Future of the Left's Andy Falkous on the art of berating an audience
PUBLISHED: 16:48 03 October 2014 | UPDATED: 16:48 03 October 2014
As interviews go, it's not often I prepare for one in the knowledge I might be putting myself at the risk of a verbal bruising. Andy Falkous, by his own admission, is "not very good at being politic" and it would hardly be the first time a journalist has felt his devastatingly articulate wrath.
"Maybe this is self-denial to a degree, but I wouldn’t say you get wound up by a really bad crowd, you end up getting entertained by it."
The Future of the Left front man – who previously led seminal post-hardcore group Mcluskey – has a peculiar way with words that almost effortlessly marries poetic intuition with a relish for base profanity; quite in the tradition of many a great front man, you have to say.
In the past, this has led to some famous fallouts. Notably, in 2012, he took issue with a Pitchfork writer’s “straw man” review of FOTL’s third record, The Plot Against Common Sense, and set about dissecting the article in a brutal and hilariously entertaining rant on his blog.
“The dream was that it might take us up that half level,” Falkous says of the record, so the review was “incredibly dispiriting and I just felt it was built on a series of straw man arguments”.
“It’s ok to say you don’t like something, but don’t make the creator of it the villain of the piece by hanging your hypotheses off the back.”
Such considered vitriol last year proved the fuel for FOTL’s (thankfully) critically-acclaimed fourth record, How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident.
Balancing their established brash guitar sound with longer, more playful experimentation, it’s packed full of knowing, satirical diatribes on modern culture: on Singing of the Buzzsaws for instance, a surreal reflection on MTV programming relates how ‘Kim Kardashian is chased through woodland by a giant bear, wearing a mask which carries the visage of recently deceased film director Michal Winner’.
At the heart of this apparent cynicism however is a passionate dedication to approaching music the right way. It is only now FOTL are embarking on a tour to support the record; every band member apart from Falcous has commitments and even day jobs to balance because they refuse to simply cash in and write safe, commercial pop filler.
The man himself says “self-respect would get in the way” and compares such a concept to an experience he and bandmate Julia Ruzicka had on tour when, in an attempt to concoct a budget-friendly meal, they decided to buy parmesan-like cheese instead of the expensive real equivalent. “It had the texture of parmesan cheese,” he laments, “but it had the taste of sock.”
The meatiness of Falkous’s lyricisms sometimes make it challenging for audiences not immediately familiar with the band when they tour. In particular, he admits, American audiences can struggle with the British references and rarely seem to be able to look within the context of their use for answers.
He explains: “They’re much less likely to give you that same time or the same trust in your references – unless it’s a Blur-style knees up appropriation of cockney culture, in which case it’s taken to be heart-warming, ‘right on copper, do a cockney walk’ kind of absolute horse****. In music, as in many other areas, people want cartoons.”
Often this results in conflict and onstage Falkous is famously up for a fight. “Maybe this is self-denial to a degree, but I wouldn’t say you get wound up by a really bad crowd, you end up getting entertained by it. When you say, ‘In our country, we have a tradition called applause’ – stuff like that can be funny and it ends up being the story.
“You think, ‘That girl who’s giving me the finger near the barrier there, I’m going to f***ing make her cry. She’s over the age of 18, she’s engaging fully in the process of the rock show, she’s standing there, she’s showing off to her friends, let’s just show her how this thing can work.’”
Is it all conflict though? Of course not, and like any musician worth his salt, Falkous has a clear vision for his band, one which he feels won’t be compromised by any hack working as a “conduit for adverts of cider”.
“Every band has a song which just jumps out,” he says, “You don’t need to be able to see the band, you can hear the personality and the reason it all flows so naturally is because it’s like an effortless realisation of that group’s dynamic.”
Does he feel people recognise this with FOTL? “Yeah, they’d probably get it a bit wrong, but that’s the magic of music though. It’s not a literal explanation of some factors, you’ve got to take it for better or worse on its own terms, but [music] is mostly at its strongest when it communicates far more than just a bunch of notes.”
Future of the Left play Islington’s The Garage on October 10. Visit mamacolive.com/thegarage.