Music: The Futureheads: Minimal influences, maximum effect
Behind most intriguing bands is an equally smart and energetic creator, with lots to share in conversation, too. Such proved true in a recent chat with Barry Hyde, front guy of the British post-punk band the Futureheads.
Behind most intriguing bands is an equally smart and energetic creator, with lots to share in conversation, too. Such proved true in a recent chat with
, front guy of the British post-punk band the
Their fourth album, "The Chaos," drops in the States on Tuesday, the day before the guys hit town for a show with the promising all-girl group the Like.
This should rev devotees with dynamic and dexterous approaches to a genre that some argue has been done to death.
Pointed but not overwhelmed by thoughts on these chaotic times, a new Futureheads rallying cry like "Struck Dumb" could really get you off your duff:
"For crying out loud/Stop furrowing your brow/Start living in the clouds/Go make your mother proud."
And I'm loving the eclectic mix of influences these guys trot out in sonic quotes on their most-finessed-yet set, from the stuttering "Born to Run" guitar quote in "Heartbeat Song," to the robotic Devo-tech of "The Connector," to the firecracker vocal explosions of the a cappella "Living On Light."
The latter's hidden at the end of the otherworldly juggernaut "Jupiter." And both nod to the jagged-edge tones and rhythmic complexities of modern minimalist composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass.
No, not your average pub punk band.
Q: Some groups try to bury their British accents. But you really let it hang out. What's the thinking there?
A: We're very proud to be British, proud of our local culture. We're from the northeast part of the country, which has its own accents and history. We were influenced a lot by the Scottish and by the Vikings who came here in the Middle Ages.
It's very rural and beautiful, with a lot of valleys and rivers, and beautiful cities like Newcastle-on-Tynne. Minds are blown by how stunning and how old it looks, with lots of Georgian architecture. It's quite splendid.
Q: I've read that you guys got your start as a band at the Sunderland City Detached Youth Project. But you weren't delinquent kids at risk, were you?
A: It was a youth project for music, and in order to have real meaning, it has to be there as a way to get kids who're having trouble. So there were kids from that background, plus other young people who just joined in to meet musicians from all over the region.
Sunderland is a huge city, once the largest town in Europe. Me and [his brother] Dave started going there. I was 17; he was 11 or 12. And we met up with two other lads from another village who'd come down initially just to see the Bunker, a club where the likes of the Clash, Billy Bragg and Dr. Feelgood had played, and where we lived out our fantasies.
Q: What kind of music were you doing?
A: We started playing Nirvana, Oasis, the Beatles, Stones and the Doors, then a bit of our own.
The way the project worked, the original music we created had to be issue-based. It's youth work, so it always had to have a strong belief system behind it, be very moralistic.
That's how youth work is in the UK. It's laying down some moralistic values as a template for kids who don't have them. Not a bad idea. And they did a good job of creating an environment for us to work. We'd have songwriting weekends, go off to a little log cabin or a church, and just write songs.
Q: Obviously there are still strong messages in your music, though couched in subtle ways. I get really pumped by the sound and air of imminent danger in "Sun Goes Down." What's that one all about?
A: That's a vampire sex song, actually [laughing]. It kind of reminds me of "True Blood." It's quite dark, about the fact that in the nighttime, things are incredibly excusable. It's also about being a musician. You have your home life that's calm, generally. At least it's not completely insane. Then when you're on the road, it couldn't be more different.
Q: How did you get into modern minimalist music?
A: I went into a big music shop in Newcastle. I got this Steve Reich album, "Six Pianos," and asked the bloke to put in on the listening post. It completely blew my mind, made me realize there are no rules to music. You can come at it from every angle imaginable.
Minimalism has really influenced us. We've learned how to make our music more interesting by rejecting the run-of-the-mill, the lazy chords. We try to make the music as quirky as the lyrics.
Futureheads with the Like, First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., 8 p.m. Wednesday, $13/$14, 215-821-7575, www.r5productions.com.