What always strikes me about the Futureheads is their sense of camaraderie and no nonsense approach. Maybe it's their friendly north east twang or just the fact that there isn’t any crack cocaine scandals, publicity stunt brawls at NME or awards, or celebrity girlfriends. In truth though they really never did suit the corporate side of the music industry.
With the Futureheads what you see is what you get, there’s no hidden agenda and they let the music do the talking. Which is why it suits and is remarkably fitting that the band have decided to set up their own label and manage and release their own music. Undeterred after parting ways with their former label and in true punk DIY fashion they have put their destiny in their own hands, If recent single ‘The Beginning of the Twist’ is anything to go by, a ferocious and spell binding return to form, it certainly seems to have been a good move.
The band burst onto the scene and introduced the mainstream to the world of post-punk with their self titled debut, then came ‘new and tributes’, not quite the success the debut was but a great album nonetheless. With record sales on the decline Warner Brothers decided to ditch the band. Crisis? Seemingly not. The band sat back for a while and pondered their options, then decided to set up their own label and embrace the digital revolution. Ross Millard (guitarist) kindly took some time out to answer some questions.
What should people expect from your live shows on the upcoming tour?
On the upcoming tour it's all about the new record really, that'll be out by then and I think we're just basically gonna be playing quite a lot of new songs with the better live favourites from the other two records. A bit of everything, and a lot of energy hopefully.
Is there more creative freedom now your running your own label?
I think there is in the sense that we're the boss of everything going from the musical input through to the design elements and the marketing elements. I think it's just nicer for us to know where every penny's being spent and to know that if something goes wrong then it's our fault rather than somebody else’s fault. We're not saying that what we're doing is right for every single band but it's certainly right for us.
Are there plans to turn the label into a bigger commodity and sign and manage other bands?
For now it's definitely gonna be just for futureheads stuff. I think what we're saying to people in interviews and stuff is that it is very easy these days to do everything yourself so it’d be a bit hypocritical if we were coming out with that kind of stuff and then still looking to sign and make money off other bands and musicians, our message has to be that you do it yourself.
Have your experiences with your previous label made you cynical of the music industry?
No not really, we are thankful to Warner brothers for our first two records and the fact that they did spend so much money on developing the records and marketing us and allowing us to tour around the world. We wouldn't be this band if we hadn't has those previous two albums, but at the same time I think the major label element of the music industry has had its head in the sand a little bit for the past few years while the digital revolution has pulled the carpet from under their feet really. They’re just scratching around to try and figure out a way of keeping the profits, it's gonna be a hard battle for them because people want their music for free now.
Your first album was very direct and punk, then on ‘news and tributes’ you were open to a bit more experimentation, what direction has the new album taken?
I think the main thing about the third record was that we wanted to concentrate on just having the songs and keeping it quite simple and like you say about the first record keeping it quite direct and ferocious because we know we're gonna tour this record for 12 months so you want to make it work live. So I think it's very direct but I think the song writing has developed a lot more than that of the first two records. It's definitely our best stuff to date.
The new single ‘Beginning of The Twist’ has been hailed as a great comeback single, is there a sense of relief in the camp after the struggles of the last year?
I think it's always a bit of a lottery when you've been out for a while. We didn’t release anything for 18 months and you can't predict these days where singles are gonna go in the charts or how you're gonna do. Even off radio play, like five years ago you'd have been able to say 'ok you've had 300 plays on radio 1, that's a top 20 hit' but these days because of the way people buy their music it's just completely unpredictable. So it was a massive relief there when it charted in the 20's and more so the fact that the tours are selling out and the people are coming back out to see us again. There’s just a lot of good will because of the story behind it, I think people want us to succeed on our own label, so it's been pretty cool to be honest.
Your cover of the Kate Bush track ‘Hounds of Love’ was a huge success, what made you pick this song?
Well we picked the song because when did our first ever tour that was in squats in Germany and Holland, which was way back in 2002 Jaff our bass player put that song on a mix tape for the van and most of the other songs he put on were pretty rubbish but every time that song came on we got them to turn it up and we talked about how she's so reclusive and the songs are great but we'd probably never see them live so we thought well why don’t we do a version, and we’ve played it ever since and that was like 6 years ago. It was a big part of our lives for a long time before we got a record deal or anything, and it was a big song for us because obviously that took us from one level and took it to the next step but I mean I dunno if we realised how kind of audacious it was in the beginning to cover a song like that because the original's so amazing.
Do you know if she has ever listened to it and reported back?
Yeah she rang us up one time when were in the studio making the second album, she phoned up and said 'hello everyone, Kate here, really like the version, cheers for doing it'. She was proper nice, she’d probably had her royalties arrive (laughs) and just thought 'hang on, Futureheads, who are these, better seek them out'. But yeah she released her own record not long after that so probably didn’t do her any harm.
So you toured Holland and Germany before you’d ever done a UK tour then?
Yeah there was another band in Newcastle who were going on that tour so we just jumped in the back of the van with them and went out and did that. It was weird because we played squat gigs in Nuremberg and that before wed even played Manchester. It was great though because if you do two weeks of shows like that and you come back and you feel like a proper band, you feel like you've worked hard every day and it does you good so that when you go to London or Glasgow and there’s labels there they get a good impression of what the bands properly like.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
Well we've got this tour in May and then we go off and do a bit of Europe but then mainly UK festivals in the summer. We're doing Glastonbury and V and we’ve got a lot of stuff going on in Europe and then out to America. But basically the rest of the year is all about touring this new album. We're gonna do a big UK tour in October hopefully once the albums fully out and everyone’s absorbed it, so I guess this May one is kind of like a bit of a preview.
How do you feel about Glastonbury at the moment it's a bit of a hot topic with poor ticket sales and the controversy of Jay Z headlining?
Aye it's all looking a bit dodgy isn't it. I think someone like Jay-Z he's got his hip hop crowd and then he's got a few indie kids that’d be into that but by and large people who go to Glastonbury are very much into music that isn’t that really. I think it is quite an audacious headliner. I think it'll happen though and he’ll come over and do his stuff but I don’t think he'll get bottled and stuff like 50 cent did because he’s not a gangster like that, at least he's contributed something. It'll be a bit of a hard one for him though.