Future Of The Left
Mclusky's problem, to me it seemed, was that as a band they were much the pariah. They visibly struggled to fit in, to belong anywhere. They were too angular, too abrasive to nest happily with standard indie fans (see 'Without Msg I am nothing'), but their occasional lapse into alternative pop joy didn't appeal to fans of 'harder rock' (see 'Alan is a cowboy killer'), despite the stamp of approval from Steve Albini, who after producing their final two albums remarked they 'are the only British band worth listening to'.
So, 3 albums (which come highly recommended, from a fan that's neither here nor there, with regards to genre) and nine years later, Mclusky imploded after an uphill struggle, gaining notoriety for their impassioned live shows and a cult following, that unfortunately never extended to a wider fanbase.
From the ashes of Mclusky and Jarcrew (another welsh band of the same vein) rise Future of the Left, who, as the name implies, have indeed swung that way as far as creating musical chaos goes.
Prior to their gig at the Faversham (Leeds, September the 15th) I chatted to Andy Falkous, lead singer in Future of the Left (backed by Jack Egglestone on drums and Kelson Mathias on bass) about his new band and fresh start.
Sticking with 'Too Pure' (host to Mclusky's previous albums), they release 'Curses' on September the 24th, which after viewing them live and coveting their seven inch singles since the beginning of 2007, I can confirm it's defiantly worth the wait.
Who is producing 'Curses'?
A guy who's kind of a friend, who did some Mclusky stuff, he did two of our singles, and he did the last song on 'Mclusky do Dallas' as well, he's called Richard Jackson, who works out of Wales in general and would be known to Welsh bands but not many other people, I guess most famously he did some stuff for The Automatic, that wasn't particularly why we worked with him, that's not the benchmark of sound we're looking for, but he's a fantastic guy, basically because he knows his way around an engineering desk, and knows when to suggest things and when not to suggest things, and basically understands his role in the whole deal, he's not somebody who comes to.a lot of people who consider themselves producers like to enforce a certain credos upon a recording, and he doesn't do that.
How would you describe the album and are 'Fingers become thumbs' and 'A dead enemy always smells good' a good indication of what to expect?
Kind of, yeah, it's got a little more colour than those two songs would indicate. Singles are released, to my mind at least, to be effectively adverts for a longer record. The album does take in different colours and go in different directions. There are certain songs, for example, that even though they could be singles in their own right, I'd be a little uncomfortable as to how they would represent the whole record, so they don't maybe work as singles. But yeah, y'know it's pretty loud and obnoxious, even when the keyboards the lead instrument.
The 'Fingers become thumbs' artwork is by a man called Philip Laslett. Do you have control of the artwork now; the new striking imagery is very far removed form Mclusky, although I hate to draw comparison.
No, there's no problem drawing comparisons, I was in Mclusky for nine years, I wrote ninety five percent of the songs, it's as much a part of my life as this band, if not more so, so there's no problems with that in any questions.
Phil handles the artwork and graphic design at Beggars, we had some pretty direct ideas for it but the original idea I had for the artwork for this record, and for the singles supporting it, were to have a different artist do every single cover, so Phil did the 'Fingers become thumbs' Kelson, our bass player did 'A dead enemy.' and a guy called Kelsey, who usually designs gig posters for a bar, called the Welsh club in Cardiff, did 'Small Bones.' and a guy called John Lee Martin, who's the singer of a band Kong, from Manchester, we've played a few shows with them, did the album cover. The whole idea was having titles, having songs and giving people those songs and seeing what they came up with. As opposed to having a routine aesthetic which we followed which Mclusky.
It was very recognisable.
Had more of a particular, stark, look to it. Which was partly, at first, because we didn't have any other fucking ideas! I think it worked really well after a while, but it became ultimately a little bit limiting. There's only so far you could go with it really.
I mean, we were one paragraph away from saying 'Not more black' I think! That would have been a desperate moment.
One of my favourite things about Future of the Left and Mclusky is the lyrics; they're very surreal and acerbic. Can you talk me through your lyric writing process? Is there a lyrical theme on Curses at all or is it more abstract?
