Through harmonies and dashing melodies, The Futureheads’ are on a whole other level of musical greatness. With whimsical hymns ranging from upbeat Hounds of Love to their brilliant a cappella version of Meantime, The Futureheads never fail to be innovative and unique. For a decade now we have loved this band, so when The Futureheads’ Ross Millard graciously took the time to answer some questions for AMBY, our excitement was through the roof.
AMBY: Hey Ross, thanks for doing this interview- huge fans! To begin, what’s the band been up to lately?
The Futureheads: Well, we’ve been moving rehearsal rooms and studios – the last place we had, EightMusic, was a shared space with Field Music, so we’re really going to miss those fellas. They needed a bigger space, as did we, so we’ve had to go it alone. We’ve started work on a new record; picking up the instruments again, to the relief of some, I’d imagine. Still, there’s cello, double bass, some brass all on the new stuff as well as the electric guitars and whatnot. I’ve also started a new band in the downtime from The Futureheads. We’re a 3 piece rock band called Rivals, and we’ve recently started playing shows. Obviously this is something to work at alongside the ‘Heads, not instead of.
AMBY: Which three songs are the quintessential Futureheads?
The Futureheads: That’s tricky, because I think the band has changed quite a bit over the years. I’d say Man Ray, from the first record, Back to the Sea from the second, and Jupiter from The Chaos all have the fundamental elements of the band. They wouldn’t be the most popular songs, necessarily, but I think they are the ones that exhibit the major elements of what we’re about.
AMBY: Your a cappella album Rant was very ambitious yet pulled off perfectly. Where did the concept come from for this?
The Futureheads: We’d always messed around with a cappella stuff, really. There are a few b-sides from the first record, and Danger of the Water was practically a cappella, too. The idea of doing a full record came after touring The Chaos, though. We needed to do something that was very different. The idea of going back into a studio and making a traditional rock record didn’t appeal to us, and I really don’t think at that point we’d have been able to do that. So making an a cappella record almost felt like we were musicians in a different band. It was thoroughly refreshing. The idea came out of a Radio1 session we recorded where we performed one song a cappella. We enjoyed it so much that talk swiftly turned to making an EP, then a full record. It got big quickly! Touring it was really good for us as well, because you learn a lot about your performance when there is no wailing feedback and heavy crash symbols to use as a bit of a crutch against the audience.
AMBY: How difficult was it to nail all of those harmonies? Tell us about the process.
The Futureheads: Some of those recordings just feature four vocal tracks, some of them have 120 vocal tracks! Each song was very different, but there are no loops or autotune – that was important to us. Influence for the record came from a lot of different places. Obvious stuff like doo-wop, maritime music, chain-gang songs, British folk music and classic 60’s pop, but also from the avant-garde. Minimalist composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich. People who experiment with counterpoint and harmony, dissonance and noise. Rhythms are important when you have no instruments or drums – we had to create them with sounds from our mouths! It was a fun process, and I’d like to think we’ve improved as singers and arrangers as a result…
AMBY: What do you consider the best Futureheads lyric?
The Futureheads: ‘In the future we all die’ from Robot.
AMBY: You’ve been supporting St Oswald’s Hospice which is amazing. What drew you to that cause?
The Futureheads: We’ve been supporting St Oswald’s from quite a while now; little things here and there to help out. Right after Christmas is always a good time to organise a home town show; everyone is still around, and the Christmas spirit is still flowing. The gig we did in January was great, because a lot of good North-East based bands agreed to come along and play – as their idols, rather than themselves. It meant people got a gig that they’ll never get again. I like that.
AMBY: What is the most memorable moment you have had while touring?
The Futureheads: It’s impossible to relay one particular moment, as I enjoy hitting the road and touring more than anything in the world. We’ve been extraordinarily lucky to play all over the world, and the travel is such an exciting part of being in a band.
We’ve been fortunate enough to meet some of our all-time idols, and play shows with incredible musicians, too – but it doesn’t seem possible to pick one moment.
Meeting other bands, fans, traveling, eating, sightseeing; you make friends for life all over the world by playing in a band.
AMBY: Who are some bands you’ll never get enough of?
The Futureheads: So many. Fugazi, Shellac, Nirvana, Red House Painters, Built to Spill, REM, Beat Happening, Tom Waits, Chet Baker, The Minutemen, Roy Orbison, Springsteen, Peter Gabriel; I mean, this list could go on forever.
AMBY: What’s your proudest achievement to date?
The Futureheads: Pride is a funny thing. I think if you get proud, you get lazy. I think all 4 of us like to keep busy. It makes you feel like you’re contributing. Most of my close friends have what you would call ‘regular jobs’. Unless I’m hard at it making music, or doing something creative, then it feels like I’m not contributing to the world in the way that they are every day. Musicians have so much downtime. It can drive you mad. You can disappear off the face of the Earth. So if I had to pick something, it would be ‘staying busy’.
AMBY: Describe your dream gig and who would be on the bill with you.
The Futureheads: Well, let’s introduce rules to make this easier. I won’t choose anyone who is dead.
Ok. Festival bill – main stage – eight acts.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Sweep The Leg Johnny
Wow, that was tough.
AMBY: What’s the best song of 2012?
The Futureheads: Default – Django Django
AMBY: And lastly, what’s something about The Futureheads that nobody knows yet?
The Futureheads: We did a wedding band once that included Warren G’s Regulate in the set list…
Thank you very much Ross, for giving us your answers!