Fyfe Dangerfield completely captures the meaning of a passionate artist. With one of the most natural and gorgeous voices, he fronts the genius band The Guillemots along with showcasing his talents in recent solo album Fly Yellow Moon. So whist on a train, Fyfe graciously took the time to answer some questions with AMBY on his incredible solo album, The Guillemots and more!
AMBY: Your solo album Fly Yellow Moon is excellent! What did it allow you to do that you may not have done if it was a Guillemots record?
FD: Thank you very much! It seems so long ago now… so much has happened since then… I guess making a solo album, it’s just all the obvious reasons really. In a group, you bounce off each other in various different ways, and naturally the things that excite everyone the most are the things you’ll tend to follow… and the way a song will turn out will be shaped by all these different ways everyone hears it. Whereas working alone, obviously you just follow your own instinct. One’s not better than the other really, they’re just different experiences, rewarding in different ways.
But also doing that record, it was just after we’d finished promoting our second album Red, and that itself had been a very drawn out thing, making that, with millions of ideas flying around between us all, not the happiest time of my life, and I think after that I just wanted to do something straightforward, just for a change .. It just felt like such a release to bash something out really quickly rather than spending days trying to get a drum sound we liked. So I was not only working by myself, but keeping all the ideas pretty simple too. I think had those songs been done in the band they would have gone off in much more unpredictable directions, which could have been great, but I felt like doing something that was a bit more, sort of, familiar, I guess.
AMBY: You released Hello Land!, the first of four albums planned for this year, how are the other three coming along?
FD: Well! Yes we’re not quite going to manage four albums by the end of 2012, are we…! I guess we might look a bit stupid to some people, but really, the whole point of what we’re doing is following our own rules and no-one else’s. Speaking for myself, just having the aim of doing four albums in a year has made me work far more ferociously. At first this second album of the four looked like it would only take a few weeks, but you have this funny thing when you’re making music sometimes when you think you can see where it should end up, like picturing a lovely comfortable room or something, and then suddenly one day in this picture another door will suddenly appear, and it opens enough for you to peek through and see this insane view, and there’s a beautiful gorgeous cottage off in the distance or something, and suddenly you’re like “aaah ..I see. .that’s where we should be aiming for”…. and so on!
And then suddenly your expectation of the whole thing steps up another level. It’s all to do with how high your hopes are, for it, I guess. And that all changes depending how you’re feeling. Like I say, with my solo record, I guess in a sense I wasn’t aiming that high – which isn’t to belittle because I’m really proud of it .. It just means it’s a different kind of record. I just wanted to do something quick and spontaneous and not question it too much. Which is perfect sometimes. Whereas at the moment, I feel I’m aiming so high it’s impossible, almost, but that’s the joy of it. And the challenge also, for me, at the moment, is to do something that still sounds really simple and easy, pleasurable to listen to, but actually to get it sounding like that, there’s loads of tiny details that go into it.. The arrangements of the songs and so on need to all lock in perfectly. .like the old house-building analogy.. So yeah, that’s sort of what we’re going for with this new one. In its form it’s quite conventional, but sonically it’s trying to just be something really really beautiful, something that is just a very happy, uplifting experience to listen to.
You know, that’s the magical thing about making music. You’re trying to create an experience for somebody else. And yet you’re just doing it with sound and words, nothing else. I feel like I’ve only realised that relatively recently. Of course you express yourself within it, but for me nowadays, it’s more about trying to create something really wonderful for other people to experience..
But anyway, back to your original question – this one is pretty close to being done now. Then I guess we may wait til the New Year but then we’ll start the third one, and we plan to make that one very quickly, as a contrast to this one. So we’ll catch up a bit of time there. And then the fourth, I think that may be a bit epic again.. . We could have just finished this one a few months back and got it out, but the music’s the thing that matters more to me, rather than the release date. I have a sense of how it should be and I just find it impossible to settle on anything less. I would like to learn to work better to deadlines. . but I think you gradually learn to do that better each time you make a record!
AMBY: Which three Guillemots’ songs must everyone know?
FD: Oh I don’t know! I have no idea really. I guess probably ones from our first album- Trains to Brazil, Made-Up Lovesong are probably the two best known – they got a lot of attention way back then in 1784 when we started. Which is partially just because it was our first record, and it’s a lot easier to get attention then, but I think you can also hear in them the sort of new joy at being in a proper studio for the first time. There’s that urgency to a lot of people’s first recordings. Then you get used to being in a studio, making records etc.. and then you have to realise you’ve got too used to it and rediscover the sense of marveling at music making all over again. You have to keep finding ways to be reborn creatively or you might as well stop.
AMBY: All of The Guillemots’ songs carry a certain energy which can’t be ignored. Where do you think this overall vibe came from?