Well, the title 'Curses' came from.it was clear even from the second weekend of recording we did, because we recorded it over three weekends, that the first two songs were going to be 'The Lord hates a coward' and 'A plague of .', and it seemed that there was some kind of ridiculous sub religious theme developing so 'Curses' seemed funny more than anything. Y'know, some people doubtless will take it seriously, and it's people like that who make life entertaining. There isn't a particular theme as such, it's generally speaking not a happy record I suppose, but it's quite a defiant record, I think it's a little more balanced than Mclusky records. I'd say Mclusky records are probably a little bit angrier, a bit cleverer, were I to reach for some ridiculous comparison. So there's no particular theme. In terms of lyric writing process, on rare occasions there's a lyric already written, which a piece of music happens to suit. Usually, the way the songs are written, and people don't usually believe this, the pieces of music are first and foremost, and I just sing along to it, just literally vowel sounds and words, and then a phrase will shape around it. Take the phrase away and then write the song around that pretty much. Usually there is a theme or at least a suggestion of a theme. But sometimes it's absolute bullshit. There's a song 'Ridley Scott' on the album and if anyone can tell me what that's about, than they're a better man than me. Similarly with Mclusky songs like 'Light sabre cocksucking blues', I have no idea, it's an exercise in language, first and foremost.
It's plausible to have a piece of music where there are a surplus of images and ideas and you don't necessarily centre on a particular meaning, it's very difficult to say something succinctly and with a degree of soul in two minutes and twenty five seconds. Unless it's very fucking basic and idiotic.
Often you don't have lyric sheet's.
Well, we do actually, Mclusky did as well. With Mclusky it was a little more obtuse, particularly on 'Do Dallas', but I decided to put lyrics in because I like lyrics, and when I used to buy records when I was a kid at least, I used to buy the record, open it up and read the lyrics along with the music, and I wouldn't want to deny anybody that dubious joy.
The second single released ('Fingers become thumbs') was backed with the B side 'The Lord hates a coward' is a perfect example of the bitter lyrical and aural sound of Future of the Left, making the listener thankful that they are not on the receiving end of such a venomous assault, but at the same time, glad to be privy to such an onslaught, from the safe distance of ones record player.
'The Lord Hates a Coward'.Is that about anyone in particular?
Yes, and no I can't tell you who!
I wasn't going to ask you who it was! I was going to ask if you find performing cathartic when your material is obviously quite personal but at the same time quite abstract?
Uhmmm.I wouldn't say cathartic generally.I know lots of people in bands who go onstage and perform their new tune because Goddamn! It's going to show that girl, who touched their thigh exactly what they're missing, but that's never really been my confirmation. But I suppose there are times, I'd say particularly when I was recording the second verse of 'The Lord Hates a coward' which is particularly personal, for me at least, for somebody as cynical and dismissive as me, to admit a thing like that is quite a push, and I'm vaguely embarrassed to do it. The second verse of that, I remember singing it in the studio, and perhaps investing it with more emotional impact than usual, but that's not to say it's still slightly ridiculous. But as for catharsis, no, fuck that, it's a rock & roll band, and rock & roll is at it's best triumphant and joyous.
What's your stance on hecklers at the moment? Because when you were in Mclusky I once did a piece for a fanzine that was made up purely of Andy Falkous one-liners.things you yelled in retaliation to hecklers during shows.
Well, I love hecklers, they are a gift sent from God, but it's important to remember of course, that pride comes before a fall.it is possible to be outwitted by a heckler, however on this tour; the heckling has been of a ridiculously bad standard. For me the real fun in heckling is when you get usually the drunk alpha-male elements of the audience, the kind who never have any come upance in their lives, and they shout something out, and the real joy is destroying a person like that, as opposed to some slightly geeky indie guy with floppy hair at the front who just happens, for the third time in his life to get up enough confidence above a whisper y'know? But yeah, I'm all for heckling; I just wish it was of a better standard.
So expect to get beaten down.
F: Just.YES! Or just.Be of no use to anybody.
The video for 'Alan is a cowboy killer' was slightly bizarre in that it was an animated piece in which Mclusky went 10 pin bowling, the connection between the visuals and audio were never quite clear until I discovered Falko's love of ten pin bowling was in fact, his way of exchanging one bad habit for another less damaging one.
Is ten pin bowling still a good cigarette substitute?!
I haven't actually been ten pin bowling for.I went on my Birthday but that wasn't the best day of my life because my girlfriend then took me out for a massage on the day and the masseuse didn't put my body in the right position, and I've had really bad back problems ever since.which of course.
