When Fear of Men headed out for a short run of UK dates with Lower Dens last October, it was the first peek out of their “insular existence in the studio” - road-testing material they’d slaved away on for over a year in their hometown of Brighton.
“We changed quite a few things on the album after playing the songs live,” comments guitarist Daniel Falvey. “When you create an album with computers, and then take it out to play live, you have to bring that humanity back in.”
Though the follow-up to debut ‘Loom’ - set for a May release - has taken over two years, the band have barely taken a breather. “It wasn’t exactly ‘time off’ - I was living on my own in Brighton and writing the songs,” explains vocalist Jessica Weiss. “Then we’d spend three days a week together up on Mike, our drummer’s, farm. It wasn’t so much taking time off from the band, but taking our time with every step. The sound is quite different to before, and it was quite a bit learning curve of incorporating new skills into what we wanted to make.”
The main difference the band can pinpoint in the sound of LP2 is the introduction of more electronic sounds to the gloomy guitar pop exhibited on ‘Loom’. “We got a lot more interested in manipulating sounds and building songs with computers, but we had to learn how to combine that with our live performance,” says Falvey, who had to work out “how to make guitars sound like strong synthesisers, but with an organic quality that only a guitar could bring. We’re very interested in combining those worlds.”
The extensive touring the band did for ‘Loom’ gave the band a clear idea of how they wanted to change as a live band as well as on record, and Falvey speaks of how the two formats have to work together. That heavily informed the new album. “Sometimes drums can sound really strong on record and get lost in venues, and that’s when you can use electronic drums to cut through that,” he says. “We wanted to write an album that would make the stage shake, and we had to work out how we could sound stronger and get our ideas across in a more concise way.”
Falvey and Weiss, speaking a week after the album was completed, talk through a record that underwent countless changes and revisions. It’s the only way Fear of Men find they can operate. “Ideally the album was supposed to be finished about six months ago, but we can’t let something go until it’s exactly what we want to say. Some songs went through five or six different versions just in the studio, and obviously that makes the process quite fraught, but we always go through that. We get there and end up happy. I think through the changes, people will see that we’re very much still the same band. A lot of ideas that appeared on ‘Loom’ have flowed over to this album, but this time we’ve zoned in on a lot of things and made it a little more clearer.”
Despite this need for perfection and endless tinkering, Weiss pens the album as a more instant listen than ‘Loom’. “I feel like it’s come together as a more poppy record, but hopefully there are the little details that give you pleasure on repeat listening. We feel quite removed from what people will think at the moment, as we’ve had no feedback, but I’m hoping that it’s got some of that instant appeal. I don’t think it sounds like an album that’s been laboured over like it has, and I don’t want it to. I hope that it has a lightness.”
“I write about what I’m feeling, which is something you can’t force.”
A band that has shown a consistent progression from demo collection ‘Early Fragments’ through to ‘Loom’, Fear of Men aimed to stretch things even further this time. “We wanted to explore more extremes of sound and approach. There’s more light and dark, and there’s less of the mid-tones. That’s deliberate. We’ve tried to push things.”
Furthering the idea of an album that sees Fear of Men leaving nothing unsaid or half-cooked, Weiss explains how the album’s lyrics also work in tandem with this theme. “I think it’s a genuine snapshot of where I’m at in my life,” she explains. “I write about what I’m feeling, which is something you can’t force. There’s a continuation of the themes from the first record, but exploring them in different ways. I tried to be more personal with it, whereas I have hidden before through referencing other peoples’ words instead of my own. It’s a natural progression, rather than trying to engineer a change,” she goes on. “In a lot of ways it’s more of a love record, but there’s a theme of independence and strength, and not needing anyone. It feels more exposing, and there’s moments of vulnerability,” Weiss concludes.
The band’s as-yet-untitled LP2 might have taken half a year longer than anticipated, and half of it may have been scrapped; the songs that did survive given major overhauls. From a band so clearly committed to the end product, nothing else would have sufficed.
Photos: Provided by Fear of Men.