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

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If you’re anything like a regular at small noisy shows around Newcastle, FRET! are an outfit who’ll require little exposition. Mixing the sound and spirit of ‘80s hardcore with doom-surf riffs and bassist Cath Tyler’s coarse, wonderfully textured vocal, the trio are a thrilling, ubiquitous presence on the local circuit; both as an incisive post-punk powerhouse and as pillars of a thriving DIY community. For a group who’ll take virtually any gig on offer, it’s no surprise that bottling onstage vigour has proved paramount while recording: “We’ve been told a lot recently that our live shows are pretty heavy and intense compared to what they were, so we try to capture that energy by recording live and only really overdubbing the vocals,” confirms guitarist Steve Strode. “We’ve also done more tours in recent years and a couple of gigs in you start to get ‘tour good’, which we think is starting to come across as we grow tighter and more confident as a group.”

Keen to capture this synergy, the band have spent recent weeks at Gateshead’s Soundroom studio with producer and engineer M.P. Wood, applying finishing touches to their second album, A Vanity Spawned By Fear, released on 28th July. It’s a process that’s proved far swifter than that which resulted in 2017’s Through The Wound The Light Comes In; a fact Steve attributes in part to a more methodical compositional approach. “We’ve started thinking more about structure,” he reveals. “All of the songs evolve from jams, and often one song can be made up of riffs from many jams. It’s a case of refinement. We even used a whiteboard in the practice room to plan one song out – fuck’s sake!”

We’ve been told a lot recently that our live shows are pretty heavy and intense compared to what they were, so we try to capture that energy by recording live

Having impressed as live cornerstones for the best part of two years, the likes of SUSD, Is That All There Is? and Davy will already be familiar to regular followers. The latter has proven a particular standout, and is one of three new cuts which see drummer Rob Woodcock deputise on vocals. “We’re not totally sure how Rob ended up doing it,” Steve admits. “He used to sing in Tide of Iron and we were messing about in practice and it seemed to work. The lyrics are made up of expletives I overheard my son ‘singing’ whilst he was hammering away on his toy drum; words that Cath’s son uses instead of swearing and a phrase that someone misheard Rob saying in the pub. It’s a double-edged sword as we’ve noticed at some gigs that people leave as soon as Rob starts screaming. No plans on stopping it though!”

Away from FRET! Steve is no less prolific, with much spare time dedicated to the running of his label, Cruel Nature Records. “It’s the usual suspects,” he says, when quizzed on the imprint’s influences, “labels such as Blast First, SST, AmRep, Touch & Go, Creation, Dischord. Lee Stokoe’s enduring tape label, Matching Head… those that I grew up with and have inspired in terms of their DIY ethic, not driven by commerce and willing to take risks.” What’s coming up next from CN?  “Mainly a lot of new releases from local acts for a change:  Ivan The Tolerable; Waheela; Snakes Don’t Belong in Alaska; Lushworker – all are being worked on and will be out whenever ready!”


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