Yeah, Happy Birthday! So, that was the last time I went bowling. And I spent the entirety of Bowling in agony, and Jack won the first game. I'm an intensely competitive person and my pride hasn't really recovered since. I've managed since to learn how to beat Jack at table tennis.I've only been playing for a couple of months but I'm so, so competitive at everything.apart from pool I just can't get the hang of it.
As with most bands Mclusky were subjected to their fair share of media intrusion, the best example being a tale in which the band were choosing which label to sign with in Japan. As legend has it, the record executives all bought 'ladies of the night' along, in order to entice them to sign their piece of paper.have any such myths begun circulating about Future of the left, I wonder out loud.?
Not that I've heard! But sometimes it can be a good thing to have a bad reputation because people are less likely to approach you with their fucking shit. For example. I can just tell, people will talk particularly to Kelso and Jack like they're regular nice guys but they'll eye me with a little more suspicion. I don't know exactly what reputation I've got but it's obviously some kind of Keyser Soze style figure y'know? They mightn't have their legs cut off. But that's good in a way because it gives me more time for important stuff I've got to be getting on with. Staring into space for example, working out what I'm going to have for my evening meal.
Time to concentrate on the important things.
Yeah! But I haven't heard any particular rumours as yet, though they'll emerge.
I shall start some for you.
(Mock sincerity) Thank you!
Aesthetically, can you recommend me some films, books and records?
Film wise, I recently.I saw it a few years ago, and I recently bought it cause it was in a popular chain of music shops for six pounds, a film called 'Capturing the Friedman's', which is a film about a child abuse scandal.
I've never actually seen it but I'm aware of it.
Book wise, my favourite book is 'Catch 22', but I haven't read that for about 10 years or whatever.
I haven't read that
F: 'Catch 22' by Joseph Heller it's incredible, and it's just so good because it's, obviously it's narrative, and it unfolds incredibly, and the use of the language and humour in it is just absolutely inspiring. It definitely informs the way that I've written lyrics. Just.the plays on words and the contradictions. 'That we, the way in the night of paradise' is amazing, or anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.'Love in the time of cholera' or 'The General in his labyrinth' are amazing. They're incredibly elaborate and for me they are incredibly beautiful books. But mainly I'm into historical biography of a particular interest, things like Richard Nixon because he's such a remarkably flawed man to read about.the idea that somebody who's so basically insecure and who's whole reason for existing was to take revenge on the world could end up being the most powerful man on the planet is just exciting .sorry what else did you want me to tell you about?
Music! Erm.I just listened for the first time to a band called Oneida. I think that's how it's pronounced, its spelt 'O-N-E-I-D-A'. Who I think are from New York, I don't know a lot about them, I just picked up a couple of their records at the Beggar's Banquet office the other day and that was really good. I heard the Beirut album the other day, Beirut, they're on Matador, not really my thing but definitely interesting, definitely out there, like a bizarre cross between Armenian folk music and some sort of mariachis marching band, really strange. In terms of a loud rock band, certainly ones I've been aware of in the last year and a half or so, and I haven't been following anything in terms of the press, I'm distinctly uninterested, a band called Kong who are from Manchester, very much on a shellac-y tip, but incredible, really, really great band. You're not going to be smothered by their pop songs; it's very much a relentless assault.
Who do you regard as your contemporaries? Because the music you make is quite anachronistic in the respect that it's on par with bands who are very influential, quite different to everything that's around at the moment.
Yeah.I've never really seen anything in terms of peers, I think that the second you start thinking about such convenience or grouping is where you may sit or fall. The second where you can happily sit with other bands is the second you've taken your eyes off the prize as it were, I think really great bands, which is what we're trying to be, I'm not saying that's what we are, attempt consciously not to ally themselves with anything too strongly because if you're part of a scene, I think to me that automatically implies there's something lacking in the band, that they need urgent support off some amorphous group of guys with massive hair and trendy tight jeans or whatever, y'know? But there are people we admire, but I'll flatter them personally, not in print.
Have you any words of wisdom with which to depart?
Not particularly, no.there's the usual thing, change your shampoo and conditioner of a regular basis, don't buy cheap bin bags, it's a false economy.
Always listen to new music whilst in the bath or doing the washing up, then you'll associate it with doing something clean. If you listen to new music, while say, the place is in a fucking tip, then its not going to. I guess that's the same logic as to why supermarkets stick cleaning products and nice bright things as you walk into their stores rather than cat litter, y'know? But other than that, no words of wisdom, no!
photographed by SIMON FERNANDEZ
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