Interview: The Futureheads
We had a chat with the Sunderland band The Futureheads about their new a capella album.
Fresh from releasing their fourth album ‘Rant’ and preparing for a busy summer of festivals, The Futureheads took some time out to talk to us. Barry Hyde, lead vocals and guitar, tells us in this interview about why the Sunderland band made an a capella album and why their famous cover Hounds of Love got them the success they deserve.
Can you tell us a bit about your new album, and why you made the decision to move away from a guitar focus to the a capella style?
Well, the way I see it, it was done because we’ve been together for nearly 12 years and we’ve released four albums which have been very much based around the guitar. It’s been a bit of a ten year apprenticeship in song writing and we kind of did the guitar and took it to its limits on the fourth album, The Chaos. We got to the point where we were a fully established band moving into a new era of music. We decided to strip the guitars away as an experiment in musicianship and testing our abilities and we kind of just got hooked on a capella, old folk songs and reinventing our old songs in those styles. It just seemed to be quite a logical way of expanding our skills and giving our fans something a little different.
We took it on the road and it was a great success. The gigs were great and it felt good to have been together for nearly 12 years and still feel like a fresh band. So we did it for many reasons, but we have always done harmony so it just seemed like a logical progression. I mean, we’ve learnt how to sing – finally! We even did a Black Eyed Peas cover, which was controversial but I love that song.
Talking of that particular Black Eyed Peas cover, Meet Me Half Way, can you tell us why you picked it? It is a seemingly random choice of song for a band like you to cover!
It’s just that the first time I ever heard that song, it blew my mind! The Black Eyed Peas are obviously this massive band, a Grammy band, and I just think they hit the nail on the head. It was my request for the album, and the other lads were like “what…?” But you know, it’s great, if you listen to the chords they are amazing! We just took the basic elements from it and made it our own. What I like doing is singing songs that have previously been sung by women, because I think it spins it on its head. It just seemed to be quite an out-there idea, but we loved that one. We think it’s one of the best things on the album actually!
We quite agree! This wasn’t the first time you’ve sung a capella though, is it? You performed Kelis’ song Acapella, ironically as an a capella for a BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge session back in 2010. This song features on the album, so we were wondering, had you always had plans to make an a capella album, or was the Live Lounge session the starting point?
Well actually, when we did that track for Jo Whiley, that was kind of the seed of the catalyst for the whole album. We arranged that in about 30 minutes and then performed it live on the radio. It was one of the more adventurous things we’ve ever done and it didn’t backfire! It gave us a real buzz and we had a great reception from it; which lead us into thinking “okay then, lets pursue that”.
Of all the songs on the album, which one is your personal favourite and why?
My personal favourite is called Thursday. I wrote it because I have had some experiences with depression and that type of thing, and it just sounded, to me, exactly what it is like to be depressed. When you write a song like that, it is kind of like a catharsis really, it gets it out of you. We did about 150 vocal tracks on that song too, so it’s a big one. When we performed it on our tour we had a 20 piece choir singing with us, and it sounded just so orchestral and beautiful – it made people cry.
This year you’re headlining the Nozstock Festival! You must be really excited. We were wondering what you are most looking forward to about headlining the festival?
What I have liked about this festival in particular, is that we’ve helped organise it, so we have the chance to check out how they approach putting it all together. I am always very keen to see how it’s done. If you get a festival right you create a truly magical thing, if you get it wrong you create a truly miserable thing!
We always love headlining because it gives you that little bit of extra pressure. You really need to bring everything into your performance, and so I guess I am looking forward to that buzz.
Do you really enjoy the pressure then? Do you think it makes you perform better?
Yeah, definitely! Especially when you watch the bands go on before you and they perform well, it spikes you up a bit. So yeah, I am really looking forward to Nozstock, I can’t wait!
So which is your favourite song to perform at festivals?
It has to be Hounds of Love, because everyone knows it! We play this game were we split the crowd and we get one half of the crowd singing one harmony from the intro and the other half singing another harmony and it becomes what I would call the true Futureheads’ festival experience!
Do you think people still remember you guys as the band that covered Hounds of Love all of those years ago or do you think that you’ve moved on from that?
I think we will always be known for it, although there are a few other songs that we are known for too! Some bands try and deny the hits, but I don’t follow that philosophy. I think you should be very precious about the songs that people know. At the end of the day, if we hadn’t had that hit we wouldn’t be headlining any festivals now! So it’s important to us!
When performing, do you prefer your old guitar style or your new a capella?
We like mixing it up now. One thing that I have noticed, since we have done the a capella album and performed a fair few gigs with it, is that we appreciate the electric songs and gigs a lot more. Just the noise and the chaos of it all! We still love our guitars, but we can mix it up now. In the same set we can have electric, acoustic and a capella. It’s really expanded the scope of what we can do. I like performing all of it, but I do appreciate the guitar a lot more now.
Which band or artist would you love to tour with?
It would have to be Richard Thompson. We do a cover of one of his songs Beeswing and it’s been going down really well with the crowds. He is just a truly great British genius. He’s just amazing on so many instruments and I would just love to collaborate with him.
The Futureheads are headlining Nozstock: The Hidden Valley this year, where you’ll find a delightful amalgamation of performance, art, electronic supersounds, good old-fashioned guitar-strumming and drum-bashing taking place 27th-29th July in Bromyard, Herefordshire.