The road to success has been long and turbulent for The Futureheads. But now, with a brilliant new album and renewed sense of purpose, the band are fighting back. ANDREW TRENDELL caught up with singer Barry Hyde and guitarist Ross Millard to find out just what all the chaos is about…
Life hasn’t been easy for The Futureheads. After a barnstorming debut album that both preceded and set the benchmark for many of their contemporaries, the band were welcomed onto the indie scene with open arms. But since then, the odds have never been stacked in their favour.
They were unfairly dropped by major label 679 following the release of their brilliant second album – taking them to the brink which would see most bands either allow their friendship to explode or for their creative will to wither and fade. However The Futureheads bounced back, sticking two fingers up to music industry – forming their own independent record label and releasing some of their best music to date.
Now, enthused with a defiant punk work ethic, the band has just released another album by themselves. Their fourth album is aptly titled ‘The Chaos.’ I met up with singer Barry Hyde and guitarist Ross Millard backstage at Rescue Rooms before their sold out show. Their latest album has been received warmly and the band’s drummer, who is coincidentally Barry’s brother, recently welcomed his son into the world. They are, understandably, in very high spirits.
“We’re really chuffed with this record,” beams Barry Hyde, in his trademark sharp attire. “It’s been ten years since we formed and for us to still be holding on to whatever it is that we have and our creativity is quite rare.”
The frontman would be the first to admit that the fact that they’re still together and in top form despite all of the turbulence and tribulations is nothing short of miraculous.
“Considering the amount of things that have happened to the band over the years, I think it’s quite incredible that we’ve managed to create such a bombastic and confident record. We’ve proven to ourselves that this is our life and our reason for being here and that takes a lot of time and courage to realise.”
“Oh totally!” chirps guitarist Ross Millard, bouncing with enthusiasm. “There have been a lot of things happen with the band and we feel like the way we release records and operate as a band now is on our terms and we’re responsible for everything, including the amount we get out of this whole process and this way of working. It’s up to us to have a good time and it’s up to us to give other people a good time also. It kind of always has been but I think that doing it independently always brings that home a little bit more.”
Indeed, it’s not easy to cut it as an independent band and make yourselves heard and appreciated in a sea of noise, but The Futureheads are a band well suited to the lifestyle they have created for themselves.
“We accidentally got signed to major during a time when major labels were still powerful,” says Hyde. “They still are obviously, but they were a lot more powerful than they are now. We got in at the very end of this era of music industry indulgence. We saw the end of that and watched it die and we were part of that death. Then I think we went back on the path that we were always meant to be on. I think that this is where we belong.”
Hyde adds: “It’s a matter of being creative entirely by yourself and playing entirely by your own rulebook and anyone can do that – you just have to have the courage to do so.”
The Chaos is much darker in atmosphere and sound than its predecessor, and anything else they have done before. With sinister and paranoid lyrical themes set to sharp yet menacing 100mph post-punk music, it makes for a fairly gloomy record.
“It has got a bit dark,” admits Hyde, “but the message of the album is very much a positive outlook on quite a negative situation which I think is the way to be in the modern world because it is an absolutely chaotic mess, but if you let that get to you then you go insane very quickly and become very upset with being here.
“The ultimate message of the album is that everyone has these major things in their lives that they need to deal with and it’s about doing it in a positive way but do expect life to be a little chaotic. Some people may think that life is supposed to be this very linear and gradual thing with no surprises, but we should all expect the unexpected, as the great Bruce Lee once said.”
You’d be forgiven that the chaos of the band’s own journey, existing in the tumultuous and confusing nature of modern times, was perhaps the inspiration behind the record. I put this idea to Hyde.
“There seems to be a pattern that has constantly been in motion since the beginning of time which is all about growing and evolving but it’s done in a very frantic and chaotic manner, but there is an order to it. We wanted the music to reflect that – it seems chaotic but it’s a simple linear idea. Combining chaos with straightness and order is what we do – it’s what we’ve always done as a band.”
After rising to prominence and public attention off the back of their smash hit cover of Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love and their universally celebrated eponymous debut album, the band landed a slot on the NME Awards tour 2005 – alongside The Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party and The Killers. Considering The Futureheads have never faltered in terms of the consistent quality of their albums, one may find it obscene that the band haven’t lived up to the same commercial success as the rest of the class of 2005.
“We could have more fans, we could have fewer fans,” shrugs Hyde, “but we’re happy to be here and play for the people that want to come and see us. We’re not trying to become a massive hit band like The Killers or some of our other contemporaries that went on to sell millions of albums, that was never our role or destiny. Even though we had the carrot dangled in front of us, you can never eat the carrot. It’s always in front of you so you just have to enjoy the fact that you’re a donkey,” he laughs with a deep sense of comfort and satisfaction.
Then, quite brilliantly and succinctly, Ross turns and smiles to crystallize the entire philosophy of the band: “There’s a great thrill in the chase, its famous y’know – the thrill of the chase.”
By Andrew Trendell