FD: I’m really glad you say that as more and more I talk about energy these days. I think that sense of energy, of spirit, is definitely want I’d really like our music to carry. I’m not sure where it comes from though. I mean, when the four of us play together, there’s definitely something that happens when we really get into it, it feels like the atmosphere in the room completely changes. But then, on a lot of our records, it’s about more than just the four of us playing in a room. I think it’s more that, again, speaking for myself anyway, when I’m making music I’m sort of obsessed with trying to get this feeling in it. Jonas, our producer in Norway, has this expression “chasing a feeling” and that’s exactly how I feel about it. A song for me is almost about a feeling you could have in real life that lasts half a second, but you’re trying to sort of distill that, bottle it, if you like. All the big decisions I ever make to do with the way something sounds are about the way the sound makes me feel, rather than the science of it. I mean, I guess people would say the science is what makes me feel that way in the first place, I don’t know. But I definitely come to it from that angle, the feel of it, and all the other guys in the band do too.
AMBY: Who inspires you as a songwriter?
FD: Anything can inspire you.. Not just other songwriters or even musicians. There’s inspiration anywhere. There’s song titles in people’s conversations you over-hear, there’s melodies in the sounds outside the train window.. The Beatles will always have a very special place in my heart though. They’re my first memory of music, really, and I keep going back to them year after year after year ..
AMBY: You did a breathtaking version of Billy Joel’s She’s Always A Woman, what other songs would you like to cover?
FD: Well that’s very kind of you. To be honest I never thought I did that good a version – it was all done so quickly, they used the demo and I never thought it would get used at all, if I had I would have done a few more takes I think! I love the song but I know I could have sung it a lot better. But anyway, I’m glad people liked it. And I got to have a bit of contact with Billy Joel off the back of it, which is amazing .. He certainly doesn’t disappoint as a person, from my few encounters with him he seems the loveliest guy. Very generous. But, um songs .. Well there’s so many songs I love singing for fun. I might do a whole covers album someday, on the piano.. That’d be fun. I love singing My Girl by the Temptations. I’ve done that a few times at acoustic gigs. And Moon River. That’s a gem.
AMBY: Which artists have you been listening to lately?
FD: Angelo Badalmenti & Julee Cruise- Floating into the Night… That’s pretty special. . it’s from the Twin Peaks era, David Lynch writes a lot of the lyrics I think, and the whole album just sounds like it’s come out of a dream, floating really is the word .. Also this compilation on Soundway Records – The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria… That’s a great record. So energetic. I kind of had a moment listening to it recently when it struck me just what a social thing music can be, again that energy thing you talk about, you really hear that in the records on this compilation, the energy in the room between people. I’m not down on computers or making music on laptops at all.. I do it loads myself.. But I do hope there’s still loads of kids growing up now who will play actual physical instruments. I think that’s the thing, the physicality of playing in a band rather than just pressing buttons on a keyboard .. Just as an experience, to play like that, it’s so good for the soul. Everyone should get to play in a band, really.
AMBY: What do you consider the best lyric you have written?
FD: If I were to choose a lyric and write it down here it would most likely look awful! So I won’t. And I don’t think I could answer that anyway. It’s easier to know the ones I don’t like!
AMBY: When You Walk in the Room is a lovely song, and is also one I can never skip. What’s a song you can’t get enough of?
FD: Ha, thank you! That was definitely up there in my top songs ever in terms of how much fun was had whilst making it. We did a lot of Fly Yellow Moon in a 5 day studio session, me and Adam Noble, who recorded it all, and I know with that track we started it earlier in the week but I think then on the last night I got a bit fuzzy and suddenly did the vocals again, dancing around screaming my head off and playing little guitar bits and everything .. I can’t remember an awful lot but I know it was fun.
A song I can’t get enough of? Well at the moment maybe The Sweetest Feeling, the Jackie Wilson version. That’s just. . beyond criticism. In fact I’m going to have to listen to it now, if I can manage to download it on this train . . .
AMBY: Is there something you would like to do that you have not done yet?
FD: Oh god yeah… so much.. but you can only take these things one step at a time. I’ve learnt from before that if I try to balance too many things at once, nothing gets done. So at the moment, it’s these four Guillemots albums with Jonas Raabe in Norway. I keep mentioning Jonas because he’s as much a part of it as any of us. He’s sort of become another member of the band at the moment, when we’re in the studio.
AMBY: Who do you wish would just go away?
FD: The Worry Monster. But I’m learning how to turn him good.
AMBY: And lastly, tell me something about you that nobody knows about you… Yet!
FD: That no-one knows? Hmm. Well, I had a Cornish Pasty for breakfast today. There you go. Pretty exciting eh?
Your ears will be so pleased once you hear his take on Billy Joel’s She’s Always A Woman, so listen below to fall in love with some lovely vocals. Lastly, thank you so very much Fyfe, for giving me your answers!