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The Futureheads Feature

| June 30, 2006

The Futureheads
Born A’Sunder

At first glance, every musician residing in Sunderland, England is in one of three bands: The Futureheads, Field Music, and Maximo Park. (Actually, it isn’t true, and Sunderland has veritable pop music pedigree up there in the shadows of Newcastle, including Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry and Eurythmic Dave Stewart). But, as in the United States, British protocol dictates you move to the cosmopolitan areas (Manchester, London) to get your crew noticed.

“Franz Ferdinand aren’t from Glasgow,” offers Futurehead Barry Hyde, “the *band are. But there’s only one person in them who’s actually Scottish. I think that happens quite a lot. Small towns don’t get as much credit for the talent that they produce because most of those talented people have to go and move.”

Yet all that might change because of Field Music, Maximo Park, and The Futureheads. Up until The Futureheads’ outstanding, self-titled debut in 2004, Sunderland’s gift to the international community had been the woeful Black Cats, the city’s professional football team that has just been relegated from the top flight to a lower division. But thanks to the precise and relentlessly energetic post punk in songs like “Decent Days And Nights” and a scalding cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds Of Love,” Sunderland is acquiring a new face thanks to its flourishing batch of what only appears to be a dozen musicians.

“It seems that’s the way it’s gone,” Hyde laughs. “Tom [English] from Maximo Park was in Electronic Eye Machine, which then became Field Music. Pete Brewis, the singer from Field Music used to be in The Futureheads for the first nine months or something. And I’ve been making music with the Brewis brothers since I was 15. Dave, my brother who’s the drummer now, has probably been making music with them since he was about 12. I think it’s a bit of coincidence. Certain bands spur each other on, I think. Create new goals, further ambitions, and what have you.”

That, and the frosty weather of Northern England created The Futureheads (Sire), whose jumpy speed has been attributed to trying to keep warm in their rehearsal space. But altogether new forces have conspired behind this summer’s News And Tributes (Vagrant/Star Time), as the band can no longer claim to be meek, provincial housemates.

Hyde says, “Where we come from you don’t even consider that one day you’ll have the chance to make a record. Which automatically means that you’ll be more truthful. I think once you do get a record deal you become a professional musician: your outlook changes. And I think perhaps that’s why our music has changed. It’s basically because you’re aware of the fact people are actually going to listen to your music. You imagine what it’s going to sound like from the audience. You think about how it’s going to sound in someone’s bedroom. Maybe make a little bit more space in there so people can sit down on their beds and actually like quietly listen to an album rather than be in the front row of a show, sweating and everything else.”

But he freely admits the attention awarded them has brought the microscope a hair close, though not in a manner most celebrities lament. “Everything’s so heavily scrutinized. You have to accept that. The best thing about accepting that is you don’t have to think about [it], whereas if you can’t accept that it becomes a ghost in your own head, constantly pecking away like, ‘What’s this magazine gonna think about it? What are our allies that we have in the media gonna think about it? Are they gonna be disappointed? Are we doing the right thing?’ We accept the band’s scrutinized by the media. You’ve got to give them something to scrutinize, you know? You got to give them something to listen to. Whether or not it’s going to be negative. It could be you want to do something that’s unquestionable. You can’t hope that everyone’s going to like it, but what you can hope for is if that people like it, they like it in detail. You give them lots of detail with songs, with variety, with depth, or you want them to dislike it with great detail. You want them to think about why they don’t like it for it to be a true scrutiny or whatever.”

And perhaps that’s the first hurdle listeners will have to clear with News And Tributes. The pace is noticeably slower, and there are fewer clunky interjections. “Cope” is a direct descendent of the self-titled debut, and “Yes/No” is The Futureheads sounding their comic book superhero anthemic best. As News And Tributes progresses, however, the title track, “Burnt,” and “Back To The Sea” mirror The Jam’s explorations into songwriting. It’s as if when Hyde sings “Let me down gently,” they felt it only apt to formulate a sympathetic backdrop.

Steve Forstneger

To read the exciting finale of this piece, pick up the July issue of Illinois Entertainer.

Category: Features, Monthly

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