INTERVIEW: The Futureheads | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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My trip to chat with The Futureheads prior to a rehearsal at Sunderland’s lovely Miners’ Hall is the first time I’ve been in the same room as them since a sweltering July night in 2013. On that occasion they brought their run of a capella Rant gigs to a joyous conclusion at the Victoria in Saltburn. After that, the band just sort of dissipated in quite an un-Futureheads way. 

Barry Hyde’s life took some severe turns, some of which were terrible, some beautiful, and he documented most of it in his stunning solo LP Malody. Ross Millard expanded into other artistic fields and returned to his DIY punk roots with some new bands and Dave Hyde made a couple of glorious sixties-tinged pop records with Hyde and Beast. Jaff, meanwhile, became a teacher whose school assemblies are rumoured to be the envy of his contemporaries across County Durham.

Eventually, people started to talk about The Futureheads in the past tense, and as Ross tells me, even the band’s members were unsure if that was that. “I don’t think any of us really knew if we’d do anything else ever again. But circumstances coalesced to a point where we could talk about it.” Even when you’ve spent your entire twenties together, after six years and many life changes, starting back up isn’t an easy choice to make. Jaff points out, “We were all a bit nervous about it. We just thought, ‘should we get in a rehearsal room and try?’” 

Like those of us who are no longer pushing thirty but towing it, The Futureheads’ lives are very different from their younger days, but to Jaff, some things don’t change. “When we’re here [in the rehearsal room] it feels the same to me. It’s very different when we’re not here. I feel like in the past when we weren’t here it was very much ‘when are we gonna get together again, what we gonna do’ and now we’ve got lots of other stuff going on in the best possible way really. The coming together is special in a different way.”

It’s clear throughout our evening together that all four band members are extremely proud of how their reformation is panning out, as Barry explains. “The dedication is difficult to summon up when you’re in your mid-thirties and you’ve got families and jobs and you’re all over the shop. That’s a massive achievement.”

The newfound scarcity of time meant the band took considerably longer than ever before to make Powers – their new album, released on 30th August – usually relying on ‘The Lord’s Day’ to record, as Ross ruefully chuckles. Barry definitely regards the lengthier incubation period of Powers as a plus in its creative process. “We could take the tracks away and listen and do rearrangements, suss it out in a way that we’ve never been able to do, apart from the first album. There’s something about time in between writing songs and really doing them justice.”

Barry’s words are borne out by the reality of Powers, which is possibly the best album of The Futureheads’ career. It may have been more crafted than their previous work but that has not cost it any of its sense of vitality. Indeed, it possesses all of the energy and the spark that made The Futureheads 1.0 brilliant, as well as the trademark mega-harmonies. It’s also infused with the experiences the band have had as people and musicians in their time apart.

I think in the time we’ve been away the big picture’s really fucking landed on our doorstep, and there’s a lot more to be viscerally upset by

Across The Border is one of the highlights, powered by a blistering spoken word rant by Ross where he verbally lacerates our polarised world. It’s one of the angriest Futureheads songs ever, and probably their first real overt political statement, something Ross explains. “I think in the time we’ve been away the big picture’s really fucking landed on our doorstep, and there’s a lot more to be viscerally upset by.” Barry interjects, “It’s almost like some strange awakening. Not in a ‘bliss’ kind of way but like waking into a living nightmare.”

Ross is quick to point out, though, that the divisions in the world aren’t solely creating gloomy outcomes. As is so often the case, people in our region and beyond are trying to turn a negative into a positive. “I think a reaction to that divisive political stuff is a change in sensibility of some people being more warm, more open and more friendly and being more inclined to be proactive. There’s a tipping point though, and the fact that Sunderland seems to be renowned now as the ‘Brexit Capital of the UK’ even though that’s statistically not true, is frustrating and sad.”

Having poured so much into this comeback, as well as their forthcoming December gigs celebrating the 15th anniversary of their debut album, the question looms: is this a permanent return or a triumphant farewell lap? Barry is adamant there’s plenty in the tank. “We’re super excited about this album. We’re looking forward to celebrating the first album in December, but I wanna release some new singles around then if we can. Go into the studio for a couple of days and just whack it out. There’s something kind of punk rock and exciting about that.”

It really is a pleasure to have The Futureheads back making music. The North East in particular has suffered quite a lot of blows in recent years, so the return of one of our best bands on such brilliant form feels more essential than we ever even realised. It’s plain how much fun they’re having, and the room is alive with chatter and laughter when they’re together. The energy between the four of them is infectious as the conversation ricochets like a pinball between serious subjects and anecdotes about band history, to finishing each other’s sentences and interrupting each other with a shit joke. With a massive grin on his face, Jaff sums it up beautifully: “I think what’s come out of this for me is how much we all love each other.”

Powers is released on 30th August via The Orchard. The Futureheads play Bonded Warehouse, Sunderland on Wednesday 4th September, instore at HMV Newcastle on Thursday 5th September, and Northumbria Institute on Friday 13th December.

 

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