Friendly Fires

Posted December 2, 2011 in Music Features

Like cut-offs or longjohns, some bands are tied to particular seasons. Friendly Fires are St. Albans summer boys, as their second album, the poppy Pala, will testify. Despite the Balearic holiday buzz and Gallic House communality that separates their music from NME Cool List urchins and dance-crossover diletantes, however, Friendly Fires first exposure to an Irish audience not drunk in a field on Dutch Gold and Ambre Solaire is in The Olympia this month. Given their success in both dance and indie spheres, don’t be surprised if they bring a heatwave with them. The rather friendly Fire Jack Savidge gave us some UK garage tips and Christmas carol cuts ahead of that show.

The University Challenge final is on tonight, are you going to watch it before you go onstage in Cambridge?

Strangely enough, I met Jeremy Paxman the other day. I’ll be cheering him on. I hope he wins.

This weekend we got not one, but two Joy Orbison gigs over here, which was pretty sweet. He played some awesome UK Garage. What’s your favourite UK Garage track?

That’s cool. Off the top of my head, Neighbourhood by Zed Bias. Or Boo!, Sticky with Ms. Dynamite.

He dropped the Boy Is Mine garage mix, and my head exploded…

I love that song. It sounds like someone’s plucking a comb over it. The UKG mix of Whitney Houston’s It’s Not Right (But It’s OK) has the same kind of thing. That’s another absolute banger.

Given that you guys straddle club music and pop, but are still band-y, do you find yourself going to more club gigs or gig gigs?

Probably both – I haven’t been out clubbing for a while. I’ve been DJing a lot so I’ve been on the other side of things. Touring makes you feel like an old man. I did go and see Azari & III the other week…

Oh yeah, they played here recently. They managed to get a soul train going. Collaborating with them must have been fun.

It was good – it was done over email, but it’d be nice to do something in the studio in future. They’ve got so much better live, the two frontmen are amazing.

Have you played to more dance-oriented crowds before?

We always wanted to play club nights, with DJs rather than other bands. Our kind of thing goes down well in a dance context. We’ve had to do more orthodox band shows, but we do prefer doing all night party kind of things. We’re playing with SBTRKT and Tensnake this weekend, I think that kind of mixture presents the music in the right way.

Before I’d listened to Friendly Fires I was channel-flicking through music stations, and the Kiss of Life video was on, and I was just like, what the fuck is this? Have you got any more massive videos in store to win new people over?

The latest one, Hurting, took a while to come out because it’s got a lot of CGI in it. It ended up coming out a month after the single came out, but I think that’s our best video. The director/animator, David Lewandowski [Tron Legacy], is really talented.

Pala is a novel about Utopia – where’s the closest place to Utopia Friendly Fires have been?

Corsica was really beautiful. I suppose no matter where we’re playing we try and make it a better place for a while.

I love the reference to the Pala parrots with the album artwork – their function is to uplift islanders too, so I suppose that’s fitting. Who looks after your art direction?

The photo belongs to a fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø, we licensed it from him – it was a real coup to get, it’s such a beautiful image. His wife is a fan, which definitely helped. He’s the kind of guy who does shoots in Vogue magazine, part of this world we know nothing about, so we’re pretty lucky.

How important is image to you?

It’s important, isn’t it? You want to create a whole world for your music to fit into – when the visual side ties in it adds to that. I think that parrot image really summed up the record, and seeing that in an advert on the TV is great.

What’s the inter-band situation regarding Christmas presents?

We’re doing New Years in Edinburgh which I guess is when we’ll see each other over the holiday. I think I got a present off one of the guys once. Maybe that makes us sound like uncharitable people.

What’s the best Christmas song in the canon?

I used to be a chorister in St. Alban’s Cathedral, it was always special when the Christmas repertoire came out I like “In The Bleak Midwinter”. That’s a big tune. It’s an absolute monster. I’ve heard it done to different tunes, but it’s the one that’s like “Dah dah dah duhhhhhhh duh”.

Oh yeah. Tune. What were your absolute monsters of 2011?

Metronomy, The Bay, definitely the best single. The Kate Bush album that just came out is brilliant, and then gig-wise SBTRKT at Bestival, that was a big crossover show for them.

Roast some chestnuts on Friendly Fires in the Olympia on the 7th December. Tickets are €24.90. Put the extra ten cent in a Trocaire box.


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