When FUR stepped out onto the stage at The Music Gallery Festival in Jakarta in March 2019, they couldn’t have known what to expect. Two weeks earlier, the band had played a support slot in their hometown of Brighton to a crowd of 200. Gigs like that were their life and they loved it. But as drummer Flynn Whelan sauntered over to his kit to fix his cymbals that night in Indonesia, a cacophony of 5,000 screaming voices engulfed him.
“I was just shaking,” says Flynn now. “It was in a tennis arena and it was PACKED, everyone was going crazy.”
If their success in Asia seems like an unusual turn of events, then nobody has been more surprised than the band themselves. That they are only now, some two-and-a-half years later, preparing to release their debut album further drives home the idiosyncratic path their journey has taken.
That album, ‘When You Walk Away’, is everything that their diverse fanbase could hope for. A joyous listen, it boasts a kaleidoscope of sweet, melodic songwriting that comes good on the comparisons the band have long been used to - from the ‘60s pop masters to the nostalgic Britpop bands of the ‘90s. Produced by Theo Verney (FEET, Lazarus Kane), it’s the sum of their strange experiences to date: a confident, swaggering statement.
Arriving in the world at a time when British guitar music has tended towards the fraught and anxious, FUR - completed by singer Will Murray, guitarist Josh Buchanan and bassist William Taverner - offer a brightly-coloured, breezy antidote to the dense, cynical tones of so many of their contemporaries. And although they may not have planned it this way, they can nevertheless see the advantages of standing out from a crowd.
“Everything is [about] fitting into boxes at the moment, I feel like that needs to be avoided,” says Josh. “Everyone is doing that same angular style and you need respite from that sometimes.” “We’ve just never been in a scene,” Flynn agrees. “And I think that’s quite good for us. When the scene goes down, everyone goes down in that ship and we’ve avoided that, hopefully. We wear our hearts on our sleeves with the music that we love and we’ve never felt like we need to do something to fit in.”
Perhaps their most audacious move on this album is to leave out the single that made their global exploits possible in the first place. “People always [note that] ‘If You Know That I’m Lonely’ isn’t on the album, and I just think, why would you want it to be on the album?” questions mop-topped singer Murray. “You’ve already heard it so many times! That would eliminate you having a new song that could be your favourite song.”
“We wear our hearts on our sleeves and we’ve never felt like we need to do something to fit in.”
— Flynn Whelan
‘If You Know That I’m Lonely’ was a single the band first recorded in 2017 as part of a project orchestrated by Jäger Curtain Call and yours truly, DIY, to give a young band an opportunity in a recording studio. As it stands, the song’s video is sitting on a staggering 20 million YouTube views, with significant portions of those coming from South East Asia and South America.
“It’s got to the point now that when we play it live, it almost doesn’t feel like our song,” says Murray. “Looking back on it, it seems completely wild. We’re eternally grateful for it, but it’s never really been our aim to desperately try to achieve it again, because it’s such a one-off thing.”
The band now admit that, at the time, they were frustrated that having such a breakout hit happened at such an early stage in their career, before they even had management or a label deal. “It kind of felt like it came and went,” Murray continues. “But now with the album around the corner, I think the wait and the journey we’ve had is the reason we have an album we’re so proud of. I think if we had been rushed into it four years ago, we would probably have released a debut album that we weren’t happy with. Maybe we wouldn’t even be sitting here.”
‘When You Walk Away’, however, is an album that’s confident in its own skin - one that’s more than just a quickly-constructed follow up to a viral success story. Tracks like ‘To Be Next to Her’ and the record’s title track shimmer with primary-coloured optimism, sunkissed and bittersweet, with melodies that echo around your mind far beyond their runtime. Even when FUR are in wistful, downbeat mood - as on ‘No Good For You’ - the vocals are locked in such irresistibly addictive harmony that you want to join them arm-in-arm in their wallowing.
It’s testament to the closeness between the four band members that they’ve been able to take such unforeseen experiences in their stride and stick to their instincts. Their shared love of classic songwriting forms has been their bedrock and the ultimate payoff is to see that enthusiasm mirrored by the reactions of their own audiences, whether at home or on the other side of the world.
“Although we wear our influences on our sleeve,” says Murray, “this album does show people that we’re not just there to be compared to other bands or do something that’s been done before. It shows that we can create our own world.”
‘When You Walk Away’ is out now via 777 Music.
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