it you’re not impressed then come and see me afterwards and I will personally give you your money back.
And are you really the new Elbow but with 'better beards and bigger dreams'?
No. We’re the old Elbow wearing slimming underwear with slightly worse beards and a smaller budget.
So what kind of influences make up FDH, we've already guessed that Elbow and Radiohead are high up the list.
They’re both great bands. Both are an inspiration for the things they’ve been through to get where they are now and how they approach this ridiculous industry and the work they manage to produce despite everything the industry does to them. There’s also an Irish band called the Frames who we all adore (their old guitarist Dave Odlum was kind enough to produce our album). And Deus. And AC/DC. And Destiny’s Child. And….
Slow paced melodic rock bands often get labeled as being depressive. Are you a bunch of steaming miserable-ists?
We have our moments (we are from the north you know) but I believe that all our songs are really uplifting songs about hope imbued with a true sense of romance… honestly.
Simon's range seems destined to draw some Chris Martin comparisons along the way. Are you ready for the Coldplay thing, and what's your response?
I really, truly wish the “Coldplay thing” would fuck off. There isn’t a single song we’ve written that contains facile and lazy references to science, we don’t use backing tracks when we play live and Si has never done an embarrassing impersonation of Bono for money. We believe that in just about all ways that we are the anti-Coldplay. If you were able to combine the essence of us and Coldplay in a laboratory environment all that would be left would be a piano and some falsetto. They are everything that we are striving not be and the fact that people keep making that lazy comparison does us nothing but harm.
Setting up Alamo must have been a pretty big deal. What do your investors get out of it and what happens if it all goes horribly wrong?
It has truly been amazing. Our investors have a share agreement that guarantees them a certain percentage any profits until the label ceases to do business. If it all goes horribly wrong (which it may well might!) you will never see any of us ever again. Ever.
The rise of the Arctic Monkeys has brought the 'Northern' scene into a more public domain. Do you feel part if it, and is it proving to have any leverage for you?
I feel part of the Artic Monkey’s thing in that I recognize the places and people that they are singing about. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that as a band we’re really part of any scene and that’s why we hardly ever get into the NME.
Who's the bald dude who keeps popping up on your covers?
That’s our good friend Jimmy who is lovely. He had the misfortune to be born a Sheffield Wednesday fan and so has a miserable face that looks great on camera.
You mapped out the single take video for 1000 Bulbs using Star Wars figures, whose figures were they and what's the rest of the collection like?
They were the directors (Mark Wordsworth). The collection is pretty good but not worth as much on Ebay as you’d hope.
We loved 1000 Bulbs, why wasn't it a number one?
Thankyou very much. I think that very few people played it on national radio, very few people reviewed it in the national press and very people bought it. And we only printed 2500 so it was actually only possible for it to get to number 27.
You also have a song called Jedi Blues. You, Ash, what's the Star Wars / rock connection?
Well, Han Solo is Elvis, Luke Skywalker is Dolly Parton and Princess Leia is Keith Richards. Easy!
Adding a handwritten lyric to the 7" copies of The First Word Is The Hardest
was a nice touch (we got "If you're SILENT... now ->) but was it really you
writing it out and not some Alamo lacky?
It really was Si. I took him over three days! Unfortunately the label so
small that we are the lackeys.....
Album number one is in the shops now, something like 5 years from when you first started playing. Where next?
If the label actually does start making money then we’re actually booked in to record Album 2 over the summer. Do bear in mind though that for a third of that 5 years we were shit and for a third of it we achieved nothing because we were too busy trying to get signed instead of concentrating on making good music. In the remaining time we managed to start a record label, record an album, release 2 singles and tour the UK three times.
When are you next in town?
February 28th at the Orchard Night at the Notting Hill Arts Club. I believe it’s free in before 8pm…
Who would you most like to support?
What's the best gig you've ever been to?
There’s 3 Frames gigs which are tied in that position for me. There was a year when they were well on the way to becoming bigger than U2 in Ireland and were still playing to tiny rooms of 100 people in this country and they were absolutely unbelievable. We were lucky enough to support them on some gigs that tour and it totally changed our perception of what a band could be.
Have you ever thrown a TV out of a hotel window
The hotels I’ve been to you can only get the windows open far enough to throw the remote control out. Or a shoe.
Would you like to?
Seems a bit of a waste of time. I’d rather set fire to a MacDonalds
Any great stories from the road?
Lots ta! We’ve have seen sights that would melt the eyes of lesser men.
Recommend one album to our readers you don't think they will have discovered?
The Broken Family Band are a fantastic band whose new album Balls is out now and you should buy everything they have recorded and try and see them live so you can be amazed and try to touch them inappropriately.
Or you should buy Tusk by Fleetwood Mac - the album they recorded after Rumours. A truly amazing and twisted pop record if ever there was one.
What's the best line you think you've written so far?
I’m don’t write the lyrics unfortunately but I’m a big fan of the song Inertia…. And the line “you taste of cherryade” from Sally Cinnamon by the Stone Roses.
And now some general London based questions:
Favourite place to chill out?
Lying on the floor in the Tate Modern when they had the giant sun thing was pretty special.
Favourite place for a post-gig kebab?
Woody’s Kebab shop in Camden. Possibly the best kebab in the world.
Favourite view in London?
Crossing the Thames at night is always special.
Favourite form of public transport?
What advice would you give Ken Livingstone?
Play less in the verses.
What London place or thing would you declare a landmark?
The Windmill in Brixton
The world is ending in 24 hours. How would you spend your last day in London?
As slowly as possible.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
If you could sink one part of London into the sea, which bit would it be?
Coming from Yorkshire pretty much anything south of Sheffield is in London so I’m going to say Swindon.
What advice would you give someone new to London getting on a night bus for the first time?
Don’t be afraid.
If you could write a song about London what would it be called and what kind of song would it be?
It would be a song about how crap the traffic is and it would be a country song called “Aaaaaaaargh”
Sum up London in a word...
Final bonus Smash Hits question…. Where did the name come from?
I don’t know if you’ve ever set fire to a Speak and Spell but it sure says some funny things…
Alamo have kindly offered three signed copies of Experiments In Living and 3 t-shirts to give away. All you need to do is email us here at londonist dot music at gmail dot com with Experiments in the subject heading, your name, address, t-shirt size and favoured design from what's on offer here. A little more for you to do so no silly questions this time. So that's three winners, or one very greedy winner. Winner will be drawn using quadratic equations on Monday 6th March and notified by a dungeonist lacky.
And lastly our thanks to Roo and Mark at Alamo for putting up with our emails and sending us nice things when we asked for them.
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